28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme;
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a General Practitioner, Specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as’ in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr Bonnett, Mr Corbett, Mr Katter, Mr Killen, Mr McVeigh and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Snedden, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Cooke, MrDrury, Mr Giles, Mr McLeay and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work - integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr McMahon, Mr MacKellar and Mr Turner.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Kerin.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. It concerns the establishment of an institute of international law. By way of very brief preface may I observe that a very distinguished former Foreign Minister whose career was somewhat disturbed by the vagaries of political existence - I refer to His Honour
Mr Justice Bowen said in this House on one occasion that be saw very considerable merit in the establishment of such an institute. I ask the Prime Minister, having regard to the Law of the Sea Conference to be held next year and the great complexities attaching to determining a regime for the control of the seabed, whether he will consider making a contemporary assessment of the merits of such a suggestion.
– I will be very happy indeed to respond to the honourable and learned gentleman’s suggestion. He and I wen both sufficiently in the confidence of my predecessor as Foreign Minister - Mr Justice Bowen, as he now is - to know how much he was interested in this proposal. I think the honourable member will remember that one reason why it did not go ahead was that the person he had in mind as the first director of the institute transferred from his Chair in Australia to the most distinguished Chair of international law in the common law world - the Chichele Chair at Oxford. I will find out what is the present position of the plans. The honourable gentleman will realise that this will involve me consulting with my former Department of Foreign Affairs and also with my colleague the Attorney-General. I am sure the honourable member will appreciate what has been done by my Government in respect to the Rome Institute, The Hague Institute and the International Commission of Jurists, in respect of all of which there is an appropriation in this year’s Budget. He will also be interested to know that one of the last things I did as Foreign Minister was to put in train the establishment of an international law division in the Department of Foreign Affairs based on the Canadian model.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral by drawing the Minister’s attention to an incident which took place outside the Sunshine Court in Victoria on 28 February this year when members of the Nazi Party appeared wearing swastikas, and a fight broke out following which a number of people was arrested. In view of the British Act of Parliament of 1936 which bans the wearing of uniforms in connection with political objects, and the statement of the Premier of Victoria earlier this year that consideration had to be given to legislation banning members of the
Nazi Party from wearing uniforms and swastika insignia in public, I ask: Does the Minister agree that the wearing of Nazi uniforms and swastika insignia is both disturbing and provocative to a large number of Australians? Will the Australian Government move to implement the United Nations resolution against Nazism? Will discussions be held with the various States with a view to their passing complementary legislation? In view of the provocation involved at Sunshine, will the Attorney-General give consideration to requesting an amnesty for those persons arrested and convicted following the incident?
– As to the first of the several questions asked by the honourable member, I do not think that there can be any doubt that the average Australian would be provoked by the sight of Nazi uniforms being worn in the streets of Australia. As to the other questions asked by the honourable member and the problems inherent in them, I will certainly refer them to the AttorneyGeneral for his sympathetic consideration. It seems to me that the problem of banning of political parties is, of course, a very difficult one. When one considers the Nazi Party one has to take the view that it is hardly in the same accord or category of organisations as would be called political parties because it rests almost entirely on a principle of violence, racism, anti-semitism, the repudiation of all democratic principles, the fuehrer principle and the negation of everything which the democratic principles reflect and for which this Parliament, for example, stands. I think that any member of this House who went through the experience of the years of World War II and saw what nazism could do to the world will agree with me. The camps of Dachau, Buchenwald, Auschwitz, Treblinka and others of that sort can only be a reminder of the horrors that the nazis are capable of producing. The wearing in public gatherings of the nazi uniform is a symbol of that hatred and that violence for which the Nazi Party stands. I will certainly draw the Attorney-General’s attention to the matters implicit in the honourable member’s question.
– I wish to ask a question of Minister for Defence. Is it correct that the Airfield Construction Squadron of the Royal
Australian Air Force, which can construct an airstrip suitable for front line fighters in 7 days, has been disbanded by the Government? How does he propose in any future conflict that RAAF forward airstrips be constructed?
– The Airfield Construction Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force is currently extending the airfield at Learmonth. That work is due for completion in 1974. After the work has been completed there will be no work of a comparable nature that would justify the continuation of the Royal Australian Air Force Airfield Construction Squadron in Australia. It has the capability, as I think the honourable member mentioned, to construct an airfield within a period of 7 days, using equipment that is designed to meet an emergency requirement. Sufficient equipment is available in Australia for this to be done during an emergency. However in order to continue the existence of the Royal Australian Air Force Airfield Construction Squadron, I have initiated inquiries to ascertain whether it is possible to justify the use and retention of the squadron in assisting developing countries in their aid programs. This inquiry now is under way and when the information is available to me a decision will be made on whether the squadron should be disbanded or retained.
– Is the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation aware that a Bill which has been introduced into the Western Australia Parliament is designed to allow Trans- Australia Airlines to enter into intrastate services in that State? Can the Minister indicate the advantages which would flow to the people of Western Australia, particularly those in the north and north-west areas, if TAA is permitted to operate in Western Australia?
– It is correct that, I think yesterday or the day before, a Bill was introduced into the Legislative Council in Western Australia to provide for TransAustralia Airlines to operate intrastate services in Western Australia. I understand that the Bill will be debated next week. In regard to what this will represent to Western Australia, I should like to say first and foremost that this matter was raised in this place almost 12 months ago by the former Government when it extended the period of the 2- airline agreement between Ansett Airlines of Australia and TAA. The previous Government gave an assurance that TAA would be permitted to operate intrastate services in Western Australia. I am hoping that, likewise, the Liberal and Country Parties in Western Australia will honour the assurances that were given in this place and in the Senate by the then Minister for Civil Aviation.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie asked what advantages will flow to, in effect the people of Western Australia as a whole. There will be an immediate reduction in air fares because, at present, MacRobertson Miller Airline Services, which is a fully owned subsidiary of Ansett, charges one fare, which is the top fare. TAA has given an assurance that it will introduce 2 classes of fares - first class and economy class - which will permit a 20 per cent reduction in fares for the people of Western Australia. Just to give the honourable member an example, for persons prepared to travel by economy class between Perth and Darwin there will be a saving of $62 on a return journey. That is just on that particular trip. If we take Port Hedland as another example, there will be a reduction of S30 in the return fare between Perth and Port Hedland. That is one advantage which TAA’s entry into this service will represent.
The people of Western Australia have something to look forward to. These fare reductions will help to stimulate tourist activity in Western Australia. Western Australia badly needs assistance in this type of development. TAA’s entry into Western Australia will enable the introduction of cheaper fares and TAA will be able to introduce into that State package tours of the kind that it has introduced into every other State of the Commonwealth. These are concessions which, in the past, Ansett has been reluctant to grant. One of my directions to TAA was to introduce off-peak concession fares. This was resisted by Ansett and the former Government, but it is now operational. This is the type of concession that the people of Western Australia can look forward to. DC9 aircraft will operate on this service and, of course,, instead of companies in Western Australia having to wait up to a week and having to pay excess freight rates between Perth and other centres, because of the larger aircraft which will be operating and which will be able to carry about another 4,800 lb of cargo they will be able to move their freight at a much cheaper rate than at present. Rumours have been circulated in Western Australia to the effect that because of the introduction of TAA, MacRobertson Miller will have to withdraw some of its services. An assurance has already been given by Sir Frederick Scherger that any services relinquished by MacRobertson Miller will be taken up by TAA. So, I assure the honourable member for Kalgoorlie that his constituents have nothing to fear from TAA coming into operation in Western Australia and that they have very much to gain from reduced fares and a better service.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. When will he show me, as promised, the letters of protest against the national health scheme from Gympie about which he made serious allegations and which he has since repeated to me in a letter? Does he, by dismissing these letters and protests, indicate that he thinks that Australians and Gympie citizens are so stupid that they will sign and send letters of protest to their member unless those letters are an expression of their intent and feeling? When he says he is sending literature to each such correspondent in my electorate, does he mean the pamphlet ‘The Australian Health Insurance Program - The Plain Facts’ or some equally discredited document? Should he not make a contribution towards reducing government expenditure and controlling inflation by saving this pointless postage?
– I commence by apologising to the honourable member if he has not seen those letters. I understood that he had. I certainly gave an instruction that he should see them. If he does he will see what seems, to me anyway, to be some forgeries in that there is a similarity in handwriting in more than one of the letters. As I pointed out on a previous occasion, all are written on the same note pad paper, and by an amazing coincidence the paper is exactly the same size as a doctor’s prescription pad. If it is the honourable member’s suggestion that the people of Gympie would be so stupid as to send that type of letter to me, I let the matter rest there. He suggests that we are wasting money on publicising the health insurance program. Actually it was a limited expenditure that we undertook.
