28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– A petition has been lodged by Sir John Cramer as follows and a copy of the petition will be referred to the appropriate Minister:
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:
The nation-wide Survey of Educational Needs undertaken by the Australian Education Council has provided clear evidence that government education in the various States is failing children on a massive scale.
The following conditions at the Gladesville Infants school give further evidence of the needs in the State education system: Indoor toilet facilities for children and teachers.
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your Honourable House will (i) make immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State Governments for public 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.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science, Did he notify Mr Fabian Sweeny of Townsville of the decision to choose a new site for the Institute of Marine Science prior to this becoming public knowledge? Did the Minister give this gentleman authority to make a public statement on this matter? While I accept the decision that the radar installation may interfere with some of the delicate measuring instruments used by the Institute, will the Minister when drawing up the terms of reference for the new Bill confine the investigation of other sites to the Townsville area or, if this is not possible, to North Queensland?
– I received a telegram from Mr Fabian Sweeny suggesting that the Kissing Point Army area be considered as a site. I replied to that telegram. I also received a telegram from the local shire council. As I explained the other day, the problem with which we are faced is that the site chosen is no longer suitable. We will be giving the
Council of the Australian Institute of Marine Science full authority to select the site. This may or may not be in Townsville but I think it very likely that it would be in north Queensland.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the establishment in Australia of an organisation known as the Palestine-Australia Solidarity Committee which functions as a support and arm of the so-called Palestinian Liberation Organisation? Is he aware that this organisation has as its principal methods of operation the use of violence, intimidation and the creation of racist anti-Jewish propaganda? Will the Prime Minister use his best efforts to ensure that this organisation is exposed and that the Australian people are made aware of its true aims and objectives? Will he ensure that those Australian citizens who embrace the Jewish faith or who support the State of Israel are protected from acts of violence or an assault of propaganda based on racial hatreds? Is the Prime Minister aware of the close historical links between Australia and Israel, particularly in relation to the United Nations recognition of Israel and the current close links between Histradut, the Israeli Trade Union Federation, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and the mutually beneficial results which have occurred as a result of this?
– Nobody who has visited Israel as often as I have would be unaware of the long-standing links, over more than a quarter of a century, between the reestablished state of Israel and Australia, usually under the Australian Labor Party and the Australian trade union movement. I have seen Press reports of the establishment of the body which the honourable member named. These reports will be fully investigated by our law enforcement authorities. As the Government already has made clear, it will not tolerate any form of political extremism in this country. The legislation being prepared by the Attorney-General to counter terrorist activities in Australia will cover all forms of extremism from the Left and from the Right. The Government has no intention of allowing its good relations with both Israel and the Arab states to be prejudiced by any extremist organisation seeking to import into this country the violence which has been such a tragic feature of the situation in the Middle East.
(Mr Wentworth having addressed a question to Mr Speaker)
– That does not come within the province of the Chair. The question is completely out of order.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Social workers in my electorate estimate that deserted wives and prisoners’ wives wait for an average of 4 weeks for their initial cheques from the government, State or Federal. As money has been made available to destitute and needy university students, has the Minister considered the possibility of making grants or loans available to local councils or to regional social security centres to enable emergency relief to be given to destitute people?
– It is unfortunate that delays do occur in the issue of cheques. By the nature of the processes, there must be some delay in assessing and approving applications for various forms of social security benefits, as they are known now. I am concerned about this. I cannot speak for the State governments. The area in which they operate is their’ responsibility, although I would hope that they would minimise any delays. I have asked my Department to investigate the possibility of using special benefits as a form of discretionary emergency payment for people who have clear forms of immediate need. If this can be done - I think it can - we will reach more of the people about whom the honourable member rightly and commendably is concerned. For instance, we will reach the person who has become unemployed and, as things currently stand, must wait a week before an application for unemployment benefit can be considered, following upon which there is at least a further week’s delay before the first cheque arrives. For many people, this delay is critical and can be tragic.
Our general approach to social security payments is to try to clean up the extensive anomalies, inconsistencies and injustices which riddle the system. I think we are progressing fairly well in this area. For instance, in the area about which the honourable member is concerned I am taking steps, having raised the matter already with all States except Western Australia - I will be visiting Western Australia on Monday for this purpose - in regard to the possibility of the Commonwealth accepting full responsibility for the payment of benefits which currently are provided by the States, half the total amount being provided by the Commonwealth through the Commonwealth-States Deserted Wives Act. These are the sorts of far reaching approaches we are developing. Unfortunately, they take a little time to conclude. Finally, it is not enough to provide money for people in need. As the honourable member well knows from his own association with and involvement in community welfare services in his home area over many years, we must also provide services. We are proposing, I hope within a week or a fortnight at the most, to make an announcement of the people who will be manning a national commission on social welfare. Briefly, the purpose of this commission which will be staffed from people of many disciplines, highly qualified in their fields, will be to identify long term objectives and to assist in the development of a rational framework of social welfare programs which will hang together in a balanced, planned sort of way to provide for the evaluation of these programs so that we are continually aware of their relevance or of their need for improvement or redirection in certain areas as community needs and aspirations change from time to time. So we are moving as quickly as possible in this area and in many other associated areas.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order and refer to standing order 142 which reads:
Questions may be put to a Minister relating to public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the House, or any matter of administration for which he is responsible.
The Prime Minister, on his own words and on his own assertions, is officially connected with the organisation of the Labor Party.
– Mr Speaker-
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member has made his point of order according to Standing Orders.
– I take a point of order on the point of order. A point of order may be taken only at the time of the incident concerned. The honourable member did not take the point of order at that time and, therefore, I submit that he has no point of order.
-The point of order is upheld. It is quite right.
– Will the Prime Minister assure the House that good Australian citizens who have fled their homeland will not come under political charges on advice from a foreign power without such advice being weighed against information from Australia’s own security and police forces?
– I repeat what I said yesterday on this very matter - .the answer is yes.
– Is the Minister for Urban and Regional Development aware that a freeway known as the North-West Freeway is proposed for construction in Brisbane as part of a planned freeway system for that city and that its construction will result in more than 700 residences being resumed for removal or demolition? Has the Commonwealth Government power to take any action deemed necessary to protect the rights of residents whose homes and land are to be resumed? If the Government of Australia has such power, will steps be taken to guarantee fair and just compensation to people involved and/or will the introduction of a proper resettlement scheme be considered?
– I am aware of the proposed north-west freeway in Brisbane. The Australian Government has no direct power over these land resumptions. It is a State matter but, as the Minister for Transport intimated on Tuesday, the Commonwealth is involved through the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and also through the Loan Council. The Minister for Transport and I have sought to get the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to make a thorough investigation into all aspects, including economic and social aspects, of inner city freeway systems. The Commonwealth Department of Urban and Regional Development together with the Departments of Housing and Social Security will look at the social problems involved in displacing people, particularly those who are old, so that they can be resettled, wherever possible, within the given area. The Government is concerned that these people should be housed in the areas where they previously lived all their lives and we will do our best to co-operate with the States in this way.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question supplementary to that asked of the Prime Minister by the honourable member for Gippsland. Is the Minister aware that a considerable number of migrants believe that a slur has been cast on the migrant community in general by the statement made on Tuesday by Senator Murphy and that many of them who are not yet naturalised are fearful for their safety? Will the Minister give an assurance that before any action is taken by him to deport any member of the Yugoslav community or any other migrant community in Australia he will require the production of substantial evidence and that if such evidence has been provided solely by a communist government it will be disregarded?
– The position is that the greatest slur that has been cast on the migrant community in Australia has been cast upon it by the handful of people who have brought discredit on all of the community by their acts of violence and by their law breaking, and this is resented by the vast majority of migrants who resent being associated with people who are criminals. That is the first point I want to make. I would be at one with the honourable member in saying that there is no-one, I would hope, in this Parliament who would denigrate the overwhelming number of people that have come to this country since World War II - more than 3 million of them - and who are now an integral part and a fine part of the Australian community. I also want to make it very plain that as far as deportations are concerned each case is viewed and dealt with on its merits. It is not a casual procedure. It is not a procedure, I might say, that could be carried out at the behest of any government or any authorities outside our own country. The only decision that can be made is made by the Minister for Immigration on the advice of many organs of government and we will be proceeding with justice and compassion. I can assure the House of that.
(Mr Birrell having addressed a question to Mr Speaker)
– Order! The question is out . of order. Standing Order 152 states:
A question without notice may be put to the Speaker relating to any matter of administration for which he is responsible.
I am not responsible for newspaper articles.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a report from a respected National Times’ reporter who last week visited Washington DC stating that the American President, Dr Henry Kissinger and the White House have now twice rejected State Department suggestions that the Prime Minister be invited officially to visit the United States of America? Does the Prime Minister now agree that his anti-American protest letter and the insulting public utterances of one-eighth of the Australian Labor Party Ministry have done our relations with the United States grave harm? Is he able to advise the House whether he has the distinction of being the only Australian Prime Minister to be declared, temporarily at least, almost non persona grata by the world’s most powerful leader? Does the article agree with the advice given by the Department of Foreign Affairs? If so, what emergency measures does he propose to restore our wrecked relations with the United States? Finally, has he seen the result of the Harris poll which shows that in recent weeks the percentage of Americans willing to come to the aid of Australia has plummeted to 39 per cent?
– I did see the report. I notice that the honourable gentleman did not verify it. Nobody could. It was a fabrication. It is true that there was a cloud over relations between the United States and Australia when bombing of North Vietnam was resumed. I took the action which was taken by every other political leader in the world, except the Leader of the Opposition in Australia, to protest at this conduct. The conduct ceased. Relations between the United States and Australia are now very cordial and are more fruitful because they are more adult. The honourable gentleman made reference to three of my colleagues. He will be frustrated to know that one of them in fact was a guest at the United States embassy as recently as yesterday.
– Did the Acting Treasurer note the comments reported in the Press this morning, attributed to Professor Paul Samuelson, that there had been greater economic growth in Australia under the previous Government? Is this true? How will Australia fare, in his opinion, under the new Government?
– It will take until lunch time to tell.
– I can assure the honour, able member for Prospect that it will not take until lunch time to indicate what I have to say. An hour would be sufficient. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and we are in the process of providing that right now. Our first task as Government has been to lift the economy back on to its feet after its having been flattened by the economic policies of the previous Government. There are clear indications that we are being quite successful in this endeavour. The only area where we should like to see more response is that of private investment. My own feeling is that the response will be forthcoming fairly soon. I should imagine that the Treasurer will be thinking in the terms of a second stage of economic strategy when he will be handling a very buoyant expanding economy in the second part of this financial year. That is my reply to the last point that was raised quite fortuitously by the honourable member for Hunter.
Quite providentially as I was walking out of my office to come to the chamber for question time I noticed a copy of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development economic survey on Australia. I thought I would bring it with me to read. Fortuitously, as the honourable member for Hunter was asking his question, my eye lighted on page 22.
– He gave you the reference.
– You are giving me away. Page 22 refers to economic growth in Australia. Perhaps this section of the report might help to explain how Professor Samuelson was unfortunately misled. It states:
On a per capita basis, Australia’s performance appears much less impressive.
In the report it was pointed out earlier that on an aggregate basis Australia’s economy seemed to have some impact about it. The report continues:
The high growth of total real GDP was thus more a reflection of relatively rapid growth of population rather than of output per bead.
Among many comments which one could use from a selection in the report to show that Professor Samuelson has misunderstood the Australian situation, I quote this passage:
Throughout the period 19S0-1970 Australia had one of the highest investment ratios of all OECD countries. In terms of growth of output per head of population, this high rate of capital formation appears to have yielded a low return . . .
There are many reasons for this state of affairs and they are largely related to the inefficiency and I would say the reckless irresponsibility with which economic resources have been allocated in the Australian economy. I hope we will move quite quickly to rectify these things in the interests of sound, meaningful, real economic growth rates to achieve real improvements in productivity which were in fact not achieved in the past. I sincerely hope that Professor Samuelson’s views on that subject were not infected by those people described by the Minister for Minerals and Energy yesterday as hillbillies.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Did the Prime Minister authorise Senator Murphy’s raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation? Did he authorise Senator Murphy to take possession of any goods or property in the possession of ASIO, a Commonwealth authority? Is it a fact that while the Prime Minister has refused to say whether or not he authorised Senator Murphy’s raid he has left, and is leaving, the Attorney-General open to a charge under section 30 of the Crimes Act relating to the taking possession of goods or property of Commonwealth authorities by an unauthorised person? Does the Prime Minister agree that while he continues to refuse to give an explanation for his part in this matter he is leaving the Attorney-General vulnerable to action before the High Court?
– I stated days ago that I did not know that the Attorney-General was going to visit the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation headquarters in Melbourne on Friday week. I had not only authorised, but directed, the Attorney-General from his first week in office to do what his predecessors conspicuously failed to do - to follow up departmental and ministerial reports on the growth of terrorist activities in Australia and the threat that they represented not only to all Australians but to migrants in particular and to our relations with a country with which we have had unbroken relations since 1918 and of which we have been an ally in 2 wars. The right honourable member for Lowe is interjecting. I have seen his comments on this matter to previous-
– They are published.
– Not all; not fully. If he wishes me to do so I will publish them. They do him credit. I regret to say that the man whom he appointed as Attorney-General was not loyal to his suggestions as Prime Minister and formerly as Foreign Minister. I do not demur in any respect, as far as I remember the papers, from what the right honourable gentleman tried to do in this matter as Foreign Minister and later as Prime Minister. His Ministers did not support him.
– Have you at any time given authority to Senator Murphy to take possession of goods? I ask the Prime Minister to answer the question.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman has asked his question.
– The right honourable gentleman who interjected was once the Deputy Prime Minister of this country. I do not believe that he did his duty to see what the terms and conditions are under which the present Director-General of ASIO was appointed or under which the previous Director-General of ASIO was appointed.
– Order! Will the Prime Minister address the Chair please?
– The Attorney-General acted without authority and he has broken the law.
– I would much prefer a rational to a rabid countenance and I will look at you, Mr Speaker, for the rest of my answer. The Attorney-General has broken no law. This Attorney-General has in fact obeyed and applied the law. Not only that, but the former Deputy Prime Minister, the present third most important man in the Opposition, has made allegations which have no basis in the statutes or the regulations which are’ public property or in the terms and conditions of employment of the Director-General of ASIO which have not hitherto been public property. The Attorney-General is ministerially responsible for the Director-General of ASIO. The Director-General of ASIO has to comply with directions of the Attorney-General. These facts are plain from the terms and conditions under which the Director-General was appointed - appointed pursuant to statute. The AttorneyGeneral is completely entitled to discuss any of these matters with the Director-General, and he has done so. The Attorney-General has broken no law. He is doing his best to apply the law despite the smokescreen raised by the
Opposition here and in the Senate. Pursuant to the policy of open Opposition, I notice that the Opposition Parties have informed the Press that they will concentrate questions and statements on the actions of the present Attorney-General over 6 or 9 hours a couple of weeks ago to deflect attention from the inaction of themselves over the previous 6 or 9 years.
– Has the Minister for Northern Development read the Press reports on important sugar conferences being held in London between the British Government and the governments of Commonwealth sugar producing countries? Is it a fact that Australia is not taking part in these talks? If so, why not?
– It is a fact that informal talks are taking place in London between the Ministers of the British Government and Ministers of the Commonwealth developing countries concerned with the export of sugar.
– Why are you not there representing Australia’s interests?
– If the shadow Minister for Primary Industry knew something about sugar, I would tell him. He ought to know that, under Protocol 22 of the Treaty of Accession, Australia is not classified as a developing country; it is a developed country. The informal meeting which is taking place is between the British Government and the governments of the Commonwealth developing countries under Protocol 22 of the Treaty of Accession. The British Government is expected to confirm assurances that secure and continuing markets for sugar will be available to the Commonwealth developing countries in the European Economic Community. It is a fact that Australia is not taking part in this conference because it is not a developing country under the provisions of Protocol 22. We will be conducting separate negotiations with the British Government through the auspices of the Commission of the European Economic Community in London and in Brussels.
As honourable members know, the British Government has given a firm assurance that Australia’s exports of sugar will be safeguarded after 1974 to the degree that phasing out conditions will apply The conference relating to Australian sugar will take place separately. So the crux of the answer is that the confer ence referred to by the honourable member is concerned with developing countries. The Australian Government is well aware of it. We will be conducting our conference at a different time also to make certain of the conditions relating to the phasing out of Australian sugar after 1974 and certainly to safeguard Australia’s interests.
– The Prime Minister has just said - these may not be his exact words but I do not think that he will quarrel with the meaning of them - that in the early days of his Government he authorised and directed the. Attorney-General to pursue the issue which he says was not pursued by the previous Government. At the time he made the request or gave the direction did he have any confidence in the standing of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation? Did he contemplate at the time he gave the direction that there could be an incursion into the headquarters of that organisation of the kind that occurred, with the executive police force of the Commonwealth of 27 policemen? After he learned that the incursion or raid - as it is properly described - had happened, did he direct the Attorney-General to produce to him as Prime Minister the evidence which the Attorney-General had sought at the raids in Canberra and Melbourne? Was that evidence produced? Will the Prime Minister now produce the evidence that was given to him as a result of any direction he gave? Is it a fact that what Senator Murphy found in Canberra was a copy of a document and that, as a result of finding it, he decided to proceed to Melbourne, being preceded by Commonwealth Police who were instructed to seal all safes and to prevent the free movement of members of the staff of ASIO? Was the original of that document found? Finally, has there been any reduction in the provision of security intelligence information to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation since these unprecedented actions occurred?
– The serious matter asked by the right honourable gentleman is contained in his last sentence. The answer to that is no. The latest incursion which worried me, as it worried my predecessor as Prime Minister and also worried my predecessor as Foreign Minister, was the incursion into a friendly nation by several persons, nine of whom had been resident in Australia and six of whom had been naturalised in Australia. As Foreign Minister I had to follow up an interim reply which was given in about August of last year to a protest note from that country. It is my duty to see that there are good relations with other countries. We had not done what we should to safeguard those relations. Perhaps it might suit honourable gentlemen to be reminded of my own interest in this matter. The Department of Foreign Affairs annual report for 1968-69 stated:
There have been some demonstrations against Yugoslav offices in Australia, mostly inspired or carried out by the extremists or terrorist elements formerly in Croatia or from other parts of Yugoslavia.
I quote again from an answer which was given to me by the then Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs on 28tb April 1971. He said:
Various organisations in Australia celebrate 10th April 1941 as the date of Croatian independence. On 6th April 1941, Hitler attacked Yugoslavia as a prelude to its subsequent occupation and dismemberment. As part of this operation on 10th April 1941 the Germans created a puppet Croatian state, dominated by the Ustasha terrorist movement under Ante Pavelic, who had until then been an exile in Italy. The victory Of the Yugoslav Resistance in the war against Germany put an end to the so-called independent state of Croatia.
Australia has never recognised the independence of Croatia. Honourable gentlemen will remember also that less than a year ago by way of questions and statements I had deplored the fact that-
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, if the honourable gentleman wishes to traverse these matters there will be opportunity in the debate next week. Will he now answer the question asked?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I have pointed out repeatedly that it is within the province of a Minister to answer a question as he sees fit.
– Mr Speaker, I am going to the basic matters which the former government responsible for them failed to face - those things which have jeopardised our relations with other countries and jeopardised Australian residents and particularly people who have come here as migrants. As I was about to say, I had pointed out less than a year ago, by way of questions, and a speech or more in this House, that in the national capital, which is under total Federal jurisdiction, and also in other parts of the country, particularly for instance in my electorate, where there are more
Yugoslav migrants than in any other electorate in Australia, there are to be found club premises with, in a place of honour, photographs of Pavelic, the Ustasha flag-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker, I realise the import of your ruling that the Prime Minister can answer a question more or less as he sees fit-
-Order! What is your point of order?
– My point is to refer to standing order 145. I think it is pertinent to all the remarks of the Prime Minister so far in answer to this question. It states:
An answer shall be relevant to the question.
It goes that far.
-Order! No point of order is involved. As my predecessor quite adamantly and often announced in this House, a Minister can answer a question as he sees fit. It would seem to me that a lot of the points of order being taken are completely frivolous and are being taken with the idea of having your voice picked up by the microphone and heard by the public.
– There are clubs in the capital city of Australia and in other parts of Australia, including my electorate, where a place of honour is given to photographs of Pavelic, where the Ustasha flag is flown, where 10th April is celebrated.
– Mr Speaker, due to the kind of answer being given, I move:
That the Prime Minister be not further heard.
– I do not wish to delay the House with frivolities. I move:
That further questions be placed on notice.
– 1 rise on a point of order! It is the long-standing practice of this Parliament that question time will go for 45 minutes. The Prime Minister has, by his action, totally failed to honour an undertaking he gave in this House on an earlier occasion.
-Order! No point of order is involved. It has nothing to do with the Chair whether question time continues for half an hour, one hour or 2 hours. It is a matter for the Prime Minister alone, and for the Government.
- Mr Speaker, you have so ruled. I told you when you were appointed by the members of this House to the office you hold that we would agree with you when we thought you were right. If you so rule, we will not depart from your ruling; but I take this opportunity, Mr Speaker, to tell you that 1 believe your remark to the honourable member for Curtin was uncalled for and was offensive.
– Order! It was not uncalled for at all. I am receiving a lot of frivolous points or order. There is no doubt that they are frivolous. There is no doubt also that the honourable members who are raising them know that they are frivolous and if they persist with this attitude I will take direct action.
– There was a motion before the Chair that the Prime Minister be no longer heard. Is it your intention to put that question?
– Yes, it is my intention to put that question. I stated that earlier but then the Prime Minister said to put further questions on notice. If the Leader of the Opposition wants to persist with that motion I will certainly put the question.
– Mt Speaker, would you clarify a point of order? It seems to me that there are 2 motions before the Chair. One is mine that the Prime Minister be no longer heard and the other is the Prime Minister’s when he moved that further questions be put on notice.
– He does not move it; he just requests it.
– He did move it. I suggest that honourable members who do not agree look at Hansard tomorrow. It was put in the form of a motion.
– Speaking to the point of order, it now being 10.45 may I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
-The Prime Minister: was not entitled to move that further questions be placed on notice. He has only to ask that they be placed on notice.
– Yes, but he did move it, did he not?
– That is correct.
– In that case I will speak to that motion.
– Which motion?
– His motion, presumably.
– As the Prime Minister’s motion was out of order, the right honourable gentleman is out of order in speaking to it.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker, you have ruled the Prime Minister’s motion out of order and I will now speak to mine.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman cannot defy the Chair. If the Prime Minister’s motion was out of order then the right honourable member is out of order in referring to it.
– May I now speak to mine, Mr Speaker?
– No. The Standing Orders do not permit it.
– I would like to understand; that is all.
-Is the right honourable member defying the Chair?
– No, I am not. I just want to know: Is it out of order for me to speak to my motion that the Prime Minister be no longer heard?
– That seems quite wrong.
– They are running this place like a lot of hill-billies.
– Not you.
-Order! That is a reflection on the Chair and I ask the honourable member to withdraw it. I warn the honourable member: One more crack like that and you are out. Standing order 94 states:
A motion may be made that a Member who ls speaking, except a Member giving a notice of motion or formally moving the terms of a motion allowed under the Standing Orders, ‘be not further heard’, and such question’ shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
Is it the intention of the right honourable member for Higgins to proceed with the motion?
– No, Mr Speaker. Since the Prime Minister has stopped talking I will not bother him any more.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Act 1971, 1 present a statement describing the arrangements in accordance with which payments under this Act have been authorised in 1972.
– With reference to the statement made on behalf of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) 2 days ago about certain documents, I present copies of those documents from the files of the Attorney-General’s Department, the Commonwealth Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation relating to Croatian terrorist activities in Australia. I ask for leave of the House to move a motion to authorise publication of the papers.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Mr Enderby) agreed to:
That this House, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Papers Act 1908-1963, authorises the publication of copies of documents from the files of the Attorney-General’s Department, the Commonwealth Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation relating to Croation terrorist activities in Australia presented to the House this day by the Minister representing the Attorney-General.
– I move:
That a joint select committee be appointed to inquire into and report on:
whether the televising of portion of the parliamentary debates and proceedings is desirable, and
if so, to what extent and in what manner the telecasts should be undertaken.
Is there a seconder?
– Order! The honourable member for Bradfield can complete his speech and his motion can be seconded after he completes his speech. There is no need for it to be seconded now.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I understand that an amendment will be moved to refer this matter to the Joint Statutory Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, which is already in existence. I have no objection whatsoever to this. Indeed, this would be the appropriate committee, rather than an ad hoc committee as I have suggested. The important point for all honourable members to consider is that the matter should go to a committee for report to this House and that the motion should not be talked out and there should be an opportunity for a vote. I believe that there is considerable support for the motion.
Let me emphasise several points about the motion itself. The motion is for the appointment of a committee. It does not seek a decision at this time on whether the Parliament should be televised. It simply seeks the appointment of a committee to look into this question in depth. The reason for appointing a committee is that it is impossible for anyone to come to a rational conclusion on the issue unless he has before him specific proposals. One type of proposal for televising the Parliament might be rejected by honourable members. Another type might be acceptable. It is for this reason that the motion seeks the appointment of a committee to investigate the matter in depth. The question of cost also might be a very important consideration with a large number of honourable members, and this obviously cannot be determined except by means of a committee with power to call for persons and papers and to investigate the matter with the aid of people who have special information to give.
Let me make some preliminary comments on the motion. First of all, why televise Parliament? After all. Parliament already is broadcast by radio; so why televise it? The reason is perfectly plain. Television is the most common and most potent means of communication today. It is desirable that the Parliament be televised for the same reason that people who have something to sell go into the market place - a place frequented by people - to sell it. It is television that has captured the leadership among all the mass media today. The motion goes on to call for an inquiry into televising only portion of the proceedings of the Parliament. I do not think that the reason for this needs much elaboration. One has to admit that the broadcasting of the Committee stage of a Bill such as a peanuts export bounty bill is not fascinating to many people. It may be of some importance, of course, to people of Kingaroy, and this is not unimportant. But the fact remains that nobody could seriously suggest that we ought to telecast the whole of the proceedings. I do not think I need elaborate on that any further. However, this raises the question of what portion or portions should be televised if we are to select.
Again my motion raises the question as to the manner in which the televising should be done. This, in turn, divides itself into 2 questions. Firstly, who is to produce the telecast and, secondly, by what means is it to be transmitted? On the question of what portion should be televised, the question of priorities arises. My proposal is that the committee might well consider the televising of question time which, of course, can be re-transmitted later in the day if desired, and that the leading speakers on each side of the House could be televised when important debates occur. This very day a question has arisen in the minds of many honourable members. Supposing Ministers were to use question time, as indeed their predecessors did, to give some long exposition of some Party point of view instead of answering questions? This would give the Government an unfair advantage. I believe that Australian people are not fools. If this performance came before the people at large they would make their own judgment as to whether Ministers were abusing question time. They are capable of making that judgment. The forms of the House make it possible to prevent the kind of thing that happened this morning, for example, when an honourable member in the course of a shemozzle moved that a Minister be no longer heard. People would judge whether that action was justifiable in the circumstances and whether the Minister was abusing the forms of the House. I have great faith in the public in these matters.
As to the televising of question time, I believe that we would have to reform our present practice in important respects. For example, provision could be made in the Standing Orders for supplementary questions in order that matters could be pursued in some depth. It is ridiculous that at Press conferences this can be done by members of the Press but that honourable members in this House have no opportunity to pursue matters in any depth at all. This would require a revision of the practice of the House. In relation to the televising of important debates this should be done only when both sides have agreed. This would prevent the Government from using this device for televising debates when it feels it can score, and the same applies for the Opposition. Agreement would have to be reached on both sides as to what debates should be televised. I do not believe that this would create any great difficulty. For example, the introduction of and reply to a Budget would be accepted as being important. Similarly a no confidence motion would be accepted as an important debate. 1 should think that there can be no question that the matters going on today both in another place and in this place in relation to the Australian Security ‘ Intelligence Organisation and the activities of certain Croatians are important matters.
If my proposal were accepted then it would not involve any question of editing, except so far as the production of the material is concerned. It would involve simply a matter of curtailment of the number of speakers who might be televised in taking part in an important debate. 1 now draw attention to certain proposals made in the House of Commons lately. The House of Commons at Westminster proposed a television Hansard. From this would be extracted, at the end of the day a program that might be called: ‘This Day in Parliament’. It would, of course, be an edited version of the day’s proceedings dealing with the more important questions and answers, statements and replies, speeches in debates and so on. This would depend upon the integrity of the people doing the production and the editing. lt was proposed in the House of Commons that this television Hansard of parliamentary proceedings should also be available to the various television stations for extracts in connection with news commentaries and current affairs programs. If, for example, there were a question relating, .shall we say, to kangaroos asked by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) and if a television station were interested in that matter it might show the question being asked or part of the question and part of the answer sufficient to convey the idea.
So far as my proposals are concerned, while they would involve some curtailment of the numbers of speeches telecast they would not involve editing except insofar as the production was concerned. On the other hand, the proposals from the House of Commons would suggest a good deal of editing and selection for the purposes of balance, fairness and so forth in producing a half-hour program such as This Day in Parliament’. As to the second part of my motion, the manner in which parliamentary telecasts should be undertaken, this involves, as I have already said, 2 questions - production and transmission. Pausing for a moment on the question of production, quite obviously any performance, whatever it may be, can be televised in different ways. It depends on what pictures you choose to take or do not choose to take. In the House of Commons there was a concensus, I believe, that this should be done by a television unit of the Parliament under the control of the Speaker and the President and perhaps assisted by a committee, such as the Broadcasting Committee that we already have, to ensure balance and objectivity. This is a question not of censorship but of ensuring balance and objectivity in production and to ensure that the method of television should not result in abuses. For example, a member might be making a most eloquent speech, a genuinely eloquent speech and the camera in a reaction shot could switch on to some member who might happen to be asleep at the time or a member who may be picking his nose and spoil the whole effect of that magnificent peroration. This would be unfair because the honourable member who happened to be asleep obviously was asleep only because he was very tired, not because the speech was a dull one and therefore if the reaction shot were taken it would give the wrong impression that the speech was a dull one. That would be unfair and that is the kind of thing that Mr Speaker and the committee would have to watch.
As to the transmission of such parliamentary programs, remembering always that I am suggesting that merely a portion of the proceedings and not the whole should be televised, this might conceivably be done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission taking over the fourth channel in Sydney and Melbourne as has been rumoured of late is the intention of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) and the Government - and I would not regard the loss of the present station, certainly in Sydney, as being an important loss - or it could be done by hiring time on commercial stations. These obviously are matters that only a committee could go into. None of us in this place could reach any conclusion upon these matters at this time. It may be that the whole project is impracticable. But if the argument is put forward that Parliament should not take up time on television because there are more important matters, I suggest that westerns and crime dramas could be regarded by some as a little less important than the televising of some parts of the parliamentary debates. In any event I would suggest that although Parliament is for most of the time a workshop it is also sometimes a theatre. Sometimes television can be quite exciting and I would think that televising the proceedings of the House could, on many occasions, be quite exciting as, I suggest, some recent matters that have been before the Parliament would indicate.
Why should parliamentary proceedings or some parts of debates be televised? I say that Parliament should not be cut off from the most used and powerful medium of mass communication today. The House of Commons years ago excluded the Press and indeed I believe that until about 1908 it was technically a breach of privilege to report verbatim the debates in the House of Commons. We are doing precisely the same today. We are excluding the most potent medium of mass communication. It is mass communication because within our population in Australia of about 13 million people there are almost 3 million television sets. In other words there is a television set to every 4 or 5 people. So it cannot be said that we are excluding large numbers of people from the privilege of seeing parliamentary proceedings televised in some respects. That is the first reason.
The second reason why proceedings should be televised is that the Parliament would restore communication between it and the electors. It is impossible today with electorates of more than 60,000 people for a member to have real communication on political matters with his constituents even if he spends every evening of his life going to meetings of parents and citizens associations, meetings of progress associations and being present whenever the council cat had kittens. He still would not be contacting any substantial number of his constituents nor indeed would he be discussing with them matters of political importance. So the telecasting of parliamentary proceedings would tend to restore communications because there would be a feed back and if members had this or that to say in the course of questioning or otherwise they would get a feed back from their electors, so communication would come both ways. Again, I believe that it would stimulate the Parliament not only to modernise its procedures - indeed, something of this has already been done in regard to, for example, Budget debates - but it would improve the standard of speeches and debates. Who puts his best into a speech when he knows that nobody is going to listen? I suggest that if honourable members knew they were on their mettle their speeches would improve and this would be good for the institution. I believe that it would revive what is now a dying institution. Why is it a dying institution? Statements which ought to be made in the House are now being made outside. Statements are being made to Press conferences that are not made here, nor are they subject to criticism within this place. Press officers have proliferated and hand-outs are the means of communication rather than statements being made in the House.
During the period of the duumvirate, as one might call it, between the date of the elections on 2nd December and the meeting of the House on 1st March, fundamental changes of policy were made without debate in this place. It is not enough to say that there was a mandate. The convention is that this is the place where important matters should be debated by the people’s representatives. There has been a usurpation by the media of the function of Parliament as the great forum of the nation. The Press no longer bothers to report debates. One reason for this is that there are news broadcasts on the radio every few hours. But the people learn through the Press only the views of commentators and commentators are often more concerned with personalities-who is winning, who is losing, who is quarrelling with whom and matters of that kind - rather than with the real issues that ought to be before the people.
As far as television is concerned, we are in a situation where the subject and the’ timing are chosen by executives in this or that broadcasting organisation. Journalists produce the program, choose the participants and conduct the discussion. This is all stage managed. The people do not have the opportunity to see those who are responsible making statements for themselves so that the people may judge for themselves. Does this matter very much? I suggest it does because people are sent here - and this is the distinctive characteristic of this place - by the people, because they are elected; they are sent by their constituents. People in the media are appointed by somebody over whom the people themselves have no control whatsoever. This is the distinctive characteristic of the Parliament and that control should be restored to the people rather than that the Parliament should be ignored or trivialised in the fashion that has been common in recent times.
Of course, there are many objections to the televising of parliamentary proceedings. I have not the time to go into them, nor is it, indeed, my function to do so in proposing this motion.
I do not deny that there are many problems. But I think that many of the objections are not important. The possibility that Parliament could become ‘showbiz’ is the most important objection of all. That development is for us to resist. People will make their own assessment of those who clown. If parliamentary proceedings are televised, speeches will not be made directly to a large audience; they will be made to people in their homes. The man who has great rhetorical skill will have no advantage. The man who can persuade people in their homes is the man who will succeed in this House. So, if anybody thinks that there is any advantage to the rhetorical speaker through televising of debates that person is entirely wrong.
People are concerned with genuineness. If a man who represents a coal mining constituency is speaking, people will not care whether he drops his aitches or whether he stumbles. When he describes how he feels as he hears the creaking of the roof in a coal mine when a pillar is being taken out people will know that he is talking about something with which he is familiar. He will receive much more attention than the glib matinee idol. So, let honourable members not be concerned about this aspect.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) is to be congratulated on bringing before the House a matter for discussion which is not only interesting but also most important. His motion should receive the consideration of the Parliament. The Government, in accordance with an undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), proposes to allow General Business to be discussed on each day when it falls due and to take a vote where possible on motions moved. That course will be followed today. I hope that the debate will conclude in time in order that we might take a vote on the subject under discussion in relation to which I propose to move an amendment shortly.
The Government has carefully considered this matter. In line with what was said by the honourable member for Bradfield including the many and varied methods and suggestions that be proposed in respect of broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, we believe that the proposal is worthy of the consideration of the Parliament. But we believe that the most appropriate method for this matter to be decided is through another channel other than by the appointment of a parliamentary select committee. I therefore move;
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings for inquiry and report:
if so, to what extent and in what manner the telecasts should be undertaken.
The amendment proposes that the inquiry be undertaken by the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings instead of by a joint select committee specially set up for the purpose. The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings has as its functions the consideration of the general principles for the allocation of the Parliamentary broadcasts and it is felt that the consideration of televising the proceedings of the Parliament is not unrelated to these functions. This Joint Committee is set up by statute under the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act which invests it with various powers for the transaction of its business. It does not, however, have the power to send for persons, papers and records. It is felt that if the Committee is to be given this inquiry in relation to televising proceedings of the Parliament it should be granted this power to examine witnesses to enable it effectively to conduct this inquiry. Provision, therefore, for this power has been incorporated in the proposed amendment. As the subject of the inquiry has relation to both Houses of the Parliament and as the Committee is a joint one composed of both senators and members it is considered to be appropriate that the references to the Committee should come from both Houses. It is therefore proposed that should the House agree that the inquiry should be undertaken by the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings a message be sent to the Senate seeking its concurrence. This approach differs only a little in substance from that of the honourable member for Bradfield. I hope that he will consider accepting it as I feel it would meet his wishes and the wishes of those who wish to have the matter discussed.
As I do not wish to detain the House other than to submit that proposal, I wish very briefly to quote a few matters for the interest of honourable members in relation to the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings and inquiries. The broadcasting of these proceedings is not exactly a new idea. As long ago as 1966 a select committee of the House of Commons considered the live transmission of parliamentary proceedings which would serve a useful purpose or hold attention of viewers and listeners. The committee considered that parliamentarians speaking in debates, if possible, should address listeners and viewers rather than debate matters in the traditional party manner. The committee suggested that members might be called on to speak at peak viewing hours. In Australia this could lead to a change of the timetable for debates. The Committee in 1966 said that it could not justify the expenditure of up to £20m for live television broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings. The Committee could see no objection, as the honourable member for Bradfield indicated, to the transmission of very important debates, such as those on the budget, economic or foreign affairs or question time and matters of that nature. It was interesting to note that on a free vote in the House of Commons the proposal was defeated in 1966 by only 131 to 130. William Deeds, MP, arguing against broadcasting said that the televising of Parliament would be designed not to improve parliamentary procedure but to improve TV programs; so it was not in the interest of Parliament. He said that on some days Parliament was dull. It would be a sin to be dull on television, he said, so members of Parliament would all appear to be sinners. That argument was used when the radio broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings was first introduced into Australia. The House of Lords, which certainly does not move with the speed of sound, experimented with closed circuit television in February 1968. The House of Commons followed suit in April and May 1968. But since that date no further progress has been made.
Professor Jensen of the University of Minnesota suggested that a possible plan for the televising of parliamentary proceedings would be to have a 90 minute late evening program giving an edited account of proceedings. But the argument against this suggestion is that an edited program could distort, misrepresent and even ridicule proceedings. Advocates of the broadcasting of proceedings assert that the same argument was adduced, as the honourable member for Bradfield mentioned, when reporters were first allowed to report the proceedings of the House of Commons in the 18th century. It was suggested that those same problems would arise. Yet no great problems have emerged since that time. It is interesting also that a survey of 50 countries shows that 29 of the countries transmit live or recorded broadcasts of daily debates. Twenty of the countries surveyed also televise debates. So, we certainly are not taking a new approach.
– Do you have a list of them?
– I could get a list for honourable members. New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines record full debates. Denmark both records and televises full debates, and the remainder of the countries surveyed broadcast extensive extracts at peak listening times, often with a commentary and opinions of experts added.
It might be of interest to the honourable members for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) to know that the younger members of the House of Commons support the broadcast of proceedings. The older members seem to be against it. But at present it appears that in the House of Commons the age of members and not the Party to which they belong is the deciding factor in whether objection is raised to the broadcasting. As late as last year there was another vote in the House of Commons on this matter. Opinion supporting the proposal slipped back a bit. A report from the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 21st October states:
The House of Commons last night refused to allow its proceedings to be televised for a trial period of about 3 weeks next summer.
The vote on this occasion was 191 to 165. A certain trend was evident. I now quote a few more arguments from this article which give substance to what the honourable member for Bradfield said. The article continues:
Advocates urged colleagues not to turn the House of Commons into a monastery and argued that the people were entitled to see what went on . . . within its precincts. Consequently they supported this move. The article states further:
John Stevens, of The Age’ London office, reports:
Mr Ashton (Lab.) apologised for having, during the debate, held up large cards with such phrases as Where is Ted?’ and’Switch off.’
He had been trying, he said, to illustrate how television debates could become ludicrous, he added.
Take something similar to politics - religion’, he said.
What has happened to religion since television got hold of it?
It has degenerated into Stars on Sunday, with Shirley ‘Bassey singing Ave Maria. Religion is now showbiz.
The only reason for wanting television cameras is vanity.
The ‘Daily Mail’ reported what TV cameras might have shown during the debate:
The Leader of the House (Mr Carr) sitting with his feet up; a bright yellow shirt worn by the member for Bolsover; almost deserted Treasury benches, and, at the end of the chamber, a dozen assorted legislators lounging by the door in various attitudes so as to look like something from a Victorian group photograph.
Mr Ashton’s empty seat bore the notice ‘Gone to eat’.
These things naturally could be mentioned by the opponents of televising Parliamentary proceedings, and they are problems that no doubt could well be considered by the committee. I do not fear that these things could happen. I am inclined to think that, as the honourable member for Bradfield said, the televising of proceedings would improve the standard of debate. I think that this is something that will come to this country in the not too distant future and that now is the appropriate time to look at it.
I commend the honourable member for Bradfield for his motion. Broadly I would say that in effect his motion is supported with the consideration that I have mentioned in the amendment. I hope that the House will debate and carry the amendment.
– I am very happy to accept the amendment. What I wanted was that the matter should be referred to a Parliamentary committee and, of course, the amendment does this.
– As the seconder of the motion I accept the amendment that has been put forward by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I suggest that the willingness of the Government to accept this Opposition proposal is an indication that it is prepared to look closely at something which we have not examined in detail before but which has been in existence in some other countries for many years. The effect of televised proceedings could be gauged by the installation of closed circuit television. The Minister for Services and Property referred to experiments in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. But as far as I am concerned conditions in Australia are far different from those in Europe in that we are one of the few countries which allows a continuous broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings when Parliament is in session. A study by the inter-Parliamentary Union in 1968 revealed that of a total of SO countries 29 transmit live or recorded broadcasts of daily debates and 20 transmit live or recorded television of daily debates. The study revealed also that Denmark has a full coverage on both radio and television.
Various surveys have proven that people consider what they see for themselves on television to be more authentic and more interesting than what they might read. I believe that the Parliament, the nation’s political workshop, should not be seen just by those people who can afford to travel to Canberra or those who live in the immediate vicinity of the nation’s capital. Parliament should be seen also by people in the far-flung areas of this country. It should be seen by the people of Perth, Cairns, Townsville and the people of Brisbane. I know that many people never have the opportunity to see what is going on down here. All they ever have to rely on is the writings of those people who sit in judgment in the Press gallery and at times a disjointed appreciation gained over the radio. Unfortunately throughout Australia today there are still places where the broadcast of parliamentary proceedings is not available.
I believe that the prime consideration of whether Parliamentary proceedings should be televised is whether or not parliamentary democracy will be strengthened as a result of our allowing the proceedings of this Parliament to go on television to the people. It is my view that parliamentary democracy will be strengthened and advanced by televising proceedings. The Minister for Services and Property, now at the table, mentioned that the experience in the United Kingdom was that the younger members of Parliament were in favour of televising the proceedings while the older members were not so much in favour of it. Looking around the chamber I do not see many honourable members whom I would put in the category of being old. I know that the Minister for Services and Property and you, Mr Speaker, have been here for a long long time, but you came in at a young age and I am quite sure that as individuals you would not for a moment be frightened of the glaring lights and the television camera. I suggest that in recent years members of the Parliament have become used to television. It is something that we do not all shy from. We are not frightened if we are asked to go on television. As long as we know the subject about which we are invited to speak we go on with considerable confidence and appearance.
There are those who say that the better looking members of the Parliament will attract the attention of the operators of the television cameras. I do not believe that this would be so. We would not have the glamour boys, like the Minister at the table, stealing all the television time because the cameras, just as the people, would be searching for those qualities of sincerity and would not wish to highlight arrogance. The television camera would soon unmask incompetence and reveal intellectual, moral and rhetorical qualities. This in itself would have the effect of a check upon members of this Parliament, because if they knew that they were to be under scrutiny they would just not loosely prepare their speeches. They would put a lot more thought into what they intended to say. I do not think that every member will regard Parliament as a stage. I do not think this will happen, because we here already take little notice of the presence of people in the galleries. I have seen honourable members at times, particularly some supporters of the Government when they were in Opposition, enjoy a full gallery and they used to play to the gallery. But they did this in a fun kind of way and the quality of their speeches really was unaffected when they did have an audience. I believe that after a time members would become used to the fact that they might be on television.
The argument has been advanced that a certain member might be dozing in his seat and that the television camera might focus on him in an endeavour to show him up and thus this would detract from the institution of Parliament. I believe that if we did implement the Danish system where the proceedings of Parliament were televised from the commencement till the end of the day people would understand that there is a possibility that some members might doze off at times. But I would not like to see a full televising of the proceedings. I would like to see televised excerpts of the day, the coverage of particularly important debates which both the Government and the Opposition agreed were the subject of such public interest that the public should be given the opportunity to see them.
– Such as tariffs?
– The honourable member for Wakefield says: ‘Tariffs’. I do not think we need to introduce television for the entire nation to be aware of his interest in that subject. Heavens, I have lost my train of thought.
– You had better not do that on television.
– If this happens it might show the people that we are simply humans and representative of the population. In seconding this proposal I congratulate the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) for being so quick off the mark in bringing this subject before the Parliament. He telephoned me in early January and said that he would like to see this proposal considered and perhaps even introduced. He said that he still had an open mind on the subject and that while there may be some disadvantages there were many advantages. He has had a continuing interest in the promotion of Parliament as an institution. It is the institution of Parliament that preserves our democratic system. Without it the freedoms which this nation enjoys would be imperilled. In this place feelings are expressed and questions are answered. It is indeed an important institution. If there is any way that we can protect it and promote it I am in favour of it. I certainly hope, since I have stated that in my view all the members of this Parliament are reasonably young, that they will follow the example of the United Kingdom where the younger members of the Parliament voted in favour of the proposition and the older members - they are certainly in the minority here - were less inclined to favour such a scheme.
– I apologise to you, Mr Speaker, for having broken in before you proposed the question. I simply wish to say that I accept the amendment.
– Are you speaking to the amendment?
– Yes-. Technically I am speaking to the amendment. I do not want to say more than a few words. I am glad that this motion has been put forward by me representing age and by my seconder representing youth. It comes very well recommended to the House from both points of view.
– I support the amendment and, in doing so, in no way cut across the basic proposition put by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner). Mr Speaker I might suggest in all kindness and generosity that perhaps the most exciting event of the first televising of this Parliament would be the ejection of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) following your warning to him this morning. I fully support the initiative of the honourable member for Bradfield. I think he would be well aware of my almost total support for the proposition he has put. I want to digress for a moment. In the first seminar of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference held in Canberra last year I made some mention of this matter.
Let me take up one or two of the points raised by the honourable member for Bradfield. I think it is right that this matter should go to a committee. This subject has long exercised the minds of lots of people not only in the Parliament but also outside the Parliament, and within the television industry itself. Of course, great physical difficulties are involved in televising part of the parliamentary proceedings. One of the difficulties is the enormous cost involved. I do not want to pre-empt what the committee might decide in regard to this matter, but this cost would be very significant. Another question to be considered is the type of equipment that would be used in this chamber. It might well mean that the chamber would have to be physically restructured to provide the types of cameras necessary to transmit the sort of program that would be acceptable not only to this House but also from a technical viewpoint.
One is also reminded of the imminence of colour television. This again presents technical difficulties which are different from those experienced at the moment with black and white television. For example, honourable members might well be somewhat discomforted by the fact that, if only a portion of, say, question time were to be televised from this chamber, a greater intensity of light would be needed for the transmission of an effective colour television program. I am not putting these propositions against the proposal. I am merely reminding honourable members of the sorts of difficulties that confront us in a project of this kind.
I agree with the honourable member for Bradfield that perhaps the televising of question time could well be the most likely start we could make in this direction. The honourable member made a very valid point when he said that if proceedings were televised we would have to watch out for the possibility that certain individuals in the chamber could hog the camera, as it is referred to in the business. I do not think that would occur but one would have to be aware of the possibility. This would have to be looked at very closely. But 1 imagine that the viewers would be quite capable of making their own assessment of the performance of a Minister or a leading member of the Opposition. I do not think that television, being the visual medium which it essentially is, would allow people not to be able to come to some conclusive judgment of the performance of, say, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition.
One of the great difficulties experienced in the United Kingdom was how to achieve balance and objectivity. This was referred to by the honourable member for Bradfield. I think that this would create quite enormous difficulties after arriving at the technique to be used for the transmission of part of the proceedings from this House. These are just one or two of the matters to which one would have to give some thought. They are not insurmountable difficulties and they are not the greatest difficulties with which the committee would be faced. I certainly reinforce the suggestion that this Parliament has to convince the electorate as a whole of the merit of its performance in this chamber, the proceedings of the House, the standards of debate and indeed the behaviour in the House and this has to be transmitted to the public in a far more efficient way than is currently being done. I am in favour of broadcasting the parliamentary proceedings but I do not think the technique we have at the moment is the best technique that can be found. It has many deficiencies and it can be improved, but nonetheless it serves a very valuable purpose in communicating to a great number of people outside this chamber precisely what happens in here and how it happens.
Let me comment briefly on the situation which confronted the Parliament in the United Kingdom. It has already been said that in 1966 a motion to approve a closed circuit experiment in the House of Commons was defeated by only one vote. In 1968 an experiment took place in the House of Lords. My information is that the noble Lords were not overly excited by this event. Indeed, one commentator informed me that one member of the House of Lords, at the very prospect of television cameras intruding into that chamber, retired and was described as being in an advanced state of apoplexy at the prospect. It is interesting to note that last October, in a free vote in the House of Commons, the proposal was again rejected, by a majority of 26. The atmosphere in 1966 was almost in favour of the experiment and last October the majority was 26 against any such televising of the proceedings of the Parliament. I do not really think that the system in Denmark, while it is typical of the advances that the Scandinavians reveal in so many areas of government, would work in this country. If the matter is considered by the committee and a decision made to recommend that some portion of the proceedings of the House be televised, I think it would be necessary to look quite seriously at what would be televised and by whom it would be done. Also, it might well be a very good idea to give some thought to the establishment of another channel for the televising of parliamentary events. I do not think it quite fair to inflict on the public at large, through the 2 existing channels and the third network of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, continuous broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings and then to subject viewers to televised excerpts from this chamber or from the Parliament as a whole.
I reiterate that I support the proposal put forward by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and, of course, support the amendment. In conclusion I say that perhaps one of the most eminent television practitioners in the world, Mr Robin Day, in giving evidence before the committee in the United Kingdom had this to say:
It would enable the public to see what I would describe as an authentic political debate on their television screens, instead of substitutes devised and cast by television producers.
In effect Mr Robin Day is saying that he would prefer to see televised excerpts from this chamber instead of a studio re-representation of the proceedings. I would have to lend some support to that proposition. I support the amendment and I congratulate the honourable member for Bradfield for his long-standing, continuing interest in the communication of the parliamentary proceedings to the people outside this chamber.
– The Country Party supports the amendment before the House. We believe that the proposition put forward by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) - and the amendment which followed - gives the opportunity for a proper study to be made of an obviously important question to be determined by this Parliament. A modern approach in this day and age to the transmission to the electorate of what occurs in this chamber and in the other place is a responsibility of this Parliament. When one is mindful of the fact that today world events become the privilege, from the point of view of observation and interest, of so many citizens in so many countries almost instantly when they occur, it is right and proper that we should look very seriously at this matter. But, of course, all the vital considerations must be taken into account. The terms of the original motion and the amendment make adequate provision for this to be done. It would be unthinkable that we should introduce willy-nilly a means of communicating the proceedings of Parliament and, in so doing, distort them and give a wrong construction. This could quite easily occur unless great care is taken, first of all, to devise an approach to the means of transmission and then to consider the aspects that this in its wake will create.
Previous speakers have referred to the almost inescapable requirement to change 2 essential things - the venue, which is of course the very nature of this chamber and undoubtedly the chamber of the other place, and the procedures. I believe that these 2 matters would require very careful study. I hope that the Joint Statutory Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings - assuming that it will undertake this task - will call before it people concerned in both of these fields. They are very important considerations. I believe that it would be wrong for the committee to present a report which in the first place had not given an opportunity for participation by other related committees. I refer to the Standing Orders Committee, the House Committee and, perhaps, the Privileges Committee. In considering the import of this whole matter there is a range of vital ingredients to be considered. Of course, overseas study would be another essential aspect. Any honourable member who has visited the House of Commons, the Capitol in Washington or the more modern and more recently constructed venues of parliament in other countries, would think twice before believing that the procedures and venue of this Parliament can be very quickly changed.
The Westminister system is one which we cherish and which I am sure we will want to preserve. We will not want to turn the House into an arena for some other kind of parliamentary procedure, which could quite easily be a very compelling requirement if television were suddenly to be intruded into the chamber without the depth of consideration and planning that would avoid these kinds of pitfalls which could drastically affect the effectiveness and the operation of Parliament. If one thinks of the kind of reactions that would come from the public it would be right and proper that the fundamentals of transmission should be taken into account. I suppose it is no shock or surprise to visitors who come to this chamber, sit in the gallery and look down, when they observe a very different scene from that which they had seen in their minds’ eye as being the operation of the national Parliament. Constituents from my own electorate have come to me and said: We were in Canberra and we sat in the gallery. Do they always carry on like that?’ Probably Parliament was in session as it is now. Unless people have information which gives them the reason for the particular stage of the proceedings they are watching, information which describes to them the necessity of it or the relative factors concerning the whole of the business paper of the day, or the business of the session - or whatever it might be - they can easily get a very distorted and unfortunate picture of what happens in the national Parliament.
I am not suggesting that television would be so manipulated that we would get a certain type of picture transmitted out of this place. However, I think that aspect is very important. For that reason I am interested in what has been said about experiments with closed circuit television in the House of Commons. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) referred to the operation of television in some 20 other Parliaments around the world. I am sure that honourable members will be interested to receive more information on this. Having seen the House of Commons in operation it occurs to me that even it presents a more readily acceptable and usable style than this chamber. There are many differences such as the very layout of the chamber, the very nature of the way in which the business proceeds and the fact that at question time there is a series of questions on notice as distinct from our own pattern of procedure of questions without notice. If we were to experiment with closed circuit television as a preliminary it could be a very useful thing in upgrading the efficiency of this House and the Senate.
It is not very long ago that members did not have the privilege of a speaker transmitting the proceedings of the chamber into their own rooms in this House. Many of us brought our transistor radios and listened to them on the day that the proceedings of this House were on the air and sometimes listened to the other place when it was on the air, and we were able to derive benefit from this by being able to keep in touch with the chamber whilst attending to other important parliamentary duties. But it took a long time for the establishment to recognise that the transmitting of proceedings to members rooms was a useful thing. The old argument was that if this type of facility was installed in members’ rooms it would tend to encourage them to leave the chamber and go back to their own rooms. 1 do not think there has been the slightest difference in the attendance in the chamber since the introduction of speakers into members’ rooms as against the prior period when this facility was not provided.
Thinking in terms of closed circuit television, one can imagine some efficiency to the point where Party rooms, committee rooms and the like were placed within a closed circuit facility relaying events from the chamber. This would be of tremendous value. It would give an opportunity for members to keep more closely in touch with the affairs being dealt with all the time, but to make this facility effective there are many matters that could be updated. For example, it would be no problem to have as a caption on a closed circuit screen a fixed identification of the business before the House - such and such a Bill or debate or whatever it might be - so that members within Parliament House itself but not in the chamber could instantly know the stage of progress, what was before the House, who was speaking and that sort of thing. I believe that if we were to aproach this matter in this way we would begin to produce an effective basis on which the whole matter of transmission outside the House could become a greater prospect, with a taking into account of ways and means of doing it effectively. Therefore I suggest that the Committee look very closely in the first place at some experimentation with closed circuit television within Parliament House itself. I believe this would be one way of overcoming the impediment I mentioned a moment ago - that members who come into this chamber for a short time are mystified as (o what is really going on. They may have whispered to them by an attendant, or they may inquire, what is before the House. It is fairly meaningless unless other details are readily conveyed to them. 1 think the House of Commons, for example, has another aparatus that is very useful, that is, an electric device by which the matter before the House can be read in various places, in passageways and in rooms around the building. This of course is a first step toward a closed circuit information system, if I may use that terminology.
I shall move on quickly because I know there are other speakers who will want to make a contribution. The last thing we want to do is denigrate Parliament. It has been suggested that in the early days of the House of Commons at Westminster even the Press was excluded, and no doubt there was a reason. I venture to suggest that in those early days there were .not printing presses of the type we have now. There were not the means of getting out quickly to the outside world a full account of Parliament. Times changed. Then it became a matter of the morning Press being able to carry a full account. If we think in terms of the beginning of this Parliament, the morning Press certainly carried a much fuller account than we get today. The old style of recording proceedings almost as Hansard does for newspaper purposes was the approach of that era. That era of course has passed and we have reached the stage where a very different approach is made by the media - I refer to the Press, the radio and television - to the reporting of proceedings. Of course in more recent times the use of studios located in Canberra where interviews take place within a very short time of events in this House has drastically changed the way in which , the public is able to learn of events and occurrences in this
House. This is progress and we must keep pace with it.
I strongly support the proposition that a committee should look closely at all aspects. I hope that there will be a basis on which there can be a safe progression to a direct transmission of the affairs of the nation as conducted in this chamber - not a distorted one, not a slanted one, not one that would be misleading, but one that would be fair and honest both to the nation, which after all will have to put up with it if it is to see Parliament on television, and to this House, where impartiality has always been a byword and where members would like to see fair play and justice in every direction.
– I would like in the first place to congratulate the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) for bringing this important question before the Parliament. It is a matter which was considered by the House of Commons and the House of Lords some 6 years ago and on several occasions. I am happy that the Government has moved an amendment which has been Incorporated in the motion, because I think that what the amendment proposes is the logical procedure to follow. It is certainly something that we and our committee should look at very carefully. I suggest that many members might see themselves developing as television stars in the sense that their appearance on television would add something to the vote that they enjoy in their electorates.
– They might lose votes.
– That is true. Indeed, other members might be fearful that the image they project would at times not win them votes. I think the basic purpose of this resolution is to look again at what can be done to bring the Parliament closer to the people. I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Bradfield for his consistent work in Parliament and to congratulate also the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) who is unfortunately not with us today because he is recovering after a short stay in hospital. Both these gentlemen have tried to work for the Parliament as an institution and develop the importance of this Parliament to the people of this country when all the influence of the media and other pressures in the community have been directed towards focusing attention on the Executive Government, on the Prime Minister, on the Cabinet and on things that take place at that level. We have a Prime Minister, whose leadership I am very proud to follow, who holds a Press conference regularly on Tuesday. This conference is broadcast and it is much publicised. Some of the newspapers run a section entitled “The Prime Minister’s Press Conference’ which gives attention to the decisions made by the Executive, decisions made by the Cabinet.
The function of televising the Parliament ought to be to bring home to the people that, notwithstanding the importance of the Executive Government, the Cabinet and the Prime Minister, decisions can be made at that level only subject to the government of the day enjoying a majority in this place and subject to the approval of this place in many ways. I would think that if we see televising of the proceedings of this House, whether full time or on an occasional basis, as having the purpose of bringing the institution closer to the people, this will be a well motivated idea. There are of course many ways in which this can be done. One can televise the glamour activities of Parliament - the opening of Parliament, various parliamentary functions or the swearing in of members. One can imagine that proceedings could be televised when the Prime Minister or another Minister makes a very important statement - a defence statement or a foreign affairs statement- or when the Leader of the Opposition is replying or when some matter of great public interest such as what is often called an urgency motion is being debated.
– Such as the statement about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
– That is true. An example is the statement made by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) in the Senate this week. When a matter of great interest is being debated it could be televised. On the other hand there are dangers in televising the personalities of the Parliament. Somehow as this procedure develops we have to get through to the people the importance of the backbenchers because the personalities, irrespective of what Party they lead at this or any point of time, are in those positions only because they enjoy the support of the backbenchers in their Party.
One of the things I am concerned about, and is a reason why I incline to the idea that we should work on an occasional system, is whether we can balance the 2 matters of tha televising of national issues and the getting across of the story of and the role played by the Parliament through the constructive speeches made on both sides on the issues which come before us. As we all know, there are many occasions on which we would not choose to have Parliament televised. In the chamber at this time there are a great number of seats vacant. But mat does not mean that all the honourable members who are not in the chamber are in the billiard room, in the bar, playing squash or enjoying the comfortable surroundings of the parliamentary gardens. It probably means that most of our colleagues are in their offices attending to correspondence, attending meetings of parliamentary committees or using their time in’ some other constructive way. We realise that if we sat in this chamber for every minute of the day we would not be using our time to the best advantage and most of the preparatory work for our speeches would not be done. One of the problems of television is that we would have to get this message through to the people. On occasions I have heard people in King’s Hall saying, in effect: ‘Good heavens! I was just in the gallery. Parliament is meeting and there are only half a dozen members in the House. Where are they?’ This is one of the problems. If we were to televise Parliament we should not televise only the proceedings in this chamber but also, if we did that on an occasional basis, the parliamentary comittees at work, committees such as the Joint Committee on Public Works, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and no doubt, on occasions* the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which is a matter to be discussed later this day. We should show the working of Parliament in total.
The dangers in this proposal have been mentioned before. It has been said that we might be altering our Standing Orders to conform with television techniques and that we would then turn this place into an opera house rather than a house of discussion. There are, of course, other problems such as (he cost of televising proceedings and perhaps the provision of a second channel to enable this to be done without intruding on other aspects of television. I am one of those people who do not believe that the standard of television in Australia is high. I suppose it is unfair of me to say that because I see very little television but I do notice my children at home looking at all sorts of film entertainment and the like which I would not regard as being a very useful way in which to spend my time. Of course, the Parliament would be in competition with entertainment programs. I am not reflecting on any honourable members in this House when I say that there would be times when some of the more entertaining programs on television would have a much greater drawing capacity than the televising of the Parliament. These are amongst the problems which have to be looked at.
The big problem, as I see it, is that of developing personalities because television does encourage the development of personalities. Television tends to focus on people who have the sort of skills which in earlier days made Jack Davey and Bob Dyer great radio personalities and which today make great television personalities. If televising the proceedings of this House means that we are to televise personalities only I do not think we are really helping the institution of Parliament. In supporting the approaches taken by the honourable members on both sides of the House I trust that, when this matter is considered, the televising of the Parliament will be looked at not in the light of whether this will give some political advantage to the Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition of the time, or enable other honourable members to become television personalities in the Parliament, but at the way in which television could be intelligently and fairly used, as is the tradition of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in broadcasting, to enable this institution to be better understood by the people of Australia. They may then have brought home to them the importance of this institution in scrutinising the decisions of the executive government. One of the sad facts of life is that there are few people in the Australian community who really understand how the Parliament works. If arrangements can be made which will enable the televising of the proceedings or part of the proceedings of this House and of the Senate and, of course, of our parliamentary committees and other activities in such a way as to enhance the prestige of this institution and bring to the people of Australia a better understanding of how the Parliament works, I very enthusiastically support the motion.
– -This has been a most useful and interesting debate. I join other honourable members in congratulating my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), on his initiative in bringing this important matter forward for discussion this morning. I also pay a tribute to the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) for the thought that he has obviously given to this matter and for the very well prepared amendment that he moved for the consideration of the chamber. Of course, the question before us this morning is not whether the televising of parliamentary debates should or should not be agreed to. Fortunately we are not called upon at this stage to decide whether to adopt such a major innovation. However, it is timely that we do consider whether this measure should be introduced. Of course, the best way to consider it is to refer it, as suggested, to a committee. I was very pleased when the Leader of the House brought forward his amendment to refer it to the Joint Statutory Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Procedures, a committee which I had the pleasure of serving on for some years. It is a most interesting committee. I have no doubt that this committee, assuming that the amended motion is carried this morning, will find its task extremely interesting and will produce a very worthwhile report.
The question of televising a portion of the proceedings of this Parliament can be taken as an extension of the present broadcasting of proceedings because, unlike the House of Commons at Westminster, we have for many years had extensive experience of the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. In passing may I say that I am not at all sure that the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings is not too extensive. In other words, we might with advantage be more selective in relation to the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. We would all agree that many debates are doubtless dull and uninteresting, especially to the listening public. With this in mind I feel that it would be wise if we were very selective in any decision to televise portion of our parliamentary proceedings. It has been put forward already, and I agree entirely, that question time is clearly the period of most general interest to the public because of the variety of topics covered and because of the personal involvement of many honourable members in the chamber on both sides as well as, of course, Ministers who are under interrogation during this period. I am not sure that I agree with the honourable member for Bradfield when he said he thought it would be necessary to amend the Standing Orders to provide for supplementary questions to be asked. Standing order 151 states:
Questions may be asked without notice. At the discretion of the Speaker supplementary questions may be asked to elucidate an answer.
Although I do not gainsay the suggestion that we may, perhaps with advantage, have a look at the restructuring of question time or some aspects of it, I do not think it is necessary to introduce an amendment to enable the asking of supplementary questions. I feel sure that there would be wide public interest in the televising of important debates such as speeches by leading spokesmen on either side in relation to Treasury matters, particularly the annual Budget which affects everyone in the nation. Debates on electoral matters also have a wide appeal. Many foreign affairs debates are very interesting, as are defence debates .and debates on the environment. We could all go on and mention . many other interesting topics that we discuss from time to time in this chamber.
Of course - this is an important pointthere would need to be a fair and reasonable balance as between front and back benchers. It would not be fair for front bench members of either side to hog the show. If Parliament is to be presented as a working whole - I agree entirely with what the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) put forward - the various aspects of a member’s work, including the private member’s work, must be depicted. The honourable member for Brisbane suggested that the work of some committees might be televised. I do not think that the general public appreciates or understands nearly enough about the work of parliamentary committees. I do not think that the general public realises the amount of research that members must do in the Library and the amount of work that is done in dealing with correspondence, inquiries and visits from constituents. All these matters are of great interest to the general public, but they are not nearly sufficiently well known or understood by the general public. I believe that this suggested form of communication of debates and other activities would help to overcome the present shortcoming.
I believe that parliamentary democracy is best served by a maximum participation by the general public. It is important, in my view, that the electors be well informed on matters of current interest in the national sphere. In the course of each year, quite a number of Australians visit their national Parliament and we are always glad to see them and to welcome them, even though we do not always have the opportunity to meet them. This is the people’s Parliament and the more people know and understand what goes on in this, their Parliament, the better it is for the nation as a whole. As the honourable member for Bradfield, and I think other honourable members, pointed out, television without doubt is the most powerful modern medium of communication. Provided the necessary technicalities can be catered for satisfactorily in the chamber without undue disturbance to the House and without inconvenience or discomfort to members, and provided that the television technicians and producers are fair and objective and that the entire televising of the proceedings is under the direct supervision of Mr Speaker, I can see no valid objection to the televising of selected parts of our proceedings. On the contrary, I can see positive advantage both to the Parliament as an institution and to the community in so doing.
Earlier speakers have referred to what has been done in this respect in other countries. I would not agree for a moment to the televising of the entire proceedings of Parliament. I think the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) mentioned that the entire proceedings of the Danish Parliament are televised. I think that this would be disastrous. But I do agree that it would be wise to experiment a little first with closed circuit television, as was done in 1968 at Westminster. Let us not hurry unduly into a decision. Let us be cautious in our approach, because many aspects must be considered. Many points have already been raised in this debate this morning, but there are other points that we have not had time to canvass today. Many points could be raised under the headings, firstly, of desirability and, secondly, of feasibility, including cost.
I am sure that if this amended motion is carried, as I hope it will be, the committee to which the matter will be referred for consideration and report to this House will be greatly assisted by the reports that are printed in the ‘Parliamentarian’ - the journal of the parliaments of the Commonwealth - to which reference already has been made this morning. The 3 issues to which 1 refer, which con- tain articles and a great deal of data on this matter, are those of October 1966, January 1971 and January 1973. 1 am sure that those articles would be most informative and useful to the committee in its deliberations. I do not know whether there are to be other speakers in this debate; but, in case there are and as 1 am most anxious that this matter be brought to a vote today and that a decision be taken, 1 conclude by saying that I fully support the motion as amended.
– In general, I can see no objection to any serious suggestion being considered by a committee; and that must apply all the more where, as in the case of the Joint Statutory Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, the committee has relatively little to do. But I want to make it clear, while I support the amendment on this limited basis, that, perhaps in contrast to earlier speakers, 1 will vote for the proposition only in the terms in which it is presented - that is, inviting an inquiry by a committee and certainly nothing more. Indeed, the committee would have to come up with some altogether unexpected findings to persuade me to change my present view, which is that we should oppose the televising of proceedings, apart from on the most exceptional and merely formal occasions.
Frankly, the prospect that we should provide yet another platform for grandstanding in the House does not attract me. It seems to me that we have enough such opportunities already. We have our proximity to the Press. We have the Hansard report, with its free copies of speeches for distribution. Above all, we have the radio broadcasts, with all the jockeying for position that they encourage. Just compare the eagerness of honourable members to speak on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the proceedings of the House normally are broadcast, with the position on Wednesdays, when normally we are off the air and the Senate has its turn; or consider the time-tabling of ministerial statements for the presumed prime times of 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day.
Just imagine how the attention gaining exercise would be magnified when, as even the motion of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) realistically accepts, television at most could cover only part of our proceedings. Let us say we had a threequarters of an hour to one hour daily program of parliamentary excerpts. Now, let us try to anticipate the sort of material which a reasonable television producer would have to include. The formal opening, I would think, would continue to be one such example. I agree with the honourable member for Bradfield that the Budget Speech and the Leader of the Opposition’s reply probably would be 2 others. A statement on which some special public interest or expectation had developed would be yet another. We have had an example of that this week in the statement of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) on terrorist groups. For the rest, the limited time remaining almost certainly would be devoted to extracts from question time each day in the House of Representatives and the Senate. I think I would have the agreement of the honourable members for Bradfield, Franklin (Mr Sherry) and Ryan (Mr Drury) on that.
But what emerges from this combination of content? Firstly, a predominance in exposure of Government over Opposition and, secondly, a predominance in exposure of front bench members over back bench members. This is not to suspect some inevitable editorial bias. What it does suggest, though, is that the producer of any television extract hoping to attract an audience would have to compress the limited number of events of the day which are both important and interesting and these, including question time, are almost exclusively the preserve of Ministers - despite popular fallacies to the contrary. Backbenchers might be seen fleetingly as they ask their occasional question; for the rest they would be invisible or at the most part of the chorus, unless they deliberately set out to make themselves obstructive or objectionable. Arguments about real communication and bringing Parliament to the people, showing what we are really like, are unreal to this extent. We cannot show the people what Parliament is really like by condensing the hourandahalf when 100 or more honourable members are present in the chamber. We have to give at least proportionate time to the 8 hours a day when as few as 10 or 12 honourable members are present. But then, to be fair, the cameras would have to follow us where we went outside the chamber - to the Caucus room, committee rooms, our offices, the library, the bar and the coffee room as well. I do not believe that that will be seriously considered. It has been suggested by some honourable members that televising .vill increase attendance in the chamber but so far as I am aware no argument has been produced as to why that will necessarily be an improvement. The question is: Why would we then attend in larger numbers? Would it be because attendance at all times is intrinsically valuable and instructive or because, it might look bad on television if we were out of the House during screening times? Surely we have to face the fact that where we have, as we do, a tightly disciplined Party system, our attendance at Party policy-making meetings, is at least as important and sometimes more important than our attendance in the chamber when, even though we are impressed by an Opposition argument, we are constitutionally incapable of being converted by it. The exception, of course, is on the occasional free vote question that it is significant that attendance at these times is always large and participation always keen even where the issue itself is quite minor.
Honourable members will have gathered that I am not altogether an enthusiast of the prospect of televised Parliamentary proceedings but I do not want to be. uncharacteristically negative in my approach and I therefore make a suggestion to the committee which will be considering the motion. On overseas precedents it seems quite likely that the committee will be tempted to suggest a trial series, perhaps limited to our own private viewing, of daily television excerpts. That, apart from any other consideration, will be a very expensive proposition. I therefore ask the committee to consider, if it is so tempted, making readily available a much more economic trial of the daily condensed version of the present radio broadcasts.
As honourable members will be aware, existing procedures provide that on days when the House of Representatives and Senate respectively are not broadcast, their question times, to the extent of three-quarters of an hour to one hour, are broadcast during our dinner recess. This works especially well in Western Australia as the time differential makes re-broadcasts coincide with after-work traffic and I am told that they are widely regarded as light relief from the tensions of peak-hour travel. Accordingly my suggestion is that as a preliminary to any television proposition, and in any event to improve the standard of existing radio cover, the evening period now spent on a straightforward repeat of question time be devoted to an edited summary of the day’s events, preferably with comment added. The high ratings of the A.M.’ and ‘P.M.’ shows on the Australian Broadcasting Commission indicate that there could be a large and regular audience for a Parliamentary summary imaginatively presented. I hope that the committee will consider this possibility, which is of course within its overall charter, irrespective of the present motion. In any event, and with all my expressed reservations, I will be looking forward to the report of the committee with great interest.
– I support very strongly the appointment of this proposed committee and, in doing so, join with other honourable members in congratulating the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) in having moved this motion. This is not the first occasion on which the House is indebted to him and I am sure that it will not be the last. I think that the amendment proposed by the Government is perhaps an improvement and I am glad that he and his seconder have welcomed it so that it can now become the motion. In passing, I congratulate also the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) on the announcement he has made regarding the future conduct of private members business. This is most important for this House, and the fact that he is supporting the principle of private members business coming to a vote is, indeed, something which T believe we should all commend and support.
In relation to the particular matter before the House, much has been said and there is little need to add to it. I believe the matters of technical difficulties that have been raised can be overcome. They do not seem to me to be insuperable. However, other matters before the committee will be far more difficult than the resolution of these technical points. Many of these points already have been canvassed. There are 2 things which are in a way separate, which the committee will have to consider. The first is the impact of television upon the efficiency and conduct of this House. In some respects this may be important, in others it may be regressive. I do not know. It obviously will have a great impact and the committee will have to be looking at the effect of any suggestion it makes about television upon the conduct of affairs in this House.
The second point which the honourable member for Bradfield raised concerned the communication between this House, the electors and the people of Australia. It is a related question, I suppose, but it is a separate question and it may be that what is consideration going in one direction with regard to conduct in this House may go in another direction with respect to the relationship between this House and the electors. This would have to be weighed, one against the other. On the question of matters which may come before the House, I regard, with some apprehension, any possible editorial function in these telecasts. I am afraid that it is almost impossible to be certain of fairness. It may be that the committee can devise some way of doing it but I have some doubt whether it is possible, editorially, to be fair.
The next point - I think this was raised by an honourable member opposite; I forget which but it is a good point - whether television will tend to exaggerate the fewer principle - to make the personality of a few leaders or the leaders more important than the personality of honourable members of this House. This is something which is quite important and has to be evaluated. Thirdly, I feel that whatever is done in the first place should be done gradually. We should not endeavour to lay down from this committee a final decision. It would perhaps be better to start in a smaller way with the objective of expanding after the experience of a year or two rather than to try to start with a full and complete scheme.
It does seem to me that question time lends itself particularly to the introduction of any possible television program. At question time the House is full. All honourable members participate. Perhaps question time could be used in such a way as to give to all honourable members a reasonably fair chance and without introducing the difficulties of editorial selection. Mr Speaker or Mr Deputy Speaker must do a certain amount of editing at question time when giving the call but nevertheless there are conventions in this House which do give a certain fairness. I would hope that if we started anywhere we would start with question time and if it be thought that the whole of question time is too long to inflict on viewers or if it be thought, for example, that question time should be confined to a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes on the air then perhaps we could consider a bit of a lottery. That is to say, that the 20 minutes to be selected should be by chance so that everybody would get a fair go and we would not have the editorial responsibility superimposed on the position and we would not get the bias of an editor.
If it be found for technical reasons that the whole of question time cannot be televised - I myself would prefer to see the whole of question time televised - then I think that the segments to be televised should be selected by chance so that there would be a fair opportunity for every member of the House and editorial opinion would not be superimposed. I say all these things with the background that if anything is to be introduced it should, in my view, be introduced on a smaller scale to start with and later on expanded as experience indicates. I support the amended motion and once again congratulate, as we all do, the honourable member for Bradfield for having brought this matter forward.
– I will be very short in my remarks because I realise that time is at a premium. May I add my few words of congratulation to the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and commend him for bringing this matter forward. I take some pleasure in the fact that it can be facilitated in this way. I have thought for some considerable time that the procedures of the Parliament should be televised. I have been prompted in that by the fact that I have not been in the Parliament for so long that I can forget the first experience that the honourable member for Bradfield described, that is, the feeling that you are speaking to yourself in this place and not really persuading anyone. It is a most unusual experience and one that strikes every new member. With television one would have the opportunity to try to communicate with and influence people in their homes throughout the whole of Australia.
May I add the thought that I would hope that when the procedures are introduced, as I hope they will be, they will take in the committee system that is now developing rapidly in the 2 Houses because there is a lot of ignorance outside this place in regard to the work done by parliamentarians. Members of the public come to this place and when they look down from the public gallery and see an almost empty House they wonder where we all are. I have even had the experience of being telephoned in my office in this Parliament by a constituent asking me: ‘Where are you? Why are you not in the House?’ I had a bundle of files that you could not jump over. But that is something which people are not aware of. When members are in committees working hard, I think they should be seen to be there. In other words, I suggest that a television coverage could take into account the committee system. I refer to committees such as the Public Works Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and indeed the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory when it comes into existence. This would enable the people to know the way in which the politicians work and the work that they do.
Amendment agreed to.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 15 March (vide page 627), on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to consider and report on -
foreign affairs and defence generally; and
such matters as may be referred to the committee -
by the Minister for Foreign Affairs;
by the Minister for Defence; or
by resolution of either House of the Parliament.
That the committee consist of eight Members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Prime Minister, four Members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, two Members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the House of Representatives, four Senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, two Senators nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, one Senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate and one Senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in the Senate.
That every nomination of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the members of the committee hold office as a joint committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time.
That the Prime Minister nominate one of the government members of the committee as Chairman.
That the Chairman of the committee may. from time to time, appoint another member of the committee to be the Deputy Chairman of the committee, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.
That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of four or more of its members and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider.
That the committee or any sub-committee have power to send for and examine persons, pipers and records, to move from place to place and to meet and transact business in public or private session and notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament.
That the committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.
That seven members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee and three members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee.
That, in the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy Chairman when acting as Chairman, have a casting vote.
That the committee have power to consider and make use of the minutes of evidence and records of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, appointed in the previous Parliament, relating to any matter on which thai committee had not completed its consideration.
That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered with the approval of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.
That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting n of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.
– The Opposition will support this motion to appoint a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and will join in the appointment of members to take part in the work of the committee. We regard foreign affairs as an area in which rapid change and development is still taking place in the world. Australia has to meet new challenges and devise new policies. We believe that the Australian people expect and are entitled to expect a reappraisal of our foreign policy. May I say that we recognise that by their vote at the last election many Australians have demonstrated a belief that they thought the Australian Labor Party was likely to bring about some of these adjustments which the people thought were necessary or at least that Labor would try to bring them about. We do not run away from that conclusion. The Liberal Opposition in its own organisation and in its own committees will be making its own reappraisal of foreign policy in the light of that conclusion. It would not be correct to say that in any sense we have a closed mind and I hope that this joint committee will itself supply a forum where new policy areas can be investigated and where evidence from experts can be discussed by the committee. I note particularly in paragraph (1) (a) of the motion that the Committee will be appointed to consider and report upon foreign affairs and defence generally. This appears to give it in its constitution and charter some width in its capacity to inquire into matters of foreign affairs and defence generally.
I will come later to the latter parts of its constitution which are set out in the motion. But firstly may I say that I do not want what I have said to be taken to suggest that the Liberal Party in government was not in fact responding to changing events. I believe it was doing so, and indeed to a very much greater extent and much faster than it was ever given credit for. The changes we made over recent times were both significant and substantial. The Vietnam war was winding down. The United States was withdrawing its land forces from Asia, although still maintaining the enormous interest which it has in the Pacific area and indeed extending its Pacific command to a longitude the other side of Pakistan in the Indian Ocean. The People’s Republic of China, after looking inwards for so long, was looking outwards to an increasing degree. Mainland China finally was admitted as a member of the United Nations. The previous government was not oblivious of these events. Indeed, when the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) was Minister for Foreign Affairs he initiated a major study of the relationship of Australia with the People’s Republic of China. There was evidence of the movement in Australia’s policy under the previous government towards the Government of that country.