– How little?
– How limited?
– Wait for it. It was a little over a quarter of a million dollars.
– Party propaganda.
– Wait, there is much more to come. It will be very interesting, especially for the Country Party. It cost a little over a quarter of a million dollars to put out that very simple and straight statement on the essentials of the scheme. The honourable member will be interested to know that there was a very rewarding write-in response from people who cut out the coupons that appeared in advertisements in the newspapers and sought copies of the pamphlet, and there was also an extremely rewarding response from people who collected the pamphlet from post offices.
Once or twice members of the Country Party have raised the question that it was a waste of money to do this or, alternatively or in combination, have suggested that we have no authority to do this sort of thing. I have a little booklet of about 30 pages and entitled National Health’. It was produced in 1953 by Sir Earle Page, who was then the Leader of the Country Party. He spent on that publication £135,000, which in real money terms was much more than we have spent on our booklet. Sir Earle Page had a copy of his booklet posted to every householder in Australia at the taxpayers’ expense, but he had no legislative authority to do so. It was several months after he embarked on this effort that he obtained the legislative enactment of this Parliament for his health insurance program. Frankly, I would not be a party to such an irresponsible use or misuse of the taxpayers’ money. In response to the enormous volume of inquiries we have had seriously seeking information, as distinct from the artificially contrived opposition that comes from various points such as Gympie in the honourable -member’s electorate - I might state that it will be a short lived exercise in opposition - we produced this pamphlet. It was in response to public demand.
Finally, I suggest to the honourable member that the next time letters of protest come in from Gympie, apart from some of them being in similar handwriting and air of them appearing on the same sort of notepaper it might be advisable not to send them all in one envelope.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Does Australia discriminate in its advertising in relation to migration from any country, particularly from countries in Asia? If so, to what extent does this discrimination occur, and in what form? If there is no improper discrimination, will the Minister refute reports that Australia is engaging in such discrimination?
– Australia’s immigration program is totally and completely nondiscriminatory and based, in fact, on the assessment of individuals and not on their racial background, the pigmentation of their skin or their religion. In advertising we move into a realm which is dictated very much by the response of the countries concerned. In certain instances - in fact, in many instances - we are discouraged from undertaking such advertising. In other instances we are specifically prohibited from undertaking such advertising. So for reasons of goodwill and good neighbourliness we must proceed on a basis that the governments of other countries will accept. That is a responsible position and one to which we adhere. One of the things that happened with the change of administration and my own assumption of office was that I cancelled the advertising program which had been running, I thought on wrong lines, in the United Kingdom and on which in 1971-72 we spent $522,000. The advertising was selling Australia like selling soap. It indicated that we were offering some kind of instant paradise. Tn the last few months this procedure resulted in many letters from British migrants saying that they felt that it was misleading. So, in fact, that campaign with that procedure was suspended.
– Finish the answer.
– We had to look responsibly on what ought to be done, and in 1972- 73 our expenditure on advertising in the United Kingdom was of the order of $182,000. This year it will be marginally above that figure.
– Mr Speaker, how long is this answer to go on?
– The whole of the emphasis of the present campaign is entirely different. It is designed to be responsible in giving facts with the invitation to people that we wish to come to Australia. There have been some interjections by the Leader of the Opposition. Per haps his conscience is pricking him a little because of the returnees in the last 5 years running at 25 per cent. This situation was revealed by an investigation that his own administration authorised, so I should think that his conscience would prick him on this matter.
– I rise to a point of order. The Opposition is tired of these Dorothy Dix answers that go on day after day. The Minister is an obvious failure if he cannot answer questions in much shorter time than he is taking.
-Order! There is no point of order. However, I would suggest to the House that the questions and answers should be as brief as possible. I do not like to see the abuse of question time by either’ side of the House. I ask the Minister to make his answer to the question as brief as possible.
– I, of course, reject the somewhat arrogant statement made most improperly by the Leader of the Opposition in taking a point of order. He spoke of ministerial failures. He would know more about them than anyone else. In summation, I rebut the suggestion that there is any discrimination, either in the policy or in the advertising that goes with it.
– Does the Prime Minister agree that legislation designed to eventually change the Australian Constiution is legislation of considerable significance and that if the Australian people are to be asked to express an informed and considered view on the proposals to change the Constitution, the Parliament should have adequate time to debate the legislation? Was the Prime Minister aware of or was he party to the dictatorial decision of the Leader of the House to apply the guillotine to the 3 Constitution Alteration Bills now before the Parliament? Will the Prime Minister, in the interest of ensuring that the Australian people are allowed to be made aware of the great ramifications of the 2 Bills still under discussion in this House, reconsider, even at this late stage, the decision to use the guillotine, recognising that the matter involves much more than the simple proposition put to us by the Leader of the House that all we are being asked to do is to let the people decide? Will the Prime Minister accept my assurance that the members of my Party, provided reasonable time is made available to them to place their view on these important matters before the House, will co-operate with the Government in dealing with. these 2 Bills as expeditiously as possible, but the Opposition will not accept the prostitution of the workings of this Parliament by the application of the guillotine on such an important issue?
-Order! I just made an appeal about the length of questions and answers and it applies in respect of any Minister abusing question time by giving a long answer to a question. However, the question asked by the Leader of the Country Party was too long, and such questions invite long answers. I appeal to honourable members on all sides of the House to be as brief as possible in the asking and the answering of questions.
– I have no complaint about the conduct of the right honourable gentlemen’s Party during the incidents last night. Those incidents have meant that there will be about an hour and three-quarters less debating time on the second constitutional Bill under guillotine than there would otherwise have been, lt might be well to recall that the whole fracas arose from the deliberate attitude of the members of the Liberal Party.
– On a point of order: If the Prime Minister is going to give an account of what he believes happened last night, I ask for leave of the House to give an account following his, for this debate is being broadcast to many listeners, and the Opposition does not intend to put up with a one-sided presentation of matters in this Parliament.
-Order! In regard to the point of order, if the right honourable gentleman likes to seek leave to make a statement, that will be a matter for the House to decide, not for me.
– I submit that it is a matter for you to decide there will be even handed conduct of this Parliament. If the Prime Minister intends to use question time in the way he has given notice of doing, then honourable members on this side of the House need to be given equal protection.
– I regret that my hospitality last night was abused. In an attempt to frustrate the recording of the constitutional vote required on these Bills, 2 devices were used.
– On a point of order: On behalf of everbody on this side of the House, I find the Prime Minister’s remark extremely insulting, and demand a withdrawal.
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I invite honourable gentlemen to look at the honourable gentleman’s eyes, even this morning.
– On a point of order -
-Order! The House will come to order.
– You must be ashamed of yourself.
– You ought to. be ashamed of yourself, too. Look at him: Look at his bleary face.
– You are being gutless.
– It is what he put in his guts that rooted him.
– On a point of order. I ask the Prime Minister to repeat the exact words he just used. I hope that Hansard wrote them down. Did Hansard get those words?
M Wentworth - On a point of order -
-Order! There was a personal reflection, and I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw.
– Well, if it was heard, I will withdraw it, but do people want to hear what it was? It is of no use withdrawing something that was not recorded. Was it recorded? I understand that it was recorded. Well, honourable members will be able to see what it was. I withdraw it; it was out of order.
– On a point of order: Everybody knows that the Government would not have made the procedural mistakes that it made last night -
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker-
– If the honourable member refuses to obey the Chair, I will see that he is dealt with. He did not get the call for his point of order, and I ask him in future to take notice of the orders of the Chair as they are given. I will not tolerate this sort of behaviour.
– I thank you very much, Sir.
- Mr Speaker, the Opposition last night failed to say ‘no’ when you put the question on the third reading. The Opposition tellers whom you appointed refused to act. By those 2 devices it hoped to frustrate the recording of the absolute majority, which the Constitution requires. Furthermore, there would have been much longer - about an hour - to debate the first of the constitutional referendum Bills under guillotine if the Opposition had not moved to discuss a matter of public importance yesterday. As many honourable members will have noticed, there is another referendum Bill on the blue paper for today. Notice was given last night. Several members of the Opposition will know that I mentioned the prospect of this Bill on Tuesday. After discussion with them I decided not to bring it in until later this week, and debate on it therefore will not be resumed until next Wednesday to allow consideration of that Bill by their caucuses.