Australia had joined the South Pacific Forum relatively recently, demonstrating as a member, with the independence of Fiji in particular and the changes in this region, the direct interest of Australia. Indeed, as Foreign Minister I hosted a South Pacific Forum meeting in Canberra. We established a joint ministerial committee with Japan and as Foreign Minister I had the honour of hosting the first meeting of this committee in Canberra where 5 Japanese Ministers and corresponding Australian Ministers were in session for some days. This was probably the largest delegation of senior Japanese Ministers to visit another country, again demonstrating the initiative and the reaction of the previous Government to the changing circumstances of modern times.
Also as Foreign Minister 1 made it my business to visit Tokyo, Djakarta and New Delhi, just to mention some of our largest neighbours and ones of special significance to Australia. Of course, I visited other countries of significance to us as well. Having in mind the movements, particularly in the Middle East, in the positions of Soviet Russia and the United States of America, as well as the intensity of the threat to peace in that area generally, we applied to become a member of and were successful in joining the United Nations Security Council. We had plans further to develop our policies in relation to Africa, the Middle East and the enlarged European community. We changed the control of Australia House in London to the jurisdiction of the Department of Foreign Affairs having particularly in mind that we were building up our Brussells Embassy and had joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Therefore, I reject utterly the proposition that the previous Government was not in fact responding actively and with speed to changing circumstances.
This brings me back to the point which I was making earlier in my remarks. The responsibility in these matters is an obligation on all parties. It is an obligation which the Labor Party in Government is undertaking as it sees the situation. As I say, the Opposition does not resist the conclusion that the Australian people are looking for greater adjustments and changes, and ones which perhaps they can more readily appreciate. The Liberal Party understands this and will be working on this joint committee and in its own areas of research and study with this in mind.
Let me say also that in some respects the Australian people have not fully appreciated the extent and the nature of the changes in foreign policy which the Labor Government in office has been introducing. I think it would be not unfair to describe the movement in Australian foreign policy as being towards parallelism with the policies of Peking and Hanoi. There must be a desire in the Labor Government to align Australia with what is called, in the modern jargon, the third world*. There are difficulties and possibilities of risk for Australia in these policies which need to be explored and brought to public view. I gather that the Government is seeking an invitation, as though it were a great initiative, to the Algiers conference of the so-called non-aligned nations. I gather also that Mr Bijedic, during his recent visit here, offered his sponsorship to Australia in its efforts to obtain an invitation to this conference. Whether we will achieve observership status at this conference I do not know. But these are matters of considerable significance to the future of Australian foreign policy which the Australian people ought to consider.
Ultimately the test that must be applied to all initiatives in Australian foreign policy is whether what is proposed is in the best interests of Australia. Whatever we do must answer this test. I am by no means satisfied that some of the initiatives which have been taken since the present Government came to power answer this test. Since the Labor Party gained office there has been an undoubted change in our relations with the United States of America and with our nearest large neighbour, Indonesia. These changes have been for the worse. There has been a degree of deterioration in those relationships for Australia, notwithstanding whatever may have been said by the Prime Minister in his answers to questions this morning.
These changes flow not only from statements, which have been referred to, which were made by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), the Minister for the Environment (Dr Cass) or the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr Cairns), who referred to maniacs in the White House. These remarks had their impact in America but Americans are people with an adult approach who do not take such remarks as a basis for denying to the Australian Prime Minister the right to go to the United States, to be received there and spoken to. He may be told a thing , or two if he goes to America, but there is no question that if the Prime Minister, after he visits the United Kingdom, wishes to call in at Washington, as one would expect him to do, he should do so.
Before I leave the subject of America I suggest that it does not help our relations with that country for the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) to suggest that 3 things are certain - death, taxes and the continued devaluation of the American dollar. These remarks are headlined in America and are damaging to our relations with America, which are too valuable to be treated in this fashion. The Prime Minister, who is also Foreign Minister, has a very great responsibility to see that Australian foreign policy answers the test that I mentioned previously of at all times being in the long term interests of Australia. I do not wish to dwell further in my remarks on the appointment of a joint committee on the visit to Indonesia by the Prime Minister. But that visit did reveal to honourable members and to the Australian people a degree of naivety and even of arrogance in the Prime Minister’s approach to Asian regionalism and a lack of understanding of the Asian view of these problems which required Mr Adam Malik, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, to give the Prime Minister a very gentle admonition or instruction when he was there. 1 do not think that this has improved Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.
I return to the detail of the motion before the House. Paragraph 1 (b) speaks of matters being referred to the committee by the Ministei for Foreign Affairs, by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) or by resolution of either House. If the Opposition joins the Government with goodwill, as it intends to do, in the operation of this committee, I hope that what is, according to what I read in the Press, to be the first matter to be referred to this committee - that is, the military significance of Omega’ stations - is not typical of what will be referred to this committee. These stations, which are civil navigational aids to shipping, are to be established in Australia. In answer to a question in the House on this subject the Minister for Defence said that these stations were not a matter for him and that they came under the portfolio of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). That is right enough. Yet this approach is not satisfactory to the left wing of the Labor Party. It does not like American bases and it does not like Americans. Therefore, to get the Government off the hook with elements of its own Party, this Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs is solemnly asked to meet and to consider the Omega stations. If that is the sort of subject which will be referred to the Committee, we will be wasting a large part of our time.
I suggest that the Committee should be given serious matters to consider and indeed that its sitting times will be such that members, spokesmen perhaps, on this side of the House, who, honourable members opposite will recall as it is not so long since they were on this side, have quite a lot to do, will be able to attend and take part in the deliberations of this Committee. Therefore the sitting times of and the references to this Committee will determine whether it will be able to operate successfully in the way in which it should.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! Before I call the next member I remind the House that the subject of this debate is the setting up of a committee. It is not a general debate on foreign affairs. I allowed some latitude to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on this matter but I would remind honourable members that this is not a general debate on foreign affairs.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope, having listened to what you have said, that I might be allowed the opportunity of commenting by way of reply on some of the matters introduced by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen), although I do not intend to allow that to take me off the motion for the setting up of the joint committee. I am pleased that the Opposition supports the setting up of the joint committee in the terms that have been submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Members of the Labor Party have been members of what was then the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs for the last 2 Parliaments. I pay a tribute to the Prime Minister for the part he played in bringing the Labor Party to that position. We recognise that the present Opposition when it was in government made certain changes which made this committee more a parliamentary committee and rather less a preserve of the Minister for External Affairs of the day and the Government of the day. What the Labor Party is doing, in accordance with attitudes that have been expressed over a great number of years by the Prime Minister and by other members on this side of the House, is to widen the role of this Committee in order that it might become a more important part of the Parliament.
The significant alteration is to add the word Defence’ to the title of the proposed committee so that the joint committee would consider matters of foreign affairs and defence. I do not think that anyone would disagree that these are very closely related subjects and that very often our foreign affairs posture is dictated by defence considerations. Also it follows from this that matters may be referred to the committee by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) or by resolution of either House of the Parliament and the question of resolution by either House of the Parliament is, as I said earlier, to make this committee a more effective instrument of the Parliament. It was my experience in the 6 years that I was on the previous committee that the committee looked at the matters that came before it impartially and not in any partisan way. That is to say, members of the committee did not go into meetings of the committee with their own political point of view. That is not to say that there have not been some differences of opinion. But, it is to say that inside the committee very often there have been fruitful discussions in which members of various parties have been able to explore one another’s point of view.
The significant thing about the total exercise has been that every single member of that committee recognised its importance as an institution of the Parliament and recognised that policy making was the prerogative of the government of the day, but felt too that there was a role for the committee to play within this framework in order that it might not only convey its views to the Minister from time to time under the guidelines then laid down with his approval to the Parliament, but also that it might bring about in both Houses of this Parliament a group of senators and members who were much better informed on foreign affairs matters than they would otherwise have been. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has been a most valuable committee.
The honourable member for Parramatta made some suggestions about the line that Labor Party foreign affairs attitudes were taking. He suggested that we were running in parallel with Peking and Hanoi. He suggested that we had alienated to some extent the goodwill of the United States and that we were moving towards a position in the third world. Of course, without in any way attempting to impair those associations which we have enjoyed in the past with the United States of America, with Commonwealth countries and with other nations in our region, the Labor Government is seeking to explore a wider role in the world, a role in which we would have contact with peoples and nations with which we have not previously had contact. It may well be that the Prime Minister has been enterprising and bold in some of these matters. However, time will judge the significance. I enthusiastically support the initiatives that have been made. But whatever value one places in recent developments in foreign affairs, the fact of the matter is that the committee which will be set up under this resolution is a parliamentary committee which within the guidelines laid down will be able to subject the decisions of the Government and the attitudes of the Government to critical analysis, and I am sure that only good can come out of broadening the committee in this way.
I again congratulate the Prime Minister, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the motion which has been brought down and on the fact that the establishment of this committee will mean that we will have a more effective parliamentary committee with a broader charter. I welcome those sections of the motion which refer to the provision of necessary staff, facilities and resources. I trust that in future we can develop this parliamentary committee into being a much more effective instrument of the Parliament than it has been in the past. I support the motion.
– The Australian Country Party supports the motion to set up a joint committee on foreign affairs and defence and also welcomes the Government’s announcement that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs which operated under the previous Government will be reestablished and that the scope of the proposed committee, as has been pointed out by other speakers, will be widened to cover defence as well as foreign affairs. Mention has been made that as well as the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) being able to refer matters to the. committee it will be possible by resolution of either House of Parliament for a reference to be made to this committee. This raises immediately an interesting possibility. The Prime Minister, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, has said already that the question of the siting of the Omega station will be referred to this committee. What will happen if the Senate decides by resolution that it considers the question of our relations with the United States of America or perhaps the details of the recognition of Mainland China are more important international matters that this Committee should consider? We would then have a situation in which there would be a reference from the Prime Minister in his role as Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as a reference from the Senate. The Government is to have, a majority of 12 out of 22 members on the committee. Does this mean that every time a reference comes before the committee on the initiative of the Government through the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Defence that reference will automatically be. accepted by the majority of members on the committee, who will be Labor members, or will there be a genuine attempt for members of the committee from both sides of the House to play a mutual role? In other words, will resolutions from the Senate or perhaps from within this House be given a chance to be studied and investigated by this committee or will the committee deal only with references such as the Omega one, which is a red herring and which is to be referred to the committee by the Government itself?
I do not think that the case I have just put is theoretical because the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) already has referred to some considerations of our relations with the United States. I would like to give an example. I refer to an actual case that has already happened since this Government came to power. In January the Federal Tariff Commission of the United States began hearings on the question of the alleged dumping of canned pears in that country. At the same time that the Australian delegate from the Australian Canners Association was giving evidence to that Commission 3 Ministers of the new Government were making antiAmerican statements. Those Ministers are the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns), the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Minister for Urban Affairs (Mr Uren). The final decision by that tariff commission was a very interesting one. Out of the 6 members of the Commission 2 did not vote, 2 voted in favour of putting duties on all future shipments of canned pears to the United States and 2 voted against paying duties. Because of the rules of that body, although no majority decision was reached, because there was a tied vote, in effect all future deliveries of canned pears to that country will be subject to anti-dumping duties even though the case was not proved. This means the end of the market in the United States for this product. It is considered in fruit circles both in Australia and the United States that the attitude of the new Government to the United States, particularly by the 3 Ministers that I have mentioned, at the time when the Commission was conducting its hearings was the cause of this decision against Australia’s interests being made by the Commission. I think this is an actual example of the interaction of politics and trade between our country and other countries.
The Prime Minister when questioned about the Omega station during a Press conference on 13th March-
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that whilst he may refer to matters which can be referred to the committee at a subsequent stage he is not entitled to debate these matters at length. He has already debated one point at length which is of very little relevance to the motion before the Chair.
– I accept your ruling, Sir. I just want to make the point that the Minister for Foreign Affairs intends to refer the question of the Omega station to this committee.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the problem that might arise if there were a reference to this committee from the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Defence on the one hand and a counter reference from the Senate, with what appears to be a widening of the powers of reference. The Government majority on this committee could use the committee for its own ends rather than for a dispassionate investigation of foreign affairs or defence matters of concern to us. This raises the very interesting point of the possible referral of the question of the establishment of the Omega station. The question is whether it is of defence or foreign affairs significance. In his Press conference 2 weeks ago the Prime Minister said:
As far as I know, this is primarily a navigational matter. It will be taken up by Mr Jones if it is taken up at all.
At question time early this week the Minister for Defence said that Omega was in no way related to the Department of Defence. Here We have both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs saying that the Omega station is in no way related to thenareas of responsibility and yet it will be referred to the committee by the Prime Minister. This raises the other point. Can we have some better definition of what is a foreign affairs responsibility and what is a defence responsibility? The position we appear to have at the moment is that something could be referred to the committee for investigation although both Ministers have claimed they have no responsibility for it.
I for one would be interested to have some discussion on the Omega station because there is some suspicion around the countryside that the projected siting of Omega at Deniliquin is based on political rather than on technical grounds. On technical grounds the best siting for Omega is in another part, south of the Murray River. That is one point that should be discussed. In conclusion, the Country Party supports the re-establishment of this committee and hopes that it will be used for the mutual benefit of both sides of the Parliament and not just for the benefit of the governing Party.
– I will detain the House for only a couple of minutes. I wish to speak in support of the proposition to set up a joint committee on foreign affairs and defence. I think that it is extremely important that as many honourable members as possible become acquainted with the fairly intricate aspects of foreign affairs and defence and do not leave it all to the executive Government to make decisions which then have to be accepted by this Parliament and by the nation. The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) raised the question as to whether the Omega installations were a matter of shipping, transport, foreign affairs or defence. I think that if somebody claims that a particular issue is one of foreign affairs and defence it is reasonable for the joint committee on foreign affairs and defence to examine it to see whether there are foreign affairs and defence aspects involved. If the committee is convinced that the Omega installations have nothing to do with foreign affairs and defence I assume that the committee will make that sort of recommendation to this House. I think it ought to be one of the most valuable aspects of this committee that members of the committee can call evidence and make decisions without being under strong party pressure and can come to some reasonable conclusions.
I sometimes despair when I listen to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) who was our former Foreign Minister but, on the other hand, I am pleasantly surprised that we did not become involved in many more wars when he was, until recently, our Foreign Minister. He made the point - he thought it was a strong point - that this Government’s policy since December 1972 has been what he called one of parallelism with Peking and Hanoi. He is entitled to have that point of view but I disagree with it, obviously. He went on to say that this was proved by the fact that the Government is now thinking of joining the non-aligned nations. Is he suggesting that the non-aligned nations policy is one of parallelism with Peking and Hanoi? Surely that is not the case. Surely the little he learnt about foreign affairs during his connection with the Department of Foreign Affairs must have convinced him that there are quite significant differences in attitudes and policies between the so-called non-aligned nations and Peking and Hanoi. I think that shows very clearly, if the former Minister for Foreign Affairs needs some education on foreign affairs, how much more important it is to educate the other members of his Party who will be joining this committee. I strongly urge this House to support the establishment of this committee so that it can be an active committee and so that it can call many experts before it and be able to make intelligent appraisals of what our foreign policy and our defence policy ought to be. I strongly commend the resolution to the House.
– First of all let me refer to the comments made by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) in relation to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) who was the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the previous Government. There is really no need for anyone in this House to defend the performance of the honourable member for Parramatta while he was Minister for Foreign Affairs because he not only upheld the position and the prestige of Australia; he also added to his own prestige and stature both at home and abroad while he was the Minister. I support the proposal before the House. I am delighted to see it presented particularly so early in this Parliament. I congratulate the Government on the moves it has made to establish the committee.
I think that the proposal contains improvements on the arrangements for the previous Committee. It is now some little while since I was a member of that Committee. During the term of my membership, unfortunately the Committee consisted of only members of Government parties. That was during the time Lord Casey was the Minister for External Affairs and the honourable member for Chisholm, the late Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes, was the Chairman of that Committee. For a period of time I had the privilege of being the Vice Chairman. I realise the value of the work that was done by that Committee, but I always felt that it was handicapped by the fact that it comprised only members of the Government parties. I think that in the situation at the moment there may be some slight doubt about the matters to be referred to the proposed committee. I notice that matters may be referred by the Minister for Foreign Affairs - this was the case previously - and now by the Minister for Defence or by resolution of either House of the Parliament. I think that this will be of tremendous value. One of the basic advantages is that members of the Parliament will be taken out of the political atmosphere of this chamber. This is evidenced in the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, the Joint Committee on Public Works and a number of other joint parliamentary committees in which members get together in a committee of the Parliament divorced from the political atmosphere of this chamber and I think that they achieve a great deal more than would be achieved if that same discussion and consideration were held in this chamber. I am delighted to see the proposal as presented. I think the Committee can only work to the advantage of both this Parliament and Australia. I do not expect complete and absolute unanimity to be achieved in discussions within that Committee, but there will be certain basic foundations upon which all members of the Committee will be able to agree. I know, from my experience on joint committees that sometimes a difference of opinion has not been between members of opposing parties; there has been an alliance of members of opposing parties relating to the matters which have been under consideration. With other members of my Party, I am delighted with the resolution for the formation of this Committee. I, too, look forward to it working not only to the advantage of members of the Committee and to the advantage of Parliament, but also to the advantage of Australia.
– I shall be very brief. I hope that the proposed new Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence will be considerably better than the previous Committee. I am confident that it will be. I was a member of that Committee for 3 years and I found it to be an exercise in boredom. It could be described as nothing better than a study group of about the same quality as the workers education classes that are conducted throughout our community. In almost every case the people who came before the Committee were a succession of exambassadors, retiring ambassadors and high commissioners who, in a very boring way, presented their views as the government’s views. As members of the Committee we were not able to select items of interest that were topical. If something was in the news internationally it would come before the Committee perhaps 6 months later when the issue had quietened down. A member of the Committee learnt very little that was not available in the newspapers in reports by foreign affairs commentators, such as Dennis Warner. In fact, Dennis Warner appeared before the Committee, but we could have read what he had to say in the newspaper that day. That is not the way in which I view the functions of such a committee.
I agree with one previous speaker that in a consideration by a committee it is possible to arrive at a more bipartisan view of the facts presented because of informal discussion when members are not grandstanding as they are when they are out amongst the community or in this House. Often it will be found among members from both sides of the chamber that some who take an extreme point of view publicly will privately concede that another person’s view contains a great deal of merit. I hope that the status of the committee will be upgraded and that its proceedings will be open and televised. I hope also that the Committee will be able to visit places which are of interest and which in some way affect the matter under consideration by the Committee. Certainly I would not have wanted to belong to the Committee if it had been reconstituted as it was formerly. I threatened to resign from the Committee because of the unutterable boredom and I would have done so had it not been for the Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison), who is now at the table. He talked me out of it. I do not think I am speaking out of club when I say that he believed, as I do, in the long term future of the Committee. Nevertheless, it must do a great deal more than it has done in the past.
– Throughout this debate the Opposition has conveniently ignored the appalling record of its members, when in Government, of apprising this House of its attitude towards foreign affairs. They did not try to provide this House with information upon which the House could formulate an acceptable foreign policy. I think more important has been the hypocrisy and the humbug that honourable members opposite have shown in the past in steadfastly refusing to give the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee the sorts of powers that my Party has put forward in this resolution. My Party, when in opposition, argued a whole series of points. In opposition we maintained precisely what we have now put forward. When in opposition we did not want the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee to be shrouded in secrecy. We did not want the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee to be a Ministers committee. We regarded it as important that this House should have a committee that was responsible to it. We argued that for the efficacy of the Committee there should be allocated to the Committee a staff that could carry out the work assigned to it by the Committee. Not one change which has been made in the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee was not forced on the previous Government by my Party.
The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) who was formerly Minister for Foreign Affairs, will recall that the Labor Party asked for open hearings. We made that request time and again and it was only following a compromise that the former Government agreed that open hearings would be held in the sub-committee on aid. That report has now been tabled and I think it shows the advantages that can flow to a committee of this House when open hearings are held. In opposition we put forward a whole series of points. As Deputy Chairman of that Committee it was said to me time and again: ‘OK, you are saying these things in opposition, but see how different it is going to be when you are in Government. You will do exactly as we have done.’ This resolution makes a lie of that point because every proposition that we put forward while we were in opposition has been duly recorded in this resolution which is now before the House and which is now being accepted by the Opposition - the previous Government - which did not have the intestinal fortitude at the time to put these exact propositions forward itself.
We have honoured the obligations that we entered into when in opposition by bringing them into this House in the form of a resolution. I am very glad that the Opposition has now seen the error of its ways in the past and is supporting what it previously denied. Great things happen to government members when they go into Opposition. I am glad to see that some lessons are now being learned by the Opposition.
Reference has been made to the reasons why Omega should be referred to the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. Surely the difficulties and the controversy about Omega are related to the defence and foreign affairs aspects. This is the essence of the controversy, lt may or may not be true but this is the fear and the concern that has been expressed by people. We will refer this matter to the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and the hearings will be held in public. Organisations will be invited to put forward their points of view and the Committee will be able to bring down a report guided by its hearings and by the evidence presented to it. We see that as a function of the Committee. We have lived up to the criticisms that we made in opposition. All those criticisms have been examined and the results of our policy are now incorporated in the resolution before the House. I commend the resolution to the House.
– I listened with great attention to the Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison). One would agree with him that the proposed committee must be judged by its results. He has said that under this new Government the committee will be able to investigate what it wishes to. It can investigate what it wishes to only if the Government majority on the committee will permit this to happen, and this will be the test of the committee. Will the minority of the committee be able to investigate the things which it wants to investigate, the things which are important. The things which are important, of course, relate to the way in which this Government, without mandate, is taking Australia into the communist orbit. This is the most important matter in foreign policy. Are members of the committee to be entitled to investigate this? If there is any good faith in what the Minister has said, this is what they will be investigating.
We have been talking for some time, for example, of terrorist organisations in Australia. Will this committee be allowed to investigate terrorist organisations of the Left which exist in Australia? The Communist Party is a terrorist party. It certainly has foreign links. Is the committee to be allowed to investigate this? We have been talking of so-called alleged Croatian terror, but what about the UDBA, the terrorists of the Titoists? Yugoslavia is today one of the main centres of terror and terrorist activities in Europe. There seems to be a quite inordinate number of staff in the Titoist consulates throughout Australia. What are they doing? Is the committee to be allowed to investigate whether they are part of a terrorist organisation in Australia and elsewhere? Is the committee to investigate the way in which totalitarian nations abroad gaol Australians for what they call subversive activities but which are in reality only the expression of opinion? In Yugoslavia or in Russia it is a crime to express publicly an opinion which is contrary to that of the government, and people are gaoled for so doing.
Will the committee protect our Australian citizens who may return for a visit to their homelands? There are plenty of things at which the committee can look. It will be a test of good faith of the Government. Does it mean what the Minister said on its behalf at the table a moment ago? The test will be whether the minority on this committee is able to investigate the matters I have outlined, which are of real importance and significance to the Australian people. Particularly, will the committee be muzzled by a majority vote when it wants to look at the direction of foreign policy and, in particular, when it wants to look at the major scandal of the last few months when - without a mandate, because these things were not mentioned in the election campaign - the Government has changed sides for Australia and now wants to put us into the communist as against the free world?
– It was not my intention to rise in this debate but earlier today we heard the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) speak. I was a previous member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs at the same time as the honourable member for Robertson was a member. Having watched his involvement in the previous Committee, I was rather amazed when he said that he considered his previous term on the Foreign Affairs Committee as having been a boring experience. He referred to the fact that at various times we on the Committee had ambassadors and high commissioners along to address us and asserted that most of the information gleaned was of the type that could have been procured by reading a Denis Warner-type article. I recall very clearly - I think I have my facts right - that the honourable member for Robertson was busting his neck to ensure that we got along to the Committee the Israeli Ambassador or one of his representatives. I see an inconsistency in that he was pushing for the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee to become acquainted with the Israeli aspect of foreign affairs and that he now stands up in the new Parliament and refers back to his experience on that Committee as having been boring.
As a member who has served on the Indonesian sub-committee and the committee which investigated Australia’s foreign aid, I know that of course there are areas in which we can be critical. Nothing is ever done or ever achieved that we cannot look back upon and say: ‘Perhaps we could have done it a little better this way or that way with a few alterations and changes’. The foreign a:d committee was one which did open the doors. The previous government said to the Foreign Affairs Committee: ‘You have been asking for an open hearing, so we will grant you an open hearing’. I clearly recall the many occasions when as a member of that committee I sat in on the committee hearings and found that interest from the public and the Press was negligible. On only one occasion do I recall the Press being present. Perhaps members on the Government side might say that that was an indication of the subject before the committee. I was one who considered the subject to be of importance. It was one which involved international relations and
Australia’s standing in the eyes of other countries, yet the rest of Australia was not really interested. We opened the doors and we did our work, which was available for all to see, and yet there was very little interest.
The Australian Labor Party parades itself, and it has done so particularly since it came into office some 3 months ago, as being the party representing open government. One would expect that in that time there would not have been a secret kept from the people of Australia and that the Labor Party would have kept its word, because this is a matter on which it sold itself successfully prior to the last election. Let us look back very briefly, particularly in relation to this foreign affairs discussion, at Australia’s recognition of Mainland China. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has refused to make public the very terms of our agreements of recognition of that country. What did we do to Taiwan? What of ourselves did we give away or sell to bring about this recognition and the establishment of ‘cordial’ relations? I put the word cordial’ in inverted commas, but I hope that the relations will be cordial for Australia’s sake, ls that an example of open government? No way in the world. The Government has closed the book on this subject to each and every one of us.
Lel me cite another example. At the beginning of this week the newspapers wrote up a conference which was attended by the Prime Minister only last week at which he confronted the Victorian Executive of his Party and, with great oratory and as the possessor of respect and great power, convinced the delegates of the Victorian Executive of the Labor Party that the Government could not make available information in relation to American bases in this country.
– That is more than you would have done.
– Would the honourable member please repeat his interjection? I would like to hear it.
-Order! The honourable member will take no notice of interjections.
– Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for your protection. The Prime Minister went into this conference and said to the delegates: 1 cannot tell you about the American bases’. I am asking whether the committee we are establishing will be allowed to examine the terms of recognition of Mainland China. Will the committee be allowed to examine closely what goes on in these bases? Why did the Prime Minister suddenly change course?
– It depends who is on the Committee, I suppose.
- Mr Speaker, would you put him down. Finally, and I promise to make this brief, I would dearly like the opportunity to bring before this committee on foreign affairs and defence the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Sir Keith Waller, so that, as its No. 1 project, the committee can examine whether it is true that the question I directed to the Prime Minister this morning has foundation. Honourable members will recall that I alluded to a newspaper report which stated that the United States State Department had proposed to the American President, Dr Kissinger and the White House on 2 occasions that the Australian Prime Minister be invited to that country for a visit. It was stated in a newspaper article that the White House and those persons I mentioned had said no, they were not very interested in Australia at this time. Furthermore, the Harris public opinion poll showed that when American people were asked whether they would come to Australia’s aid if it were attacked the proportion who said yes had plummeted to 39 per cent. This is all tied up with the one thing.
We as members of the Australian Parliament thousands of miles away can only speculate as to the truth or otherwise of this report. The Prime Minister has discounted it as a fabrication. I ask him to inform the House whether he intends that this committee should have access to a person such as Sir Keith Waller so that we can get to the very foundation of this question which, I can assure him, is causing grave concern to honourable member’s on this side of the House. In the past we, a small nation isolated in the South Pacific, treasured our ties with the United States and we would hate to be convinced that what the new Government has done in its first 100 days has completely torn away the cord and that we are now alone in this part of the world. I am quite confident that I speak for all honourable members on this side of the House when I express that view and I would appreciate the Prime Minister’s clarification.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I abstained from coming into the debate on the motion which has just been passed because I wanted to keep matters within the limits of relevancy as far as I could. However, there is one matter that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) stated which was quite without foundation. He made some reference to the Government’s attitude or concessions or some such thing on the question of the recognition of the People’s Republic of China and the exchange of diplomatic representatives with it. I thought I had answered questions on this subject on the notice paper. They were on the Senate notice paper and I do not have them with me. Honourable members who take the care to look at these questions which have been asked and answered will see that there is no foundation for the allegation that the honourable member made.
Debate resumed from 28th March (vide page 831) on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When this debate was adjourned last night I was making the point in regard to this Bill, which gives 4 weeks annual leave to Commonwealth public servants, that this 4 weeks leave had been vigorously opposed by the previous Government which had in doing so grossly overstated the alleged costs of introducing 4 weeks leave for Commonwealth public servants and employees generally. I referred to the New South Wales example to show that the kind of proposition put forward by the previous Government just did not hold true because in fact as a result of the introduction of 4 weeks leave there was no substantial increase in employment above the normal rate of increase. The reason is that there was increased productivity stemming from increased leisure. That was explained by counsel for the State of New South Wales in the 1962 annual leave case before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Very briefly summarised it was claimed, firstly, by arranging annual leave so that it falls in the period of least work load there is a productivity benefit. Secondly, by speading the work of an individual who is on leave over the group with whom he carried out his tasks, the output of the group as a whole is maintained. Thirdly, the fact that outstanding problems are generally cleaned up before an individual goes on leave increases his productivity in the period preceding the taking of leave.
If we look at what happened in the nation as a whole at the time of the granting of 3 weeks leave to employees in 1963 we can see that there must have been induced productivity as a result. I have not time to go into the evidence in support of that. We can therefore regard with considerable scepticism the previous Government’s dire warnings as to the cost of an extra week’s annual leave. There can be no doubt that the previous Government considerably overstated the cost to the Commonwealth of applying this benefit to its employees and to employees generally by completely ignoring the consequential productivity increase factor. The evidence seems to indicate that this is an important factor and although we cannot be precise as to its effect on the cost of granting an additional week’s leave to Commonwealth public servants we can be certain that it will cost much less than the previous Government said it would cost. In that situation we should concentrate our attention on the equity argument for granting an additional week’s leave to our public servants and if we do that the case for it is overwhelming. I commend the Bill to the House.
– The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) has indicated that we cannot be precise about the cost of an additional one week’s leave bringing the number of weeks leave to 4 in the Commonwealth Public Service. But however difficult it is to establish precise cost estimates, surely it is the Government’s responsibility to put down as clear a position as is possible regarding the costs of this additional concession. That, of course, is a matter which the Government has consistently avoided and evaded, not only in relation to 4 weeks annual leave but also in relation to all other industrial concessions which it is committed to introduce.
It is a matter of total irony that the Opposition is responsible for the introduction of this Bill thereby ensuring that the Government maintains one of its election promises.
Prior to the introduction of this Bill the Government, in the view of the Opposition, deliberately sought to dishonour an election promise; to introduce the concept and application of compulsory unionism into the Public Service; to interfere with the longstanding independence and integrity of the Public Service Board; to avoid parliamentary approval of its policy and to set in motion the beginning of its long term design to use the Public Service as a pace-setter in the achievement of the Australian Labor Party’s industrial objectives. From the time of the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to the introduction of this Bill, we have witnessed a series of events which have been as extraordinary as they have been repugnant. The Prime Minister in the Labor Party’s policy speech on 13th November stated unequivocally and without qualification that all Commonwealth employees would receive 4 weeks annual leave. On 5th December, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), now the Minister for Labour, said:
Four weeks annual leave will operate from 1st January this year, so anybody entitled to leave after 1st January will be due for an extra week’s holiday.
This statement by the Minister provoked a strong reaction from the Public Service unions and the Australian Council of Trade Unions who then made immediate representations to the Government. The predictable outcome of these representations became clear on 6th December when the Minister qualified his earlier announcement by stating that Commonwealth employees would not receive the extra week’s leave until and unless they joined an appropriate union. This statement was a clear contradiction both of the Prime Minister’s policy speech and of the Minister’s statement of the previous day. On 20th December the Prime Minister issued a statement saying that the first meeting of the Cabinet had decided that the additional leave provisions would apply only to members of recognised unions and associations involved in work within the service; departments, however, would assume that all staff were members unless advised otherwise by a union: provision would be made for conscientious objectors to unionism to obtain this new leave entitlement on payment of union dues to a nominated charity; and the new provision would apply to all public servants whose annual leave was accruing on or after 1st January 1973.
Following this announcement, some thousands of public servants sought to join unions on the understanding and presumption that they might not receive the additional week’s leave. It was also clear to many nonunion members of the Public Service that the Government was contriving to restrict all future industrial benefits to members of registered unions. On 12th January the Public Service Arbitrator made a determination granting 4 weeks annual leave to members of certain unions. Since 1950 governments in the Commonwealth sphere have ensured, as a matter of policy, that award and determination benefits would be applied to all officers and employees of the Commonwealth, regardless of whether they were members of an organisation. This was a reversal of the Chifley Government’s policy under which non-unionists did not receive the total benefits of awards and determinations applying to them.
On 20th February the Public Service Board announced that it had dispatched to Commonwealth departments a circular stating that only public servants who had joined a union before 1st January would receive 4 weeks annual leave this year. In doing so, the Board was acting in conformity with the present Government’s policy. However, this policy, formulated after the election, was a complete denial of the Government’s policy as expressed in its policy speech. It represented the total dishonouring of a very clear and precise promise by the now Government. In spite of the fact that the Board had conformed with the Cabinet’s announced policy decision and the Arbitrator’s specific determination, the Minister for Labour sought publicly to accuse the Board of deliberately contravening the Arbitrator’s determination and the ‘spirit’ of the Government’s policy. The Minister’s public and accusatory declamation of the Board was at the behest of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Public Service unions which had again made representations to and put pressure on him.
We on this side of the House believe that, at all times, the Government’s public declarations on this issue have been reprehensible. To issue a Press statement, together with a copy of the letter by the Minister for Labour to the Secretary of the Public Service Board, was as extraordinary as it was indefensible. The Public Service Board, of course, replied in confidence to the Government, maintaining - ps one would expect - its statutory obligations. Following the Board’s reply, the Minister again wrote to the Board and again did so publicly. In that letter the Minister stated:
The essence of your reply was that there was no legal basis on which the Board could do more. I find this reply no more satisfactory than the decision it defends.
Quite clearly the Minister, in this whole sorry and shabby episode, attempted to bludgeon and coerce the Board in a manner which entirely disregarded that organisation’s clear statutory responsibilities. Following the issue of the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, the Board conveyed to departments the basis upon which additional annual leave was to be granted. Those instructions provided that the additional leave was to be granted only to those staff who were members of the claimant organisations and who were members on the date of accrual of the leave, that is, 1st January 1973 in the case of permanent officers and the individual date of annual accrual, on or after 1st January 1973, in the case of temporary employees. The question of extending this benefit to other officers and employees in the Service, including members of organisations not covered by the determinations, was a matter for consideration by the Government. The Board was not advised of any policy by the Government relating to the extension of this benefit.
The Minister continued to confront the Board and sought to accuse it of incorrectly applying the Arbitrator’s determination. This, we believe, was a deliberate tactic by the Government to absolve it from its own specific responsibilities. Throughout the whole issue the Opposition and individual members of the Public Service had sought from the Government clarification of its policy on this issue. Yet the Government steadfastly refused to take any action and, one would assume, provided no answer to any submissions received from the Public Service Board.
I call upon the Minister for Labour to table the complete set of correspondence between the Public Service Board and the Government on the question of the 4 weeks leave provision. I hope that the Minister, as an alleged proponent of the concept of open government, will comply with this request before the closure of the debate on this Bill. It was totally unsatisfactory for the Minister for Labour to issue Press statements with copies of his correspondence to the Public
Service Board, recognising full well that the Board, in discharging its normal statutory responsibilities, was in no position publicly to answer the charges and accusations which the Minister himself had put down in the public forum.
As the Opposition parties, we moved in the Senate for disallowance of the Arbitrator’s decision. We regard the success of this step, as I am sure the Australian public does, as a significant victory on a matter of important principle and as a singular defeat for the Government. The Government’s subsequent attempt to claim that the Opposition had contrived to deny benefits to public servants in a manner contrary to the Government’s mandate characterises the Government’s extreme hypocrisy in relation to this issue. The Government’s mandate is clear. This Bill seeks to honour that mandate. The Government’s previous actions sought to disregard it; that is undeniably a matter of public record.
The Opposition’s objectives in disallowing the Public Service Arbitrator’s determinations were, firstly, to make it clear to the Australian public that an election promise made by the Australian Labor Party was being dishonoured on its election to government and, secondly, to object to the nature of the policy which the Government sought to implement - a policy which was discriminatory, unfair and lacking in merit and substance; a policy which in application would have created a division in the Commonwealth Public Service which was contrary to the interests of this country; a policy which sought to create a group of second-class and under-privileged citizens within the Public Service; and a policy which sought to implement union demands for compulsory unionism within the Commonwealth Public Service. The third ground of objection was that the Government, contrary to all the assertions and protestations it had made about open government, was seeking to by-pass the very process of Parliament itself. You, Mr Speaker, would recognise the very serious nature of the decision, taken in a sense by stealth, to seek to reach a contrived position without the opportunity for a full and open parliamentary debate.
The Opposition firmly believes in the right of the individual to determine whether or not he will become or. remain a member of a union. We further believe that the individual has a right to obtain and retain employment, irrespective of whether he is a member of a union. It may interest Government supporters to recall that Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and further provides that no-one can be compelled to belong to an association. This is the test to which members of the Government and the Australian trade union movement must direct their minds. If they believe in and support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they cannot in conscience condone the philosophy of compulsory unionism. In recent months we have heard from various members of the Government Party a series of conflicting views on compulsory unionism. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is on record as publicly rejecting the concept while other Ministers have supported it. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and other speakers in this debate from the Government side surely have an obligation to state precisely what their policy is in relation to the question of compulsory unionism. I challenge the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) who, 1 understand, will follow me in this debate, to state precisely what is the policy of the Government relating to compulsory unionism and put down once and for all a clear statement of Government policy which the Government, so far, has failed to clarify.
The effect of the Government’s actions prior to the disallowance of the determination in the Senate was clearly to establish this concept of compulsory unionism, in the Commonwealth Public Service. Regrettably it endeavoured to do so by a process of coercion and blackmail. There can be no suggestion that the Government is seeking to introduce any concept of preference to unionists, because non-unionists clearly were to be totally excluded from this and other industrial benefits. One can very easily, by stealth or by overt action, seek the application of compulsory unionism from an extension of the process of preference to members of the trade union movement. The Government claimed that there would be grounds for conscientious objection. But it failed to advise the Board as to what those grounds would be and what the method for conscientious objection would be. At the time, the office of the Minister for Labour issued instructions to those who inquired that anyone with a conscientious objection to being a member of a trade union was required to apply to the Deputy Industrial Registrar for an exemption certificate. Subsequent inquiries of the Deputy Industrial Registrar revealed that he had not been informed of any proposal relating to conscientious objection. This again explains and describes the sense of absolute confusion which surrounded the Government’s pathetic attempt to - introduce this policy into the Commonwealth Public Service.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) stated that departments would assume that all staff were members of unions unless otherwise advised by a trade union. What a curious and mysterious proposition this would be. Once again no instructions were provided to the Board as to how this process would be implemented. This would, of course, have opened the way for vigilante groups of unionists to hunt down non-union members of each Commonwealth department and to report their names to the appropriate government authority. The Government would then have withdrawn the entitlements of those individuals to arbitral benefits. This would have been a very distasteful and reprehensible situation. The only reason which compelled the Government to avoid legislating for an additional week’s leave was the desire to introduce the concept of compulsory unionism by stealth. This desire to use backdoor methods to achieve industrial objectives is equally well reflected by the Government’s proposed use of government contracts to force employers to comply with the proposed labour code. The Opposition has received a prolific number of complaints concerning the Government’s attitude to this issue. The Australian Press was equally condemnatory of the Government’s actions. To illustrate, I quote from an editorial in the Canberra Times’, of 21st February as follows:
The most damaging criticism that can be made of the Government’s policy of preference to members of unions for an extra week’s leave is that the decision to grant the extra leave was not made by an industrial tribunal but by the country’s political masters. The Commonwealth is constitutionally incompetent to pass legislation that discriminates between the States and it is morally incompetent to make rules or laws that discriminate between citizen and citizen. It would appear to go against the spirit of Section 117 of the Constitution. Labor was not elected to power to single out for privileged treatment the members of the unions which support it and traditionally contribute to election funds. The provision that people who are declared exempt from joining a union for reasons of conscientious beliefs must pay to consolidated revenue a sum equivalent to the union dues they would otherwise pay is likewise highly questionable. This payment becomes a tax or a fine and its legality and propriety are suspect.
The philosophy behind the Government’s new ruling runs counter to the universally accepted industrial principle that a worker is paid according to the value of the work he does and not for his membership of an association of workers. The policy of giving a worker more, and this is what the Government’s philosophy amounts to, for reasons that have nothing to do with the quantity and quality of his performance is absurd. It could lead directly to another absurd situation which is anathema to the whole of the trade union body in Australia, namely that of creating a pool of cheaply paid labour the employers could exploit to their advantage. Another end result of a policy of statutory preference to unionists is to create a state of industrial conscription that is just as objectionable as some of the features of the policy of conscription for Vietnam which the previous Government introduced and to which the unions objected so vociferously: the rush of new members who enrolled in unions in recent weeks was not prompted by a conscientious belief in the validity of the trade union principle but by the desire for gain. This is not something of which genuine trade unionists can be proud. lt remains that trade unions are a necessary part of our society and that workers who benefit from their activities have a moral obligation to join and support them. It does not follow ‘hat unions should be given the right to coerce people into membership. The onus of recruiting members is on the unions themselves and if about half of the workers of Australia do not belong to unions this may be due to their apathy, ignorance, selfishness, or lack of public spirit, but there must also be something wrong with the unions themselves.
That was not a member of the Opposition speaking but the Australian Press represented in many editorials throughout the country. The Australian Press rightly saw this issue, as a matter of principle - an issue upon which the Government was prepared to hide, not behind legislation but by the backdoor method to which I have adverted. On the question of legislation, we see no valid reason why the Government contrived to avoid the processes of this House. On the contrary we believe that the Government had, and does have, a responsibility on questions of major benefits of this type to bring legislation before the House and to put its points in that form. 1 now refer to a speech delivered to the first national convention of the Industrial Relations Society of Australia by the former chairman of the Public Service Board, Sir Frederick Wheeler. In this speech he set out, with his inimitable clarity, the purpose and role of the Public Service Board in industrial relations. He said:
In general, the Public Service Act divests and delegates responsibility for industrial matters from the Government. There are, however, some important conditions of employment which have been made the subject to specific and clear-cut statutory provisions, so that consideration of any changes to them is reserved for the Government and Parliament. An example is recreation leave, where any increase in the number of weeks of annual leave would need to be decided by the Government and enacted by, legislation and, as it happens, this matter has been the subject of representations by the staff side to the Government. This, of course, is not to deny that the Public Service Arbitrator has legal power to determine changes in annual leave entitlements subject, of course, to the general power of Parliament to disallow an arbitral determination which is in conflict with legislation it has passed.
We believe the Government would be advised to adhere more closely to the underlying philosophy of the Public Service Act and the Opposition will move to block future actions by the Government which clearly contravene it. The Prime Minister in introducing this Bill made a number of points which require comment. He stated that ‘we want the national Government to continue to set the pace, in improving the working conditions of Australians’. The Opposition does not believe that the Commonwealth Public Service ought to be used as a pacesetter in determining the wages and conditions of work for wage and salary earners throughout Australia. We believe that Commonwealth public servants ought to have the same conditions as are general throughout the community. The Public Service ought not to lead and neither should it lag behind the increases in wages and conditions throughout the general community. The Opposition believes these general standards ought to be determined by independent authorities in the normal processes of conciliation and arbitration. The Government’s desires to use the Public Service Board as a rubber stamp for union demands and the policy of the Australian Labor Party are contrary to the clear intention of the Act that the Public Service should not be used for the political purposes of governments.
Throughout the whole of this episode we have seen abundant evidence of the overt desire by this Government deliberately to politicise the activities and policy of the Public Service Board. We now have a concerted operation on 2 fronts to advantage the trade union movement, both in the public and private sectors. This dual move is being pursued on the basis of circumvention and abuse of Government authority. If the Prime Minister of this country at the present time is determined to have the Public Service lead the community in the levels of industrial benefits, let him introduce legislation into this Parliament rather than seek to exert control over the Public Service Board.
The Prime Minister also asserted that the Opposition had been opposed to the introduction of 4 weeks leave when in government and was still opposed to it. Our position on this issue is quite clear. Unlike the Government we believe that industrial benefits of this nature ought not to be selectively applied to various sections of the Australian community. However it must be recognised that these measures would have, as they will have, very severe inflationary implications in both the public and private sectors of the Australian economy. The ALP policy is not only the introduction of an additional week’s leave but additional payment during leave. To grant either, we believe, would add considerably to the already severe cost-push pressures being experienced in the economy. To grant an additional week’s leave with an extra week’s pay would, in our estimate, cost more than $700m per annum if production were to be maintained by the recruitment of additional labour or more than $ 1,200m per annum if it were to be maintained by the working of overtime. The consequences of this added cost would have a substantial impact on the level of prices in all sectors of the economy.
If this Government seeks to challenge these cost estimates then let it do so by bringing into this House detailed cost estimates prepared by senior officers of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Labour so that these matters can become a proper subject of parliamentary debate. But the Government’s failure to do this and to seek to deal with these matters outside of this Parliament is a complete rejection of any form of open government. I can see that the benign Minister for Labour by his laughter, regards this matter with some humour. Well he might regard it as a matter for humour, but if he puts his mind to a serious examination of the problems which are confronting the Australian community I hope he will be the first in this House to agree on the need for a debate of this type, and that it should take place in the context of an examination of costs and, of course, the authorities who have prepared the cost estimates for the Government. We recognise that the economy does have a capacity to meet additional charges for industrial benefits but clearly the economy cannot sustain the total package of industrial concessions to which the present Government is committed. The Government has steadfastly avoided public examination of the economic consequences of its various proposals.
– The Government does not care.
– As my colleague says, it does not care. I have no doubt that he is correct in relation to that because if honourable members opposite do care then during the course of this debate they will say explicitly what in their judgment the various costs of these industrial proposals will be. The Government has an obligation to the community to outline clearly the cost of the introduction of 4 weeks annual leave both into the Public Service and its consequent flow-on impact, throughout the general community. Any government introducing a Bill of this nature ought to have an accurate assessment of its consequent costs. The Minister should in the terms of his open government philosophy table those estimates in this House at this time. If the Prime Minister believes this Bill represents some form of victory for his Government then he is indulging in an absurd and fanciful exercise. Public servants know that the reason why they are now all to receive an additional week’s leave without discrimination and without preferring one category of public servant to another is a direct result of the actions of the Opposition Parties. This issue, we believe, represents a total defeat for the Government on one of its first major industrial relations proposals, lt has damaged the credibility of the Government which walked away from an issue which should never have arisen in the first instance. We support the Bill for the reasons I have mentioned but we oppose the reasons which caused the Government to seek to deal with this matter by subterfuge in seeking to introduce by back door methods a form of policy amounting to compulsory unionism within the Commonwealth Public Service.
– I do not wish to take part in the debate because my friend the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) is ready to speak. But I wish to table correspondence between myself and the Chairman of the Public Service Board.
– Order! During a debate an honourable member must get leave to table documents.
– Then I ask for leave to table the papers which the honourable member for Flinders has asked me to table.
-Is leave granted?
– 1 am happy to grant leave. I thank the honourable member for his courtesy. We on this side of the House recognise the courtesy that has now been extended but we only wish that the courtesy had been extended at an earlier time.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave certainly is granted.
– In that case I have much pleasure in tabling the papers. This is the first time in the 23 years I have been in the Parliament that I have known a Minister to table the whole of the correspondence that has occurred between himself and the head of a department. It is indeed a break with the past. It does represent the new form of open government which we are so proud to espouse and I hope that the honourable gentleman will derive great pleasure and interest from reading the correspondence which in any event would have been published in the annual report of the Public Service Board if he had waited long enough.
– Whilst the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) is in such a benevolent mood perhaps he would give consideration to a request I wish to make of him. He is on record as saying that it was desirable in the public interest that trade union officials and those who aspire to trade union office should be able to attend schools and courses of training in order to fit them for their task in industrial relations. The request 1 put to him and which I urge him to consider seriously is to extend the opportunity to attend such training to members of the Opposition who express an interest in industrial relations matters and particularly those who previously have held the office of Minister for Labour and who perhaps remotely and forlornly aspire to such office again in the future. After listening to the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) for 30 minutes espousing what he believes to be objections based on principle, I am amazed to find in this part of the twentieth century, from one who alleges to be expert in industrial relations, such ignorance and such prejudice as was expressed here today. The type of language used was staggering. One would not find it in the most reactionary halls of the most radical anti-union employer. He talked about industrial blackmail. Because the Government wants to give a benefit to union members the honourable member thinks this is blackmail. What a peculiar attitude.
The honourable member commenced his speech with a classical contradiction. We have become used to hearing such things from right honourable and honourable gentlemen opposite. He said that this Government sought to dishonour an election promise. That is false. Nevertheless, he went on to say that the Government’s method of dishonouring that promise was to interfere with the independence and integrity of the Public Service Board. He criticised the Government for advising the Public Service Board of Government policy.
He has a very short memory. He thinks that we are all as ignorant of what has occurred in the past as he would like us to be. I well recall the days when there was a dispute in the Post Office. I recall very well indeed that there was open confrontation - Indeed those present who saw what transpired described it as a humiliating experience - when a former Prime Minister deliberately insulted the Chairman and members of the Public Service Board and directed them as though they were office boys on how they were to carry out their policy. This former Prime Minister certainly had no association with this Government or this Party. Not content with putting forward that ludicrous proposition the Deputy Leader of the Opposition then compounded his inaccuracy with an absolute and complete contradiction. He said that the previous Government always ensured that all employees, members of unions or not, received all the benefits of the Public Service Arbitrators’ determinations. That must mean that he and his Government were directing the Public Service Board, because the Government has no power to ensure that determinations and their benefits apply to everybody.
In fact the Public Service Arbitration Act - I will come to this shortly in a little more detail - specifically precludes benefits flowing from an application by a union from applying to any but the members of that union unless by special act the Public Service Arbitrator provides for this by making a common rule, in which case certain steps must be followed, or alternatively the Public Service Board uses its powers under Regulation 74 (b) to extend the provision of those benefits to non-unionists. So the honourable member and his Government obviously were directing the Public Service Board in the same manner as they allege - and only allege - that this Government has been doing. His contribution to this debate commenced with complete inaccuracy and was compounded by absolute and complete contradiction.
– Now he has left the Chamber.
– Yes, now he has gone. I do not blame him for going. I am sorry he has gone because I have some other things to say about his speech.
– He is too embarrassed.
– I am sorry that he is embarrassed. I was hoping that he might stay and pick up a point or two. He also misquoted - again, I assume through ignorance because I knew the honourable gentleman for some time in his former capacity and I have not known him deliberately to misquote things before - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
– You do not know him as we do.
– That is quite possible. But I am getting to know him in that way. Article 20 paragraph (2) of that document provides:
No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
That is one distinct paragraph. But article 23, paragraph 4 provides:
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Association’ and ‘trade unions’ are used in completely different senses which anybody who understands how words are used in the international sphere would readily appreciate.
– It does not say ‘compelled to join’.
– Of course it does not say compelled to join’. I am not suggesting that it does. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Declaration provides that people may not be compelled to join a trade union. The Declaration states no such thing, as even a cursory examination of the document will disclose. In fact this proposition has been argued before such bodies as the High Court of Australia.
It would be possible to show a number of complete inconsistencies and to show the depth and degree of prejudice of the honourable gentleman’s speech. But I address myself to what this Government has done and to what occurred in the past. The Liberal PartyCountry Party coalition Government had a very sad and unfortunate record in respect of its attitudes in relation to annual leave as a matter of industrial reform. Throughout recent history it continuously argued that the time was not ripe for a reduction in working time or for the provision of additional paid leisure time. It failed to understand that men work in order to live; that they do not live in order to work.
As most members of this Parliament are aware, there has been an enormous increase in the use of technology in Australia since Federation. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any productive or administrative process which has not been affected, altered or improved since that time. In almost every case or example imaginable the function or process has been mechanised in some way. Equally, in almost every case the function has been speeded up and more can be achieved in less time. There has been a mammoth increase in productivity in the Commonwealth Public Service during the period since Federation. This proposition is completely undeniable.
The increased use of technology has been massive, particularly in the last 15 years. Increased national productivity has been achieved in many ways. Improvements in communications, better facilities for transport, the use of more advanced mechanical and electronic equipment and particularly the introduction of large scale computer installations have all had some effect. All of these factors have been important in achieving the objective of greater productivity.
A further most important consideration is frequently overlooked. There has also been a massive increase in the skills of the employees of the Commonwealth. These men and women are much more highly trained than were their predecessors, those who were employed at the time of Federation. The current employees have had the benefit of a substantially higher basic school education. Those who have undertaken technical training have had to achieve a significantly higher standard in order to be equipped to operate and to manage the very sophisticated and expensive machinery and equipment now being used. Many more new processes require the possession of professional qualifications and higher skills. In most cases there is now a greater pressure on employees as they keep pace with the machinery they are supposed to operate. Some processes are being so arranged that one might wonder whether men are controlling the machines or whether the operators are really trying to keep up with the pace of the machines that they operate.
There can be no doubt at all that there is far greater mental and physical and psychological strain on the modem employee as compared to those strains and pressures which existed for earlier generations performing the same or similar types of work. For many the introduction of modern technology has meant a very dramatic change in work styles and in the methods used in the performance of work. In other cases there has been a drastic alteration in the hours of work for no other purpose than to achieve a greater utilisation of the equipment concerned. Clerical staff in the Public Service who had been used to working only during daylight hours on ordinary week days suddenly found themselves being compelled to work shift work spread throughout almost the whole day - that is, 22 hours of a day, with the other 2 hours being used for maintenance purposes to keep the equipment in good order. The staff were further compelled to work on rosters which involved work on each of the 7 days of the week. They had to work on 5 days, but the 5 days included Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. This was the price paid by employees for the introduction of the most radical and revolutionary method of performing work, the electronic computer.
The introduction of modern technology is said to be for the advantage and benefit of the whole of the community, including the employees in the industry where the technology is introduced. In spite of all these changes which have occurred since Federation successive Liberal Party-Country Party governments have refused to increase the period of annual leave for public servants. But the Opposition now very feebly and hesitatingly claims in a backhanded sort of way to support the granting of extra leave to government employees. Honourable members opposite claim not to oppose this review of leave for public servants. They do not oppose it now because the present Government has a clear mandate to grant the extra leave. Members of the Opposition here and in the Senate have adopted niggling tactics in an attempt to frustrate this measure. They have tried, by rejecting the Public Service Arbitrator’s determination, to prevent this reform. Without acknowledging in any way that the decision to grant extra leave to unionists was not justified, the Government is not prepared to deny the extra leave to its employees in spite of the attempts by the Opposition to prevent it from carrying out its promise made before the election. But the Opposition, being confronted with the inevitability of increased annual leave, now submerges its former opposition in a quite deceitful way.
I want to refer to the record which my colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) explained in some depth. An approach was made to former Prime Minister Menzies in October 1965, which was subsequent to an approach to the Public Service Board in March of 1964. Submissions were made to later Prime Ministers - to Mr Holt and so on. All of these approaches were rejected on the same basis that we could not afford to grant the extra annual leave and that it would cost too much. What is not recognised is that government employees in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland were entitled to 3 weeks annual leave in the early 1860s - over 100 years ago.
The previous Government believed that Commonwealth employees should continue on 3 weeks annual leave in spite of the massive increase in technology, the massive increase in pressures and strains imposed upon those employees. Of course, honourable members opposite have always opposed an increase in paid leisure time. They adhere to the worn out, nonsensical and illogical theory that if you increase paid leisure time or decrease working hours you get an automatic increase in costs in direct ratio to the reduction in working hours. In other words, if you decrease working time by 10 per cent it automatically follows that there will be a 10 per cent increase in labour costs. The mathematical theory may be sound; it will commend itself to the simpletons who look after industrial relations for the Opposition in this Parliament. But it is not true. It is not true, because experience has shown clearly - and there is no substitute for actual experience in spite of the theories and the message in the textbook - that this does not follow at all. Indeed, neither in those industries which last year agreed to introduce the 35-hour week by way of agreement between employers and the trade unions nor in those establishments where the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission awarded it, has there been such an increase. What has been illustrated is that with the reduced hours the total production, the total productivity has at least been the same. There has at least been no decrease and in one or two instances there has been a minor increase.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had a lot of say about the Government’s policy on preference to unionists. I addressed the House last night on this matter during the debate on the motion that the House adjourn. The policy that union membership was to be encouraged has been set out in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act since 1904. Last night I referred to the decisions of industrial tribunals since 1904 in New South Wales and to decisions in the Commonwealth sphere. Decisions also have been made in respect to Queensland. On 9th March last a full bench of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission consisting of 2 Presidential Members and a Commissioner made a decision on this very point. Of course, one could not expect the spokesmen on industrial relations in the Opposition to be so up to date as to know what has occurred in the last 3 weeks, because they exhibit from time to time that they have not caught up with what has been happening in the last 10 years. Perhaps I should read a passage from that decision so that it may be incorporated in the record and so that, with some good fortune, honourable gentlemen opposite may refer to it subsequently. The Commission said:
We cannot as a matter of law introduce compulsory unionism, but we think that the Act, which is our charter, contemplates that we should encourage unionism. If the implementation by us of a statutory intention reduces the absolute freedom of management then we think even so we must apply that intention in such a way as we think proper.
These gentlemen went on to prescribe that in cases in which unionists and non-unionists seek employment the unionists must get preference. This is contrary, of course, to the wishes of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who showed in his speech that he thought such a proposition was bordering almost on immorality. He condemned the Government for it. But it was the Commission which less than 3 weeks ago said that that was a proper proposition. The Commission said that as between employees seeking promotion from one level or grade to a higher level or grade the unionist must get preference over the non-unionist. Also the Commission said that in the case of retrenchment of employees preference would be given to unionists over non-unionists to remain in employment. Again, this proposition is quite contrary to the views and the wishes expressed by the. Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Further, the Commission said that in cases where two or more employees wished to take annual leave at the same time and where they all could not take their leave at once, the unionist is to receive preference. They are not the words of the. Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron); that is the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The Opposition preaches to the unions to abide by the decisions made by conciliation and arbitration. Followers of the Opposition will abide by those decisions when it suits them. I invite them to abide by this most recent decision. Members of the Opposition, with their anti-union prejudice, are not fooling anybody. The only people they might fool are themselves. They are commencing to appear to be acting as foolishly as they sound.
– The Bill which we are debating at the moment was introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) some short time ago. The Prime Minister made a short second reading speech which I will comment on in a moment. One significant factor that he mentioned in his second reading speech is contained in the following statement:
We want the national Government to continue to set the pace in improving the working conditions of Australian men and women.
Regardless of what the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) has said in recent minutes, the previous Commonwealth Government in fact has done just that. There are many things in relation to the employment of people in this country and other countries other than 4 weeks annual leave. During the period of the previous Government - over the last 23 years, to use the term used many times in the House, the terms and conditions of employment of public servants in this country improved beyond recognition. No-one would deny that point. Because of improved conditions, not only in the Public Service but right across Australia, we have had an improved output.
Many factors, apart from 4 weeks annual leave, are involved in the employment of people. I have no doubt that this continued improvement in working conditions will continue. At least I hope it will continue under the present Government. The Minister’s second reading speech did not contain one word about what is involved in granting 4 weeks annual leave to public servants. At the moment some public servants in Australia do get 4 weeks annual leave depending entirely upon where they are situated. As far as I can see, nothing has been said about that position. No mention has been made about whether the present situation will remain or whether it will advance. I find it rather difficult to understand why there is such limited information in this measure which deals with 250,000 people employed in the Public Service. The second reading speech, which is an important document, contains fewer than 4 sheets of paper. I would have liked to have seen a much more comprehensive document.
Not a word has been said about the cost involved in this measure. I am quite a practical sort of chap and I know that it is quite impossible to lay down in actual figures what the costs will be of any measure of this nature because such a yardstick cannot be described exactly in figures. But the Government could have had a shot at it. It could have given some indication of what is involved. I believe that this should be done.
We have heard a lot from time to time in arguments in arbitration courts and around the country in relation to productivity. Despite what was said by the honourable member for Phillip, I have had quite a lot of experience in this field. Some of the arguments that have been put forward are quite inaccurate. I will give an example which I may have given to this House previously. Where bulk commodities have been handled by modern methods, the result has been incorporated in the figures of tonnages handled and it has been suggested in courts that the productivity is increased by that particular sum. That is absolute rubbish. These commodities have been handled in a certain way in the years gone past, and no man who knows this game would want that situation to continue. But where because of rising costs, for manpower reasons and for many other reasons, there has been a change in technique, especially around our coastline, and millions of dollars have been spent improving the conditions of workers in those industries, many tons per man per hour have been able to be handled as against no tons per man per hour previously. To write that sort of thing into productivity gains is not real at all because one has to consider the total scene. So even in this way it is difficult to lay down precisely what the cost will be.
We know that in a measure of this nature where so much is involved there will be a cost to the community. Improvements in working conditions throughout Australia can be obtained as we move along but they can be obtained only at a certain cost to the community which has to pay for this item. They are not free of cost. They are inbuilt into the structure of costs in this country. Items such as this in any measure are quite important. Let me give an example of what is happening in the Post Office, which is the biggest single industry in Australia today employing more people than any other industry in Australia. The last figure I remember was that about 110,000 people were employed in the Post Office. Quite recently we have heard the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) talking in this House about the troubles he has in relation to the monetary situation in this area. Let him come out with the facts of life. Let him come out and tell us of the real causes of the problems that are concerning that establishment.
I draw to the attention of the House the annual report of the Australian Post Office for the year ended 30th June 1972, which is the latest one available. It is interesting to notice that the total operating expenses were $798.7m, representing an increase of $8 1.5m or 11.3 per cent. The biggest single feature in cost increases was the higher average salary and wage rate applicable during the year. The total labour bill, covering both capital works and operational staff, was $53 5m, an increase of 16.3 per cent. When the present measure is applied to the situation of the Post Office, obviously there will be a further increase in the wage and salary situation within the Post Office because the staff level increase in the figures for that year was less than 2 per cent. So the problem is not a matter of the increased number of personnel being employed in the Post Office; it is caused by that large 16.3 per cent increase in wages and salaries. When this measure is applied to the situation for the coming year, obviously there will be an additional cost factor. I suggest that the Postmaster-General should not continue to blame certain activities of the telecommunications service in country areas for the problems in the Post Office. We are well aware of the situation and of his problems. We appreciate the situation. But it is no good turning a blind eye to it at all. We must face up to the realities of life, and that is what we have to do in relation to all the measures that improve the conditions of the work force of Australia.
As I have indicated, we cannot always use a positive yardstick. There is always a margin in this sort of thing. But to grant an extra week’s leave to Post Office workers will require 2,300 extra employees in a single year to pick up the extra work load. If that situation is applied to the Public Service generally, 5,200 extra employees will be needed to pick up the extra work load which is left. I have always said that the cost cannot be measured exactly, but these figures are relevant and should be stated for the public so that they will know what is involved. This Parliament, which is a responsible body, should look very thoroughly at this situation when a Bill of this nature is brought in. The point I made at the beginning was that I was disturbed by the fact that the second reading speech did not fully explain the consequences of any major move of this nature. I do not in any way suggest that the working conditions of wage and salary earners, whether they be in the public or the private sector, should not be improved. I for one have always tried to improve the situation and the lot of people in Australia. I believe that this is right. But let us not forget that as we move up the ladder there is always a cost factor involved and there must be a build-up in production by individuals if we want to improve the very high standard of living which we in fact enjoy in Australia. We want to improve that high standard of living. Regardless of what has been said, in the last 20-odd years the standard of living in Australia has improved tremendously. One has only to travel overseas to realise the good position we are in.
Another point concerned me considerably when the Bill was going through the rigours of being implemented, from the time it was suggested by the present Government prior to the election. It was indicated that only those people within the Public Service who belonged to particular unions would receive 4 weeks’ annual leave. I find it very difficult to understand that a responsible body of men or a responsible government should endeavour to implement such a proposal.
The second reading speech on the electoral Bill which was introduced into this place quite recently and which I understand may be debated later today contains some words which I hope I may be permitted to mention without being ruled out of order. The expression to which I refer is ‘those fundamental principles of human rights and democracy in this nation’. These are the things that are at risk in that Bill. A similar expression should be incorporated in this Bill as the words are very relevant so far as union membership is concerned.
I believe in organisation and that the unions in Australia can play a large part in improving conditions, especially in those instances where there is a need for negotiations between the employer and employees, perhaps involving even the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This is an integral part of the whole union system, but there cannot be compulsion. The unions must win their own way into attracting membership to the unions. If union membership is compulsory the whole credibility of unions will start to disappear. Only by attracting membership and doing those things which need to be done will the unions and their leaders be able to illustrate that they are capable of taking responsibility and doing the things that need to be done. Only in this way will they be able to show that we can have sound union organisations in Australia. I would oppose measures of the kind that the Government endeavoured to implement by which it was proposed to discriminate between union and non-union members of the Public Service.
At the beginning of my remarks I mentioned cost, and I have made repeated references to it in the course of my speech. This is a very important issue in relation to this or any other issue with which the House may deal today. In recent times I have heard many honourable members comment on the cost of commodities. References to this subject have appeared in documents that have come to my notice and in newspaper commentaries. We have a situation today in which some food prices have risen. I suggest that many commodities in respect of which comments about prices increases have been made have been far too cheap over the years. Primary industries in Australia in the last few years have been passing through a very difficult time during which costs have been rising and returns from commodities have been declining. At present many industries are returning to a situation in which they are able to make ends meet
However, this recovery cannot be achieved overnight. Costs are still rising and still present a problem in the community, not only in relation to primary industries but also to the whole nation and particularly to people on fixed incomes.
Let us not turn a blind eye to measures of this kind which may come before the House in this or future sessions or imagine that they will not affect costs. The position of the primary industries is improving at the moment, but if our economy is not checked to the extent that a workable economic arrangement can be attained for producers of primary products, those producers will no longer be around. This point is basic. It has been suggested that not enough meat is available in this country or that the cost of meat is too high. People who make those criticisms should look first at the total scene. European countries and most other countries including Japan and America today are experiencing a shortage of foodstuffs, particularly food concentrates. This presents a very serious situation and the only way in which it can be rectified is by a realisation throughout the world that if people want these commodities they must be prepared to pay a reasonable price for them. That is why I have been saying that costs have been too high relative to the returns received over the years by producers of some commodities. This is one of the main reasons why production of those commodities has declined. The only way in which the situation can be improved is by looking after the costs and prices situation in our own country.
I have mentioned before that I do not object to improvements in conditions for those who work in Australia or, for that matter, in any other country. Surely there is room for plenty of improvement in other parts of the world as well as in Australia. I have always endeavoured to play my part in improving working conditions in Australia. For this reason I do not oppose the Bill. However, I reiterate that the people directly and indirectly involved in measures of this kind must keep in mind the cost of implementing these proposals. I trust that in future when the Government brings down legislation of this nature involving so many people it will make available to honourable members a document setting out what is involved in the measure and provide far more information than has been supplied on this occasion.
– I never cease to be amazed in this House at the lack of knowledge which is displayed by some honourable members opposite, either deliberately or in the belief that they are pulling the wool over the eyes of the people. During the days of Hitler it was said of Goebbels that if you tell a lie often enough somebody will believe it. We have heard this parrot cry from the Opposition benches, and in particular the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) when criticising the Government for implementing this measure. The parrot cry that was put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that the Government was attempting to force a situation in which additional leave would be granted to members of unions only. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was pointed out by the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) - I will repeat it for those who apparently did not hear his speech - that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that the conditions of an award can be made applicable only to the workers under that award. That is exactly what happened.
The Commonwealth Public Service unions applied to the Public Service Arbitrator for an increase from 3 weeks to 4 weeks annual leave. The Arbitrator brought down an award which was made applicable only to members of the unions which applied for it. That decision is contained in the determination of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. A determination made under the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitration Act must lie on the table of both Houses of Parliament for 28 days. Either House may reject it. Personally I think that this is an anachronism. I do not think the Parliament should have the authority to reject an arbitral determination of any arbitration system. Be that as it may, that provision is contained in the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitration Act.
The Senate - or the other place, as it is called in this House - for reasons best known to itself decided to make this a political issue, rejected the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator’s determination which granted 4 weeks leave to Commonwealth public servants which, in accordance with the Act, restricted the additional week’s leave to members of the unions who had applied for it. ‘Membership of a union’ were the key words. That is not new. Yet we have the Opposition saying that the Government is succumbing to industrial blackmail. I think Opposition members show a complete lack of knowledge on the subject when they push out these pious platitudes and expect members on this side of the House to believe them and apparently hope that the Australian people will believe them. Nothing is further from the truth. Owing to the political machinations of the Opposition in the Senate, most ably backed by its representatives in this House, the Senate disallowed that arbitral determination and it then led us into a situation in which, to protect something that the employees had got by arbitration, this Government was forced to introduce legislation in this House to protect the interests of union members and to protect the interests of all members of the Commonwealth Public Service.
There was a time when the conditions of employees in the Commonwealth Public Service set the standard for the rest of employees in Australia. I am afraid that that situation ended in 1949 when the Liberal-Country Party coalition came into Government, but I am happy to say that the improvement in conditions and the changes which have come about since 2nd December 1972 when the Australian Labor Party became the Government have led to a situation in which the conditions of Commonwealth Public Service employees will again set the standard for the rest of employees in Australia. I congratulate the Prime Minister for his action of bringing before this House the Public Service Bill 1973, which grants 4 weeks annual leave to all Commonwealth public servants. In introducing the Bill he said:
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.
With those sentiments I wholeheartedly agree. I was shocked when I heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition come forward today with a statement that he did not agree that conditions in the Commonwealth Public Service should set the pace. I thought that the Commonwealth Public Service and the Commonwealth Government, irrespective of which Party is in power, as a beneficent employer should set the pace. I had always understood that that was Liberal-Country Party policy, and I was shocked today when I heard the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition disagreeing with what I thought was a cardinal principle.
Farsighted employers, and I say this advisedly, have a part to play in altering and improving social conditions. The Commonwealth Government is by far the largest employer of labour in Australia. Consequently it has a far greater responsibility than other employers in setting the pattern for other employers to follow. This Government is doing just that. Commonwealth public servants were eligible for 3 weeks annual leave from 1901, which was the date of the formation of the Commonwealth Public Service. Successive conservative governments, including the Liberal-Country Party governments, have been intent on maintaining that ceiling. On 18th October 1966 an effort was made by the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, to lift that ceiling. The now Prime Minister, then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, moved that 3 weeks leave be increased to 4 weeks. That is an indication that the present Government has been battling for this improvement in conditions for a considerable length of time. The now Prime Minister, or, as he then was, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, on 18th March 1966, in moving an amendment on behalf of the Opposition that 4 weeks annual leave should be a condition inserted in the Commonwealth Public Service Act, is reported at page 1897 of Hansard as having said this:
The effect of the amendment is to ensure that Commonwealth public servants have 4 weeks annual recreation leave. The Bill re-enacts the ceiling of 3 weeks annual leave, which has been imposed on public servants ever since the formation of the Commonwealth Public Service in 1901. At that time, Commonwealth public servants clearly enjoyed an advantage over most other employees in Australia. This advantage has now disappeared . . . The Act has always placed a ceiling on their annual leave and the Bill re-enacts the ceiling. Accordingly, we move that the ceiling be raised to 4 weeks.
One would have thought that the then Government, if it was a good employer, would have really given serious consideration to it, but what was the Government’s attitude? Its attitude was expressed by the spokesman on the matter for the then Government, who was the Minister for the Navy, the member for Perth, Mr Chaney. He said this:
I want to say that in October 1965 Cabinet considered proposals from employee associations for an increase in the general period of annual recreation leave from 3 to 4 weeks. On 14th October 1965, the then Prime Minister issued a statement intimating that the increase would not be granted as the case for an extra week’s leave had not been substantiated.
Then he went on to give what in his opinion, or in the opinion of the then Government, were the reasons for not giving it. The matter came to a vote, and amongst those who voted against the then Opposition amendment, the Australian Labor Party amendment, were the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). I wonder whether today, when this Bill comes to a vote in this House, they will have the courage again to vote against the granting of 4 weeks leave to Commonwealth public servants. I doubt that they will.
For the record I think it is important to highlight the attitude of political parties, be they in government or be they in opposition. It is also important to place on record the declared attitudes of the Leaders of the Parties. I have evidenced the declared attitude of the now Prime Minister as far back as 1966. I have evidenced the declared attitude of the present Leader of the Opposition, the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe. There is one of the many Prime Ministers that the Conservatives have had whose attitude I have not evidenced, and that is the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), the last Prime Minister but one. The situation arose in which he was Leader of the Government in the Senate when a Commonwealth Public Service Bill was before the Senate. Prior to that a question had been asked in the House of Representatives by a very able member of this House, the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), who has been a consistent battler for improvements in working conditions. The honourable member for Macquarie on 12th October 1966 asked the then Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt, whether 4 weeks annual leave would be granted to Commonwealth public servants. This was the reply he received:
There should be no ambiguity about our position, but I shall see that a copy of the Government’s official statement on this matter is made available to the honourable gentleman. . . . Some time ago I received a deputation of representatives of the Public Service organisations and I undertook to bring the views of that deputation, which was pressing for 4 weeks annual leave for Commonwealth public servants, to the Cabinet. A Cabinet submission has been prepared which goes fully into this matter. I should expect it to be considered shortly and a decision to be reached for announcement before the Parliament rises.
Remember the date - 12th October 1966. The Bill was the Public Service Bill and it was before the Senate. In the debate in the Senate on 13th October 1966 the right honourable member for Higgins jumped the gun on the Cabinet consideration which the honourable member for Macquarie had been told would take place and, in regard to an amendment which had been moved by the then Opposition to grant 4 weeks annual leave the right honourable member for Higgins, then Senator Gorton, said:
The second proposal … is that the Government should provide 4 weeks’ annual recreation leave instead of 3 weeks for Commonwealth public servants. Senator Willesee quite accurately forecast that 1 would have something to say about the cost that such a change would impose on the Australian economy. If an extra week’s leave were granted each year to the total number of Commonwealth employees, an additional 5,800 workers would be required in the Commonwealth Public Service. Of course, the annual wage and salary bill would rise by about £9m.
He then went on to say that the Government had no intention of giving it. However, the Cabinet decision was not made until 5 days later. So in my mind one of the main architects in seeing that the Commonwealth public servants never had justice from previous Government was the right honourable member for Higgins who jumped the gun on that occasion and, in my view, forestalled a possibility - maybe it was a possibility that would not have come into effect - that the then Government could have granted it. The Government then was committed to a position where it could not grant it. When I think of reasons why the previous Government had never granted it my mind goes back to 1961 when the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) met extreme opposition in his own election campaign in that year. The stocks of the then Liberal-Country Party Government were so low that the Commonwealth Public Service unions and associations in New South Wales mounted a campaign against the then Government. In fact it almost led to the defeat of the right honourable member for Lowe. The thought amongst Commonwealth Public Service unions and associations from then on was that the edict went out that Commonwealth public servants would get nothing from that Government because it had almost led to the defeat of their star. It was almost a defeat. It was akin to the little boy taking his bat home when he was not allowed to play cricket. That is not a way to deal with the rights of Commonwealth public servants who seek not a hand out but justice.
I would like to highlight some countries which have far greater benefits for their employees than we provide for our employees. It has often been said that Australians have extremely good working conditions. To a point yes, but certainly not when it comes to leisure or leave. The situation in other countries is a lot better than it is in Australia. That is one of the main reasons why the Public Service unions have a just case and why this Government has granted it. The position in the United States of America in 1949 was that 61 per cent of employees received 2 weeks leave. In 1952, 48 per cent received 2 weeks leave while 46 per cent received 3 weeks leave. In 1957, 64 per cent received 3 weeks leave while 20 per cent received 4 weeks leave and over. In 1961, 49 per cent received 3 weeks leave while 43 per cent received 4 weeks leave and over. In 1966, 60 per cent received 4 weeksleave while 13 per cent received 5 weeks leave. And we hold our heads up in the belief that we have some of the best social conditions in the world. We should hang our heads in shame.
Workers in Norway have received 4 weeks leave since 1964 and yet we are supposed to be called a progessive country. In Sweden 4 weeks leave applies generally in industry and not only in the public service, which is all this Bill seeks to do. Public servants receive from 24 days leave for a 6-day week to 42 days leave a year depending on age and service grading. In West Germany - we hear talk of our economy, but there is not a stronger economy in the world than there is in West Germany -public servants receive 3 weeks leave with a minimum of 4 weeks for all employees over 30 years of age. In addition 4 weeks leave is provided in many outside agreements other than those relating to the public service.
I could go on even further quoting countries without quoting the situation in Australia where in many States employees not only in the public service but also in outside industry received 4 weeks leave. We have this parrot cry:’The country cannot afford it’. The country could never afford it. I can remember when it was said that the country would go broke if we reduced the 60-hour week to 54 hours, then from 54 to 48, to 44 to 40. We have not gone broke yet and are not likely to go broke. The same reaction is seen from conservative governments and conservative interests every time there is an attempt made to improve working conditions. I am proud to be a member of the Government which is granting this improvement. All I hope is that the lead will be taken by employers outside the Commonwealth Public Service and that they will give the same measure of justice to their employees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the operation of the Australian Capital Territory Evidence (Temporary Provisions) Act 1971- 1972. The Evidence Ordinance 1971 of the Australian Capital Territory was disallowed by the Senate in August 1971, on the ground that it contained important new provisions which should be open to scrutiny and debate in the Parliament. The disallowance was considered to have left the Australian Capital Territory without important substantive rules of evidence, and the Evidence (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1972 was subsequently introduced in the Senate in terms substantially similar to those of the ordinance. The Bill was referred for consideration by the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which had not completed its consideration of the Bill before the elections last year.
In the meantime, in order to preserve in force the provisions of the disallowed ordinance while the new substantive Act was being considered, Parliament enacted the Australian Capital Territory Evidence (Temporary Provisions) Act 1971 and 1972, which kept the provisions of the ordinance in force until 31st March 1973. The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) is considering introducing legislation to establish a Federal code of evidence which would apply in both the
Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. To enable this legislation to be prepared, the present Bill will extend the existing temporary arrangement. The existing legislation sets a terminal date for the temporary arrangement, but the present Bill contains no terminal date. This gives effect to an amendment moved by the Opposition in the Senate. The Government does not dispute the amendment because it has the advantage of rendering unnecessary any further amendment to the Temporary Provisions Act in the event that the proposed code could not be made operative by a particular date. I commend the Bill to the House. (Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith).
– I have a special interest in this small Bill because in 1968. when I had the honour to have the portfolio of Attorney-General, I established a committee to prepare a new code of evidence for the Australian Capital Territory. At that time in the Territory we were applying the New South Wales law, which was in the Evidence Act of 1898 and partly in the Crimes Act of 1900. It was considered, at any rate by me, to be somewhat out of date. I appointed the committee, which was headed by Mr Justice Fox, with the object, in the first place, of preparing a new evidence code which would be something of model for the rest of Australia. As the work proceeded, this was found to be a very heavy task. We consulted various experts. For example, we consulted, among others, Professor Cross who assisted the British with their 1968 Evidence Act. Professor Cross was lecturing in Australia and he has written a standard work on evidence.
It became apparent that the task would be a long one. In the result, what occurred was that the most obvious deficiencies were cured or attempted to be cured by this committee and a new evidence ordinance was prepared for the Australian Capital Territory which was a very great advance on anything previously but which I would not have described as the ultimate model code for Australia. For example, it provided for the admission of statements in writing and made other provisions on hearsay. It provided for the admission in evidence of statements from computers, with proper safeguards. These were somewhat novel provisions in Australia. Nevertheless, so far as it went, it was a good ordinance. It came into operation .aid, thereafter, cases in the Australian Capital Territory were conducted with this ordinance governing the provisions relating to evidence.