Ample time has been given to debate these matters. I would recall to honourable gentlemen that the proposed Bills were mentioned at the Constitutional Convention at the beginning of September. I mentioned that they were coming in on the first sitting day of the House after that Constitutional Convention concluded. As honourable gentlemen will realise, the 3 Bills which are under guillotine have been in the Government Party’s platform for the last 2i years. Furthermore, if the Bills are rejected or shelved by the Senate, then honourable members will have an opportunity to debate them afresh after an interval of 3 months when I shall introduce them again in this House.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to reports in this morning’s Press concerning the exemption of mining income and dividends from income tax? Can he explain what the Government has decided is to be done about the exemption of this income?
– I thank the honourable member for asking that question because it gives me the opportunity to explain what Caucus did and did not do yesterday. I might mention that what was done in Caucus, no matter how powerful that body is, has nothing to do with the fall in the price of gold this morning. The
Budget Bill in the form in which it is currently before the House does 3 things as far as this matter is concerned. It takes away exemptions that formerly applied as to 100 per cent of gold mining profits, as to 20 per cent of profits from mining other prescribed minerals, and as to dividends declared after Budget day out of profits which have been exempt as gold mining or prescribed mineral profits. What yesterday’s Caucus decision does is to withdraw and defer action on eliminating the tax exemption for gold mining profits and the 20 per cent of profits from mining certain other minerals.
However, what the Caucus decision did not do was withdraw the provisions concerning dividends paid out of those profits. That matter still stands as it is currently before the House.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. On 27 September in reply to a question which I had put on the notice paper the Prime Minister listed the interdepartmental committees on which were represented the 2 departments for which he was responsible at the time - that is, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Department. His Ministers have since refused to answer similar questions with respect to their departments despite his statement in this House on 7 November in which he said, in part:
It is only by knowing what departments are represented on committees which are considering certain subjects that the public and members of Parliament, above all, can ascertain what aspects a government considers relevant to the consideration of those matters which have been entrusted to the committees. That is my view …. I expect that Ministers will answer in the spirit of the answers which I have given to questions. I am not aware that they have not done so. I expect them to do so. I will see that they do so.
Will he give the appropriate instruction to his Ministers based on his clear assurance of 7 November, that they are to provide lists of interdepartmental committees in which their departments are involved?
– Last week the right honourable gentleman asked me a question based on the assumption that my Ministers had not answered questions concerning interdepartmental committees in accordance with my instructions or undertakings. He has since placed questions on notice to many of them based on the same assumption. My Ministers and I have followed the practice of our predecessors in refusing to authorise the expenditure of time and money involved in answering questions seeking grab all, dragnet, generalised information on interdepartmental committees. They and I have, however, repudiated the practice of our predecessors in refusing to answer questions on specific interdepartmental committees. As I told the right honourable member at question time 8 weeks ago, and as my Ministers have since repeated in written answers to him, we shall provide information on the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee and for what period of time it has been active. I have consistently and promptly done so myself and I am sure my Ministers will do so.
I notice today that in an editorial the Financial Review’ asserts that I had not given information in one of the answers to which the right honourable gentleman refers concerning the Standing Interdepartmental Comlar the editorial asserts that information on the. IDC only came out when dropped in Parliament by a Labor backbencher. The fact is that the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Assistance to Industries was established by me in a letter to my colleagues dated 13 April last and it appears as appendix 5 to Sir John Crawford’s report on a commission to advise on assistance to industries. All honourable members have had that report for close on 5 months. The Committee is listed in the answer which I gave to the right honourable gentleman on 27 September. It is the second of the committees which I listed. The right honourable gentleman followed up his question by seeking information, which I had promised to give, concerning the composition, function and time-table of certain interdepartmental committees - about half a dozen - which were among the 2 dozen or 30-odd which I had listed for him on 27 September. I forget now whether this particular committee was among those on which he sought information. I certainly would have given him the information, as I did with regard to all the committees about which he asked me, if in fact he had not asked me about this one.
– Why will your Ministers not give the same information as you gave in answer to the question?
– They are acting in accordance with the undertaking that I gave 8 weeks ago. If the honourable gentleman asks them about any specific committee they will give information, as I have. I quote here an instance where an interdepartmental committee is asserted to be a mystery. In fact information about it has been available to the Press and to all honourable members for at least 5 months. Yesterday, the right honourable gentleman asked me a question based on the assumption that in the early weeks of my Government - he left out ‘in the early weeks of my Government’ - I had sought a consolidated list of interdepartmtental committees or that I had been given such a list. I did not receive such a list and I find, as I thought was the case, that I had not requisitioned it.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether he has seen the extravagant electioneering statements made by Mr Morris, the New South Wales Liberal Minister for Transport, in which he refers to improvements in rail transport in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Gosford and Wollongong, and claims that these proposals will be implemented only if the Liberal Government of that State is re-elected? To what extent are these electioneering promises related to the program of works in relation to which the Australian Government has agreed, under its urban public transport initiatives, to contribute two-thirds of the cost of improved transport services in New South Wales?
– I have seen the statements made by the Minister for Transport in New South Wales. I assure the honourable member for Macquarie, that all the proposals to which he has referred are items which have been tentatively approved by this Government in its policy of upgrading urban transport and in respect of which we have given the assurance that we will contribute two-thirds of the cost. To make wild statements to the effect that this work will be carried out only by a Liberal Government is to utter a complete lie. We do not care whether it is a Labor Government or a Liberal Government which is in power - we know that a Labor government will be elected in New South Wales on Saturday-
– What odds will you give?
– We do not care whether it is a Labor government or a Liberal government that will be implementing this policy. We will make this contribution to any government that is prepared to upgrade its public transport in order to provide facilities much better than exist at present. It may be interesting for honourable members to know that the Australian Government has reached agreement already with 3 States on terms under which money can be allocated to the States. As yet that agreement does not include New South Wales Ministers. They have been a little tardy in their approach to it. This extravagant claim that is being made by Mr Morris is typical of the extravagant claims being made by other New South Wales Ministers about what they will do in the fields of health, hospitals, education and so on. All their election promises are based on money which is being made available by the Australian Government to New South Wales and other States to upgrade their various facilities for the people of those States. These are the facts. All the money that is being provided for education is being provided by the Australian Government, through the Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, and not by the States. The same thing applies to transport.
We are already considering a program involving approximately $200m for New South Wales. Mr Speaker, if you examine the record of the New South Wales Labor Party in transport you will find that in the 8 years prior to 1965, when the Labor Government was defeated, the Labor Government maintained bus fares at 15c for 6 sections. Since 1965 the New South Wales Liberal Government has increased fares to an average of 35c for the same journey. There has been over a 100 per cent increase in rail fares since the Liberal Government took office in New South Wales. As a result of increased fares there has been a serious decline in the number of people using public transport in New South Wales. We are pledged to correct this situation. We are determined that people will be encouraged to use public transport at a fare they can afford and with the comfort to which they are entitled. The statement by Mr Morris is a phoney one. The money is being provided by us to any government, irrespective of what political breed it is.
– Does the Prime Minister recall his assurance to this House that his Government should, and indeed would, take decisions on Tariff Board reports without referring them first to either Caucus or a Caucus committee? Does the Prime Minister realise inc immediate commercial opportunity that any Caucus committee member would receive if he were to know in advance whether a particular company was to receive a particular tariff advantage? Does the Prime Minister know that today’s Press carries a story that the previously announced policy on this matter is to be changed and that Caucus or a committee of Caucus is now to have prior knowledge of tariff alterations? Does the Prime Minister think that this is a proper procedure?
– I have not seen all the Press reports on this matter. It would not be a proper procedure, and it will not be the procedure followed by any government of which I am the leader. I made this matter quite plain in an earlier answer, I believe, to the honourable member for Berowra. Every Minister has a copy of a Tariff Board report before Cabinet makes a decision on any such report. No other person in the Parliament should have a copy of any such report. If I learnt that any Minister showed his copy of a report to any other member of the Parliament I would relieve him of his post.
– Can you do so under your rules?
– If the position arises we will see what would happen. If my Party were to purport to rule that Tariff Board reports were to be seen before the Cabinet decision was made or announced I would surrender the commission that I have to form a govern* ment. The consequences of persons against whom there are not sanctions to keep matters confidential gaining information of such matters are as the honourable gentleman says.
– What about the gold subsidy?
– The honourable gentleman makes an interjection. There is far too much confusion, much of it maliciously fomented as to the processes of the Australian Labor Party. Every member of the Australian Labor Party in every Parliament in Australia makes a collective decision, usually after proper discussion, very often after preliminary consideration by committees, on any matter which comes to a vote in his Parliament. It is, therefore, quite possible for a decision which Labor Ministers make to be reversed or altered by a full meeting of the Parliamentary Party. This happened yesterday in respect to the gold subsidy. Of course, it could happen in regard to any decision on, say, a Tariff Board matter, because any decision that a government has to make on tariffs has to be validated in the Parliament. It comes to a vote in each House of the Parliament.