This ordinance came before the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances which took a view which should be referred to in this House. The Committee took the view not that the ordinance was bad but, in effect, that it was so good that its provisions should be enacted in the form of legislation and not by ordinance..
– That it should be dealt with by the Parliament.
– That it should be dealt with by the Parliament in the form of a Bill. So many substantive provisions, such as the new companies legislation, had been allowed to be enacted by ordinance that the. prospect of putting every decent piece of legislation as it affected the Australian Capital Territory through this Parliament was a daunting one. Nevertheless, the Senate, on the recommendation of its Regulations and Ordinances Committee, decided to disallow the ordinance which was considered to be a good one. The result of that was that for a period there was no law of evidence applying in the Australian Capital Territory and for about a week it was not possible even to try criminals satisfactorily in the courts of the Australian Capital Territory. This obviously was a position that could not be allowed to continue. So the first attempt was made to produce a short Act to continue the terms of the ordinance in force until such time as a Bill could be. introduced and debated as desired by the Senate Committee. Time went on. In fact, as my learned friend, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) said. a Bill eventually was introduced by my colleague, Senator Greenwood, and brought before the Senate in order to put it in the form of an Act. It was debated for some days. It reached the Committee stage in the Senate, but it was not passed. Again, there was the risk of expiry and the Territory being left without any law of evidence. So, another Bill was introduced to extend the provisions of the ordinance, and today we are debating the matter again. This ordinance, supported by the other short Act, expires on 21st March and we are confronted with the necessity of passing another Bill to continue the ordinance in force.
I cannot oppose that being done; it obviously is absolutely necessary. But I do register this degree of protest: There was no objection in substance to the ordinance. It was felt that it contained substantive provisions which the Senate would have liked to have debated. The Senate could have debated those provisions on the ordinance, but it did not. The Senate wanted to debate them in the form of a statute. I respectfully suggest that this is not a practical way of proceeding until there is some form of self-government in the Territory where its laws can be debated, if necessary, but not necessarily in the national Parliament thus delaying the enormous legislative program that we necessarily have in this place. I do not want to delay the passage of this Bill. As I said, 1 agree with my learned friend that the Bill is necessary, and we do not oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
I should like to say a few words in reply to some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen). It is true that the procedures that have been followed in this Bill and the original ordinance are not calculated to indicate the greatest degree of efficiency in the law making processes as they relate to the Australian Capital Territory. I think that many people would express concern - as, indeed, I do. One must realise that the initiative and support for the ordinance being disallowed in the Senate back in August 1971 came from all sectors of that House. I cannot quote the majority that supported the disallowance, but the general feeling was that a major step forward, as this undoubtedly was, in respect of the law of evidence, was such an involved piece of legislation - involving controversial questions even of philosophy as well as of the admission of evidence, confessions, statements, documentary evidence and other questions to which the honourable member for Parramatta referred - that there should be proper debate on the matter.
The honourable member for Parramatta referred to Professor Cross. I have a passage from Cross that might strike a note with the honourable member. In the Australian edition of ‘Cross on Evidence’ which stated the law as at January 1970, the learned author said:
When work began on this edition–
That would have been several years, perhaps many years, before January 1970- it was hoped that there would be a uniform Evidence Act for the Australian States and Territories, which would have greatly facilitated my task. Although that project has not yet come to fruition, I hope that this edition will help towards uniformity in the principles, if not the statutes, of the Australian law of evidence.
As we know, we still are a long way from that; but, as I mentioned in my second reading speech, the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) is pressing on with that project and we can hope to see it in the not too distant future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 March (vide page 513), on motion by Mr Daly:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes.
– The apparent purposes of this Bill are, firstly, to reduce the permissible variation from the quota specified from 20 per cent to 10 per cent; secondly, to revise the factors in a distribution by deleting reference 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 provide that a redistribution may be directed whenever one-quarter of the electorates of a State differ from the quota by 10 per cent instead of by 20 per cent.
The Liberal Party has given the most penetrating and exhaustive examination to the proposals and the impact they will have upon the electoral boundaries for the Commonwealth
Parliament. That examination has been carried out by the Federal Secretariat, as the basic research element, supported by a committee of members from the Parliamentary Executive and the Parliamentary Party. In the examination they consulted all our organisational branches in the States. The report of that committee was considered by the full Opposition Executive, which made a recommendation that the Bill be opposed. The report of the executive was considered by the Parliamentary Party and we are resolved to oppose the legislation. I have set out this method of examination for I want it to be completely and absolutely clear that the views we have reached have been exclusively in the Liberal Party and based upon considerations which the Liberal Party believes ought to be taken into account. The decision we have reached has been unaffected by the attitudes of any other party. This is as it should be because the Liberal Party, having no sectional base, is, in fact, the only truly national party in the Australian political spectrum. As a national Party we owe a duty to all the Australian public, to our supporters and our members to act in Opposition to achieve the best legislative result which is possible. I shall come to the detailed considerations with factual material to support our conclusions shortly.
First, I wish to deal with what we have concluded is the real purpose of the legislation introduced by the Labor Government and the difficulties which we will have overturning the impressions put in the mind of commentators and the public generally by a most thorough propaganda exercise extending over some years by the Labor Party. There can be no doubt that the Labor Party’s real purpose is to advantage its parliamentary Party and thereby to make it easier foi the Labor Party to forge a distribution of electoral boundaries which will have the result of making its stay in office easier to maintain. It would be happy to perpetuate itself in office.
The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is responsible for electoral matters, ought properly to be described as the Minister for Conservation of a Labor Government. Only the most naive person could believe that the motivation of the Labor Party is that of objectivity or commitment to the democratic process. Attributed to a former Labor Minister and Senator was the saying: 1 don’t care who votes or how they vote so long as I count them’. That attitude has not been far distant from the reality of Labor Party thinking, committed as it is to the numbers game throughout its history. Another old saying attributed to a Labor Party leader of the past, was: ‘Vote early and vote often’. Against this background I cannot bring myself to believe that the honourable member for Grayndler, members of the Cabinet and of the Labor Caucus have been transported by some sense of altruism in this legislation.
– He is laughing.
– He is laughing; he acknowledges the truth of it. How could he do otherwise than acknowledge the truth of it? The argument advanced by the Government to support this measure is based on the slogan: ‘One vote one value’. I do not reject that concept but I say quite specifically and unequivocally that there is no time at which that can be achieved in all its pristine purity. If every electorate on the 29th March had exactly the same number of electors, by 30th March they would have not had the exact same number of electors. They would no longer be exactly equal in numbers. Within a year there would be wide discrepancies in their numbers. It is therefore necessary to realise while it may be a fundamental objective to be sought it must be understood to be incapable of actual achievement at any time. Nevertheless the law should do what it can to as near as practicably achieve it. In relation to that objective there will be exceptions which must be acknowledged and will, upon examination, be a matter of degree. For example, can it really be argued that democracy will be subverted because we are unwilling to have the electorate of Kalgoorlie, already occupying most of the State of Western Australia, occupy even more of the State or that democracy is subverted because the electorate of Kennedy or of Darling is to occupy an even greater part of their States rather than be left as they are? The proposition that an electorate cannot be too big cannot be denied. It then becomes an issue of degree as to what lesser numbers for a noncity seat can be accepted without subverting the democratic process. I will give some figures to illustrate this point shortly.
The Liberal Party believes that our purpose in shaking this legislation should be commenced by 4 basic principles. Firstly, that parliamentary democracy must be preserved and be seen to be preserved; secondly, electorates should as near as practicable, be equal in numbers through the expected lifetime of the distribution; thirdly, to prevent excessive sectional representation in the Parliament and, fourthly, to prevent the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries. This whole question is as complex as it is important. Debate on it must be rational, considered and objective. Instead of mounting slogans and emotive rhetoric we ought to be dispassionate in our examination of the facts, realities and practical problems. The Liberal Party has not been blinded by slogans of the Minister for Services and Property in his second reading speech. He will be distressed to learn this. We believe that Australians will see through the motives and will accept our view that the Bill should be defeated in order to preserve that very thing which the Minister has been using as his slogan - equality of treatment and, as near as possible, one vote one value. On examination of the Minister’s speech it is seen to be empty of reasoned argument. It leaves the impression of political demagoguery and rhetorical distraction for which the Minister has become known. The Minister alleges a gerrymander in the current arrangements. If there is a gerrymander in the current arrangements how is it that the Labor Party is in Government?
– Massive support.
– Massive support! The Minister believes the propagandas of election night when it was said to be a landslide. The Government was very lucky to get the majority it now has. Not even the honourable gentleman’s leader, the Prime Minister, who is superb at political exaggeration has been prepared to call the present Commonwealth law on distribution a gerrymander. On the contrary, the Prime Minister has specifically refused to so call it. This is not so of the Minister for Services and Property with his Goebbels-like propaganda. The Prime Minister specifically said that a gerrymander was a gross distortion of electoral boundaries for blatant political purposes. That is what the Opposition fears in this Bill. The Prime Minister said in 1968, when in Opposition, that this was not the case with the present arrangements. Yet, of that very same arrangement his Minister responsible for electoral matters is carried away. The Minister is attempting to create the myth that opposition to his amendments will paint the Opposition as dedicated to gerrymander. This is a gross distortion of Goebbel-like character. It is untrue and it will not weaken our resolve to protect the parliamentary democracy of Australia as we see it and we are committed to keep it.
Our purpose is to maintain, as far as is practicable and fair, the principle of one vote one value. We wish to ensure that electoral results will reflect the opinion of the majority. If the electoral processes are manipulated to serve the political interests of persons or parties it would be a denial of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process. But we are hindered, not served, by the Bill, as I propose to demonstrate. The charitable view of the attitude of the Minister and his Party is that they are in error, and please pray let us be charitable. It is an error. But as an error we still have to reject it totally. I wish we could believe it were charitable. They have not looked past the superficialities to find the best way to ensure equity and one vote one value. The Liberal Party believes that the electoral commissioners when drawing up a distribution, should have sufficient tolerance above or below the average to enable them to judge population movements to achieve equality about mid-term.
The Bill proposes to reduce the margin above or below from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. At the same time - this is the most extraordinarily illogical attitude towards it - the Bill does not remove the instruction to the electoral commissioners that in drawing boundaries they must have regard to changes in population. That provision went in in 1965 specifically directing the commissioners to look at population changes. The 20 per cent tolerance has been there since 1902. Now there is a proposal to change the 20 per cent tolerance down to 10 per cent, but there is no withdrawal of the direction to the commissioners to take into account population changes. In other words, they direct the commissioners to do something they cannot adequately do. The 20 per cent provision, which is a permission and not a requirement, has existed for 70 years. How is it that it has suddenly become undemocratic?
The potential movement of population is fundamental to the proper establishment of electorates. In Australia population movement is extremely dynamic. It is constantly changing very significantly. Who does not know of a new suburb? What city or town of Australia is the same today as it was 5 or 10 years ago? Is there any member of this House who can say that he knows of no new suburbs which have changed the size of the electorate greatly? Is there any town that can be mentioned which is the same today as it was in the past? But that is what we would be lea to believe. The Labor Party cannot change that fact but it wishes to ignore it in this legislation limiting the margin of tolerance to 10 per cent. If it succeeded in this Bill it would injure fair treatment and damage one vote one value. Any objective observer knows that. We can change legislation but we cannot plan people or alter their freedom to choose where they will live. There is no problem with electorates of static enrolment. However, elec-torates of shifting populations should have an adequate tolerance above or below the quota depending on whether they are declining or growing in relative size to allow for the quota to be approximated in the mid-term of the period of years in which the boundaries are expected to operate. Without sufficient tolerance the arbitrary rigidity and constraint will reduce the franchise of one individual and improperly increase the franchise of another, and that will be a specific abandonment of the principle of one vote one value.
There really is no virtue in starting off equal, well knowing that equality will be destroyed with the passing of a short time. To do so is just pretence. The 10 per cent tolerance does not allow sufficiently for movements through the quota to maintain the best approximation to one vote one value. A number of seats had a population shift of as much as 40 per cent between the last distributions. Even with a margin of 20 per cent this led to gross under-representation within a very short period of time. The seat of Grayndler - well known to the Minister for Services and Property who represents it - had a population shift of 14 per cent. For Sydney it was 13 per cent; Melbourne 10 per cent, Wills 12 per cent and Griffith, represented by my friend and colleague Mr Donald Cameron, had a shift of 16 per cent. They were all drawn well in excess of 10 per cent over quota in 1968 yet they were all below quota by 1972. From in excess of 10 per cent above quota they went through the quota to be below it in a period of 4 years. The seat of Grayndler fell to nearly 8 per cent below quota. Sydney fell to 9i per cent below quota.
If all divisions could be drawn so that their votes were equal they would be greatly less than equal within months. This is the magnificent Orwellian concept that the Minister has got, that some electorates should be more equal than others. For example, a number of seats between 1968 and 1969 changed their enrolments by more than 10 per cent in only one year. The 10 per cent tolerance clearly would frustrate the efforts of distribution commissioners in their responsibility of taking population into account and attempting to achieve, on an average through a reasonable period, the best approximation to one vote one value. It may be argued that this means we should have a redistribution every 3 years. Perhaps we should. But again let us be real about it. The process of redistribution is complicated and it is slow. It enrages some members always. The honourable member for Grayndler has twice had to fight off a host of contenders for a seat in a new distribution when his own had been eliminated. He did so successfully but the third time may be unlucky.
The process of redistribution enrages some members always. It disconcerts and bores the public always. It leaves wounds in all political parties and it occupies endless time and expense of the Electoral Office. People find it hard enough to know what electorate they are in now without worrying about changing electoral boundaries every 3 years. Half of the members in this House are elected by people who do not even know the names of the members and if they saw them they surely would not vote for them. The most sensible time for redistribution is following a census, that is, each 7 years because the number of seats is determined by population, not by electors. Yet there is no reliable means of determining population except by a census. This the Minister for Services and Property discovered when he had to abandon his grand design for redistribution according to population instead of enrolment because there is no way in which you can reliably determine population in between censuses.
Having disposed of the myth that the Labor Party is alone in seeking electoral justice we can turn to and destroy some of the other political myths that the Labor Party is throwing as propaganda in relation to this
Bill. The Minister made strong insinuations that the Opposition has attempted in the past to manipulate boundaries for the sake of cynical political advantage. This is his constant propaganda repeated ad nauseam. Australian Federal election results have been as close as could realistically be expected to reflecting the will of the Australian voters. Wc have a great record in this achievement. Only once since 1949 has the party or group of parties with the highest percentage of vote* failed to capture government. This exception was in 1954 when office was won by the coalition parties in government at that time. Curiously, that election was contested on boundaries set by the Labor Party in 1948. After the 1948 redistribution the Labor Party lost office because what it did was to make sure that every sitting member in the smaller House got a safe seat and Labor left it open to us to come in and win an election. After that redistribution Labor said: ‘We made a mistake. We will never do it again’. Labor is now in government and one of the first Bills it brings in is an amendment to the Electoral Act. Can we regard Labor as being transported bv objectivity and altruism in the name of democracy?
The Minister claims that the Act manipulates a gigantic rural gerrymander. Certainly non-metropolitan divisions are smaller than those in major cities. But this does not work necessarily for the Liberal Party or the Country Party alone. It also works for the Labor Party in such areas as the divisions of Darling and Riverina. Indeed, in introducing the Bill the Minister in his second reading speech claimed that the Labor Party was the biggest country party. Nor is it necessarily wrong for rural seats to have fewer electors than metropolitan seats. The difference between metropolitan and non-metropolitan electorate numbers, that has been alleged to be so wide by the Minister in his propaganda, is much less than he would have us believe.
One non-metropolitan voter in New South Wales, for instance - and there «s little difference in this respect between New South Wales and other States - has a vote value equal to 1.06 compared with metropolitan voters or 1 .04 if Darling is excluded from the calculations. These figures are derived as follows: 17 extra-metropolitan divisions in New South Wales, including Darling, cast 875,069 formal votes. That is an average of 51,475 formal votes per division, including Darling. Excluding that division’s votes, there were 834,369 formal votes cast in the other 16 divisions, giving an average of 52,148 votes per division. Twenty-eight metropolitan divisions cast 1,531,877 formal votes or 54,709 per division. Therefore, 51,475 extrametropolitan voters equalled 54,709 metropolitan voters. Expressed another way, one extrametropolitan voter has a vote value equal to 1.06 metropolitan voters or 1.04 if Darling is excluded.
The principle of one vote one value is designed to prevent a geographical area or a sectional group being given a representation in the national Parliament which would enable its interests to achieve a greater influence in the mix of political decisions than is appropriate to their size. Can a vote value of .06 above their city cousins be seriously regarded as a gross democratic distortion? Are the services of a member to scattered electors, having in mind the concern for decentralisation of this most metropolitan nation, too dearly bought at a cost of .06? The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) should support the Opposition if he is to be true to his own oftexpressed visions. He will not, though. But if he were true to what he is saying in public he would oppose the Bill.
The Minister for Services and Property relies on a report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, which, in 1959, recommended a tolerance of 10 per cent in the number of electors in electoral divisions. What the Minister did not say was that in this recommendation the Committee departed from the best objective professional advice which it had assembled and received. I quote part of paragraph 353 and all of paragraph 345 of the report. Paragraph 353 states in part:
A merit of allowing divisions to be fixed within one-fifth limits of the quota for a State is the latitude it allows the distribution commissioners in taking account of likely population changes.
The Committee considered the extent of the problems which would arise from inserting in the Constitution a requirement that no division in a State should depart from the quota for that State to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less. The Committee was assisted in its task by the then Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, Mr L. Ainsworth-
Does anybody suggest that he, a distinguished Commonwealth public servant, ever presided over a gerrymander? Paragraph 345 continues: . . who also obtained the views of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the Surveyor-General for each of the States. The preponderance of that opinion was clearly in favour retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction.
The Committee in fact disregarded that objective professional advice.
I have more recent support for my view. I hesitate to use it because the author is wellknown to be a most agile gymnast on political principles. However, I will quote what he has said for what it is worth:
I wish to comment on the population factors, since these have been responsible for the distortion of divisions over the last 2 decades. On 18th May 1962 I wrote to you as Chairman of the Commissioners appointed for New South Wales in that year in the following terms: “The 2 post-war groups of Distribution Commissioners have failed to anticipate the growth of population in the far western and southern suburbs. In each distribution they have recommended divisions with enrolments only slightly smaller than the quota; but the maximum permissible number at each distribution has been exceeded before half the time has elapsed for the next distribution; and by the time of the next distribution the enrolment has been grossly in excess of the new quota and the permissible margin of allowance’.
The permissible margin of allowance in these terms being 20 per cent. He goes on:
In 1962 I submitted that you ‘should ensure that the number of electors in the far western and southern metropolitan divisions should be now set as far below the quota for the State as the number of electors in those divisions can be expected to exceed the quota 5 years from now’. My view was corroborated by Mr Anthony who said, again on 26th May 1965 (Hansard, page 2095), ‘It is up to the Distribution Commissioners to try to determine what the mean number of electors will be during a 5 year period and to try to ensure that it remains at about the same level as the quota’. The force of Mr Anthony’s and my arguments is strengthened by the fact that section 19 (2) (c) deliberately uses the words ‘the trend of enrolment changes’. Commissioners therefore seem to be obliged to determine divisions in the light of the mean population of those divisions over the 5 year period.
This letter which I said I hesitated to use to support my case was written by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he was Leader of the Opposition. I hesitated to use it because he is a well known political gymnast on political principles. But at least that was his view when he wrote the letter. Now he presides over a Cabinet which proposes this legislation which is the direct antithesis of what he was expressing in this public letter to the Chairman of the Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales.
The Minister for Services and Property quotes with reverence Chief Justice Warren of the Supreme Court of the United States in support of his position. It is true that in the same court it has been established that a margin of 15 per cent is quite acceptable. I agree totally with Chief Justice Warren that as nearly as practicable one man’s vote should be worth as much as another’s. That is why, in fact, I am rejecting this Bill. In referring to overseas practice to support its attitude, the Government falls into serious problems. Apparently a terrible, undemocratic gerrymander operates in the United States where under the fiat of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States there is a tolerance of 15 per cent and slightly above.
– Who said this?
– The Minister for Services and Property said that. Every honourable member will know that Canada in the last 3 months has magically become a country elevated by the Prime Minister as the criterion of virtue for all countries to follow. What is good for Canada is good for Australia! We in Australia will emulate Canada, according to the Prime Minister. It is interesting that Canada - this paragon of virtue - provides for a tolerance variation of 25 per cent. Apparently a nasty, undemocratic gerrymander operates in Canada -the country which has been elevated to this level by our Prime Minister. But are we to believe from the Australian Labor Party’s insinuations that in Britain, where constituencies vary from between 40,000 to 80,000 electors, there is an insidious, nasty gerrymander that is destroying the democracy of that country? In fact most countries set no margin of tolerance at all. They simply require electoral districts to be as nearly as practicable equal.
But to return to Australia: In the last 5 years about 49 divisions have experienced population changes in excess of 10 per cent, several by as much as 40 or 50 per cent. On 27th September 1972 the Chief Electoral Officer issued a certificate which said that under the current legislation there was need for a redistribution only in Western Australia. This Bill will create the need for a redistribution in all States except Tasmania. Therefore the Bill creates the need for a redistribution where no need now exists. I do not believe it is altruism on the part of the Labor Party that leads it to pursue this course for redistribution.
In 1922 the redistribution under the Electoral Act with a tolerance then, as now, of 20 per cent serviced 5 elections. Similarly, the 1934 redistribution serviced 5 elections. The 1948 redistribution serviced 3 elections and the 1955 redistribution serviced 5 elections. 1 say again that our record in achieving majority government and approximation of one vote one value throughout our history has not been surpassed by any world standard. In fact, in the last election the Labor Party polled fewer votes in proportion than the percentage of seats it holds in this Parliament. How can it declare the previous redistribution to be a gerrymander?
There is no present need for a redistribution except in Western Australia, and there is no reason why that should not proceed. We could not do it last year because we could not obtain the Statistician’s certificate, following the census, within the time needed for the process to be carried out before the election. This Bill hinders the pursuit of one vote one value and efficiency of electoral management. Its result can only be a justification for this Government to alter electoral boundaries to suit the Labor Party. So much for the Minister’s piety and his high sounding principles. This Bill will achieve nothing but artificial Labor Party advantage.
We reject the opportunism of the Labor Party to use its power in office now to consolidate office for itself in the future. We urge everybody to look beyond the slogans and the rhetoric of the second reading speech to the realities. There has been much high-handedness and arrogance from this Government already. Let us have no more. I reject the Bill.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Education speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
– Sitting in close proximity across the table to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) I am reminded that when I first met the right honourable gentleman he was a distinguished member of the Liberal Party in Western Australia. By that I mean he was a sufficiently distinguished member of the Liberal Party to have been endorsed for the Fremantle division and then subsequently, twice I think, for the seat of Perth.
– Once for Perth.
– Well, I remember him as a very dynamic opponent in Fremantle during the 1949 election. The speech that the right honourable gentleman delivered this afternoon could have been composed half by Sir Thomas Playford and the other half by Steele Hall. His statements of unexceptionable principle of one vote one value and his commendation of Canada and his criticism of the Prime Minister. (Mr Whitlam) for endorsing certain aspects of Canadian policy - though he was not able to quote where the Prime Minister had endorsed the Canadian electoral system - avoided one point. Nobody has ever suggested that the malapportionments in Canada were all consistently and deliberately selected to favour one party. In Canada there are Conservative rural seats that are small and there are Liberal rural seats that are small. But there would be an uproar in Canada if there were reproduced in Canada what exists in South Africa - that is, a deliberate arrangement of electorates to keep the Nationalists permanently in power. There is not an indiscriminate variation in the size of electorates in South Africa favouring parties equally on both sides.
Since the Leader of the Opposition made Party points about how parties preserve electoral systems I am reminded that in the State of Western Australia, from which he came originally, the vote in a metropolitan seat in the lower House there had a value of one, a country seat had a value of three and a northwestern seat had the value of six. In the Western Australian Upper House a metropolitan seat had the value of one, a country seat had the value of three and a northwestern seat had a value of twelve. The Leader of the Opposition was never on record when he was in Western Australia as criticising this. He was never on record as criticising the property qualification of voting for the upper House or the system of local government in which most of the residents of Perth have no votes and some have eight. Every single one of these distortions is defended by the Liberal Party, and by the Liberal Party exclusively, in the face of Labor challenges. There is an upper House in New South Wales for which not a soul has a vote. This upper House was a creation of the non-Labor parties and it is defended by the non-Labor parties.
The Leader of the Opposition had a number of things to say about malapportionments. There is, of course, a difference between gerrymandering and malapportionment. I do not believe that the Liberal Party favours gerrymandering; I do not believe that the Country Party favours gerrymandering. What they stand by solidly is malapportionment to make sure that the votes, at any rate of the Country Party segment, will always have a much greater value than those of anybody else. We have the example of Steele Hall who tried to reform the electoral system of South Australia, and split the Liberal Country League in doing so. To him belongs the credit, as far as I know, of being the only political leader in Austraiian history who was favoured by a malapportionment who got rid of the malapportionment and promptly defeated himself. In defeating him the State was not voting conspicuously differently from the way it had done before. It had not voted for Sir Thomas Playford to be Premier but the new electoral distribution put Steele Hall out immediately. When the South Australian electoral controversy was raging, one spokesman of the country segment of the Liberal Country League came out with the brilliant statement: ‘Why should a metropolitan drink waiter have a vote the same value as the vote of a soldier settler battling in the backblocks to create a new farm?’ To which the reply was given: Why should a country drink waiter have a vote 4 times the value of the vote of a metropolitan brain surgeon’? This extraordinary ability to say that certain people are entitled to be valued more highly is a Country Party rationalisation. The other rationalisation - and I thought the Leader of the Opposition was going to come at it - but he slurred off when he was taunting the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) - is the old Country Party myth that development follows representation. We only have to make a Parliament stiff with Country Party members representing small electorates in order to get a marvellous development industrially in country areas. Stocking factories will blossom in Wagga Wagga! It has never occurred that way.
In Western Australia there is only one thing that has ever created development, and it is not representation. The thing that has created development has been the discovery of resources, and that alone in the face of the most blatant malapportionments in even Western Australia’s history of blatant malapportionments is what changed the Government in Western Australia. A sweet Country Party pocket borough of Merredin- Yilgarn was created with a couple of thousand people on the roll. Then, most awfully, nickel was discovered at Kambalda and within a few years there was a town with a population of some 5,000 people with 2,500 voters on the roll. Perhaps 70 per cent of these voted Labor, or enough to ensure the seat rolled over. At the last State election in Western Australia the Liberal Party won 29.3 per cent of the vote, the Australian Country Party won 5 per cent of the vote and with 34.3 per cent of the vote between them, naturally they lost the election by only one seat. It was the greatest shock that I ever had because I did not believe that they could ever lose the election. They were below the Playfordesque point of 35 per cent, and he had created a situation in South Australia in which a country vote had 4 times the value of a city vote.
I am fascinated by the right honourable gentleman’s solicitude for the size of Kalgoorlie. I am sure that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) must have been weeping tears of self-sympathy. But the Western Australian seat of Kalgoorlie would be smaller without doubt if the State had 10 seats and not 9 seats. Last year the right honourable gentleman had the opportunity, in the terms of the findings of the census, to give Western Australia a tenth seat, in which case Kalgoorlie might have been nicely reduced in size. But the right honourable gentleman did not seize the opportunity. As a Minister the Leader of the Opposition had no solicitude for the size of Kalgoorlie, and Western Australia did not receive the tenth seat to which it was entitled.
As for his picture of changes in population being a case for not having redistributions except immediately after a census, I remember the distinguished and right honourable member for Bruce, when he was on this side of the House, was one of the people who could be cited as an argument against the proposition that only Labor seats were bloated in size in their enrolments. In this wonderful system that he defends the right honourable gentleman was then representing 120,000 electors - this was equal to 3 Country Party electorates - and the then honourable member for Lalor, Mr Reg Pollard, was representing about 130,000. How long did this have to develop without a redistribution? We are told that wisdom has always characterised Liberal-Country Party governments and that they have correctly anticipated the movements of population. The right honourable gentleman’s seat of Bruce with an enrolment of 120,000 shows that this is untrue.
I loved his average and his little play with 0.06 per cent. Let us have a look at the realities as they stand now. Honourable gentlemen will know by the naming of seats who benefits by being below the quota and who is impeded by being above the quota. These figures applied as on the last day of last year. The seat of Calare is 17.02 per cent below quota. The seat of Chifley is 20.83 per cent above quota. The seat of Cowper is 12.97 per cent below quota. The seat of Darling, which is a Labor seat, is 22.87 per cent below quota. The seat of Gwydir is 15.45 per cent below quota. The seat of Lyne is 19.08 per cent below quota. So it goes on. Then we come to the following group: The seat of Macarthur is 13.95 per cent above quota. The seat of Mackellar is 10.53 per cent above quota. The seat of Macquarie is 14.48 per cent above quota. The seat of Mitchell is 24.64 per cent above quota. The seat of Parramatta is 13.94 per cent above quota. The seat of Phillip is 10.09 per cent above quota. The seat of Robertson is 17.04 per cent above quota. The seat of Riverina is 16.52 per cent below quota and the seat of Paterson is 11.52 per cent below quota.
The selection is extremely interesting because everybody knows that, while there are exceptions on both sides, nothing equivalent to this could be found by a scrutiny of Canadian electorates. If people have the effrontery to come in here and talk about who benefits under the redistributions of the past, one has only to go on State by State and name the seats. One will find again and again where over-representation lies and where under-representation lies. There are a few exceptions on both sides but it overwhelmingly favours one side. It is not by getting some percentage all over; it is by looking at the specific seats where each isolated electoral battle takes place that one will find where there is a favouring by a redistribution.
It is a constant debating point to suggest that in Australia there is a constitutional guarantee underpinning citizen rights. We are not a republic. In basic conception there is no such thing as an Australian citizen. Nobody has an intrinsic right to vote. Nobody has a right to vote for the New South Wales Upper House. In the absence of an Act which in theory graciously confers that right from the Crown no citizen of New South Wales has an intrinsic right to vote at all. Not so long ago, in 1962, we passed an Act which gave Aborigines the right to vote, but no citizen guarantee in the Constitution gave them that right. Basically, what we confront in Australia is the monarchical idea that all people are simply subjects and the rights that they obtain have to be deliberately conferred.
Nothing that the Leader of the Opposition said could establish why it was that the Opposition parties want a 20 per cent variation. If the average electorate contains 50,000 people with a 20 per cent variation they could make the largest electorate 60,000. They know where they have always assigned the big battalions to be under-represented in the House. They have always assigned them to the Labor Party. On the other hand take an electorate of 40,000 people. That is created 20 per cent below the 50,000 quota. That is where their own seats, especially those of the Country Party, will line up. It has had nothing whatever to do with development. I remember the Right Honourable Sir John McEwen saying: ‘We do not care who is in this House so long as the country people are represented. We do not care if they are represented by Labor. We do not care if they are represented by Liberals. We do not care if they are represented by the Country Party.’ One would have had to come down in the last shower not to notice the party direction of these distributions and the stern determination, for instance, with which the Country Party in Western Australia maintains the situation in which Lyla Elliott represents 80,000 people on the roll in the Upper House. You could get a line up of 8 Country Party seats to equal it.
The Leader of the Opposition says that he stands for one vote one value. He may do so but that is not what determined the coalition. Menzies brought in a redistribution in 1962 which would have avoided the development of seats like Bruce to 120,000 people. And who stopped it? We all know. The sense of survival that the Country Party possesses stopped that redistribution, and the Leader of the Opposition has the effrontery to say that if we bring in a Bill which allows for a 10 per cent variation he must tie that to the survival of the Labor Party. But in all his experience he knows how redistributions were blocked because one Party in the coalition did not favour those redistributions.
– Which way did the Labor Party vote?
– The Liberal Party in South Australia is split on this issue. The honourable member knows that. It is simply split on an issue of honesty of representation. Steele Hall went to the University of Adelaide and said in effect: ‘If I stand here any longer as Premier of this State on 42 per cent of the vote I do not care how politically convenient it is, the Liberal Party has ceased to be credible.’ But he has not carried very significant sections of the Liberal Party with him. This, however, is a real issue. What is an election about? An election in the last resort is about who the majority of people want to govern. There can be political systems in which this is not a striking, immediate, urgent question. In a country like Switzerland where the Parliament elects the Ministry and the Ministry will be a mosaic of every political party in the House, if legislation is rejected the Ministry does not resign - it merely puts forward another proposal. With such a form of government - not responsible government but representative government - the size of electorates does not matter.
In the Westminster system where there will be monopoly of power for that side which has the majority of seats, there is a very clear moral obligation to ensure, so far as it is humanly possible, that the side which has the majority of seats has had the majority of votes. If honourable members opposite do not believe that, I ask them: What on earth is an election about? Is an election about a decision to arrive at a result that has been predetermined? This seems to me to be what underlies all the property qualifications by which people without property do not have a vote. This is one definite consequence of every distortion of parliamentary electorates.
– That is not an issue.
– If it is an issue for the Leader of the Opposition to accuse the Labor Party of favouring unrepresentative institutions, I can demonstrate the Liberal Party’s defence of unrepresentative institutions in every State of Australia. I come back to the Bill and deal with the accusation made by the Leader of the Opposition. If a country goes long enough in ensuring that its parliament is unrepresentative, the issues go to the streets. There is nothing shocking about Ulster. Its electoral system is identical with that of Melbourne, identical with that of Adelaide and identical with that of Perth in that most of the people have had no votes and some have had a multiplicity. In Ulster this was done merely by ensuring that the people who did not hold property were Catholics. In Australia we have never cared for that. The issues in Ulster went to the streets. If we make Parliament unrepresentative, sooner or later the issues will go to the streets. That is the nemesis of not having a representative Parliament. An important thing which this legislation is designed to ensure is the representative nature of Parliament.
We have had great difficulty in getting elementary democracy in Australia. In the United States, where ultimately the position of citizens will go to the Supreme Court if a citizen’s rights are infringed, the whole” process of malapportionment has been brought under challenge and scrutiny. It is a pity that constitutional rights do not guarantee the equality of citizens in Australia. In Australia there is no guarantee of those rights. In the case of Baker v. Carr the United States Supreme Court stated the position very well. This is the answer to the philosophy of an important segment of this Parliament. The Court said:
The weight of a citizen’s vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives.
In Australia, if a person switches from a country electorate to a city electorate, usually his vote declines in value. The United States Supreme Court said that the weight of a citizen’s vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives. The Court continued:
Equal representation of all citizens of all places as well as of all races.
It ordered that what in the United States is called ‘re-districting’ should take place. ‘Redistricting’ is a term which in Australia we would translate as ‘redistributing’. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has not proposed a rigid one vote one value. A variation of 10 per cent will mean that if there is an average of 50,000 people in the electorates of mainland Australia and a variation of 10 per cent is permitted up or down, the electorates may vary from 45,000 to 55,000 people. That provides for a reasonable degree of variation. What is really involved when one wants more than that it a sense of self-preservation. In the case to which I have referred the Chief Justice of the United States spoke about the effects of redistributing and said how impossible it was to be utterly rigid about these matters. I think a 10 per cent variation allows sufficient flexibility, but the Court affirmed the goal. The Chief Justice said:
A state may legitimately desire to maintain the integrity of various political subdivisions, insofar as possible, and provide for compact districts of contiguous territory in designing a legislative apportionment scheme. Valid considerations may underlie such aims. Indiscriminate districting, without any regard for political subdivisions or natural or historical boundary lines, may be little more than an open invitation to partisan gerrymandering …
So long as the divergences from a strict population standard are based on legitimate considerations incident to the effectuation of a rational state policy, some deviations from the equal-population principle are constitutionally permissible with respect to the apportionment of seats in either or both of the 2 houses of a bicameral State Legislature.
But I suspect that the United States Supreme Court, if it found that this concern for historic boundaries, this concern for community of interest, this concern for natural boundaries resulted always in electorates which favoured one party it would become extremely suspicious. This is what we feel about so much of the State and Federal distributions of the past.
– That is a reflection on the commissioners.
– It is not a reflection on anything. This Act is a fundamental instruction to the electoral commissioners. If what I am saying is a reflection on people who were in government in the past, what the Leader of the Opposition was saying was a reflection on those who are in the present Government. If he says that this Bill will be the instrument of a Labor Party gerrymander, which is what he was saying, and they will take their 10 per cent permissive variation or 20 per cent variation
– That was not your accusation.
– It is not a question of accusing anybody of anything; I am discussing a system of distribution. The Country Party is defending a system of distribution which in the States always make country electorates much smaller in enrolment than other electorates and it is trying to achieve the same thing in regard to the Federal Parliament. I do not blame it. However, I am entitled to say why I am opposed to it and that is what I am doing. The United States Supreme Court went on to say why there should be opposition to a deliberate attempt to favour and said:
The overriding objective must be substantial equality of population among the various districts, so that the vote of any citizen is approximately equal in weight to that of any other citizen in the state.
We feel that this is what the 10 per cent variation will do. It gives an equal weighting to the votes of citizens. Of course, this is more convenient from the Labor Party’s point of view than it is from the Country Party’s point of view. The population trend in so many country areas is consistently downwards. There are many reasons why this is a social tragedy, but it is a fact that every year since 1901 the percentage of the Australian population engaged in farming has declined.
– Since 1901?
– Yes, since 1901, and every year since then the percentage of people engaged in farming has declined. That does not mean that the farming community is not becoming a more important segment because of increased productivity and so on. We are talking about numbers of people in relation to the total population. This is a fundamental problem for rural electorates, except, of course, where there is a great incursion of population because of a mineral discovery. This is a way in which the enrolment in a rural electorate may change quickly. Ultimately, of course, the mining seats also may begin to decline, but there is a greater speed, I have noticed, in reapportioning them under conservative State governments than there is when agricultural areas decline in population because those governments are rather glad to get rid of the hobnailed boots of Labor in the mining areas from some of their preserves, and that is what concerns them.
– That is what you will be doing with your mining policy. You will be getting rid of the mining industry.
– You should be happy about that electorally. Of course, we like your stories about what will happen to rural incomes. You had better have a few more guesses. If you can forecast the prices of minerals and the prices of products of primary industries and what will happen to the population engaged in those industries, I think you ought to be employed as an adviser.
– Order! This is not a private conversation.
– The real reason for the objection to the 10 per cent has nothing really to do with 10 per cent as a concept of variation above and below a norm figure. The real objection is to the frequency of redistribution. I cited a lot of figures about the State of New South Wales. More than a quarter of the seats of New South Wales have a variation of 10 per cent above and below the norm. It is usual if more than a quarter of the seats in a State have that variation to have a redistribution. If we make the variation 20 per cent the redistributions will be infrequent. If we make it 10 per cent the redistributions will be more frequent. Should they be more frequent? The Leader of the Opposition said himself that most people do not know what electorate they live in now, as if that were an argument for perpetuating a vast, overgrown electorate. He seems to argue: ‘Because people do not know what electorate they live in let us not have many redistributions, and if people stay in the one electorate for 10 years, even if it becomes 5 times as big as it was, they will end up knowing what electorate it is’. This is a wonderful argument for not having a redistribution! What should happen is that there should be constant, frequent redistributions - and they are necessary. The argument that the population is constantly changing, constantly moving and constantly enlarging in some areas in Australia today is not an argument against frequent redistribution, it is an argument for frequent redistributions to keep the electorates which we represent in this House relatively equal.
No points have been made against the Bill itself. There is no real argument against the 10 per cent variation. No real argument has been advanced as to why there should not be more frequent redistributions. The Leader of the Opposition’s own seat of Bruce at one stage attained the size of 130,000 when it had originally been distributed at 45,000. That is a clear sign of the need for more frequent redistributions than are taking place today.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Ba!y) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Country Party speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
– Mr Speaker, I thank the House. In replying to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) I would like to comment on two of his remarks. It was a rather highly charged speech that he made, and I would not endeavour to divert and answer all his arguments. One argument he used referred to a decision by Judge Warren of a United States court in 1964. That decision has already been overruled by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1973, so it is not a good example to use. The second accusation I want to challenge is that the Country Party was responsible for the rejection of the redistribution in 1963. Certainly the Country Party opposed it, but why was it rejected? It was rejected because the Country Party was supported by the Australian Labor Party. That is a very shallow argument for him to use.
This Bill proposes changes in our electoral laws which will have serious and drastic effects. The criteria which have existed since Federation and which have been accepted by all governments in the interests of truly representative government are to be changed. There is no justification for the changes proposed by the Australian Labor Party. The margin of allowance in enrolment between electorates is to be reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. Certain factors relating to disability of rural representation and which the distribution commissioners are required to have in mind are to be struck out of the Electoral Act, and the. degree of imbalance in enrolments requiring redistribution is to be narrowed.
The Labor Party’s motives are based purely and simply on its desire to entrench itself in office. The Government is acting with an eye to the possibility of an early election. This is the reason for giving this Bill top priority in its legislative program. But before chancing its fortunes it wants to change the electoral boundaries in its own favour. As the law stands, there is no requirement for a general redistribution. The. Government is entitled, indeed obliged, to hold a redistribution in Western Australia; but the Government wants a general redistribution on a basis that would reduce the rural voice in this Parliament and maximise the power of the Labor vote in the cities. There is little that is noble in the Government’s motives. Its self-righteous claims of concern for democratic principles are so much eyewash. Its motives are sheer political skullduggery aimed at depriving rural people of fair representation and at trying to divide the anti-Labor parties - in which it has failed. This Bill has very little to do with the democratic right of every Australian to be equally represented in this House. What we are seeing is an attack by the Labor Party on that right, a tampering with the electoral law aimed at consolidating and strengthening the Labor Party’s hold on office.
Before I come to the substance of the matter before us I must say that the second reading speech of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) was an affront to the House and a travesty of the standards and traditions that have been established for the content of second reading speeches. Second reading speeches are intended to help explain to the Parliament and the public the contents of a Bill. They are, by tradition, semi-official in character and free from party political propaganda. The Minister has so violated those standards that no one can now accept his speech as an unbiased, impassionate guide to the spirit and interpretation of the proposed amendments. The Minister’s speech was an insult to the officials of the Commonwealth Electoral Office, and I hope that the Minister will take an appropriate opportunity to assure the House that the officers of the Electoral Office were not required by him to have any part in the preparation of the blatantly political material which accounted for a large part of his speech.
We will be subject in this debate to a welter of words about the so-called democratic principle of one vote one value. It will be revered in hollow terms as being absolute. It is theory and far removed from what is practicable. If it is correct, why allow even 10 per cent tolerance? The fact is that there can never be mathematical equality of voting numbers. Nor can there be equality of representation with that principle. The best the Government can do is to lay down criteria that will help the Electoral Commission take into account factors which would cause inequalities of representation. There will be very little said by the Government about the right of every voter to enjoy real equality of representation in this Parliament.
In his second reading speech the Minister spoke about the equality of representation but what he was really talking about was equality of voting power. The Minister said that the Labor Party did not ‘accept the proposition that the relative value of a person’s vote should depend upon his geographical location’. The Country Party says that the relative value of a person’s representation is affected to a significant degree by his geographical location. The Minister said:
There can be no doubt whatever that a man is entitled to equal representation whether he lives in the city or the country.
The Country Party agrees with that. But what the Minister is asking the House to agree to will not achieve that objective. It will take us further away from that objective. The Minister said: we intend to amend the law so that, as far as may be practical, the value of the vote of one citizen shall be equivalent to the vote of another.
If the Government holds this principle so sacred why is it not moving to do something about Tasmania? Why does the Labor Party tolerate a gross violation of the principle of one vote one value in that State where the average enrolment is under 44,000 voters per electorate, between 10,000, 12,000 or 15,000 fewer than the average in other States. Labor tolerates this violation of this so-called principle because it knows that it would lose a seat in Tasmania if it did anything else. If the Labor Party is so attached to the principle, let it ask the people to change the Constitution to get rid of this aberration of one vote one value in Tasmania. Let us see Labor ask the people to change the Constitution to give Tasmania only the limited number of senators it would be entitled to under a one vote one value principle. Why should Tasmania with 220,000 voters have 10 senators while New South Wales with 2,581,000 voters also has 10 senators? Where is there evidence of Labor’s inviolate principle in that?
May I remind the House of the deliberate deception employed by the Minister in his second reading speech in his efforts to cloud and confuse this issue. He said that section 24 of the Constitution ensures that representation of the States in the House of Representatives shall be in proportion to their respective populations and therefore the vote of an elector in any one State shall be no more or no less valuable than the vote of electors in other
States. The Constitution does not provide for equal value of votes. It prevents this from happening by saying that there must be at least 5 members elected in each State. The Labor Party and the Minister, with a complete lack of regard for the truth in this matter, are prepared to mislead the Parliament and the people to achieve their objective of entrenching themselves in office. The Minister in such an important matter as the second reading speech makes untrue statements and ignores the situation in Tasmania where a wide departure from the one vote one value principle is condoned and accepted and not even questioned by the Labor Party.
The Minister’s absurd claim that the Labor Party is the largest country party in the House is another example of his distortions. He justifies his claim by including in his list of Labor seats those taking in city areas and so inflating the total. The fact is, of course, that in Victoria, for example, the Labor Party holds not one country seat. The Labor Party has been utterly rejected by country voters in Victoria and therein lies the explanation of Labor’s determination to force through these proposals. Labor knows it is unacceptable to the majority of country people; so it is going about the task of holding office by electoral manipulation aimed at tightening its grip on city seats. But is it the mathematical value of a person’s vote that should be the be all and end all or is it the value of representation he is able to receive in this Parliament? Equality of representation should be seen to be far more important than mere mathematical equality of votes. The changes the Minister is asking us to approve will do nothing to bt ing about greater equality of representation. They will have precisely the opposite effect.
One of the great objectives of the new Government we are told is the elimination from the Australian community of division and inequality. The proposals now before us will do nothing to achieve those objectives so far as political representation is concerned. We are being asked to approve changes in the Act which will further reduce the opportunity for country people to enjoy equality of representation in a real sense, and which will further increase the inequality of representation which already exists between city and country electorates.
There are several points which should be established.
The first is that, except in Western Australia, there is no need for a redistribution of boundaries under the electoral law as it stands. The redistribution in Western Australia should now be the subject of the Government’s interest rather than the present Bill. But the objective of the Government is to change the law so that a general redistribution will be justified. The law is to be changed so that the Labor Party can perpetuate itself in office at the cost of the democratic right of every elector to enjoy equality of representation. The second point is that under the law as proposed, redistributions of boundaries will become much more frequent - frequent to the point of absurdity. There will be a redistribution within the life of every Parliament, a redistribution before each election. There will be confusion; there will be gross instability of electorates; there will be a serious lack of continuity of representation.
In Britain, the Parliament regarded this type of instability as being so undesirable that it passed an Act after the 1954-55 redistribution to reduce the frequency of redistributions to between 10 and 15 years. The Australian Labor Government wants to change boundaries on which only 2 elections have been held. Five elections were held on the boundaries established in 1922, 5 on the 1934 boundaries, 3 on the 1948 boundaries and 5 on the 1955 boundaries. Under the present law we could have at least one and possibly 2 more elections, depending on when they are held without a redistribution. From now on the Labor Party wants only one election on a set of boundaries, and then a new set. The Minister said recently that this Bill would not lead to more frequent redistributions. He said redistributions are to be held only after a census. That is not so. A redistribution can be held at any time, and in fact is virtually required to be held, according to the present law, when certain situations arise.
Be that as it may, if the Minister is saying that the Bill will not lead to more frequent redistributions, then he is arguing against his own philosophy. On the one hand he says electorates should be as nearly equal as possible, yet on the other he is proposing to let electorates get out of balance much further - under the amended Act - and much more quickly. He is saying there should be one vote one value, yet he is taking action that will speed up the creation of imbalance between electorates - a situation which then, he says, will not be rectified by more frequent redistributions. The grounds for redistribution will arise much more frequently, but redistributions apparently will not be held any more frequently. One cannot help having one’s suspicions aroused as to the real reason for these proposed changes. Of course, the real reason is the Labor Party’s determination to alter the law to its own advantage.
My Party, in contrast to the Labor Party, does not accept that unbalanced political representation is good for a nation. We do not accept that it is wrong to take actions which can mitigate against the effects of unbalanced representation. We most emphatically do not accept that actions should be taken which, like the actions proposed by this Bill, will accelerate the imbalance of political representation. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) talks of decentralisation of industry while the Minister for Property and Services acts to centralise political power. Despite the fact that country people make a disproportionate contribution to the export effort, the Country Party does not cite this as a reason for country people being given special consideration in the area of equality of political representation. What we do say, and say strongly, is that it would be quite wrong if the political voice of these people were to be swamped by the political voice of the cities. We do say that the rural industries which are a major part of the nation’s economy must have strong advocates in this Parliament because they are in the minority in terms of people involved in them.
The principle of limited over-representation on a mathematical basis for minority groups is an accepted principle. The Labor Party accepts it without question as far as Tasmania is concerned. In the States, all governments - Labor and non-Labor - have accepted the principle of lower enrolments in nonmetropolitan electorates. In Britain, the minority areas of Scotland and Wales have considerably smaller electoral enrolments than England. The Rules of Redistribution of Seats in Britain require that, subject to several factors, the numbers of voters in electorates are to be as nearly equal as practicable. A departure from the rules is permissible if special geographical considerations make it desirable. Yet, working under these rules, the commissioners in their report presented to the
British Parliament in June 1969 had this to say:
The 196S electoral quota for England . . . was 38,759. We decided that the limits of 40,000 and 80,000 used by the Commission in 1954 could reasonably be applied in this review.
The commissioners went on to say that, because the new quota was higher, it was their aim to concentrate electorate enrolments between 50,000 and 70,000 compared with a variation between 45,000 and 65,000 in 1954 in 80 per cent of electorates. So here we have a situation in which the law calls for the one vote one value principle to be followed, yet the commissioners regard a variation between 40,000 and 80,000 voters as being an acceptable practical application of that principle. In their reports in 1947 and 1954, the commissioners in Britain took the view that, in general terms, urban electorates could more conveniently support large numbers of voters than could rural electorates. They recommended an upper limit for urban constituencies about one and a half times the quota. This recommendation was modified by Parliament, but the commissioners held to their view. The actual weighting in favour of rural electorates was increased as a result of the 1954 report. Nearly all governments throughout the world make allowances for regions or areas and a degree of balance between population groupings. If the Labor Party accepts without question - as it does - the over-representation in this Parliament of Tasmania, why does it claim to find the principle so abhorrent in other places?
The Country Party says that the political voice of the rural people and rural industries must be heard - no matter through which party that voice is heard. We say that people and industries whose contribution to the nation’s wellbeing is vital should not be deprived by their geographic isolation of the right to adequate and equal representation in this Parliament. We say that it is wrong that political power should be concentrated in a few great cities, swamping rural expression. We say that it is right that the political voice of the country areas should be protected from measures aimed deliberately at hastening its diminution. In the normal course of events it has already been significantly reduced. We believe that good government for all the people comes from a reasonably balanced Parliament organised so that it can pay regard to the wellbeing of all the nation’s interests. At Federation, approximately two-thirds of the representatives in this Parliament came from country electorates. Now two-thirds come from city electorates.
For a nation which needs greater dispersal of population, inland development and less overcrowding of cities, it seems crazy to accentuate the drift of political power and dominance. Labor argues that it is wrong for a country vote to have more mathematical value than a city vote. But it is just as wrong for a city vote to have more practical value than a country vote. It does now, and Labor wants to carry this distinction even further. Ignoring the real disabilities of representing people and their organisations and their industries spread over vast areas, Labor wants to give city people higher standards of representation than country people. It is all very well for the Minister to talk about giving country members the use of charter aircraft and so on. All the aeroplanes in the world will not compensate a country member for the difficulties he faces in giving his constituents proper representation. These are difficulties which city Labor members have never experienced, which they do not understand and which they are prepared to ignore to give their Party a tighter grip on the electorate. The city member is able to devote far more time to his constituents and give them far more personal attention, and therefore a higher proportion of representation in a practical sense than can the country member.
I believe that there is a strong case for giving more consideration to the representational difficulties of electorates such as Gwydir, Riverina, Eden-Monaro, Hume, Calare, Wimmera, Mallee and Maranoa than to huge electorates such as Kalgoorlie. This is not for one minute to ignore the difficulties of that gigantic electorate. It is obvious that some electorates, while of immense size, contain relatively few significant centres of population. It is, of course, difficult for the members in these immense electorates to give adequate attention to each centre of population because of the tremendous distances between them. But wc must accept that the disadvantages of distance are offset to some extent by the limited number of centres. On the other hand, there are many country electorates which, while not covering the huge areas of some others, nevertheless present special representational problems because of the large number of significant population centres spread over a considerable area.
I believe that these electorates offer much more difficulty in the representational sense than either the small, compact, city electorates or the wide, scattered, remote electorates. For example, instead of the relatively small number of big schools which the city electorate might have, the country electorate has a very large number of small schools. This kind of thing is multiplied over and over all through the area that a country member represents and throughout community life and its activities. Does the Minister really suggest that it is possible for a member representing an electorate like Gwydir, with 32,000 square miles, to be able to give the same service as the member representing Grayndler, which occupies 3.95 square miles? Can the people of Gwydir possibly have anything remotely approaching equality of representation with the people of Grayndler under the conditions proposed by the Government? Does he realise that Gwydir is 8,000 times bigger in size than Grayndler and is equal to the size of Austria? Can the Minister or any honourable member say that such a difference does not create difficulties of a magnitude which additional facilities, however generous, cannot possibly eliminate? In the ringing climax to his politically loaded propaganda speech on this Bill the Minister said:
Electoral laws should provide equality, not privilege.
Members of the Country Party agree with that statement. We say that the electoral laws should provide, as far as is humanly possible, every Australian with equal opportunities for representation in this Parliament. We say that the law, even as it stands, does not do this. We say that the changes now proposed will further reduce the opportunities for country people to enjoy equality of representation while increasing the privilege of city people who already enjoy easy access to all that political representation means. We say that even without any alteration to our present law there is growing a heavy imbalance of political representation concentrating more and more power in city areas.
This Bill will further aggravate the problem of a parliamentary voice for country people. Representation means far more than the right to mark a ballot paper. It means the right to be able adequately and fully to consult with one’s fellows so that views can be discussed and views marshalled. It means the right to be able, without undue difficulty, to talk with one’s member - the right to proper communication with those who sit in this Parliament. That right is, in large measure, denied to many Australians because of their isolation. It is a right which is easily and readily available to city electors. It is a right which for many country people is protected to a degree, but only a limited degree, by the existing law.
The Country Party does not have, as the Minister suggests, a guilty conscience on electoral matters. To the contrary its members would be failing in their duty if they did not fight with all their power to protect the limited rights of country people and to give them, to the maximum possible degree, something at least approaching equality of representation to which they, as Australian citizens are entitled. Labor’s electoral self-interest and electoral greed discredits this legislation. In the interests of continuing high standards of Australian tradition and behaviour this Bill must be denounced.
– Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Grassby) adjourned.
– I pre sent the first report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the customs tariff to implement the Government’s acceptance of a recommendation by the Special Advisory Authority on capacitors. The changes operate from tomorrow. The Special Advisory Authority found that emergency action is warranted to protect the Australian industry manufacturing capacitors under reference in relation to imports of capacitors of the ceramic, electrolytic and plastic film types. These capacitors are currently dutiable at rates of 45 per cent general tariff and 27½ per cent preferential tariff.
On ceramic capacitors the Special Advisory Authority recommended a temporary addi tional duty of 2c per capacitor. Electrolytic capacitors having a rating not exceeding 100 volts and a capacity of more than 100 microfarads will be subject to a temporary additional duty of 10c per capacitor. A temporary additional duty of 4c per capacitor will apply to plastic film capacitors having a capitance not exceeding 0.1 microfarad. However, a special by-law provision will allow specified quantities of imported plastic film capacitors admission at the normal rates of 45 per cent general tariff and 27½ per cent preferential tariff. Initially, for the 6-month period commencing tomorrow, an importer will be allocated a quota equal to 60 per cent of the numberof plastic film capacitors having a capacitance not exceeding 0.1 microfarad entered for home consumption by him during the 12-month period ended 30th June 1972. Quotas for future periods will be reviewed each 6 months thereafter and adjusted to take account of normal market growth. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chipp) adjourned.
– Pursuant to statute I present the report of the Special Advisory Authority on capacitors.
Ordered that the report be printed. Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.
– The measure before the Parliament concerns democracy. In case some of the honourable members who are at present in this place and some of those who have taken part in this debate have forgotten I remind them that there is a very good definition of democracy which I should revive for the occasion. It was a definition by Abraham Lincoln, not unknown in our country and in our history, who defined democracy as ‘government of the people by the people and for the people’. Listening to the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), who spoke just before the sitting was suspended for dinner, we could be forgiven for thinking that he was talking about democracy in terms of government of the majority by the minority because that seemed to be the summation of what he was saying; but then again he seemed to have a remorse of conscience once or twice during the course of his remarks and he said: Unbalanced representation is not good for the nation’. Is not that a very interesting comment coming from the Leader of the Australian Country Party which has 9 per cent of the vote? In the history of the Federation it has not had more than 10 per cent of the vote. Yet it has had 20 per cent of the Cabinet. Of course this is a very good and new definition of democracy!
In the famous election on 2nd December 1972 which brought so many changes we found that this sterling fighter for freedom that we heard just before dinner represents the 9 per cent that has 16 per cent of the Parliament. This is indeed a new definition of democracy. If Abraham Lincoln were among us he would be bewildered. I might say that I have no doubt about which side of the Parliament he would be sitting on. But let us have a look at some of the very interesting claims that were made by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. He was talking with all the magnificent arrogance of a feudal lord who has his fiefdom and does not wish anybody to interfere with it. He was talking about half of the nation as if it was his own, as if it was his private property. I know that he is a man of considerable means because the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) told us just last night that the honourable member could buy and sell us all. The thing that is worrying me is whether he is not seeking tonight to buy and sell us all once again. But let us have a look at what we are talking about.
We are talking about the state of the Parliament; the state of the parties in the national Parliament. We are talking about 22 country members on the Government side. We are talking about 12 country members in the Liberal Party. We are talking about 20 members of the Country Party, hardly including the honourable member for Gippsland who is not really here at all. I am sorry, he is here.
– I raise a point of order. I have been misrepresented. Is it an appropriate time for me to speak?
– Then I will put up with the clown for a bit longer.
– In any other circumstances 1 would take umbrage but when you have a discredited Minister who is even worse on the back bench, let him go; let us hear more of him. He discredits himself. But I do want to say that that is the state of affairs in the Parliament at the present time. I think that we should also draw attention to the fact that we have had a projection in the Parliament by the Leader of the Country Party, a projection of himself and his image as if he were some caretaker of half of the nation. He used a phrase that he was here to protect the rural half of the nation. I seem to remember that on 2nd December 1972 he went out of office after being in power for 24 years with the countryside in the worst situation it had been in since the depression of the 1930s.
– And now he wants to change the name.
– I do not blame him. Would not you? Of course you would. He has my deepest sympathy because the sins of the past are weighing very heavily on his shoulders but I think that any sort of alibi that may be put forward in relation to the present legislation should be examined very carefully in relation to the facts of representation as they are. There is no place in an Australian democracy for a privileged few, for people who can draw on special privileges or for parties that can be enshrined in a special position. I might say that this is the view of the majority of the Parliament and I do not talk only of Government supporters. I think it was significant that only last night the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) sat in his place with no fewer than 100 members of the national Parliament sitting behind him; and it was very interesting to see that the only people who were on the Opposition side on that occasion were members of the Country Party sitting on an extraordinarily cold rump. They were a distinctive and selective minority on that occasion. They were claiming privileges in the national Parliament to which they are not entitled.
In democratic procedures the Government, now the Australian Labor Party, has contested many elections. It received on occasions the majority of the votes cast in the nation. It did not take office because the electoral system was such that it did not permit it to take office. I might say that there was concern about that by many people but no-one suggested that we should in fact be given office on those occasions. It was suggested instead that there should be a new look at the whole of the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the distribution of seats to represent properly the people of the nation.
The Leader of the Country Party referred just before dinner to Tasmania. I was very interested to hear his references to Tasmania and his concern that there has not been full democracy there. Mr Speaker, when you come to look at the entrenched feudalism that still survives in Tasmania you have to go to the Upper House of the State Parliament and there the restrictive provisions are such that it would be a disgrace to the emerging Republic of the Congo let alone a venerable State of the Commonwealth of Australia at this time. And then we go to some of the more dramatic conservative areas of Tasmania where they hold the city vote. We are not talking about the countryside. We are not talking about the city; we are talking about democracy. It is very interesting that in one of the areas in this State to which the Leader of the Country Party drew attention there is a mayor who sits with no fewer than 28 formal votes. Democracy in Australia in 1973! I did not hear any concern expressed about that. I did not hear any eruption of conscience from the Leader of the Country Party in relation to these matters, and they have been there for a long time.
Then we have the State of Queensland for which I have a deep and abiding affection, being a native son of that great city of Brisbane. In the State of Queensland we have the situation of a Premier who rules with that great mandate of 19 per cent of the vote. What a spectacle for Australian democracy. Here we are tonight in the national Parliament talking about democracy and we have somebody who wishes to enshrine privilege, not to spread democracy. And this is 72 years after Federation. There was a reference to the situation in the United Kingdom. I am very happy to refer to the situation in the United Kingdom because more than a century ago- nearly 200 years ago - they were very concerned about the existence of the rotten boroughs. You will remember them, Mr Speaker. The people of Britain addressed themselves to the problem of the rotten boroughs system more than a century ago. They righted it. They would not accept the proposition that was put up to us tonight by the leader of the third party, I think it is called. I do not think that the national Parliament can accept in any shape or form the entrenchment of privilege.
– What about telling us a bit about Riverina?
– There was an interjection from that magnificent hangover from Wimmera. I was about to mention Riverina.
-Order! The Minister will make no personal reflection on another honourable member.
– I am terribly sorry. If I have hurt the honourable member for Wimmera I really sincerely apologise. I am sorry.
-Order! All interjections are out of order.
– Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Let us examine the country electorates that we are discussing. Let us look at the situation that we are placed in. Of course, the largest country electorates of this nation are represented by the Government. The largest single electorate in the world is held by the Government. It is the seat of Kalgoorlie of an area of 1 million square miles. Some of the major electorates in New South Wales are held by the Government. Modesty forbids me to mention Riverina first, but I should mention Darling, for example. I should mention Hume.
– Darling is the biggest electorate in New South Wales.
– Of course it is. The honourable member is quite right. The Government holds that seat and has held it for some considerable time. References were made to other electorates.
– Grey is the biggest electorate in South Australia.
– That is also quite right. The rural representation in the Australian Labor Party is strong and enduring. This fact gives it such a firm voice on rural matters.
I return to the status quo which the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) particularly wants to keep. He is very keen and enthusiastic to keep everything just as it is, to preserve the status quo. Let us look at what this means. It means an electorate of 1 million square miles in Western Australia. It means some electorates in New South Wales will remain as some of the largest electorates in Australia. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) of course is concerned with his electorate of 35,000 square miles. I am concerned with my electorate of 50,000 square miles. But let us look at the system which the Country Party wants to keep - a system which it has maintained for 24 years. It is based on a system which enshrines sterility. In the inner city areas live people who are elderly and people who are retired. In these areas there are not many lambs at foot - and thank goodness, in Gippsland there are not many fools at foot either. There are not many people in these areas who do not qualify as electors. So the whole of the present electoral system is weighed in favour of sterile inner city areas. I mean that very sincerely. It has been our dedication to see that the system is changed. Our policy is that the system should be changed. The Government will enact legislation which will bring electorates into line on the basis of population. This is justice. This is practised by our brothers in New Zealand and in many other parts of the world. The principle is more democratic and more sound. This should have been done years ago here. It is the Government’s dedication to do it now.
Let us see what such action will mean in terms of the countryside. It will mean that in southern New South Wales there will be one more rural seat. I represent 47,000 electors but I represent nearly 100,000 people because I have a fertile electorate - and I might say that I am not making any personal claims because I cannot. But the Riverina is a fertile area. It is an area of young people and young families. It is an area which has attracted a large number of migrants. So it is underrepresented, let us be clear, in terms of the number of people in the electorate. They should be represented by more than one member in the national Parliament. This is the situation in all the areas where there is some growth and development. The present system mitigates against it. The Government’s aim and objective is to balance up the nation’s electorates so that they are properly represented. If honourable members feel that this is a very radical and revolutionary proposition to put before the Parliament tonight, I refer to the statement made by the present Leader of the Country Party in this Parliament on 26th May 1965. He said:
The population of a division includes ‘the children, migrants and everybody in the area.
He did not mention that tonight. He was making a plea then for some semblance of justice for growing areas of this nation. He did not make that plea tonight. He made a plea for sectional party interests and that is all. I say very seriously that nothing is worse than to have a situation in which members do not in fact have to face the judgment of the electors in a proper electoral system but can continue to hold office on the basis of rigged boundaries, almost as .tribal chieftains, with no real responsibility to the whole of the electorate. This is a situation that cannot be tolerated in the national Parliament. The Government does not intend to put up with that enshrined form of privilege. Members on both sides of the Parliament must face the electors, must fight to be elected as a representative and must struggle to be elected to this place. I respect each and every honourable member who has to do that. But when the boundaries of an electorate are artificially drawn and it is held through this artificial system or carries with it an artificial privilege this is a negation of democracy. That is what we are talking about tonight. We are not talking tonight about individuals being represented. We are talking about the enshrined privilege of political groups.
I want to see the developing areas of our nation properly represented. I believe that the present system is inequitable and unjust. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), my distinguished colleague, who came from the countryside and who now lives in the city, who has, so to speak, a foot in both camps in a way which emulates Hercules, is well aware that if we are to achieve proper representation for a young and developing population in the country as well as in the city, we must change the present electoral system.
What was the situation when this Government was elected? The situation was that preparations had not been made to achieve the sort of objective that the present Leader of the Country Party was talking about in 1965. He did nothing about it. He said that it was a good principle. He referred to it but he did nothing about it. In 23 years of power and enshrined privilege in government, the former Government did nothing in this respect. So we come to 100-odd days in which the new Government has held office. We have to make a start. Of course, this measure is only an interim step. It is only a start. The Australian people will not put up with a gerrymander. They will not put up with tribal chieftains living in their fiefdoms. They want their votes to be of equal value. If we achieve this on a population basis we will strengthen the rural representation which the Government has already - if we win the seat. Of course we may not, and I accept that. But at least we will have strengthened the proper balance of the Parliament. It is unbalanced at present. I make a plea to all honourable members of the Parliament to think carefully not only about this measure. I know that they will be considering their own positions. I would like to see a further debate at some future time on the philosophy of democracy in relation to representation.
– One is enough.
– Well, I fear sometimes that leaders do not lead, and they have been misleading honest men who have not thought out what this measure is about. I think that this is the trap that some honourable members have been led into. I would commend to them this thought: We are going to correct the imbalance in the representation of the Australian nation. Australia is the most lopsided country electorally in the world. We have an over-concentration of people in certain areas. This leads to that situation. We are going to try to correct that position. We are going to do our best in this biennium. I want to see these new developments properly represented in the Parliament. I make a plea for the new areas and the new regional developments or, if you like, the new cities. We must provide for them to be properly represented. lt is not good enough to leave the situation as it has remained for 24 years. That has led us to a situation in which 9 per cent of the people sometimes control 20 per cent of the Government. It is not good enough in the democracy of Australia. I feel that the Australian people will want to see the imbalance redressed.
– One must feel very sympathetic for the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). His brief, of course, has been a very difficult one and despite his inimitable antics I must say without any sense of offence that on this occasion he is very much hissing against the wind. In fact, some people might almost say of the Minister that it is not an unaccustomed or unfamiliar stance and I believe we have certainly seen it on this occasion. But the honourable gentleman’s speech tonight is in fact a sellout of rural interests. It is also contrary to electoral justice, as I will make clear in the course of my speech. Certainly the Minister’s speech was contrary to the needs of a rapidly developing Australia. The Bill is, as we realise from speeches by honourable gentlemen from the other side of the House, no more than an attempt to gerrymander the Australian electorate. I only hope that the terms of the speech put down by the Minister for Immigration receive very wide coverage throughout his electorate so that his position can be well judged.
– I have ordered 60 copies.
– Well, I suggest that the Minister should order approximately 50,000. He might even consider going beyond that number, because it would be a salutary lesson for the electors of Riverina to understand full well the position that the Minister has taken in this debate. It is a sell-out, as I have mentioned, of rural interests. The Liberal Party supports the principle of one vote one value. In doing so we recognise that the effectiveness of policies relating to voter distribution can be measured by the degree to which the size of electorates tends towards this ideal.
We on this side of the House emphatically contend that the existing Act has a remarkable record when judged against this standard. It should be clearly understood that I refer to the same standard as that which has been espoused by the present Government. However, the Liberal Party totally rejects the Commonwealth Electoral Bill now before the House. We do so because the present Act has effectively ensured the practical adherence to the principle of one vote one value and in doing so it has produced electoral justice as judged by that criterion. It provides for a 20 per cent tolerance which remains the ideal tolerance level suited to the nature and direction of Australia’s population development.
In essence, the Bill would reduce the permissible variation from the quota from onefifth to one-tenth, revise the factors to which the distribution commissioners are required to give due consideration and provide that a redistribution may be directed whenever in one-fourth of the divisions of a State the number of electors differs from a quota by one-tenth.
According to the Government the amendments proposed by this Bill will mysteriously ensure that all votes will have equal value. Of course, the proposed amendments will do nothing of the sort. The slogan that the Government and the Labor Party is using as a smokescreen on this issue is grossly misleading, it is a cynical attempt to confuse the Australian public by construing the Government as the champion of electoral justice. The Government’s objective is to redraft what is a demonstrably fair and equitable electoral act so that it can be manipulated to give the party in power a long term advantage.
This Parliament is, of course, still unaware of the Government’s full intentions with regard to the Act. We do know, however, that it wants to redraft the entire document. Tha Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) told us this much in his second reading speech when he quoted from a speech that he delivered in this House in 1971. He told the House that Labor regarded the Commonwealth Electoral Act as ‘outdated and outmoded’, and that, upon the election of a Labor government, immediate steps would be taken to redraft the Act. The present Act works fairly and equitably.
The present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his letter of 6th March 1968, to the Chairman of the Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales, said:
I submit that whatever variations you feel it desirable or necessary to make in the number of electors you propose for divisions, there is one overriding consideration you should bear in mind. No distribution should permit a situation where a party or coalition which secures a majority of votes does not secure a majority of members of the House of Representatives.
Never has the Prime Minister been more correct. This is the real test of the fairness of distribution: Not whether one seat is a few percentage points larger or smaller than another; but does the party or group of parties that is most preferred win the most seats? This, as the Prime Minister has said, is the overriding consideration.
– What about the preferred vote?
– -If we look at the facts, in response to what the honourable member foi Robertson has said, we find, contrary undoubtedly to his misapprehension, that the existing Act has a remarkable record when judged against this standard. Only once since 1 949 has the party or group of parties with a majority of votes failed to win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. The one exception, moreover, was in 1954 when the Labor Party and the parties supporting it managed to secure about 51.27 per cent of the vote but failed to capture government. It should be noted, however, that the election of 1954 was contested on the basis of the boundaries set in 1948 in the Calwell redistribution. Surely the members now on this side of the House cannot be held responsible for that redistribution.
On every other occasion until 1972 the Liberal and Country Parties, and the parties and individuals supporting them, outpolled the Labor Party and its supporters. In 1972, Labor polled less than 50 per cent of the votes but won 53.6 per cent of the seats - not a bad record for a Party competing against what is claimed to be, in terms of the assertions and the allegations put forward by the Government in this debate, an ‘unfair’ Electoral Act. The claim that the existing provisions of the Act are biased against the Labor Party is completely unsupportable and is based on no more than the mere assertions which have been put forward by the Government.
We must wonder why the Government repeats this charge so loudly and so frequently. Perhaps its objective is to condition the electorate for its serialised redrafting of the Electoral Act - which we might suspect will be biased heavily in Labor’s favour. If Labor has its way - and remember that the present Bill is apparently only the initial instalment - the equity of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as established by the Act’s provisions and the conscientious administration of those provisions by officials will be seriously jeopardised. Labor is determined to have a redistribution, and it is determined to base this redistribution on terms that militate very much to the advantage of the Labor Party. In words attributed recently to the Minister for Services and Property ‘a redistribution of electoral boundaries will be carried out “come hell or high water” ‘.
The redistribution that the Government believes is so urgent is to be carried out, not because a redistribution is due but because the Labor Party wants to tip the electoral balance - and it is a balance - directly in its own favour. There is no need at this time for a redistribution except in Western Australia, where there has been very rapid population growth. If there is any urgency in having a redistribution at this time it is purely to serve and to service the cynical political motivations of the Labor Party which is seeking perpetuity in office because of the fruits that it is now enjoying. The fact that a general redistribution is not required at this time is itself a tribute to the Act as it stands. The current boundaries were drawn in 1968. Since then we have had 2 Federal elections, but still a redistribution is not required. The reason that it is not required is that the Act has worked efficiently. It has provided the distribution commissioners with sufficient tolerance and flexibility to draw boundaries that can survive a reasonable period of time and thus ensure some stability of representation in this national Parliament.
Under the Act, for example, the distribution commissioners are able to give due consideration to population changes. If a proposed electoral division is increasing in size, the boundaries can be drawn in such a way that realistic scope can be given to the accommodation of that growth. Similarly, if a proposed division is experiencing a decline in voter enrolments, its boundaries can be drawn in such a way that over a period of time it will approximate to a quota and not be so small that it will be unfairly over-represented. To enable the Commissioners to give due consideration to increases and decreases in voter enrolments, a realistic tolerance from the quota is essential. Emphatically, a 10 per cent tolerance is not realistic. The Minister for Services and Property would know this from the experience of his own division of Grayndler alone. As he told the House in his second reading speech, Grayndler was drawn in 1968 with an enrolled voter population 14.01 per cent above the quota. Since 1968, however, Grayndler has experienced a decrease of 12.13 per cent in voter enrolments, with the result that on the basis of the figures at the time of the December election it was almost 8 per cent below quota.
The same is true, Mr Speaker, of your division of Sydney. This matter would not have been lost on you. At the time of the 1968 redistribution Sydney was 13.56 per cent above the quota. The enrolled voter population of that division subsequently declined by about 13.4 per cent. By late 1972 the division of Sydney would have been almost 10 per cent below quota. It takes no sophisticated calculation in this House to realise that if these divisions had been drawn in 1968 within a tolerance of 10 per cent, as the Government now proposes, they would have been grossly below quota and seriously over-represented by 1972. It is for this and other reasons we say the 10 per cent quota proposed by the Government is inadequate and unrealistic. In the period of little more than a year between the 1968 redistribution and the 1969 election, for example, a number of electoral divisions experienced population changes of more than 10 per cent. Between 1968 and 1972, some 49 divisions had population increases or decreases in excess of 10 per cent, and many of these experienced changes of 20, 30, 40 and even 50 per cent. Clearly, a margin of 10 per cent would not enable the Distribution Commissioners to give adequate consideration to population changes. The result of the inclusion of this provision in the Act would be that a distribution would remain equitable for only two or three years before a further redistribution would be necessary. Boundaries would be satisfactory for about the term of one Parliament.
Even the Prime Minister realises that this i.s undesirable. In 1968, Mr Whitlam, as Leader of the Opposition, wrote to the Chairman of the Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales reiterating a view that he had expressed in 1962, that the Commissioners should ensure that the number of electors in certain divisions:
Should now be set as far below the quota for the State as the number of electors in those divisions can be expected to exceed the quota 5 years from now.
If we are to apply the formula advocated by the present Prime Minister in 1962 and in 1968, and if electoral boundaries are to be valid 5 years and more after a distribution, we must reject the Government’s proposal for an unrealistic tolerance of 10 per cent.
The present Prime Minister was not a lone voice in Labor’s wilderness in those years. The 1968 submission to the Distribution Commissioners from the State President and the State Secretary of the Labor Party in South Australia, for example, also argued that one effect of redistribution must be to arrive at divisions which will establish a mean number of electors to ensure over a period of say 5 years the same level as the quota’. Apparently there was a rare element of reason in the Labor Party in 1968. It is a pity that this reason did not survive. There is a sad decline in the logic of a party that in 1968 could call for electoral divisions capable of surviving for 5 years, and in 1973 support the Bill now before the House.
We must concede, as the Minister pointed out, that the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959 saw some merit in a one-tenth or 10 per cent tolerance. But it must also be viewed and examined in the context of other sections of the report of that Committee. In section 345. for example, we find this comment:
The Committee considered the extent of the problems which would arise from inserting in the Constitution a requirement that no division in a State should depart from the quota for that State to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less. The Committee was assisted in its task by the then Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth. Mr L. Ainsworth, who also obtained the views of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the Surveyor-General for each of the States. -
The preponderance of that opinion was clearly in favour of retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction.
In other words, while the Committee recommended a one-tenth margin, this recommendation was contrary to the preponderance of professional advice sought by the Committee at the time. Why did these expert witnesses give the advice that was ultimately rejected by the Committee? Clearly, it was because they recognised the administrative impossibilities and the representational absurdities of having a redistribution before every general election.
Some hint of this is contained in other sections of the Joint Committee’s report. In section 300(3), for example, it is recommended that electoral divisions should be reviewed at least once in every .10 years - and certainly not once in every 3 years as Labor now appears to want. In section 353 of the report, we find a far more explicit comment:
A merit of allowing divisions to be fixed within one-fifth, limits of the quota for a State is the latitude it allows the Distribution Commissioners in taking account of likely population changes.
In its attempts to discredit the Act, the Government has referred to the electoral provisions and judicial decisions of a number of other countries. But the fact is that by comparison with almost any other country in the Western world, our electoral divisions are almost impeccable and equal. We appear to be one of the few countries that stipulate a degree of tolerance within which the people drawing electoral boundaries must act. Most countries simply require constituencies to be as nearly as practicably equal, or words to that effect, and almost any one of these countries would be amazed at the degree of equality that our Distribution Commissioners have been able to attain. At the recent elections in France, for example, constituencies ranged in population from 25,000 to 150,000. In Britain they range from about 40,000 to 80,000. At no distribution in Australia has there been a variation in the size of electoral divisions approaching these proportions - even if we include the regions with peculiar problems or difficulties! which all parties in Australia have hitherto accepted as special cases.
One could refer to the particular case of the electorate of Bass which is held by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard). This is the smallest electorate from any State in this Parliament. Would the Deputy Prime Minister argue that Tasmania is not a special case and that every electoral division in Australia should be of equal size? The Opposition certainly would not support that and neither would the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) who has just interjected. Would the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) argue that the Capital Territory is not a special case? The same applies to the electorate of Kalgoorlie. Under the Bill before the House the problems faced by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) and the difficulties faced by his constituents in contacting their Federal member will, of course, be ignored. The same is true of electors in the other large rural electoral divisions with their very special problems and difficulties. These difficulties mean nothing to the present Government - the Australian Labor Party. The Government’s only real interest is in undermining the soundness and the equity of the Commonwealth Electoral Act so that over a period of years it can gerrymander the Australian electorate by stealth. This Bill is a cynical piece of chicanery. In the interest of electoral justice and responsibility to the Australian community the Bill must be rejected. We totally oppose it.
– We have heard a speech which ill befits an honourable member who represents a party which begins all its electoral speeches by professing its belief in the principle of one vote one value, but in practice it is demonstrably in favour of a principle which elects conservative members to Parliament, irrespective of how necessary it is to rig electoral boundaries in order to do so. The House should consider the record of the parties which are opposing this Bill. There is an upper House in every Parliament in Australia with the exception of Queensland. Elections for upper Houses in Australia are carried out in a manner which prevents the majority of the electorate from electing the majority of the members. This principle is protected to the death by the conservative members of this Parliament. When did one Liberal Party member of this Parliament stand up and outline the situation in the Upper House of South Australia where a party able to obtain 35 per cent of the votes is able to obtain 80 per cent of the seats? That is not a bad gerrymander for a party which claims that every vote should be equal.
– I thought this was a Federal matter.
– It is a Federal matter. 1 will deal with the honourable member in one moment. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) have both professed that they believe that electors are equal, with some reservations. I am merely pointing out the records of the parties which they represent. If the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) believes that the actions of his party, supported by members of his party in other States, are not relevant to this debate then I suggest that he has no idea of what is relevant in a political situation.