Every member of the Australian Labor Party in the Parliament joins in coming to a collective decision as to how the Party will vote on such validating legislation. Nevertheless, the Party chooses who will be Ministers. I decide what portfolios those Ministers will have. I have no reason to believe that the Ministers who have been elected by the full Party have betrayed any trust. I do not have any reason to believe that any Minister to whom I have assigned a portfolio has not been worthy of my judgment in that respect.
The Australian Government, at present composed totally of Labor Party members, will come to a decision on the colour television matter. I imagine that, when the decision is made, it will become public knowledge, as happened under all preceding governments. I might even announce it myself, but at least it will become public knowledge whether or not I announce it, as has been the experience of every Prime Minister, or whether the Minister concerned in protection matters announces it. The decision will be made by the Government. Ministers are sworn to secrecy in these matters and it would be completely irresponsible as well as illegal for any Minister to reveal what comes to him under such conditions of confidence. I thank the honourable gentleman, whose interest in tariff matters I have admired for at least a decade, for giving me the opportunity to make this matter clear promptly and, I trust, beyond any doubt inside or outside the Parliament.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During question time the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) used the words about me: ‘It is what he puts in his guts that rooted him’. I wish to put that statement by the Prime Minister on record so that the Australian people will know what an arrogant, foul-mouthed individual is this man who masquerades as a statesman.
-Order! A person making a personal explanation should state where he has been misrepresented. The Chair does not ask for comment, irrespective of from whom or from which side of the House it comes. In a personal explanation an honourable member may state where he has been misrepresented but he may not make a speech about it.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) correctly quoted the aside I made. I want to point out that the aside was made in response to an aside by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) who said, I think, that I was gutless. I do not care now whether both asides go on the record. I withdrew my aside. I did not withdraw the remark I made about the honourable gentleman when he interjected during my response to a question. I asked honourable gentlemen and everybody in the galleries to observe the honourable gentleman’s condition and appearance this morning.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for that to be withdrawn.
-Order! If the honourable gentleman has been offended, I will ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the statement.
– No, Sir. I believe I correctly quoted the right honourable gentleman.
– Let us be clear about this. I did say to the Prime Minister that he was being gutless.
-I did not hear you say that.
– I said that. It was in response to that that the Prime Minister used the words of which I complain. I am asking for a withdrawal of the words to the effect that people should observe the condition this morning of my friend and colleague the honourable member for Barker. I ask for those words to be withdrawn. There is absolutely no warrant for their being said. It is the worst form of abuse the Prime Minister could use and I ask for those words to be withdrawn unqualifiedly and unreservedly.
– I ask for your guidance, Mr Speaker. I am trying to follow the point made by the Leader of the Opposition because I may want to raise a point of order. Is the-
– Sit down.
-Order! If the honourable member for Boothby interjects again I will name him. What is the Minister for Social Security seeking to do?
– To raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, ls the Leader of the Opposition apologising for the condition and appearance of the honourable member for Barker?
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you whether you said a moment ago: ‘If the honourable member is offended, I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw’.
-Order! I did not hear the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition. If I had heard it I would have asked him to withdraw in the first place. I believe that it was a provocative remark which made possible the retort from the Prime Minister.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I again ask you whether you said: ‘If the honourable member is offended, I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw’.
-Order! That is correct. But the point is that I did not know at that time that the Leader of the Opposition had referred to the Prime Minister as being gutless.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. When the Prime Minister made his first reflection upon the the honourable member for Barker you stated: ‘I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that remark as it reflects on a member’. The remark that he made then has since been repeated. I ask, because I find it to be personally offensive, that the Prime Minister withdraw that remark.
– He ought to be ashamed of himself.
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland keeps on chipping in all the time. I warn him.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! I have not given a decision yet. There will be only one point of order before the Chair at a time. I have just given a decision that I did not know that the
Leader of the Opposition had referred to the Prime Minister as being gutless. It is possible that the Prime Minister’s retort was provoked by that interjection from the Leader of the Opposition. I did not hear the Leader of the Opposition make a statement about the Prime Minister being gutless. If I had, I certainly would have asked him to withdraw it. But because he was not asked to withdraw and because it provoked the answer from the Prime Minister, I will not ask the Prime Minister to withdraw.
– Let us both withdraw what we said.
– Oh, well.
– Mr Speaker, the issue before you is the statement by the Prime Minister inviting everybody to examine the condition of the honourable member for Barker this morning.
-I believe it would be fair, as the Prime Minister has just suggested, if the right honourable gentleman withdrew his remark and the Prime Minister withdrew his remark.
– Who is instructing you?
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Chisholm to withdraw that remark. If he does not withdraw, I will name him.
– What do I have to withdraw?
-The remark asking whom I was taking instructions from.
– I asked you who you were -
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Chisholm to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
– I think that earlier today I made a slip of the tongue. I understand it has been corrected in Hansard but I thought I should properly report this to the House. It was the Leader of the House whose condition I thought was partly responsible for the confusion last night.
– For the information of honourable members, I present ‘Procedures for Australian Government Grants to Local Government’, a joint paper presented by the Special Minister of State, Senator Willesee, and myself.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the first report of the Migrant Task Force of South Australia, together with a brief resume of the report.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Scholarships Board for 1972.
Bill returned without requests.
Whitlam Government - Perth Airport: Night Curfew - Prices Referendum - Political Parties - Electoral - Discrimination against Women - Coal Industry
That grievances be noted.
– In the 10 minutes available to me I want to say a few words about the style and structure of the present Government. First of all, it has been said time and time again by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that he has a mandate to do this or that. I want to make the point that when in the course of an election campaign a political leader makes what he is pleased to call a policy speech and a number of other speeches and issues supplementary statements and so on there may be 199 different matters that he has mentioned. To claim that he has a mandate for every one of these is of course on the face of it obviously absurd. If we had a ballot paper in which people were asked: Are you in favour of this, that or the other?’ and we went down the list of 199 matters, we probably would find that there were few indeed of those matters mentioned by a political leader which would have the endorsement of the majority of the people.
I illustrate this - merely illustrate it - by referring to the promise with regard to a national anthem. The honourable member for
Warringah (Mr MacKellar) has a notice on the notice paper which precludes me from going into that matter in any detail, and I do not intend to. But I merely give this illustration. The Prime Minister has no mandate for implementing this promise in the way that he proposes, even if we accepted that the majority of the people wanted it. I believe that only by means of a referendum is it possible for the people to feel that they are really participating. For some survey to be taken amongst elected people is not to the point. Clearly the people must feel that they are participating and this Parliament should participate.
There has been an arrogant refusal by the Prime Minister to include, for example, the national anthem that we have had for so long, God Save the Queen. I am not arguing in favour of it or against it. I am merely saying that the people have been denied a choice and I take that as an example of the abuse of the idea of a mandate. It is an arrogant refusal to give people a choice that they plainly want, whether you, Mr Speaker, or I or anybody else believes in the choice that they may make. What the Prime Minister forgets is that we cannot thrust a national anthem down the throats of the people. If they will not have it, they will boycott it. They will not stand for it. They will not honour it. Unless the Prime Minister brings this to the Parliament - indeed, it has been brought to the Parliament through the initiative of an honourable member on this side of the House - and it is debated here, unless there is some bi-partisan approach on this matter, and unless the people as a whole participate, it does not matter what mandate the Prime Minister claims; he can give no effect to it.
Still dealing with the style of the Government, I move on to the question of the Constitution - not to debate the Bills at present before the House or which may be put before the House but simply to say that an attempt is being made to tear up the Federal Constitution. In the earlier stages of this Government or, I suppose technically, its predecessor in the days of the diumvirate, we had scores of things done for months and months without them coming to the Parliament. The Government ransacked every provision in the Acts of the Parliament which had been passed to find means of doing things for which there has been no debate or warrant and not even the vestige of a claim for a mandate. This went on for months and months. Since then we have had a situation where an attempt has made to tear up the Consitution by stealth. For example, we had the legislation relating to the Department of Urban and Regional Development which was designed to set up regions in Australia to which money might be given for purposes approved by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development.
If we starve the States as a deliberate process and policy and feed local government as a deliberate policy we reach a stage where one part of the Federal Constitution, the States, are destroyed and another part, local government, is built up in their place so that we replace our federal form of government with the kind of government which exists in the United Kingdom where they have one central government at Westminster and county councils, borough councils and so forth administering details in the regions. This has been done by stealth. One would think that if the Australian people wished to change their form of Constitution from a federal to a unitary system, the right way to do this would be for a government to come out and state plainly what it wished to do, give the arguments in favour of what it wished to do and finally, by referendum, put it to the people instead of seeking to do it by stealth. I have time to give only that one illustration but others will spring to the minds of honourable members.
We have seen a steady degeneration of the Parliament. We have seen question time used simply as a vehicle for propaganda on the part of Ministers of this Government. In response to questions - often Dorothy Dix questions, as we describe them - we have Ministers pouring out propaganda which has little relationship to the question that has been asked. The Standing Orders are perfectly plain on this matter, but they have been ignored. This is a complete abuse of the process of this Parliament. Actually, the importance of Parliament is that the Executive - the Government, the Ministers - is answerable to it. When we reach a situation where Ministers make it impossible for questions to be asked or, if they are asked, they do not answer them, no longer is the Executive responsible to the Parliament and so we destroy Parliament, treating it simply as a rubber stamp to give effect to the decisions of the Executive. It will be that and nothing more because only this can give legitimacy to decisions of the Government; only this will be enforced by the courts; only this will have effect in the community. This of course has always been the function of Parliament. Debate and discussion is the essence of Parliament itself, and this has been steadily eroded and is in the process of being destroyed. The people do not know that they no longer have a Parliament in the true sense of the word. There is a thing here with the name of Parliament. There is a place here called Parliament House. But that does not make a parliament. The Parliament has been steadily eroded. There has been a deliberate move by the Government, and particularly by the Prime Minister, to turn the media into a substitute for Parliament. These are people who are not elected, these are people whose criteria are different from ours. We are in touch with our constituents and we know their aspirations. In the media, all one gets is people seeking to entertain with trivia or whatever it may be. So Parliament is ceasing to be in effect the tribune of the people. Because of the fact that the plebians were not represented in the Roman Senate, the Romans invented the idea of tribunes - special officers to protect the interests of the people, with special powers of veto of certain legislation and so on. It was the Roman invention. But the British invented the parliamentary system to look after the interests of the mass of the people. Now we are destroying this and handing over this function to the media, which have no responsibility in the matter at all. All I can say is: God help the people if they have to depend on the media- as the tribunes of the people.
Now a word about the structure of the present Government. Ministers are elected by the Caucus. But can they be dismissed? A Prime Minister cannot dismiss his Ministers. It does not matter what a Minister does, how incompetent he is or how much he may defy the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister cannot dismiss him. Furthermore the Government can be overruled by Caucus. The result is uncertainty and irresponsibility in government. As I have illustrated in this House, we have seen oppressiveness, arrogance and a dictatorial attitude, and insults have been thrown across the chamber and have reduced the Parliament to a shambles. The reason for its being reduced to a shambles is that these insults are thrown, and they naturally provoke a response. As I mentioned earlier at question time, when a Minister can make a propaganda speech and the Opposition has no right to reply to it, then of course there will be a reaction that results in turmoil and the kind of thing that we have seen not only in the last few days-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– -I rise to continue my protest on behalf of those constituents of mine - and possibly yours, Mr Deputy Speaker - who have constantly complained at the inability to get any Government to decide to apply a night curfew to Perth Airport or to arrive at a final decision as to its resiting. Over many years protests have been made and petitions lodged with this Parliament on the both matters, but to no avail. I can appreciate that a State and Federal committee are currently examining the possibilities of another site, but to all appearances this will not affect our generation as the extensions and additions to Perth Airport currently continue, ensuring that it will not be an economic or traffic demand possibility to have it resited. Let us face it: The more money spent there, the less likely it is to be shifted. In fact even with the deciding on another site, there are no plans to abandon this one. So the Department of Civil Aviation continues to purchase land for the ridiculously low price of approximately $4,000 per acre, whilst another Commonwealth department within eyesight distance of the airport demands $10,000 an acre to resell back to the original owner, the Belmont Shire. Let us take Belmont Shire. It is a case of two bob each way or, heads I win, tails you lose by the Commonwealth. No wonder the local residents see it all as a bureaucratic confidence trick for it appears no matter which administration you have the end result is the same. People are stuck with an airport virtually in the middle of the city suburbs. It is no good saying that the homes went there after the airport was developed. The first homes offered were converted Services structures immediately adjacent to the airport, some of which exist today. They were followed by the Hawke Government State Housing Commission homes, built with Commonwealth money. It was not determined at that date that Guildford Airport as it was then known, was to be a permanent arrangement, for it had been only a measure to allow for the expansion of aircraft use in a time of emergency, Maylands being too small. In fact the regional plan of
Perth by Professor Stevenson showed the new airport at Lake Grangara with flight paths over sea and pine plantations but not over suburbs and hills. It was only the establishment of an international terminal to deal with Perth Empire Games traffic which sealed the airports doom financially, with too much money being invested by authority for governments to shift it. Do not blame the residents. They are not there by choice but by direction of authority, by being offered the only roof over their heads available to them from governments. In the past large tracts of private land were resumed for State housing development in what are now the flight paths of all night aircraft.
The area has a history of resumption. Seeming intimidation by those in authority makes the residents bitter, for they are not there by choice. The Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) has made it quite clear to local authority that he will not impose a night curfew on the airport unless requested to do so by the State Government or all the Perth shires. So we have the situation that local residents who are affected by the noise are unable to get the support of the State political parties to impose the curfew by request, and the shire councils affected - Belmont and Canning - lack the support of the rest of the metropolitan area, which is not concerned with the comfort and quality of life of the people affected, but only with the commercial convenience of their businesses and the travelling public.
Some people have said that the Government as such should pay for the sound insulation of public and private buildings in the flight path. I think that this is an excellent temporary provision where sound meters give an indication that the level of sound is not acceptable to the humans affected. Also, people who have a home there and want to leave the area because of the noise nuisance factor should be able to sell out to the Government at a figure which allows them to be re-established elsewhere, bearing in mind that property values are often deflated in the area adjacent to the nuisance and it is far more expensive to be established elsewhere. A percentage over and above the deflated market value should be available and those selling and those in rented State homes who cannot stand the noise should have the opportunity to transfer to another rental area. But the whole question of the people’s choice and their ability to ensure that they and their children do not have to reside and attend school in a noise polluted area should be looked at.
On the question of compensation for the Newborn area, the rates of compensation paid have been on a captive market with only one customer to buy with the luckless outgoing person having to compete on a competitive market to re-establish themselves in another area. No allowance on an annual basis had been made for even the most minimal inflation figure being set at the time of the Government’s announcement to take over the land. This is good business for the Government, but tragic for the seller who must buy elsewhere. But quite ludicrous situations arise such as the plight of poultry farmers, Mr D. Orazio and Mr De Prato, whose property is on the fringe of the proposed airport resumption line and not required for the airport and between there and the government railway marshalling yards. They are left with the only private dwelling and poultry farm in the area. Now, can honourable members imagine trying to raise chickens at the end of a 24-hour runway, alongside a 24-hour railway switch yard between hooting, slamming, shunting trains and roaring planes and all night lights? Not only do the chickens sometimes stampede and commit suicide with heavy losses, but I dare say those gentlemen often feel like doing something themselves. In fact, they want to sell, but who but a lunatic would buy such a proposition? In fact, what happened when they offered the property, part of which had been resumed initially by the Government to establish the railyard, was that the railway authority prepared to sell them a portion of the land so that they could expand. They would have to be kidding, surely. Have they no humanity at all?
Quite apart from that aspect, the workers in the railyard barracks have to put up with any offensive odour which may waft across from the nearby chicken sheds and offal heap. No wonder local people become upset anytime we mention airport or railyards. These are people who went into what was a bush area and pioneered a district, went without the usual facilities planning to retire to small properties to provide security for them and their families. The whole question of the airport has been a tragedy to these people. They have not received a fair deal right throughout and we realise that this is what happens when people become dispossessed of their land. Now, I understand the present Minister has taken over a chain of events which were set in motion long before he took control of the Department. But I am aware of the personal interest he took in the matter when he was in Perth. I am also aware of the interest he has taken in the various proceedings of the committee that inquired into noise at airports. So he is one person who is qualified to look at methods of offering relief to the people affected.