In order that the honourable member for Wimmera will not feel left out I should like to point out that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country Party have said that there is no need for a redistribution at this time. I point out to the House that at the time of the next Federal election, if there is not a redistribution before then, the honourable member for Wimmera, together with the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), will represent fewer electors in this Parliament than the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie). In other words the honourable member for Wimmera is supporting a proposition where every elector in his electorate has 2 votes in this Parliament to the one vote of the honourable member for Diamond Valley.
– But still more than the honourable member for Bass.
– The honourable member is well aware that the electorate of the honour able member for Bass (Mr Barnard) is under the quota because of a situation created at the time of the framing of the Federal Constitution at a convention from which the Labor Party was excluded. We must get it clear in our minds that it was fixed by conservative parties to protect conservative parties.
– You have had an opportunity to try to change it by referendum.
– I suggest that the honourable member is childish if he believes that such a referendum would even get off the ground. We could not even carry a referendum to limit the size of the Senate.
– You have never tried it.
– We tried, and I think it was carried in one State. This Bill concerns the representation of people in this Parliament. I do not believe that this Parliament or any other Parliament has a mandate, a charter or a responsibility to decide that a person shall have a vote according to the size of his backyard. That is what is being proposed at the moment. God help us, if we accept that proposition. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) will have 100 votes in this place. The Country Party wants the size of a man’s backyard to be the real criterion of electoral boundaries. The Country Party has said that it is necessary to have electorates of a size which will enable the member adequately to represent the electorate. I should like to agree with that proposition, but unfortunately the record of redistribution under Country Party Ministers does not support that principle.
I shall now deal with the redistribution for New South Wales, the legislation for which was passed through this Parliament in 1968. In looking at the size of the various electorates I find that the electorate of Richmond, which just by chance happens to be the electorate of the Leader of the Country Party whose position in this Parliament is of some special significance, as we found out last night-
– The Leader of the Country Party thinks he is still Deputy Prime Minister.
– If the Country Party were given the right to draw the electoral boundaries there is no doubt that he would be Prime Minister. It would be similar to the position in Queensland where the Liberal Party - which at least receives about 30 per cent of the votes - cannot obtain more seats than the Country Party which has 19 per cent of the votes and has a Country Party Premier imposed on it by a rigged electoral system and not by the will of the people. I return now to my remarks concerning the electorate of Richmond, which is one of the outback electorates covering 2,600 square miles. Members of the Country Party say that it should have a smaller number of electors. It is not a small electorate and it is not a big one. The enrolment of the electorate at the last redistribution was 49,460. I ask honourable members to remember that figure. The seat of Macquarie, which just by coincidence happens to berepresented by a Labor member, was thought not to need the same facilities for a representative to enable him to attend to the needs of a far spread out electorate, an electorate which because of its terrain is extremely difficult to traverse. The then government gave the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) not 49,500 electors as happened in the case of the Leader of the Country Party, but 56,000 electors, which is 4,000 electors over a quota.
– Twenty thousand of them live in Bathurst.
– How many of the electors in the electorate of Richmond live on the southern half of the Gold Coast? Practically all of them. The honourable member should go there and have a look. There were 56,000 voters in an electorate covered by a Labor member - 4,000 voters above the quota. That electorate covers 5,600 square miles, which is more than double the area of the electorate of the right honourable member for Richmond.
Before I tell honourable members why that was doneI point out that the electorate of Macquarie has grown at twice the rate of the electorate of Richmond in the number enrolled since the last redistribution. This was not a declining area but a growth area and it was growing faster than the electorate which the Country Party conveniently made small for its leader. I will explain why it was done: To have brought the electorate of Macquarie into line with the electorates which immediately adjoin it - those electorates had under 50,000 voters - would have upset the balance of the Country Party electorates in the area and several of its electorates would have been threatened with a Labor member. That is why it was done. There was no other reason. Let us not kid ourselves about what is going on when members of the Country Party try to justify the claim that a redistribution is on the basis of area.
– Can you prove that claim?
– Well, prove it.
– The time available to me in this debate does not allow me to traverse a whole series of electoral matters.
– That is a reflection on the people who–
– Order! The honourable member for Wimmera will cease interjecting. I ask the honourable member for Corio to address the Chair.
-I would like also to draw attention to the situation in Victoria. The electorates represented in the Upper House in Victoria became so far out of balance that one electorate had 300,000 electors and another electorate had 46,000 electors, and it was quite obvious, even to a conservative government, that this sort of situation could not continue. It just happened to be convenient to the Liberal Party to get another couple of seats in the Upper House to give itself a majority and rid itself of the Country Party, which the Country Party, because it was a little bit naive, let the Liberal Party do. But in order to get a Bill through the House to approve the appointment of commissioners for a redistribution the Liberal Party allowed to be extracted from it by the Country Party an undertaking that Country Party electorates would not be redistributed, so that in Victoria we had the situation that the Upper House metropolitan electorates were redistributed, thus giving the Liberal Party 2 more seats and a majority in the House. The country electorates, predominantly represented by the Country Party, were not subject to redistribution. So we now have the situation again where we have electorates of 40,000 people and electorates of 200,000 people represented in the Upper House in Victoria. The unfortunate thing for the Country Party was that it was not half as shrewd as Sir Henry Bolte. He did the Country Party like a dinner, because he had inserted in his Act approving a redistribution a provision that the proposed redistribution to be presented to the Parliament had to be passed by only one House of the Parliament. The Country Party’s majority was in the Upper House and the Liberals, with their 35 per cent of the vote in Victoria, had an absolute majority in the Lower House. They still do, and they still have only about 55 per cent of the vote.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, just before he sat down, made a claim that in every election except the 1954 election the party which has obtained the majority of votes has won the election. That statement is not true. In 1961 the Australian Labor Party obtained a greater percentage of votes than did the combined Government parties and their supporters. I note that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the parties supporting the Government, amongst which I assume he includes the DemocraticLabor Party. He claimed thai the. Government parties obtained a greater number of votes than did the Australian Labor Party in every election except the one in 1954. That also i« not true. In 1969 the Labor Party, with the parties which supported it-
– The Communist Party.
– The Communist Party gets so few votes that it is the most insignificant party in Australia.
– It still supports you.
– The Nazi Party supported you too, but I do not think you are proud of it and I do not think you welcomed the support. The Australia Party has received a significant number of votes in elections it has contested and it has directed its preferences to the Australian Labor Party. If it is good enough for the Liberal Party to claim that DLP votes are Liberal votes, it is reasonable for us to claim that Australia Party votes were votes in support of a Labor government. On that criterion in 1969 we had a substantial majority over the Government parties. We did not win the election.
No electoral system can be perfect. No system of redistribution can be perfect. We all are aware of that. But I think it should be the responsibility of a House of Parliament to seek, to the extent that it is within its control, to ensure that persons who are elected to this Parliament represent fairly equal numbers of people. It is not the problems of social services, the problems that someone has with the Rural Bank or the problems of getting jobs or these things that Parliament is all about. Attending to these problems are jobs which members do because it is part of their electoral work. The Parliament is all about the government of the country, deciding the laws of the country. It is absolutely essential that every person has the right to an equal say in the election of representatives to the Parliament. As I said earlier, if a redistribution does not take place before the next elections we will have a situation where in one electorate a vote will be worth more than twice as much as a vote in another electorate. 1 am not having a shot in any way at the members concerned. Al the time of the last redistribution one of those electorates was represented by a Liberal, and I do not think anyone, except the honourable member who won the seat and his campaign committee, even dreamt there would be a change of representative, f am pointing out that represented in this Parliament we will have 2 electorates which together will be numerically smaller than another electorate.
There has been during the course of the debate so far as a lot of pointing of the bone at various allowances, tolerances, in the number of people who may comprise an electorate. The proposals which are before the House would allow a tolerance of 20 per cent in the number of electors - 10 per cent up or 10 per cent down on the number deemed desirable in one electorate. It would be necessary for 25 per cent of the electorates in any one State to exceed that tolerance of 20 per cent before a redistribution would become necessary. I do not think that is likely to happen every 3 years. Even though under the tolerance of 20 per cent up and 20 per cent down that was applied to the last distribution no redistribution has become necessary in any State other than Western Australia at the moment, by the time the next election is held it is almost certain that in some of the
States enough electorates will have gone outside the 20 per cent tolerance either way to make a redistribution necessary.
One other remark made in this debate is worthy of comment. The Leader of the Country Party made the claim, and the Country Party regularly makes it, that it is representation of country areas that is necessary for the development of those areas. He also stated that at the time of Federation twothirds of the members of this House represented country areas. The record speaks for itself. Eighty per cent of them now represent metropolitan areas - more than two thirds. So it is not representation - in this or in any other Parliament - which provides for balanced population throughout the country, lt is the will to achieve balanced population which will achieve it. There is no evidence whatsoever that in the last 23 years, during which time the Country Party is accused of having dominated the Government - if that is true it is io the eternal shame of the Liberal Party - any greater growth took place in country areas than took place in the 10 years prior to the Liberal-Country Party Government coming into office. In fact. I believe the reverse is true. I believe it is significant that very little growth has taken place in country areas under a government of which the Country Party was a part. 1 support the Bill. I believe that it is not unreasonable that a person should have the expectation that when he goes to the place where he casts his vote that vote will be of the same value as the vote of another person. 1 think it is unreasonable that when a person goes to the ballot box he shall have a vote which is valued according to the electorate in which he lives, not the country in which he lives.
– Before I call the honourable member for Mcpherson I remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech and ask them to extend the usual courtesies to him.
– May I first of all Mr Speaker, congratulate you and the Chairman of Committees on achieving appointment to your important offices. May I, before addressing myself to this Bill, ask the indulgence of you and the House to refer very briefly to my 2 predecessors as members for Mcpherson. It is an honour to be the Liberal member for this fast-growing and changing electorate. It is an honour also to succeed such a respected Country Party member as C. E. Barnes, a conservative gentleman possessing stability and a natural dignity. Before him was Sir Arthur Fadden - earthy, capable and a shrewd judge of human nature, with qualities of fairness and friendliness. People of all political persuasions held them both in high regard. Whatever might be the length of my service in this House - a short period or, as I personally plan and hope, a more lengthy one - I will be more than content if it is marked with anything like the personal goodwill which I know these 2 men enjoyed.
The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in his second reading speech referred to the desirability of electoral justice and that is a pretty worthy principle. My attitude over the years, particularly during my 5 years as a Liberal Party State President in Queensland, has been quite consistent. I believe in electoral justice. I support the basic concept of electoral equality and wish to see its implementation as much as practicable. But there are very real problems associated with this and for very good reasons there is need for some tolerance and some flexibility in seeking its implementation as much as possible. The Government, through the Minister’s second reading speech, has stated a desire to be ‘fair, open, just and reasonable’. They were the Minister’s words. It was with this approach in mind that the Liberal Party’s attitude to the Bill has been stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch). The Government’s genuineness needs to be probed.
I represent an electorate which very much reflects contemporary Australia. Fifteen per cent of the electors live in rural areas with all the problems associated with primary production, marketing and small towns. Twenty per cent of the electors live in the outer urban areas of Brisbane, part of the urban sprawl with all the challenges of the rapidly developing new community requiring services, amenities and facilities. Sixty-five per cent of the electors live in the second fastest growing city in Australia, the tourist city of the Gold Coast, in which many tens of thousands of people live and work and to which large numbers of, I think, very intelligent Australians, many from southern States, have chosen to retire. May I in passing make brief reference to the tens of thousands of people who as tourists come each year to enjoy the wonderful Gold Coast environment, including. I have noticed in recent years, with ever increasing regularity, members of the Federal Australian Labor Party Executive and Conference. I look forward to greeting them in July. Of course, I cannot accept any responsibility for their decisions. I am sure that the electors of Mcpherson - there are 75,000 on the roll - basically embrace the concept of voting equality but accept the need for some tolerance or variation from the quota to be allowed to the vast rural areas with special problems and to allow for growth factors in some areas and for divisions in which there is a decreasing population. I suggest that the overwhelming majority of Australians would share that view.
The real question is: What criteria should be included for the consideration of the Distribution Commissioners and what variation should be permitted which would be fair, open, just and reasonable? The Bill seeks to make substantial changes to the Electoral Act. It allows the Commissioners to give due consideration to community of interests including economic, social and regional interests, means ot communication and travel, the physical features of the divisions and trends of population changes in the States but deletes any reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, density or sparsity of population and area of the division. If they were not in the Act before 1965 in my view they should have been. They were more needed then and before then than they are now. We live in a vast continent. The problems these criteria identify are real and the great majority of Australians who live in cities would accept these as reasonable if they are applied in a proper manner to a small number of electorates, some of which are larger than many countries. In common sense terms this would not offend the basic concept of electoral justice. As disabilities from remoteness and distance are lessened as the years go by, and they will be, the need for these criteria to remain in the Act will be lessened. Govern ment action specifically to assist honourable members to service those sorts of electorates will assist this process.
The Bill leaves in the criteria the trend of population within the State. Some divisions have substantial increases in enrolments and the rate of growth has created imbalances between a number of divisions. My own electorate has been growing at the rate of 7,000 additional voters a year. Other electorates are static and some are declining in enrolments. Therefore, if we are to accept that we should strive to see that the great majority of electorates reach the quota by mid-term, just what variation is needed? A study of figures clearly demonstates that the 10 per cent permissible variation is not sufficient to allow adequately for growth factors. If restricted to 10 per cent, serious imbalances will occur within a relatively short period. To get as close to one vote equal value as possible a greater percentage is necessary. The variation of 20 per cent has been applicable for a long time. Professional advice to the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review advocated its retention and a study indicates that the maximum variation has been used only rarely. For myself, had the Government in its Bill indicated a variation of 15 per cent, its desire to achieve maximum voting equality would have been more credible.
In addition, the proposed change to section 25 of the Act to allow a 10 per cent variation will create the need for almost constant redistributions which would be costly and would create undesirable difficulties for the electorate at large and the Parliament. The record of redistributions for Federal purposes has been free from charges of gerrymandering The fairness of recent redistributions has been demonstrated by election results where, in elections since 1949 with the exception of one - although one honourable member has challenged this - the Party or parties which gained the highest percentage of votes throughout Australia formed the Government. The results of the last election where Labor won 49.6 per cent of the votes and 53.6 per cent of the electorates would seem to underline the fairness of the 1968 redistribution. Electoral justice has not, however, always been the guiding principle in State redistributions.
The Minister in his second reading speech made reference to the last redistribution of electoral boundaries in Queensland and, in criticising the Queensland Government and the Country Party in particular, attributed a statement to me that 1 regarded the redistribution as electoral injustice at Country Party insistence, lt should be made quite clear that my comment was with reference to the Bill which was introduced by the Premier and which was defeated by 8 Liberal Party members voting against it. Had the Bill been passed, it would have created a substantial number of electorates with large imbalance. I therefore understood the reasons for the Liberal Party members’ action at that time.
However, after further discussions, a new Bill was introduced by the Premier which was substantially different from the first and, although some imbalances still occurred because the commission did not take sufficiently into account growth factors, the present Act gives a rauch greater degree of electoral equality in Queensland. The Australian Labor Party would be very unwise to seek to have its record on electoral matters in Queensland compared with the present Act introduced by the Country-Liberal State Government. But it would not be satisfying or rewarding for any political party to have an in-depth analysis of its record in State redistributions throughout Australia. All parties can, with validity, have criticism levelled at them. When compared with overseas redistributions, however, Federal redistributions in Australia appear remarkably fair. Britain has constituencies varying from 40,000 to 80,000. In France there are enormous variations. In Canada a variation of 25 per cent is allowed. In the United States a variation of 15 per cent is regarded as acceptable.
I was intrigued by the remark of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in his second reading speech that the Government has a mandate for this Bill. Apparently the Government believes that as long as something was included in the Labor Party policy speech - even in the broadest of terms - its detailed interpretation of that can be put forward now as having a mandate from the people. This is a strange, illogical and erroneous argument to develop. It is completely unsustainable, and the Labor Party knows it. The electorate will not be fooled by that sort of approach.
The Government will discover that I will not be an Opposition member who will be constantly on his feet criticising everything the Government does. Indeed, some of the legislation introduced and decisions taken by the Government, such as increased social security and repatriation payments and the provision of the vote to 18-year-olds, are worthy of support; while some decisions on unilateral currency revaluation, foreign policy and industrial matters have concerned the nation, including many people who voted for the Labor Party at the last election. But, when a Bill such as this comes up under the guise of a so-called mandate from the people and under the guise of seeking electoral justice, it needs to be exposed for the sham that it is. It is nothing more than an attempt by the Labor Party to have a complete redistribution so that it can draw boundaries in its own favour.
If the Government forces this Bill through the House, it will run the undesirable risk of showing contempt for the intelligence and, more importantly, the common sense of the Australian community. I recommend that the Government deeply consider the implications of that action, because it will be judged by the electorate as an attempt by Labor to entrench itself by means which are not fair, not open, not just and not reasonable. If the Government is to proceed with a redistribution, it should do so under the provisions of the present Act or substantially alter its Bill to ensure that it is not seen to be setting up machinery to reflect its own selfish political interests by denying real and sustainable electoral justice. But, if the Government is determined to set a collision course with this Bill, it will find the Liberal Party prepared to take up the challenge and we will take it up with confidence.
– 1 congratulate the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Eric Robinson) on the fine style of delivery, if not the content, of his speech. I think he will make quite a contribution in this place and I am sure we will watch him with interest. I want to commence my remarks in this debate by nailing some of the lies - in the general sense - or falsehoods that have emanated from the Liberal Party over the past hour or two of this debate.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I think that the expression used by the honourable member is unparliamentary.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)I think that the honourable member for Robertson should withdraw it.
– Well Mr Deputy Speaker, I will withdraw the word ‘lies’; I will use the word ‘falsehoods’. I want to deal with a question that a number of speakers, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), have raised. They have said that the Australian Labor Party has only once gained the major vote at an election. That is a falsehood. Honourable members opposite want it both ways. They want to be able to say that the system of voting they prefer is the preferred vote, but when they quote figures to suit their argument they use the primary vote. In most elections, except for a few, the Labor Party has won on the primary vote. If honourable members opposite wish to assess the results of elections on a primary vote basis, let us have first past the post voting and let us have none of this nonsense with which they are carrying on. We have a preferred party voting system; that is the system under which we operate and that is the way we should calculate which party received the major vote at an election.
I shall quote to honourable members figures on the 2-party preferred vote in the last 5 or 6 elections. In 1958 the Liberal and Country Parties received 54.1 per cent of the vote compared to the 45.9 per cent received by the Labor Party. In 1961 the Liberal and Country Parties received 49.5 per cent of the vote while the Labor Party received 50.5 per cent. In 1963 52.6 per cent of the vote went to the Liberal and Country Parties - honourable members opposite were entitled to win then- and 47.4 per cent went to the Labor Party. In 1966, on a 2-party preferred vote basis, the Liberal and Country Parties received 56.9 percent of the vote compared to the 43.1 per cent received by the Labor Party. But in 1969 the Liberal and Country Parties received 49.8 per cent of the vote compared to the 50.2 per cent received by the Labor Party. In 1972, 47.3 per cent of the vote went to the Liberal and Country Parties, while 52.7 per cent went to the Labor Party. So, including 1954, which has been quoted by honourable members opposite and conceded by us, the Labor Party, on a 2-party preferred vote basis - remember that that is the system under which we operate; preferential voting - the Labor Party should have won 3 elections. If honourable members opposite want the other system, that is fine; we will go along with it. I think we could arrange for first past the post voting and then honourable members opposite could quote the figures.
The honourable member for Mcpherson in his maiden speech stated that we did not have a mandate. He argued that, simply because this was in our policy speech, that does not necessarily mean that we have a mandate For it. Would the honourable member mind telling us what we have a mandate for? How do we separate what we have a mandate for and what we do not have a mandate for? The only basis upon which one can argue is that the Labor Party put this matter in its policy speech and was elected on that policy. Otherwise, who has the right to choose which things in the Labor Party’s policy are matters on which it was given a mandate? One either rejects the lot or accepts the lot. We have heard some nonsense talked about there being a redistribution after every Section, t wish some of the honourable members who have spoken in this debate would read the Bill. We have stated quite simply that we will have a redistribution after each census. A census is conducted every 5 years and one does not have to be a Rhodes Scholar to work it out.
The question of Tasmania has been raised. It would require a referendum to change the situation in respect of Tasmania. I think a special case exists for Tasmania, the Australian Capita] Territory and the Northern Territory. Let us examine the question that has been raised on a few occasions tonight. We have heard our colleagues on the other side talking about Canada and England. They did not mention New Zealand, our sister dominion across the sea. I have in front of me Schedule C from the report of the Representation Commission, 1967. in relation to the House of Representatives in New Zealand. I seek leave of the House to have this document incorporated in Hansard.
– ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House. The Schedule shows that in New Zealand there is a tolerance of 5 per cent - not 20 per cent, 15 per cent or 10 per cent but 5 per cent. Honourable members - including my good friend, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), if he has the time and the wit to study these figures - will see from this Schedule that there is very little difference between seats. The average quota for an elec torate is 30,424 and I think the greatest variation is a little more than 1,000 either way. Our sister dominion is about the same size as Victoria or New South Wales. Yet honourable members opposite use the same arguments in respect of Victoria and New South Wales for having this malapportionment continued. The logic of our colleagues opposite is quite simple. 1 heard one honourable member refer to Goebbels tonight. Goebbels believed in the big lie and that is what our friends opposite believe in keeping up - the big lie.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!
– I cannot see anything wrong with that.
-Order! The honourable member shall not use the word ‘lie’.
– If people scream gerrymander often enough and cry sufficient crocodile tears they will have the people believing that what they say is true. 1 think members opposite are panicking too early. They assume that when we undertake a redistribution we will adopt the same approach as they would adopt, i can assure honourable members that if I have anything at all to do with the redistribution 1 will see that it is fair and on the basis of one vote, one value. (Honourable members interjecting) -
– There is no doubt about them; they have 9 per cent of the vote, 1 per cent of the brains and 100 per cent of the cheek. Many alterations are required to the Electoral Act. However, the Government is attacking only one concept. Lt wants to enshrine the principle of one vote, one value. It seeks to reduce the allowable variation in each seat from 20 per cent to 10 per cent and to draw the boundaries with each electorate of approximately equal numbers. Members of the Country Party argue that because of the sparsity of population in country areas and the remoteness of many areas there should be a bias in favour of country seats. In examining that proposition 3 questions arise. Do country people live at a disadvantage compared with those who live in the cities? If they do, should this entitle them to a weighted advantage in electoral representation? If so, how is that disadvantage measured and transcribed into electoral terms? That, basically, is the proposition. The Country Party claims that country people are disadvantaged and, consequently, we have Country Party seats of 45,000 to 50,000 voters while the average city seat has between 60,000 and 65,000 voters.
To the first question about the disadvantage of living in the country, members opposite have a rather ambivalent attitude. On the one hand they will praise the virtues of country life - good, clean, pollution free air, healthy outdoor life and a far better way to bring up children - and on the other hand they will tell how disadvantaged they are by living out in the bush. I direct attention to television commercials in this regard. It does not matter whether it is a commercial for Marlboro cigarettes or for the products of General Motors-Holden Pty Ltd, we are told how wonderful it is to live in the country. However this is not the attitude of our friends opposite. They tell us that it is a miserable, dreadful existence and that they have to have a weighted electoral advantage.
Unquestionably some people in country areas suffer some deprivation. Surely they are also denied some of the less attractive aspects of city life. Imagine the lot of people living in some of the inner city suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne or in the electorate of Grayndler. They are confronted with thick, acrid smog, dirty depressing slums, decaying old schools with little or no recreation areas or playing space for children. Think of those who have been forced out into the new outer suburbs - to places in the electorates of Robertson, Casey, Diamond Valley and similar areas where there is a lack of water, telephones, decent roads and recreational and social amenities. It is a matter of opinion who has the worst end of the deal. I know of many people who happily would swap and go to live in the country, even though it would mean putting up with some member opposite as their representative.
One can legitimately ask the question: How does one compare life in Coober Pedy with life in Orange; Tibooburra with Wagga or Marble Bar with Coffs Harbour? The plain fact is that it is impossible to measure. Hundreds of thousands of people who now live in the major capital cities would willingly swap with people who live in country towns. Even if one agrees with the Country Party’s proposition, how it is measured? Whence did the magic figure of 20 per cent come? What great inspiration suddenly decided that 20 per cent was the figure for variations between electoral numbers? Why not 30 per cent, 50 per cent or 100 per cent? What made 20 per cent the magic figure? This I cannot understand. Once one breaks with the principle that in a democratic society every man’s vote should be of equal value one runs into all kinds of anomalies and contradictions. Of course, exact equality can never be achieved.
– That is what we thought.
– I suggest that my honourable friend opens his ears and listens for a moment.
There is no way of monitoring changes in numbers in electorates. If there were, redistributions would take place hourly. Do we divide houses, families, streets and towns? Of course there must be some tolerance but it must be as minimal as it is humanly possible to get it. With unequal representation it is the growing outer urban areas that are suffering. The inner city areas are declining as are rural areas. If there must be a weighted advantage of 10 per cent it should go to the growth areas like those mentioned by the honourable member for McPherson and the outer urban areas to which I referred earlier in Sydney and Melbourne.
– How did you fix 10 per cent? By what magic?
– I would prefer it to be 5 per cent or 2 per cent. It should be as low as possible. I accept the proposition that it is impossible to get exactly equal numbers. I suggest that if there must be a weighted advantage of 10 per cent it should be in favour of the growth centres in the major cities. If Albury-Wodonga is to be an area of great growth let it have a weighted advantage. The same applies to Townsville, Gladstone, Gosford and Wyong. These are the areas where the weighted advantage should apply - where growth will take place.
The rural malapportionment has led to the neglect of the problems of the cities and the outer urban areas - the problems of slum clearance, of sewerage and of urban transport. In the United States it is recognised that such neglect has forced groups to by-pass the State legislatures and to look to the Federal Government for assistance. The last election results prove that Australian voters are doing the same sort of thing. Any system of representation other than one based on population must be seen as a plan for denying or deflecting majority rule. What value is an election if one party or coalition is guaranteed control of the legislature? We have seen this happen in Queensland where the situation has become farcical. For many years it happened in South Australia. Unrepresentative assemblies undermine the public confidence in the legislative process and as confidence declines cynicism grows.
Surely honourable members are aware of the cynicism that occurred in South Australia as a result of the gerrymandering - the malapportionment - that existed there for many years. I think this is one of the reasons for the present great strength of the Australian Labor Party in South Australia. I have been studying the situation with respect to gerrymandering in other countries. One gerrymander that fascinated me particularly was one that occurred in the United States of America in the State of Vermont. In that State each town was given a representative. Ope would think that that was a fairly reasonable proposition. The town of Victory, with 46 inhabitants, had one representative as did the town of Burlington with 35,000 inhabitants. That was equality. It was equality of towns which simply did not happen to have equal numbers of people.
Unfortunately this Parliament suffers from a Senate which is basically undemocratic or which has unequal representation. This arose as a result of a compromise at the time of Federation. Federation could never have been achieved without the smaller States being granted equal representation so that they would not be neglected at the expense of the bigger States. This is all the more reason for the House of Representatives to bend over backwards to have equal representation. [ refer now to what was said by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) in September 1968. He said:
I believe the strengthening of the rural interests in this Parliament is against the national interests of this country.
This was a Liberal member, not a Labor member. I will summarise his remarks. He said that Country Party members exercised power above and beyond their responsibility in the community because they had limited and material objectives and did not worry about the community’s interest. The honourable member for Bradfield said:
What this redistribution does, following upon the
Act. is to strengthen the rural voice. Is the rural voice weak? Obviously it is powerful and has been used to the disadvantage of the nation.
Let us look at another point that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). Prior to 1965 although the 20 per cent allowance was there, the wording of the section of the Act placed emphasis on the quota and as a result it was rare for commissioners to use a margin of allowance of more than 10 per cent. This point has been constantly stressed tonight - the fact that it did not exist before 1965. But over the past 30 or 40 years that 20 per cent tolerance - that one-fifth - had not been used, with one exception. In the 1934 redistribution every seat was within 10 per cent. In 1948 only the seat of Darling was above or below - in this case below - 10 per cent quota. In 1955 it was again only Darling. The obvious intention of the 1965 Act was to force the commissioners to use the 20 per cent that had been available but which was largely unused. So over Australia basically only 3 seats have been below that quota - Darling, Kennedy and Kalgoorlie. That is the position over many years almost since Federation. I may be marginally incorrect here but 1 have had a good look at the figures and they are the only 3 seats which have been below the quota. 1 think I am right in saying that probably if the legislation had been left as it was and we had kept up the previous practice we may not have bothered to do this but it was a fact that the then Government deliberately set out in 1965 to weight the advantage weir way and the Labor Party has to bring it back to what it was before. We are restoring the position to almost exactly what it was prior to 1965, in practice not only in theory. In the 1968 redistribution the following seats were 10 per cent below the quota of 52,805- Calare, Cowper, Darling, Gwydir, Hume, Lyne, Paterson and Riverina of which 6 were held by Country Party members or Liberals. Ten per cent were above the quota - Bennelong, Evans, Grayndler, Parramatta, Phillip, St George, Sydney and Wentworth.
I want finally to quote a few figures. In the 1969 elections the total number of country voters was 572,623, including the seats of Calare, Cowper, Darling, Eden-Monaro, Farrer, Gwydir, Hume, Lyne, New England, Paterson, Richmond and Riverina, an average of 47,718. There are 4 seats which I put in a category which I call mixed city-rural. These are in New South Wales, of course. They are: Hunter, Macarthur, Macquarie and Robertson. There were 218,000 voters which is an average of 54,510. All other city seats - Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong - totalled 1,647^973 voters, an average of 56,826. There was a difference in 1969 of 9,108 between wholly city and wholly rural electorates, an average of 16 per cent bias between city and country areas. I have similar figures which are the latest available - those for 26 January 1973 - showing that in those same city seats there has been a rise of an average of 3,433. In the same country seats there has been a rise of 2,708 and in those 4 mixed seats an average rise of 10,414. So that the longer it goes the more this bias continues to grow.
I suppose we are going to have to listen to more and more crocodile tears, but I repeat what I said at the beginning and that is this. 1 ask the people of Australia to study and look closely at the Bill which the Labor Party has introduced. I accept the proposition and 1 believe that if we tell the people of Australia, as we are doing, about it they will accept this proposition that one man, one vote, one value is the only principle that any democratic society possibly can accommodate.
– Firstly may I take the opportunity to congratulate the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) on his maiden speech this evening, ff he keeps up the standard that he has presented to this House tonight I am sure that he will be keeping up with the standard of the previous members for Mcpherson, namely the Honourable Ceb Barnes and Sir Arthur Fadden. After listening to Government speakers I am sure that the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) must have been very convincing indeed this afternoon. I would suggest that if anyone had taken a lot of notice of what Government speakers had to say after the right honourable gentleman had spoken they would automatically have thought that the Bill had been introduced by the Leader of the Country Party because so much comment has been made about his speech. Those comments were made on the basis that the people who made them fully realise and are very conscious of the fact that he does know what he is talking about when it comes to redistribution proposals.
In my 14 years as a member of the House of Representatives, it has always been my impression that a second reading speech introduced by a Minister, can be referred to as a document setting out the details of the Bill being introduced, lt has always been a case in which the statement refers to facts, free of personal opinions and free of party politics, lt now appears as a result of the change of government, second reading speeches by Ministers have changed; changed to include anything that will enhance the prestige of the Government and ridicule the Opposition. This Bill certainly makes changes. It completely disregards the principles as laid down in the original Commonwealth Electoral Act. Since Federation only minor changes have been made, but this Bill completely changes it to such a degree that many country divisions Wi lose their effective voice in this Parliament. In other words, they will be disfranchised. If the Government is sincere in its desire to achieve a true one vote one value, then it should commence to alter the constitution whereby each State shall have equal Senate representation. Earlier this afternoon the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said that it was impossible to do so. This Government has not tried to do it.
According to the figures as presented b> the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), Tasmania in January 1973 had a voting population of 221,951 people, returning 10 senators, while New South Wales had 2,612,304 people enrolled. It also returned 10 senators. Tasmanian senators in theory represent 22,195 electors per senator, whilst New South Wales senators represent 261,230, more than 10 times as many. I ask the Minister if this is what he refers to as equal voting, ls this one vote one value? Australia is a very large continent and therefore a very large electorate. Two-thirds of our population reside in a very small portion of it geographically. It stands to reason that some electorates must of necessity be larger in area than others, but these people all are entitled to similar privileges. Each elector should have equal rights and be able to meet his member. In turn, each member should have th : right to meet his constituents. Some honourable members opposite on the Government side do not seem to appreciate what distance means.
Under the proposals in this Bill the bulk of the larger geographical electorates will become larger and the smaller ones will become smaller. The reasons are because, firstly, the 20 per cent variation in quota, either above or below, will be reduced by 10 per cent. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) implied that we would have 20 per cent. Of course there will be 20 per cent if you take 10 per cent below and 10 per cent above. Before that it was 40 per cent. But do not try to confuse the issue. The other instructions given to the redistribution commissioners arising from remoteness, population density and so forth will be removed, according to this Bill, from their considerations. Indeed, this Bill virtually tells the commissioners that all electorates will be as nearly as possible the same numerically. The honourable member for Mcpherson a few minutes ago explained how the number of electors in the electorate of Mcpherson expands. Other electorates throughout the Commonwealth demonstrate a somewhat similar situation.
Having said that, I turn now to that provision in the Bill which states that when one quarter of the electorate varies beyond the 10 per cent quota, a further redistribution can take place. A study of population movements reveals that it is most likely that a redistribution would be required every two Parliaments and in some States it could be after one Parliament. If one remembers the figures quoted by the honourable member for Mcpherson, a redistribution might be needed every 2 or 3 months if a quarter of the population of an electorate moved to another area in a State. If there is one thing that the Australian people want, it is stabilty, whether it be in politics or anything else. They have a great dislike of continual change. This can be proved by the illustration of past major redistributions which often have been followed by a change in government or a swing against sitting government members. This occurs because of the very factors that I have just mentioned.
I turn now to the principles governing the number of Federal seats in a State as laid down by the Constitution in accordance with the population of a State. New South Wales at present has 45 members. Victoria has 34. In Queensland there are 18. South Australia has 12. Western Australia has 10 and in Tasmania there are 5. According to its population Tasmania is entitled to only 4 Federal members in the House of Representatives. But the Constitution provides that it must not have fewer than 5. Do Government members from Tasmania agree with this provision? If they do they must of necessity agree that the principles in the new Bill are completely wrong. Tasmania has the privilege of an extra member in the House of Representatives because, I believe, it is a small State and it is isolated. If this principle is good enough to be included in the Constitution why should we not consider isolation in other parts of Australia? If the Northern Territory is ever declared a State will it be entitled to 10 senators and a minimum of 5 members in the House of Representatives, making a total representation of 15? According to the Constitution that would be the correct representation. Today the Northern Territory is represented by one member of this House.
– He is quite capable of doing the job too.
– I think he is too. He is a mighty capable member. I suggest that there is no merit in the argument for one vote one value put forward by the Government. The Minister for Services and Property stated in this House only recently that he appreciates the work load imposed by the larger electorates and that he will consider making extra assistance available to honourable members who represent them. We welcome this proposal. What the people in such electorates want is a member of Parliament, not a substitution for one.
This brings me to the situation in my own State of Victoria, and in particular the seat of Wimmera. Wimmera had a voting population of 45,574 as at January 1973. It is true that it is a small electorate numerically. There are very few electorates with fewer electors, with the exception of the 5 Tasmanian electorates which average approximately 44,390 electors a seat. There are far more electorates smaller in size than Wimmera is than there are electorates that are larger than Wimmera is. Wimmera has an area of some 12,000 square miles, which is comparatively small compared with some of the larger electorates. 1 wonder how many electorates have an area of less than 1,200 square miles, or if one likes, 12 square miles. Does the Government think very seriously of the work load, apart from the miles travelled, in these large country electorates. Even with modern travelling it takes me 6 hours to get to Canberra and 6 hours to return each week.
In my electorate I have 24 local municipal councils. I wonder how many the Minister for Services and Property has in his electorate. At least 16 newspapers are printed in the electorate. They all need some contribution from me on the political front. There are far too many schools in the electorate to find out exactly how many there are. The same applies to service clubs. In the view of some members of the Government, these are not important. But again they are too numerous to mention. But they are all entitled to service from their local member if the need arises.
At present the Victorian quota is running at about 57,600. Wimmera needs approximately another 12,000 to bring it up in accordance with this Bill even to equal the quota. My neighbouring electorates of Mallee, Wannon, Corangamite, Ballaarat and Bendigo are all below a quota. That is bad enough, but if we look at the amendment to section 25 (2) b, dealing with the provision for a further redistribution, I have worse news for the electorate. Most of the electorates that I have just mentioned are fairly static in population. Other electorates are far more static when we consider population growth. So that a redistribution should not take place after each election, those growing electorates would have to be brought down to a maximum of 10 per cent below the quota. In turn static electorates would thus need to be above that quota. We all appreciate that there are insufficient electors to overcome this problem in many country areas. Victorian country areas would need to lose at least 2 electorates. This in turn means a major reshuffle in Victoria.
– That is the reason behind it.
– I think you are dead right. I think it is the reason. Such a reshuffle, of course, will not worry the present Government one little bit because it realises that all country seats in Victoria are held by th Liberal Party or the Country Party. I only hope that Labor Party voters in country Victoria, as well as in country areas in other States, will remember some of these points when the next election is held, irrespective of what new electorates there may be.
In the course of various debates in the House, Government members have repeatedly said that the Government has a mandate to do this or that. I ask these honourable members this simple question: How many of you used in your policy the question of redistribution to enlarge country seats? I wonder how many did. No doubt some did in metropolitan areas. But I wonder how many in country electorates did. I saw little advertising by the Australian Labor Party on this aspect. It was all very well for the present Minister to say that he mentioned this matter prior to the election. If that story had any substance, what about the honourable member for Riverina and his promise during the election campaign that if elected the Labor Party would make available $500m at an interest rate of 3 per cent per annum for loan purposes for primary producers.
– When did he say that?
– I am glad to see that the honourable member for Riverina has come into the chamber.
– I am just wondering whether you could give me the quote?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member for Wimmera will address the Minister as the Minister for Immigration and not as the honourable member for Riverina.
– Yes. I cannot give the Minister the quote from memory. In answer to the interjection from the Minister I have vivid recollections of seeing the statement in a number of newspapers. My colleague from Murray is seeking to interject.
– It was in the ‘Griffith Times’ of 20th November.
– It was in the ‘Griffith Times’ of 20th November. There it is. That is my answer to the interjection of the Minister for Immigration. If the Government introduces this issue I will accept the statement from the Minister for Services and Property that he did have a mandate to introduce this Bill. Working on the assumption that one vote one value was not used during the campaign in country areas, as was the enlarging of country electorates - I am sure that there were very few, if any, used it - I believe it is now up to the Prime Minister to go to the people on this very question. If the Government has not a mandate to introduce this Bill-
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the honourable member for Brisbane agrees with me. I would like to see the subject of electoral reform made a major platform in every electorate, not only those which suit the Government. It would be very easy for the Prime Minister to go to the people then address all the electorates around the capital cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. I would like him to come out into the country areas and to say what he proposes to do. I do not think the Prime Minister is game to try to postpone this issue. He would like to get this Bill through. But I have news for him. He will run into a lot of opposition before this Bill receives the assent of this Parliament.
The simple fact is that I do not think the people outside of this Parliament will accept the principle that he is putting forward. The Minister for Services and Property said that the Australian Labor Party is the strongest country party in the House. I have never heard such rot. What are the country electorates that are represented by members of the
Labor Party? With the exception of the seats in Tasmania country seats held by Labor Party members are Kalgoorlie, Grey, Riverina, Macarthur, Eden-Monaro, Darling, Hume, Capricornia, Dawson, Leichhardt and Wide Bay. Most of these electorates have one large industrial complex in them. All but 2 of the 11 seats held by the Labor Party that I have named have been held either by the Liberal Party or the Country Party while I have been a member of this place, and that is only 14 years. I would suggest to the people, and Mr Deputy Speaker, I would suggest to you, that if this Bill gets the publicity that it deserves outside of this place so that people can know what does go on, no doubt all bar two of these electorates will return to either the Liberal Party or the Country Party at the next election.