Of course, the final solution is to resite the international section of the airport and the cargo section - in fact, anything that moves at night. In the intervening period this Government should look at the possibility of sound insulation for the private homes, schools and business affected. And a fund should be established to purchase at reasonable figures those homes of people who wish to shift from flight paths and the offering of other alternative rental accommodation for those so desiring it. But some steps should be taken to offer relief, for if people are aware that there is an interest in them and an alternative is available, it will make the future more secure and take away the hopeless feeling. I have reams of correspondence on this matter from various parties. It is interesting to note that the State Minister for Transport and Railways shows some interest in this problem. In a paragraph of a letter to me, referring to the problem of Mr De Orazio and Mr De Prato, he said:
The second part of your letter mentions airport noise which seems to be a relatively minor matter. The premises are about 2 kilometers from Perth Airport runways and the noise of approaching and departing aircraft would be no worse than for hundreds, if not thousands, of other people residing or working in the areas around the airport
As you are aware the airport is under the control of the Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation and you may wish to pursue this matter with the Commonwealth Minister.
This is exactly what I am doing today. I welcome the support that the State Minister has expressed in this letter. However, I regret his inability to help Mr De Orazio. In another paragraph of his letter dealing with the problem of Mr De Orazio, he wrote:
Dealing with Mr De Orazio’s request for a curfew on the use of lights at night, the Commissioner of Railways has advised me that work performed between midnight and 6.00 a.m. is vital to the efficient functioning of Forrestfield marshalling yard and the movement of freight throughout the State, and the imposition of a curfew on lighting and the use of loud speakers during this period is out of the question, both from a safety and an operational view point
It would appear that there is little hope for these people to find a solution as long as they reside or carry on their business in the area. I feel that this Government and perhaps the State Government are obliged to confer to see what can be done to purchase the properties and allow the residents to reside elsewhere. They have been imposed upon by governmental authorities and their problem is government created. I feel that it is up to the governments to find a solution to the problem.
– I have to bring before the House a somewhat serious matter which may make it necessary later for a motion to be moved against a Minister for having culpably misled this House. In order to make the position clear I shall rehearse the relevant sequence of events. On 10 October the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made statements in this House and outside it which he said were crucial to his case on the incomes referendum - statements to the effect that the share of the national income of wage earners had fallen. This statement was patently false. It was denied by, among other people, the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) as the previous Minister for Secondary Industry. On 2 October, just a little over a week previously, the Minister issued a Press statement which I read. It states: . . . wages and salaries before tax as a proportion of gross domestic product have remained pretty stable, hovering between 58.1 per cent in 1960-61 and 61.5 per cent in 1972-73.
On 11 October in this House I exposed the falsity of the Prime Minister’s statement and I laid on the table of the House figures compiled by the research section of the Parliamentary Library, which showed the true position. I may have expressed myself somewhat forcibly. Perhaps you would recall, Mr Deputy Speaker, that because of the vigour of my expression I was suspended from the House for 24 hours on that occasion. But I thought that it was important to draw attention to the culpable falsity of what the Prime Minister had been saying. Therefore, in the next few days I caused to be inserted in certain Sydney newspapers, advertisements setting out the factual position. Then, on 16 October, in answer to a question from his own side of the House - this is important and the significant thing that I have to say; the rest has been prologue - the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) made a statement in this House purporting to give different figures and stating as his authority for those figures a certain Mr Tilling, an officer of his Department who, apparently, was writing a master’s thesis.
The Minister laid on the table of the House a document from Mr Tilling’s work. He made certain statements about what Mr Tilling had said and Mr Tilling’s views. The document itself was interesting because it was difficult to be certain of its origin. It was said to be a report of a seminar lecture given by John Tilling at the Monash University on 24 July 1972 - over a year ago. That is significant. But I do not know who wrote the report. It was apparently a summary by someone who had heard the statement because I see at the foot of page 1 the commentary in brackets: I can’t claim to understand the Phelps-Brown technique’, to which Mr Tilling had been referring. So I do not know who made this summary, but it was what the Minister was relying on. But the Minister did not tell the House that a report had been made to his Department by Mr Tilling in conjunction with a Mr Lampe. The Minister did not say that.
A certain Mr James, from the Australian National University, who might for all I know be supervising Mr Tilling’s work on his master’s thesis, has recently published a critique of the situation. I quote exactly from his report. He states:
In Federal Parliament, Mr Cameron, the Minister for Labour, claimed that their evidence stemmed from work on the wage share by Mr Tilling. This would appear to be a very loose interpretation of Mr Tilling’s carefully calculated figures.
That is a moderate statement. But Mr James later goes on to say that this report has been presented to the Department of Labour. Again I quote exactly and ask the House to take note of this quote. He states:
I feel that Tilling and Lampe probably would object to the interpretation that the unions have given to their figures. In the conclusion of their Departmental Report they state:
I now quote the departmental report which the Minister had available to him. I cannot for certain say that he knew about it, but he certainly had it available in his Department. This is the relevant passage and it is what Tilling and Lampe actually said. It reads:
The evidence appears generally to support the hypothesis of long run stability in distributive share. The gross functional distribution of the national product has not changed significantly in favour of either labour or capital since 1953-54. This conclusion is not without importance from an industrial relations viewpoint. Recently many trade union leaders have expressed the view that labour’s share has fallen over the past quarter of a century. This attitude may have had a not insignificant effect as the level of industrial disputation in recent years. It is hoped that the evidence submitted in this study will enable a better appreciation of the facts on this question.
In fact the Minister had reported to his Department in exactly the opposite terms to what he told the House. I cannot say that the Minister lied to the House, partly because that would be unparliamentary and partly because the Minister may conceivably - although it would be culpable - have been ignorant of what his Department was telling him. The Minister came into this House and gave an account of the advice from his Department which was factually the opposite of the truth. Let us be clear about this. This is something that perhaps could prejudice Mr Tilling personally, who is working for his Master’s thesis, because he has been misinterpreted in this House by the Minister. I suppose that although that is an important human question, it is not the question before us. The question before us is to what extent the Minister has been culpable in giving to this House a false account of the advice he has received from his Department. We cannot go into the Department’s files, of course. We in this Parliament cannot know, in general, what a department advises its Minister, but when a Minister comes into this House and quotes as justification for his attitude the advice that the Department has given him, this House has a right and a duty to see that that Minister is truthful.
In this case, as I have said, a departmental report was quoted, and the relevant section of that report is now in print in a pamphlet issued by the Australian National University. That departmental report exists and this quoted passage shows that its import is quite different from what the Minister quoted. The Minister cleverly, I think, evaded some of the points at issue and gave the impression - though he did not actually state it - that he was giving an up-to-date version of what Mr Tilling had said. As a matter of fact, what he was giving was a version compiled by some unauthorised person who did not really understand what Mr Tilling was saying, and Mr Tilling’s remarks were made, not currently, but 15 months ago. This is the man whom the Minister said has been working in the Department.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to address myself to the oft-quoted fallacy that a number of country seats held by the Government are threatened by the Opposition. A report in the New South Wales publication Country Life’ on 31 October 1973 suggested that 6 Government-held seats were in such serious danger. I am pleased to say that my seat was one of those included in this extravagant misapprehension. I find myself in good company, of course. The seat held by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) was another threatened by such danger, and others were the seats held by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen), my friend the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) and the honourable member for Hume (Mr Olley).
The facts are that in my own electorate, and I can speak only for my own electorate on this matter, the Opposition spokesmen are acting like demented people. They have no positive proposals to offer the electorate. They are now sketching out in greater detail, especially after last night’s performance, an image of petty obstructionism. What member of the electorate is going to ponder on the finer points on which so much time was wasted last night in the face of the reality that an absolute majority existed for the Bill then under consideration? What sort of electoral impact will be made here except one of petty obstructionism? Far more importantly, opposition has been directed at those issues and policies that are of direct benefit to my electorate.
Imagine the embarrassment of Opposition spokesmen as they try to convince the fishermen of the South Coast that opposition to off-shore legislation will be to the benefit of the fishing industry of Eden-Monaro. Imagine the embarrassment of Opposition spokesmen as they try to convince local government that opposition to Australian Government assistance to local government is in the interests of the community at large. Not only does one find that access to the Australian Loan Council is being denied to local government by Opposition spokesmen, but also the whole approach to the Grants Commission is being frustrated by those spokesmen in my electorate. What possible appeal can this have to the electors of Eden-Monaro?
Not only that. Now the Opposition is denying teacher and parent representation on the Schools Commission. What appeal can this possibly have to the parents in my electorate? What appeal can the criticism of the Opposition, particularly of those on my near right as I stand in this House, have when they quite scatchingly condemn me as an academic? Academic - Oh, it is a disgusting thing to be! Yet most of the parents in my electorate devote a great deal of time and energy in order that their children can have the benefit of tertiary education. I note from the comments made by honourable members on the other side of the House exactly what the opinion of the Opposition is on this sort of education. What sort of impression are they creating? It is a wonderful impression as far as Labor members who hold country seats are concerned.
Then we have this incredible atmosphere, which has made the job of the Opposition spokesman that much more difficult in the past few weeks, in relation to the isolated children’s grant. Their colleagues in the States felt so deeply about the problem of the education of isolated children that in response to the Australian Government’s grant they withdrew State assistance of just on $80. That is indicative of the sort of situation that exists in my electorate. What possible grounds are there for assuming that this electorate is threatened by people with such a negative, anti-social approach to the problems of the community? Not only this, but we find that the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin, has been parading recently seeking a mandate from the electorate which consists of opposing the Australian Government. He has come to my electorate with the proposition that he should be voted for because he will resist the Australian Government; he will not co-operate with the Australian Government.
My goodness, if ever there was a need for co-operation between the Australian Government, a State government and local government, it is on the borders of the Australian Capital Territory. To move those borders, as has been suggested by an illustrious Country Party spokesman, is simply to delay the problem. What do the people in Bateman’s Bay, who are affected by the expansion of Canberra, think of a suggestion that their problem could be solved by moving the borders of the Australian Capital Territory? What do the people in Cooma and in Goul burn think of this petty solution? They think that this is a typical Country Party answer, one that sees the immediate problem but has no vision for the future.
So this image is being characterised right through the electorate. In addition, the very credibility of those who lead the Country Party is being eroded. Take, for example, the sugar contract. Here one saw a petty, mischievous attempt to try to erode the credibility of a worthy objective for the sugar industry. Once again with wheat sales, a sterling attack was started to be mounted against sales to Egypt, but it has evaporated. Not one question has been asked on the subject in this House. Further, in regard to the meat tax there was a deliberate, mischievous attempt in categorical statements by the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) to mislead the meat industry.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, as one of those who will lose his seat at the next election, allowed to make a campaign speech?
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– The Leader of the Country Party has been making categorical statements that the Government is following a certain line of action, and he misled the meat industry into believing what he said, stirring them into a frenzy of hatred for the Government, but the manifestation was not realized. What has happened? The credibility of the man who did that is seriously under examination by the whole rural electorate, reinforced by his attempt to do the same thing in regard to sugar contracts with China and wheat sales to Egypt. The record speaks for itself. There has been a petty attempt to create uncertainty in the minds of the rural electorate by this mischievous, deliberately malicious attempt to discredit the Government.
Then we heard from other members of the Opposition the confident prediction that Col. McArthur, Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board would be sacked by this Government. That prediction never came to fruition. That prediction was confidentially made by a spokesman for the Opposition. The confident statement that the superphosphate bounty would be removed in the Budget was not realised. Then we have the Leader of the Opposition predicting that there will be a depression. His minions in my electorate are rushing around telling people that we should cut Government expenditure. He is telling people that we should cut Government expenditure, that a depression is coming. He is saying this to people whose children could not get work for more than 12 months after they left high school. He is saying this to people who only 18 months ago knew what unemployment was and what it was like to be under a government which did not increase public expenditure when unemployment was rising. Here we have the Leader of the Opposition predicting a depression and a state of unemployment, and then cutting off the solution to the problem. What inconsistency do people in my electorate see in these people who come and parade their arrogance to them?
We have, too, the systematic and visionary approach to agriculture by this Government. We find that the rural community in the electorate is seeing that the basic objective is to give greater security and greater price stability, particularly for those products which largely depend on export markets. I remind honourable members that 95 per cent of our wool is exported, 85 per cent of our wheat is exported and 80 per cent of our sugar is exported. Discussions are being held in these areas in order to establish long term contracts for the sale of products to China and Japan. The discussions are ongoing and they have every prospect of success. We have now contracted to deliver to Egypt one million tons of wheat worth more than $130m f.o.b. This has been done in line with an existing agreement which was entered into by the Australian Wheat Board and signed under the previous Government. The Government is guaranteeing 75 per cent of the risk connected with this delivery. The Government’s rural policy is bringing stability to the export of products and it is guaranteeing export markets. What worries honourable members opposite is that this state of affairs will manifest itself before they have an opportunity to destroy the electorate’s confidence in the Government. What also worries honourable members opposite is that if they do not succeed in forcing an election by June of next year, they will never occupy the Government benches again.
– The constitutional measure presently before the House are the simple reason why the Opposition will find it difficult to get back into government again. The electorates will be so gerryman dered that we will not be able to get back into government again.
– It was a panic speech.
– That is true, it was a panic speech by the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan) who is very worried. My colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) rightly raised a point of order when the honourable member was speaking but you, Mr Deputy Speaker, ruled against the point of order. The honourable member for Mallee referred to the fact that what the honourable member for Eden-Monaro was trying to do was to put over an early policy speech in an endeavour to convince the people that he is looking after their interests when, in actual fact, I believe that he is selling them down the drain.
I rise to discuss some important issues that I believe should be raised in this House because of the interest that is shown in them outside. They are important issues about which I am sure many Australians are very concerned. I commence by referring to a couple of questions which I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) last week and which he refused to answer. It was only through constant pressure from members on this side of the chamber and, in particular, from my colleague the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who took a point of order that the Prime Minister reluctantly got up and gave part of an answer to the question that I asked him. Many people will guess what I am talking about. I am sick and tired of hearing members of the Government say that they have a mandate for this and a mandate for that. In relation to everything they want to introduce into this chamber they say: ‘We have a mandate for it’. What is a mandate? Do members of the Government believe that everything that was mentioned by every Labor Party condidate at the last election was accepted by all the people and that therefore they can legislate in respect of it? What a mandate really means, in the broad, is that if a party is elected to government it can implement the broad policies of that party - not every little issue that it has put up.
The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) referred to a 3 per cent interest rate for primary producers. Where is that? There is a mandate. Why does he not implement that policy? An honourable member refers to abolition of probate duty. That is another issue. One could go on for some time discussing these things. I believe that the Prime Minister has not got a mandate to introduce a lot of the things that he is introducing, including changing the national anthem. I want to refer to this matter in passing because people outside this House who have not got a voice directly in it are certainly complaining very strongly about any possible change in the national anthem. It is true that the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) has on the notice paper under general business a notice of motion dealing with this question, and therefore I am excluded from going into the details of it.
All I want to say is that I agree with the motion that is to be moved by the honourable member for Warringah, and I am certain that millions of people outside this chamber also agree with it. I am only hoping that an opportunity will be given to the honourable member for Warringah to bring this matter on at an early date. We cannot afford to take the risk of moving into the Christmas recess without discussing this matter. It should be discussed, and I appeal to those honourable members who have notices of motion on the notice paper ahead of the notice of motion of the honourable member for Warringah to consider withdrawing their notices of motion so that he can discuss this important matter and certainly bring it before the House.
Over recent weeks, as a result of statements made on this subject by the Prime Minister, I believe that people have been stirred up. I was very surprised to hear the Prime Minister, in answer to my question recently, say that there has been some synthetic indignation stirred up in the last week or so. Why was this synthetic indignation stirred up? It was stirred up for the simple reason that the Prime Minister announced that we would have a poll of a handful of people - less than one-half of one per cent of the Australian people will get a voice on this question. What about the other 99i per cent? After all, we are living in a democracy. This is the thing that the Government talks about.
– Order! The honourable member himself has anticipated that he is unable to proceed to discuss a question that is listed on the notice paper. Notice of motion No. 1 1 under general business refers precisely to the point that the honourable member is now discussing at some length. I ask him to leave that subject.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I will refer to the Prime Minister’s recent trip to China. I have here a letter from an individual who is somewhat perturbed at some of the statements, which were made in China recently. Without divulging who this person is - if any honourable member would like to see the letter confidentially I am prepared to show it to him - I will read the letter because I believe that it is of great interest and importance. Referring to the Prime Minister’s statements, this person said:
I was also disgusted that he asked the Chinese people not to play ‘God Save the Queen’. I think its time the Prime Minister realised that - he represents all the people of Australia and not just himself. I am sure the Chinese would hold loyalty to one’s own country, which includes its flag and anthem, above petty personal feelings.
Because of his lack of respect for our anthem in China, I state quite bluntly that he did not represent me, and I hope that it will not be long before this arrogant buffoon-
– What did he say?
– ‘Arrogant buffoon’ are the words that appear in this letter.
-In quoting that letter the honourable member is tending to adopt it. It is casting a personal reflection on the Prime Minister, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I cannot very well withdraw what I am quoting out of the letter.
-If you are to do that, you will not quote the letter. I ask you to withdraw the quotation in that section of the letter.