In conclusion I would again challenge the Prime Minister to postpone this Bill until after the election and let the people decide what they want. The major issue in the minds of the Australian people is whether they are to have the right to have a say on this matter. Failing this, in fairness I must oppose the Bill entirely and suggest again to those Government supporters from Tasmania that if they do not want to be accused of being two-faced (hey should also speak up against the Bill.
I have a minute of my time left. I am glad that the Minister for Immigration has come into the chamber, because there are one or two things that I would like to say to him.
– I have been here all the time.
– I apologise, if the Minister has been here all the time. I did not notice the Minister until about halfway through my comments. We heard tonight from the Minister the usual colourful but, can I say without being too unkind, empty speech. Despite all the interjections from this side of the House we could not get the Minister to come down to the real facts of the situation and talk about the effect that this redistribution will have on his own electorate. The Minister talked about democracy and all sorts of things. He was critical of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony). He also said something about fertility in his electorate; I think that is right.
– Yes, you are right.
– Since the Minister spoke I have had a look at some figures, and I am a little amazed to notice that since 1966 the voting population in the Riverina electorate has increased by 2,824 but the total population has increased by only 461. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was quite right when he said the Minister was hissing against the wind.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This is an important piece of legislation. Bills affecting the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which of course means Bills affecting the future of many members of this House, are something that we all subject to a great deal of scrutiny. But it follows in the nature of things that we all tend to look at them from our individual political point of view because, as I said, our own future is tied up with such legislation. This has been a very interesting debate. The question has been asked why the Labor Party has introduced this legislation at this time, why it has not deferred the legislation until after the next election. Of course, the facts of the matter are quite clear. I was in this Parliament in 1965 when many of the measures that are subject to alteration in this Bill were incorporated in the Act. At that time the Labor Party, then in Opposition, indicated its implacable opposition to the features that we endeavour to withdraw tonight. I refer, for example, to the 20 per cent permissible variation and other features that were then incorporated into section 19 of the Act. No person who was in the House at that time would be under any illusion that these sections of the Act were completely repugnant to the Labor Party and that the Labor Party was committed to removing them.
The Labor Party is committed to a system of fair electoral laws and fair redistributions. The reason why these measures are being submitted to this House at this point of time is that we are very conscious of the fact that we do not have a majority in the other place - the Senate. So we wish to institute as many electoral reforms as may be possible so that if a challenge does come to us from the other place on an issue of importance we might proceed to an election or to a double dissolution, if that is necessary, and might do so on fair terms. We would be betraying the interests not only of people who voted Labor at the last election but of those people who live in the cities and who voted Liberal if we did not make every possible endeavour to carry out these electoral reforms as early as we might in the present Parliament. There is some urgency about this Bill because an electoral redistribution must be held in Western Australia, lt is, of course, desirable that a redistribution be carried out in all of the other States as well.
I would like to compliment the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson), on his maiden speech tonight. I find it passing strange that he should make this speech on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2). As the President of the Liberal Party in Queensland for the time being he knows, as well as anybody else, how much his Party has suffered from the discrimination in Queensland of electoral boundaries which are gerrymandered in favour of the Country Party. Notwithstanding the internecine fighting between the two Government parties in Queensland - the Country Party, which is the majority party, and the Liberal Party - the President of the Liberal Party came into this place tonight and betrayed the interests of the Liberal Party and those people who voted Liberal at the last election in the same way as he and his fellow committee members and parliamentarians of his Party in the Queensland Parliament betrayed the interest of the people who voted Liberal in that State.
I would like to deal with some of the questions raised by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). He suggested that if there was to be some consistency about the Labor Party’s approach we should do something about a situation where the number of senators from Tasmania was the same as the number of senators from the more populous States, such as New South Wales. He said that Tasmanian members should look at the position that they were putting themselves in by voting for this legislation when the numbers in that State justified only 4 seats. I am sure that all honourable members realise, and 1 am sure that the honourable member for Wimmera realises, that these are matters quite outside the legislative control of this Parliament because they would involve amendments to the Constitution. Tasmania was an original State, and as an original State it was guaranteed 5 seats. If the population of Tasmania, by plague or some other disaster, declined to 20 electors, under the Constitution it would still be entitled to 5 seats in the House of Representatives, and each of those seats would presumably have 4 electors. They certainly would with a redistribution carried out under this amendment.
Leaving those things aside, the Australian Labor Party in government as in opposition stands for a fair Commonwealth Electoral Act and a fair redistribution. I make that point again and it cannot be made too often. This Party has suffered from electoral gerrymanders in every State except Tasmania. In Queensland since 1959 it has suffered from a cruel gerrymander. I am not denying that the boundaries in Queensland prior to 1959 were loaded in favour of the Labor Party. When I was a member of the Party, although not a member of Parliament at that time, I felt this was unfair and 1 said it was unfair. 1 am on public record as saying that. We have had a lot of experience since, but the facts of the matter are that the boundaries in Queensland have been gerrymandered against the Labor Party.
– Tom Burns said they were fair the last time - until after he lost the election.
– Let me answer that. On 3rd August 1957 when the present Government was elected in Queensland- known popularly as Black Saturday - the now governing members were so surprised that they were not quite sure what to do for a while. But they came around to a system of electoral gerrymander. The then Premier, now Sir Francis Nicklin, invited Sir Thomas Playford, a man of considerable experience in the matter of electoral redistributions, to come to Queensland and give them some advice. They came up with a system whereby Queensland was carved up into 5 zones: a metropolitan zone, a southeastern zone, a western zone, a nothern zone and a provincial cities zone. We had the position where electorates in the areas thai supported the Australian Country Party contained small numbers, while the provincial cities, which overwhelmingly voted Labor, were given either one electorate or two, irrespective of the size of those cities. There were 28 State electorates in the metropolitan area. This system has been improved to some extent in the last redistribution but it still discriminates against people who live in the cities. I felt ashamed hearing the speeches from Liberal Party members. Any member of the Liberal Party who votes for a gerrymander that favours the Country Party votes against his interests, the interests of the Liberal Party and the interests of people who vote Liberal. That is the Queensland experience and it is the experience in all the other States. The tragedy of it is - the people of Australia realise this - that the Liberal Party is so lacking in leadership in matters of this kind that it will not stand up for the people who support it. It portends a sad future for the Liberal Party, because people will not vote for a party that will not get up and fight for what it believes in.
The Liberal Party, in its platform, its policy and its expression of views on many occasions in this Parliament has stood for a principle approaching one vote one value. My Party’s proposals do not take the matter that far because it recognises the disabilities suffered by people in the larger seats. There ought to be some discretionary power, some flexibility, and some trust reposed in the Commonwealth Distribution Commissioners. I hope that no-one is going to suggest that the Commonwealth Distribution Commissioners who are appointed for the redistribution will not carry out their duties as well as other Commonwealth Distribution Commissioners have in the past. I do not believe that there has ever been a Commonwealth electoral gerrymander in the same way as there has been a gerrymander in my home State of Queensland. Certainly it is important for the Labor Party, for the standing of this Government and for the people of Australia that a gerrymander should not be carried out this time. There certainly will not be a gerrymander carried out this time.
I completely repudiate any suggestion which reflects on the integrity of the Distribution Commissioners in past redistributions or in the future. They have carried out their work honestly and well within the framework of the law as it exists. Our function as a Parliament is to see that the guidelines laid down for the Distribution Commissioners are in the interests of the people of Australia and in the interests of proper representation in this Parliament.
Let me deal now with some of the matters that have been advanced principally by the Country Party members. We were told about the disabilities suffered by people in those giant seats. In our time we have had Labor members representing many of those giant seats. The largest electorate in this country is represented very well by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). Labor Party members represent the electorates of Darling and Grey. In our time we have held the seats of Kennedy and Maranoa, and doubtless we will again. We have held several of these vast country seats and we have held them well. Labor members have suffered from some of the disabilities in country seats that the Country Party members talked about. But these disabilities have narrowed in many instances, with better communications. In recent times in this Parliament we have had some discussion about improved postal facilities in country areas. I agree that they are not good enough but they are certainly a lot better than they used to be, and they are improving all the time. There are other ways of rectifying the disabilities of country members besides carrying out a system of discriminating against people because they live in cities or near cities.
I would like to pay a tribute to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). 1 think that honourable members will recognise that we have, never had a Minister who has been so sympathetic to the needs of members in terms of facilities being made available to them in their offices and in other ways. The present Minister is presiding over this Commonwealth Electoral Bill. He has corrected many of the disabilities that honourable members have suffered. The various parties have been asked to appoint members to an amenities committee to look at some of these problems and to make recommendations to the Minister. He will give sympathetic effect to those recommendations if it is at all possible for him to do so.
We have heard talk about the disabilities of distance in the country areas. That can be overcome by such things as charter flight rights and better communications. In an electorate such as the Northern Territory which is a bipolar electorate it might be possible to provide an office for the honourable member for the Northern Territory in Alice Springs in addition to his office in Darwin. There are many things that can be done to bring country people into closer contact with their elected representatives. Country electorates have a great advantage over city electorates in that their populations are by and large stable. The people are there. A member can make, contact with the people in his electorate. They are fairly stable communities, or certainly in relative terms they are stable communities. So there are not only disabilities associated with country seats but also advantages.
As a member for an inner-city seat 1 would like to repudiate the idea that all the disadvantages accrue to country seats. For a start those members who represent city seats under the present system represent a greatly inflated population. At the last redistribution the Brisbane seat was about 15 per cent above the quota. By and large the inner-city seats contain the greatest number of migrants. These people do not have a vote. Many of them have not sought citizenship, either because they have not been here long enough or because: they have exercised their right not to seek Australian citizenship. Nevertheless, they have problems which cause them to come to the office of a member of Parliament and seek some rectification. They come in with their migration problems, their problems of sickness benefits or unemployment benefits and the like. They have to be serviced. The great numbers of these people are in the city seats. They are not on the electoral rolls. Many of them are not reflected in the ballot box, but they still have to be serviced and that is a disability that accrues substantially to those members who represent city electorates.
The other point that I should like to make relates to the very question of accessibility to a member. I am not reflecting on Country Party members when I say that. I have always believed that most members of this Parliament work very hard in accordance with their own political lights and do their best for the electors of their own electorates. I agree that a member in a country electorate has to travel around from time to time to the various communities in his electorate, but if he has an efficient secretary and an efficiently conducted office much of his work can be carried out by letter, because most people would be used to writing to him. In city electorates, electors and non-electors pour into the member’s office. I can say, quite frankly, that very often I spend my whole day interviewing people and at the end of the day wonder how I can get my work done. There are disabilities which accrue also to people who represent city electorates. I make the point again that these disabilities can be overcome other than through the Electoral Act. Surely it is important to all people who live in this country, wherever they might live, that we have a fair and just Electoral Act.
The matter of a redistribution has been brought before the House as one issue. The question of votes for 18-year-olds was brought before the House quite separately. It is the
Minister’s intention, as he has stated, to bring down legislation later to tidy up administrative matters associated with the Electoral Act which is very much in need of review. The present matter is being dealt with separately because it is controversial. It is very important that we have a decision on this in both Houses of the Parliament as soon as possible so that the Government will have complete flexibility in the event that it faces a challenge in the Senate to go to the people of Australia. It should not have to do so half way through a redistribution. That would be a very unfortunate thing. The Government has been challenged to go to an election on this matter. The last election that I can recall being fought on the question of a redistribution was the one at which a Labor government won office in Victoria in the early 1950s. The overriding issue of that election was the question of a redistribution. Probably we do not present these things to the people of Australia as much as we should in our policy speeches, but the people of Australia believe that we should have a fair electoral system.
One of the reasons why the Labor Party has done so well in South Australia and continues to do so well is that eventually, after many years of gerrymandered electorates in that State, as a result of which the people could not carry out their wishes through the ballot box by electing a government, feeling built up to the extent that Labor in South Australia attracted a vote which is among the highest in the Commonwealth. The same position is building up in Queensland. In Brisbane and in the provincial cities there is increasing resentment with the Country Party and its gerrymander in that State. The same thing is happening throughout Australia. When we go to the next election it will not be on the question of boundaries only. So many things have happened in the past. Many people who voted against the Labor Party at elections have done so because of fears that have been built up about the Labor Party, the fear that allegedly it would destroy the American alliance, sell out Australia to Peking and Moscow, and destroy all morality in the community. Honourable members know all these stories. In recent elections many people have voted other than Labor because they believed some of the things that were spread about by Labor’s political opponents. Many people have voted for the Democratic Labor Party or for the Australia Party. I believe that at the next election these people will be voting in most cases for one of the major parties. If they like the Labor Party they will vote for it. The people who last time voted for the Australia Party next time will probably choose between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party.
I do not know whether Professor Aitkin’s study was right, but it suggests that many people who have voted for the DLP in recent times have been estranged Liberal voters. I believe that at the next election that section of the DLP vote will sort itself out between the Labor Party and one of the other major political parties. The Labor Party does not need this legislation to enable it to win the next election. We will win it on our record, whenever the election might be held. This Bill represents a step taken early in the Parliament for a redistribution to give Australia fair electoral laws which will ensure that throughout Australia any one man is as near as possible to being equal to any other man when he goes to the ballot box. This is a great principle. It is a principle for which a fight went on for well over 100 years. It is a principle which was won in this country at one time. Other principles of electoral justice have been fought for. We have property franchise and we still have anachronistic electoral systems for the Upper House in most States, but surely in the national Parliament we should be setting a lead for the States. I include my own State of Queensland in that remark. In this Bill we do just that.
Debate (on motion by Mr Drury) adjourned.
Social Welfare - Rural Development - Food Retailing Industry - Fruit Growing Industry- i Repatriation: Nursing Homes
Motion (by Mr Les Johnson) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– After much patience and persistence I rise to draw to the attention of the Government some anomalies which I believe exist within the Department of Social Security. I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) will act to correct them. The first anomaly affects a few people only. It is a matter of principle and causes concern to the parents whom it affects, lt is a case where country parents are disadvantaged by our child endowment policy. A family of 3 children with the eldest a spastic child receives only $18 per quarter instead of $36, which is the normal amount. The reason that this happens to the country parents is that the spastic child has to be boarded at a registered spastic centre. Normally $6 for the first child is allocated for this purpose. The second child is then classified as the first child and the third child is classified as the second child. This results in a payment being made of $18. City parents who take their spastic children to the spastic centre daily receive the full $36 per quarter. Surely parents in the country who have 3 children are entitled to be recognised as such and should receive the same payment of $36 as do city parents. This would allow the country parents to contribute the same amount to the centre as do city parents. The cost of boarding a child at a centre is borne by the country parents. Surely this anomaly could be rectified. It is disturbing to the parents and discriminatory in its application.
The other matter to which I want to draw the attention of the Goverment is an anomaly which recently was brought to my attention concerning the reason why many people suffer embarrassment in the field of social welfare. It is caused by parents not receiving the first payment of their social benefits after their needs have been recognised. Perhaps with the indulgence of the House, I could read a report that was made by a social worker who represents a group involved with spastic children. The Berwick Shire Council recently received a report from the social worker which states, in part:
Income Loss - Of all the referrals, seventeen per cent had no income. All but 2 situations involved dependent children. Hie average number of children in no-income families was 4. Mostly, these families are in the low income group, and are severely affected by the delays in workers compensation, insurance, Commonwealth sickness and unemployment benefits, and pensions, and worst of all by delays in initial payments of Social Welfare Department assistance.
This latter is the cause of deserted wives and prisoners’ wives waiting for an average of 4 weeks for the first cheque. Often the waiting period can be 6 to 7 weeks. Yet, if the children in those families were admitted to State care, the cost to the State would be $60 per child per week, minimum.
This excerpt from the social workers report was submitted for my information and the Council to which it was reported has asked me to take this matter up with the Government. I hope that the Government will take heed of this matter. The letter further stated:
The Council is of the opinion that just as money has been made available to University Councils and
Colleges for Advanced Education with the power to make grants or loans to destitute students, so also should money be made available to Councils, to enable Councils to aid, or loan money to destitute people.
From the initial allocation the Council would establish a revolving fund which would continue to operate as repayments of loans were made. I think this is worthy of serious consideration and I think this is a very humane approach to a problem which exists within our community.
I now turn to the problem facing rural towns and their natural development. The Government has indicated in various statements that it is prepared to promote a distribution of population and even create new growth centres. However growth by utilisation of natural resources is one way of ensuring success. I do not want to traverse at great length the points I made during my maiden speech, but I want to ask this Government to give serious consideration to putting its money where its mouth was during the last election. Prosperity and progress of our existing towns in my electorate can be achieved by spending the Government’s money wisely, and I would suggest the use of rural employment money to do this.
The first step would be to update the planned water storages on our Gippsland rivers to give an equitable distribution of this great natural resource. Water resources are in abundance. The metropolitan demands for water are giving cause for concern and are a threat to rural area development and decentralisation itself. We have seen recently most of the headwaters of our streams in the Gippsland area being diverted as a cheap filch of our rural water resources so that metropolitan people can have water. I would not deny them their right to have water, but the rural interests must be protected in the process. To achieve this we need to update some of the plans already made and accepted by the various Government departments. We could update the plans for the Thomson River dam, which is proposed for 1989, and the dam on the Mitchell River, which is in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon). Both these dams are now urgently required and both would give assistance to achieving an equitable distribution of water resources.
There is a need to vary Commonwealth policy on the expenditure of rural relief funds. Millions of dollars have been earmarked to assist rural employment. No better use could be made of such funds to achieve a productive result than to update our water storage and water conservation programs to provide regulating storages on our Gippsland streams. At least 3 storages are a very high priority need. Water is our most precious natural resource, and new water storages would have real and lasting effect and would hasten the wise utilisation of presently unregulated streams. In other words, water conservation has a twofold effect.
Some years ago the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in Victoria built a storage dam on the Tarago River to serve the West Gippsland towns. This river is the life blood of the very productive lowlands towards Westernport Bay and the Koo Wee Rup Swamp. Because of this conservation the Bunyip River summer flow diminished and farmers previously dependent upon it had to have their water supplies rationed and they became gravely alarmed. They looked at the economics of a reticulated supply and realised the soundness of the proposition. This scheme has been piloted and planned by some very enthusiastic landowners who live along the Bunyip River in the West Gippsland area. They plan to ensure that the very productive Koo Wee Rup Swamp farmers have adequate water supplies. The Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission has approved the plan. Finance to put this wonderful scheme into immediate operation is required urgently. Loan funds for this should be made available forthwith. This money will come back to the Treasury and would indicate to the people in the rural areas that the Government does have a sympathetic ear for the economic stability of our rural people.
– This evening I want to bring before the House some matters relating to food price increases and certain practices that exist in the food retailing industry at the present time. We have heard for many years from the Opposition, the former Government, that price increases are always the result of wage increases, that demands for wage increases result in further price increases, and that there is really only one reason for a price increase and that is a wage increase.
– We have never said that.
– We know that your memories are short and your minds befuddled, but 1 accept your comment. The situation is that there are many reasons for price increases within the food retailing industry which have no relationship whatsoever to costs, wage structures or wage increases. Over the past 23 years of Liberal-Country Party economic mismanagement the worker of this country has seen a steady eroding of the real purchasing power of his wage. Some price increases are caused by the fluctuations in world market prices and in the international supply and demand situation. Cost increases can occur as a result of these fluctuations and as a result of increases in the cost of raw materials, which the honourable gentlemen opposite are presently benefiting from in the field of meat prices, wool prices and honey prices. However, other price increases are not caused by wage demands or wage increases.
The larger and more insidious area is that in which large scale price increases are made without justification, without the appearance of those seeking the increase before a tribunal and without reference to any public authority or to public opinion. I refer to unfair trade practices, sharp trade practices and restrictive trade practices which currently prevail in commerce in this country and particularly, a» I said earlier, in the food industry. Over the last 23 years we have seen a steady progression in Australia towards a condition of oligopoly in the food industry, both in the manufacturing and retailing of food. We have seen the gradual elimination of the little man, noi only from the retailing but also from the manufacturing and wholesale fields. In fact, from all areas of activity in the industry there has been an elimination of the little man. It has been very hard to understand why this has happened over the past 23 years, bearing in mind that the interests of commerce ought to have been the interests of the then LiberalCountry Party Government. We have seen the gradual takeover of Australian food industries by mammoth overseas corporations and multinational corporations, and the crushing of the smaller man, the smaller retailer. The wiping out of the interests of the small man has helped to remove the competition that ought to exist in the economy and in the community to provide a check not only on prices but on services as well.
I will not go into detail this evening about the companies and commodities concerned. I reserve that for a later occasion, lt is sufficient to say at this stage that most of the Australian food manufacturers and food retailers are presently foreign owned. I defy any member of this Parliament to get up in the morning and traverse the course of a natural day without, as the result of eating or drinking, sending some profit content out of this country. Yesterday in this House 1 directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) a question regarding the refusal of a British-owned and controlled company to supply a confectioner in my electorate with confectionery, of all things. The confectioner has been in operation for many years and is a man who serves the little people. He is the in-between man, not a gigantic retailer, not a gigantic merchandiser.
Tonight I want to mention another practice that forces on the consumer price increases without any regard to cost, market demand or any semblance of competition. The practice of chain stores and the major retailers is to demand from manufacturers promotional subsidies which over a year run into hundreds of thousands of dollars in the case of some of the larger retailers. This is a situation in which major retailers can virtually extort from a manufacturer several hundred dollars a week for the right to have his product located in a particular position in the retail store. This cost has to be borne by the manufacturer. In some cases a quantity of products is supplied to the retailer by the manufacturer at a specially reduced price, even in some cases at below cost, in order to maintain the national image of the product. The special price at which these goods are supplied is such that an independent wholesaler, let alone a retailer purchasing through a wholesaler, cannot even compete on the open market. The result is that, of a quantity of goods purchased by the retailer, some are fed on to the market, some are fed out to the consumer and some are held back to be sold at a much higher price at a later stage. Consequently the manufacturer does not derive any benefit.
The cost of this subsidy and of this lower price at which the products are supplied to the major retailer has to be borne by the manufacturer over the whole range of his production so that the price of every unit of his production carries some content for the cost of this promotion. That promotion cost which is borne by the manufacturer as a hidden cost that he cannot justify to the public is passed on to all consumers. This means that that segment of the retailing industry which manages to buy on promotion gets the benefit of a cost which is borne by that sec tion of the industry which does not participate in the sharing of this promotion 01 receive any benefit from a lower cost. This method of major retailers holding manufacturers to ransom has meant the breaking down of the manufacturers’ approach to the retail industry. These retailers can virtually tell the manufacturers to market on the retailers’ terms or the product will not he marketed at all. At the same time the major retailer is supplied at a price which is in many cases lower than that available to the legitimate wholesalers whose function it is to supply smaller retailers. Again it is the public which has to pay the price of all this.
The practice I have outlined is one which I hope will be among the first things to he looked at by the prices justification tribunal when it comes into operation and I hope it will be closely examined as well by the Joint Standing Committee on Prices. This is a practice in which only the large retailers and marketers of products can participate. This Government has a clear mandate and responsibility to bring into operation anti-restrictive trade practices legislation and along with it a prices justification tribunal. The Australian consumers have a responsibility to organise themselves and to start to act in a manner by which they can combat price increases. There has been some reflection of that attitude in the United States of America in the last week where, there has been a strong reaction to the tremendous price of meat. I heard that as a result sales had fallen by 70 per cent. I think it was in New York that this occurred. Food is one commodity that people cannot do without. They have to buy some kind of food whether it is the cheaper chicken or the dearer meat but they cannot exist without it. They can defer the purchase of other products. In this way the oligopoly in the food industry has as much power as, or greater power than, an oligopoly in a non-food industry has.
I conclude on this note. Whilst this situation has developed over the past 23 years, 10 years ago in South Australia the then Liberal Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, introduced into the South Australian Parliament a Bill called, as I recall it, the Prices Bill 1963 which forced retailers offering products for sale at a price to have, on their premises reasonable quantities of that product. In addition to the last practice I mentioned, major retailers advertise extensively products for sale at a price which must attract people into their stores. When the consumers arrive as early as 8.50 or 9 a.m. on the day the product is advertised for sale there is very little of the product available, if any at all. As long ago as 10 years Sir Thomas Playford wrote into that Act a requirement that reasonable quantities of the product had to be available for sale.
– In this Parliament last year the fruit growing reconstruction scheme was introduced and passed. It is better known as the tree-pull scheme though in some quarters it has been known as the leg-pull scheme. A very severe financial means test eligibility requirement prevented immediate and successful implementation of this scheme. The means test was eased on 2 separate occasions by the previous Minister for Primary Industry, the Honourable Ian Sinclair, in August and again in October. Some Victorian growers accepted offers to pull trees before December. Then December came and with it a Federal election, a change of government and a new fruit season. This prevented further development of the scheme at the time. Now the fruit season is over again and growers, particularly pear growers, will be looking to the scheme for support especially since the Labor Government’s double revaluation of the Australian dollar against the United States dollar and against the South African rand, the currencies of the 2 competitors of the Australian canning fruit industry on international markets.
What is the position facing the growers? What was the stance which the Labor Party took during the debate on the bill in Parliament last year? What is its performance now? During the debate in this Parliament last year Labor members criticised the means test aspects of the scheme. In fact, they went further. The Labor candidate for the Murray electorate, Mr John Riordan, stated during the campaign that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) had assured him that a Labor Government in office would abolish the means test. The member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) was quoted in the Griffith ‘Area News’ of 1 6th October as stating:
The tree pull scheme is inadequate and hopeless if a means test is applied and State debts deducted from any compensation moneys,’ Mr Grassby declared.
We will insist that the means test be deleted and that if money is to be made available it should be for the grower to decide what to do with it.’
Now the Labor Government is in power but absolutely nothing has happened about these promises. Two weeks ago the Federal and State Ministers responsible for reconstruction reviewed the fruit growing reconstruction scheme. The only change to this scheme is the inclusion of apricots as a surplus commodity. This is purely a procedural matter. Where was the promise, where was the purpose, where was the resolve of these fighters for the fruit industry when Labor was in Opposition? The canning fruit industry is facing a life and death struggle because of these revaluations, overseas freight charges and international politics. Once again, what has happened? The previous Government provided loans to the canneries to allow growers to be partially paid for 1972 fruit deliveries pending the final lisation of compensation claims. I am confident that had the previous Government been returned it would have paid to fruit growers approximately SIO a ton compensation for losses caused by the 1971 revaluation, and that there would have been no unilateral revaluation against the US dollar in December 1972, as this Government made.
Again, what did the Labor Party promise and what has it delivered? The Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party and now Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was in Griffith on 19th November. I remind honourable members that Griffith is the centre of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, the fruit growing area. He is reported in the Griffith Times’ of 20th November in this way:
Mr Whitlam who took the stand as a leadup to Mr Grassbys opening of his campaign for Riverina clarified many issues affecting the rural sector.
He declared that Labor when elected will make full payment to fruit growers for all fruit delivered within 2 weeks of being elected to Government.
The 2 weeks has become 100 days and more, and still the Leeton growers have not been paid. What has happened to that promise? I should like to quote from an article which appeared in the Griffith ‘Times’ on 22nd December and in which the honourable member for Riverina, the Minister for Immigration, quoted what the Prime Minister (‘Mr Whitlam) said to him. The article reads:
The Prime Minister gave assurance to Mr Grassby that his personal undertaking would be honoured to canning fruit growers in New South Wales who had not been paid for fruit delivered.
After criticising the previous Government, the Minister for Immigration was further reported as saying:
Now in three weeks I have an undertaking covering nol only this Government’s act but the two revaluations of the previous government - an undertaking the previous government would not give in three years. . . .
What has happened? No revaluation compensation has been paid to this industry. Instead of revaluation compensation, a once and for ali adjustment assistance grant has been announced. This grant is in 2 parts. One is that canning fruit growers can be paid up to $500 an acre, if they are in extreme financial difficulty and if they have applied and been accepted for the tree pull scheme. But, at the same time, the same Minister and the same Government 2 weeks ago refused to abolish the means test on this scheme so that growers could be accepted for the scheme and be eligible for the $500 an acre grant. I do not think that that scheme will cost the Government very much.
The Government also said that there wouk be a grant of up to $1,500 per farmer as a once and for all adjustment grant. So far, 2 months after this proposal was announced, the growers still have not been paid and, to my knowledge, the Department of Primary Industry has not even worked out how it will administer this scheme. The canning fruit industry is in considerable trouble. It is not much good anybody saying anything about what the previous Government promised, because my speech tonight has been concentrated wholly and solely on the promises of the Australian Labor Party, its members and its Leader when they were in Opposition and I have shown the lack of performance by this Government since it was elected to office. So, to return to the old arguments of what the previous Minister for Primary Industry said or did not say and what somebody else said or did not say or did or did not do is completely beside the point. The only points that are applicable are what happened to the Prime Minister’s promise of immediate payment and what happened to the promise by Labor members that the means test on the fruit growing reconstruction scheme would be abolished. The fruit growers want to hear the answers to these questions; they do not want to hear criticism of any previous government.
– We have just listened to an address by the champion of the fruit growers, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd). He raises a series of matters now that he is in Opposition, but he was remarkably silent about some of those things when his Party was in Government, lt is a little late now for the honourable member to find his political courage, particularly in relation to the fruit industries. The honourable member for Murray kindly referred to the fruit industries in my electorate. Every request of the Leeton Co-operative Cannery Ltd for this season has been met. Every request made by canneries in his electorate were met, and met under this Government.
The honourable member for Murray referred to the matter of the payment of growers. It took 3 months to unravel the tortuous arrangements made by his Cabinet. Those arrangements were entered into by the previous Federal Government and the Government of New South Wales and they tied up funds in such a way that it was not possible to effect payment within the 2-week period. It has not been possible to effect payment even now because the Government of which the honourable member for Murray was a supporter made arrangements which deceived growers. 1 repeat that charge tonight. If the honourable member for Murray had taken an interest at the time, he would have known about that, and if he knew about it and did not say anything he was betraying the growers about whom he spoke tonight.
I resent the situation in which I, as the member for Riverina in Opposition, was placed by the previous Government. I did not know what arrangements were entered into. In fact, those arrangements were kept from me. An elaborate pretence was made right up to within 24 hours of the election that the arrangements which had been made by the previous Administration would give growers money which the Minister and the Government at the time knew they could never receive. It took 3 months in Government to find the truth of the situation. The honourable member referred to a promise made by the Prime Minister. He said that the money would leave Canberra and would be paid. It left Canberra and was sitting in Sydney. It is still in Sydney, tied up under arrangements for which the Government supported by the honourable member was responsible. He gave an undertaking to the growers that help would be given. He said that some help would have to be given. Senator Ken Wriedt, the Minister for Primary Industry, is dealing with the matter at present. I hope it will not be very long before the present Minister for Primary Industry will spell out all the details in chapter and verse and will get some help for the growers who were cruelly deceived for blatant political purposes. If the honourable member was a party to that, he should be ashamed of himself.
– I want to draw the attention of the House to the situation of a significant group of aged and invalid people living in nursing homes who, at the beginning of this year, were given a benefit and now appear to be having that benefit taken from them. Late last year the Repatriation Department by advertisement gave details of benefits to be conferred on repatriation pensioners in respect of nursing home care. The advertisement read:
The Repatriation Department will continue to provide nursing home care at no cost to the pensioner for chronic conditions accepted as related to war service.
It went on:
However, if you are a special rate pensioner, an Intermediate rate pensioner, a war widow, widowed mother or World War I nurse, you will from 1st January 1973 be eligible, subject to a personal contribution of $2.55 a day, for nursing home care for chronic conditions not accepted as related to war service where the need for such care has been established and you are admitted to a nursing home approved by the Department.
Following the announcement, no doubt many of the eligible pensioners made application. The standard form of reply when those applicants were accepted for benefit read as follows:
I am pleased to inform you that responsibility for the partial cost of your maintenance in-
The name of the nursing home would then be shown - as detailed below will be accepted by the Department. Your contribution is to be paid direct to the proprietor.
In this case it would be intensive care -
Commencing date 1st January 1973.
Approved daily fee SI 5.30 less your contribution of $2.55 - daily rate approved for payment by Repatriation Department $12.75.
In other words, the pensioner was notified that the benefit that was available was nursing home care in an approved home at a cost to him of $2.55 a day, the Repatriation Department undertaking the whole of the additional cost, having approved the home. No reference was made in the advertisement to whether the fee structure of the home had to be separately looked at.
The month of January concluded. The payment was made to the home. The patient paid $2.55 a day or $18 a week. Towards the end of February and into March, this letter was received by patients who had received the benefit:
The Repatriation Department has undertaken to pay your nursing home fees.
Here is the rub -
The maximum rate which they are able to pay is $9.50 a day for ordinary care and $12.50 a day for intensive care. Your hospital has a charge of $12.30 per day for ordinary care and $15.30 per day for intensive care. Are you willing to pay the excess of $2.80 per day?
Two months before, the Department had notified the patient that the patient would only have to pay $2.55 a day and the Department would meet the cost of $15.30. Now, two months later, patients are advised that the Department will only pay $12.50 a day in the case of an intensive care patient and that the balance must be paid by the patient. Later to that a further letter was sent out to the patients n this home to try to explain the situation. It read as follows:
My Department may accept responsibility for the payment of maintenance for certain eligible Repatriation patients accommodated in registered nursing homes subject to a personal patient contribution of $2.55 per day up to a maximum daily rate which is approved by the Repatriation Commission. The present maximum daily rates which have been approved by the Repatriation Commission are $9.50 per day for ordinary nursing care and $12.50 per day for intensive nursing care. (This means that where the nursing home fee is $9.50 a day the Repatriation Department will pay $6.95 and the patient $2.55 per day.) As the fees at present being charged for your maintenance are in excess of the rates approved by the Repatriation Commission, it will be your responsibility to pay the amount in excess, in addition to the mandatory contribution of $2.55 per day.
Patients who were informed 2 months ago that they would have to pay $2.55 a day and are being informed this month that in some instances they will have to pay double that amount daily are being seriously upset by the fact that here is the appearance and the fact of a benefit granted being taken from them.
I pay tribute to the work being done by the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Adelaide in trying to unravel this situation. It appears that an announcement was made. The benefits to be granted were announced to the particular patients but now it is found that the Repatriation Department has a different scale of fees which it approved in relation to approved nursing homes to the scale of fees approved by the Department of Health. It also appears that the Government now has had a look at the question and has said that in some instances the patient should make a greater contribution towards the cost of his care. If that change of decision were to apply to a patient about to enter a nursing home and the circumstances could be outlined to the patient, the patient would be in the position of being able to make his or her own judgment as to whether he or she could afford the cost of $2.55 a day plus the extra that the nursing home wished to charge. However, the people being affected are, in many instances, patients who have been in nursing homes receiving long term care - patients who, whether of a light nursing care nature or of an intensive care nature, have come to regard the nursing homes where they are being properly accommodated as their homes.
In order to try to overcome the financial problem that apparently exists, the Department now is going to these patients and saying: ‘If you want to be liable for only $2.55 a day we will try to find another nursing home where you can go and get accommodation for a charge which does not cost you more than $2.55 a day’. I think it creates an unfair situation for and is an inhumane attitude to people who, in the main, are elderly and sick to cause them this emotional upset by suggesting to them that they move from a home that was approved 2 months ago because the Government has now changed its attitude with regard to the costs being charged by that particular nursing home.
The original advertisement in the Press made no reference to the fact that once the nursing home was approved the eligibility for the benefit at $2.55 a day would be looked at in relation to the charges made by that nursing home. I urge the Government to reexamine the position so that existing patients do not have benefits granted to them 2 months ago taken away from them in circumstances that cause them a great deal of distress.
– I have listened intently to what the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) has said. It is obvious that he has raised a matter that is of serious concern to a number of people. Nevertheless, it appears that he is implying that in all circumstances the Commonwealth should be prepared to underwrite the varying rates which might be charged at any time by nursing homes.
– The honourable member gave this impression. For a long time the former Opposition, the present Government, has taken the view in respect of these matters that there is an obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to ensure that facilities are available for repatriation patients other than those who depend on medical care of a type which would contribute to the remedying of the particular ailments from which they suffer. But despite the contentions made over a long period the fact of the matter is that this area of convalescent care for repatriation patients has been subject to neglect over a long period. Quite contemporaneously, the previous Government started to give some attention to the matter. We are not in the business of underwriting convalescent homes and nursing homes, which in the period of the last Government and particularly the last Parliament, were able to gain such astronomical profits that the organisations concerned were listed on the stock exchange and reaped a great harvest at the expense of the sick in the community. Apparently they set out with the expectation of reaping even greater harvests from a bottomless pit of Commonwealth resources. This Government has set out on a programme designed to ensure a total attitude to care in respect of all people whether it is in regard to those who served in war and suffered as a consequence or people in other circumstances - the ordinary civilian population whose ailments and illnesses and convalescent needs do not have those characteristics.
A great deal has been indicated to the Parliament and the people at large to show that these matters are in the process of radical and effective overhaul. The honourable member for Sturt need have no misunderstanding about the fact that in the very near future many of these ailments from which we are suffering and many of these temporary remedial processes that are now under way will be improved and replaced by more adequate schemes and forms of government action which will bring about a sense of security for all people and which will have a very beneficial effect on the repatriation system that operates throughout the country.
I have listened to what the honourable member has said. One matter is very apparent. It is the fact that the people concerned are suffering and are incurring financial liability that they can probably ill afford. In consideration of that matter, I believe that it is important that I should refer the matter to my colleague in another place, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), because 1 know of his concern about these matters. In keeping with the attitude of this Government and unlike the attitude of the previous Government, I can say this to the honourable member: He has not just stood here on the occasion of an adjournment debate talking into the open spaces. There will be proper account given to what he said. I have no doubt that my colleague in another place will do what no former Minister has ever done to me or perhaps to any of my colleagues who have talked in the adjournment debate on such matters. He will prepare an explanation and an adequate reply to the points raised. I think they will be of a placatory nature. If they are not, I am sure that the Minister will be able to indicate the steps which the Government intends to take to overcome the matters which have been raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon not ice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Public Service Board: Matters Resolved by Consent (Question No. 41)
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
What was the percentage of matters that came before the Public Service Board which was resolved by consent during each calendar year from and including 1966.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The honourable member’s question is not clear as I am advised the Public Service Board deals with a large number and range of matters each year. 1 have assumed the question seeks information on wages and conditions matters to which the Public Service Board was a respondent that came before the Public Service Arbitrator and were resolved by consent. Statistics on these matters are available on a financial rather than a calendar year basis.
I am informed that the percentage of such consent Determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator for each financial year from 1965-66 is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
What was the number of (a) proceedings before Conciliators of the Commonwealth Conciliation and
Arbitration Commission and (b) matters satisfactorily completed during each calendar year from and including 1966.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised that because the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s year begins on 14th August and ends on 13th August of the succeeding year the information requested can only be provided for the annual periods as shown below.
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Temporary disabilities involving the loss of one or more working days or shifts - 270,000
Working time lost from disabilities of one day or longer - 700,000 man-weeks
Claims paid under Workers Compensation and Employers Liability- -$117,435,000.
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
How many technical experts has his Department recruited for overseas assignments with United Nations Agencies, Colombo Plan and similar aid schemes in each of the last 10 calendar years.
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
My Department assists the United Nations and its major specialised agencies and the Department of Foreign Affairs in the recruitment of experts for overseas assignments. The Department provides a referral and pre-selection service for the various organisations which are, in turn, responsible for the final selection of candidates and allocation of assignments.
The numbers of persons appointed from Australia to such overseas assignments in each of the past 10 calendar years are set out in the following table:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
What information is available concerning the number of persons holding more than one job.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In November 1965, August 1966 and 1967, and May 1971 the Commonwealth Statistician conducted surveys of the nature and extent of multiple job holding in Australia. The results of the 1971 survey are shown in the following table.
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
How many overseas trainees has his Department placed in (a) technical colleges, (b) labour administrations, and (c) industry, in each of the last 10 calendar years.
– 1 am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
In view of his statements that Commonwealth taxation increases will not be necessary to finance the many proposals of the Government which involve increased expenditure because sufficient increased revenue will be raised from growth in incomes and turnover, will he state (a) the estimated increase in expenditure as a result of decisions made and (b) the estimated increase in revenue for each month to 30th June 1974, so that these estimates can be compared with the actual figures when they become known.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 March 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19730329_reps_28_hor82/>.