– I will have to withdraw the words ‘arrogant buffoon’. The letter continues:
That is, the Prime Minister - will no longer have the pretence of representing the free democratic majority of people of this free and independent country of ours. It hurts me to write this letter and I have always felt loyalty to the leaders of our nation, but I cannot pledge loyalty to our Prime Minister. Thank God for the Queen and a Governor-General for whom I swear undying loyalty.
That was one letter which was sent to me. I have a whole swag of them here which have arrived in recent days. I do not know how much more I need to say to convince the people who occupy the Government benches.
Another letter I received requests that the Queen be invited to set up a permanent residence in Australia. I will quote from it without mentioning the name of the sender. It reads:
It appears that we are rapidly heading for a Republic with a dictatorship and the general population (the electors) are being ignored.
Another letter - I referred to this one a minute ago - reads:
In fact now that Great Britain will join the European Economic Community and Her Majesty has accepted the title of ‘Queen of Australia’ a logical step would now be to provide suitable accommodation in Canberra so that she could make her home here for at least part of the time.
I have put forward some of these suggestions because I do believe that the people outside this place are certainly very upset with what has taken place. Last weekend was only a short weekend for me because of the long sitting. I had only a few hours at home but I did have the privilege of attending 4 functions. At each of those functions this question was raised and at three of them this was the dominating question.
I went to a Legacy function. Most people would appreciate that if ever true loyalty was displayed it would be at such a function. They are sticklers for protocol but when the toast of loyalty was announced the people present got up and spontaneously sang the national anthem. That is the first time in quite a long period I have heard it sung when this toast has been made. That would indicate to the people of Australia how these people feel and what is their thinking on this subject. If we are to make a change in relation to these sorts of things I want to know, firstly, whether we do want a change; secondly, if so, what the change is to be; thirdly, how we are to select a new anthem; and, fourthly, how we are to go about making the change. These are things that I think should be challenged in this House. I think it is up to the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision that he has made which in my opinion deprives the people of being able to voice their opinion on such an issue.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Last weekend the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) uttered some rather caustic words about the Government of New South Wales. In fact he described it as the most reactionary, obstructive and discredited government in Australia.
– That depends on the point of view.
– That is a point of view. I must confess that it did give me second thoughts because I had been inclined to give that title to the Government of Queensland. But I do not think there is very much choice as between the Government of Queensland and the Government of New South Wales. The Prime Minister went on to say that the New South Wales Liberal-Country Party Government was ‘grudging, tardy and negative’ about co-operation with the national Government. Nobody expects the State governments to be subservient to the national Government. The present national Government has no wish that the State governments should be subservient to it. I would say that this Government has done more than any other government has done in the last quarter of a century to establish more organs of co-operation and consultation not only with State governments but also with the various local interests in the community. This Government has excelled all others, in my view, in this respect in relation not only to local government but also welfare organisations, industrial groups and just about every kind of community organisation one could think of. This Government has set up permanent organisations of consultation and in many cases has endowed them with administrative functions and the wherewithal to carry out those functions.
Last weekend an indication of the kind of reaction that we are getting from the New South Wales State Government came from the Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Government at Coffs Harbour. Why was it at Coffs Harbour? It was because Coffs Harbour happened to be the scene of a local government conference. The delegates that have come back from that conference at Coffs Harbour have told me that the address by Sir Charles Cutler, the Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Government, was the most insulting - they used other terms which unfortunately I cannot use here - and the most provocative as far as local government was concerned that they had heard in a long time. I can well understand that, because some years earlier I happened to attend a Teachers Federation conference in New South Wales when Sir Charles Cutler became the new State Minister for Education. I can remember his posture and the insulting and belligerent stance he took in relation to the professional body of teachers in the State of New South Wales. What upset Sir Charles Cutler at Coffs Harbour? He went up there to berate local government bodies for wanting to participate with this Government in making funds available direct to local government, to give local government direct access to the Australian Loan Council, and to give local government access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Why should this Government want to help local government? Had not local government been adequately looked after by previous Liberal-Country Party governments here in Canberra? Had not local government been looked after by the Government of New South Wales? The figures will tell their own story.
Our predecessors here and the centralist Government of New South Wales loaded local government with all sorts of new responsibilities in respect of a whole lot of welfare duties but it gave local government very little money with which to carry out those tasks. The result has been a colossal accumulation of debt on local government. Who pays for that? It is the ratepayers. I think it takes over 50 per cent of rate revenue to pay off the interest on the tremendous accumulation of debt with which local government has been saddled over recent years. It is no wonder that Sir Charles Cutler had a job on his hands to explain why the Government of New South Wales, together with other Liberal-Country Party State governments, are opposed to local government representation on the Loan Council and other bodies to which this Government wants to give local government access.
The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) talked about the erosion of the power of State governments. What about the erosion of the power of local councils, loading them with responsibilities and denying them access to the necessary funds to enable them to carr> out their duties? This Government will enhance local government. It will enhance regional organisations. It will bring the people of this community much closer to government. We will have a national policy but we will be leaving it to local government to operate in a way in which it has never had a chance to operate before. We will be leaving it to local regional bodies to carry out duties and functions on behalf of the people.
As I said before, Sir Charles Cutler had such an unhappy record as Minister for ‘Education in New South Wales that ultimately Sir Robert Askin had to remove him from that post. The relationship between the Askin Government and the teaching profession, and I would say the vast majority of parents and citizens organisations, has been soured over the years in a most unwholesome way. The Askin Government went so far as to seek the deregistration of the New South Wales Teachers Federation. The matter went to the Industrial Commission and the petition was dismissed. Consequently the New South Wales Government failed in its dedicated task of clipping the wings of that Federation. What was the Federation interested in? It was interested in the welfare of the sons and daughters of the Australian community. It was interested in the conditions in which teachers performed their jobs. It was interested in the size of classes. But this did not suit the Askin Government. Teachers made protest after protest. Ultimately when they were compelled to strike on one or two days in order to show their determination to do the best by the children for whom they were responsible, the Askin Government moved to seek the deregistration of the Federation.
The Askin Government was so petty that it refused to continue deducting from teachers’ salaries their contributions to their own professional body. How petty can you get? Honourable members will recall that it was the same Askin Government that promised, when it was trying to get into power in 1965, to take teaching out of the realm of Public Service Board control and to treat teachers as members of a really professional body by setting up an education commission. It reneged on that promise. Yet as late as 12 November, a couple of days ago, Mr Willis said: ‘‘Education Commission demand - out of date.’ That is the kind of reneging that he has gone on with. Sir Robert Askin has promised to set up some kind of tribunal to determine salaries. But he will not give members of the Federation, or any public servants, access to any such tribunal to determine working conditions. I could instance many other similar examples. It is notable that on the eve of the State election in New South Wales a new teachers’ college is proposed at Mortdale, in my electorate. But who is to pay for it?
– We are.
– The Commonwealth is paying for it.
– The honourable member should be happy about it.
– I am glad that it will be in my electorate. The local newspaper has published on its front page a photograph of Mr Willis, the current Minister for Education in New South Wales, and the Liberal candidate for that area standing on the site where the proposed new teachers’ college will be established if final feasibility studies show it to be a viable project and if the Commonwealth Government supplies the money. The Australian Government has committed itself to this policy. The replacement of the educational dungeon, Alexander Mackie Teachers College at Paddington, which people have had to tolerate for years, by a new teachers’ college has been made possible by the Australian Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I raise a matter of discrimination against women on the basis that they are women. I raised this matter with the Prime Minister’s special adviser on women, Miss Reid. I have had a miserable reply. She has, to be fair, shown sympathy to the matter which I raised with her through my secretary. But I am afraid it was little more than cold tea and sympathy. The circumstances of this discrimination go back many years and could be laid at the feet of previous Liberal governments as much as at the feet of the present Government. I am not in any way firing shots at the present Government in particular about this matter. It was a matter which did not come to the previous Government’s attention when we, on this side of the House, were in Government. It is a matter which has been only recently brought to the attention of the Labor Government. I regret that so far the Government has not been able to do anything about it, particularly as it has taken some steps forward in other matters of discrimination against women.
There is, of course, a new world wide consciousness of the rights and opportunities of women. This has been manifested by recent actions in Australia. The nub of the matter that I wish to raise is that women who did the same war work as men, in the same place, wearing even the same clothes, do not get the same housing benefits even if their work was in a war zone, such as Papua New Guinea. The May 1973-
– We had a Liberal Government for 23 years and it did nothing about it.
– The present Government has been asked to do something- -
– You are a humbug. A Liberal Government was in office for 23 years and did nothing about it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The Minister for Transport will cease interjecting and will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw that remark, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– If the Minister for Transport had been listening to my opening remarks he would have heard me make mention of the fact that previous Liberal governments did nothing about this.
– That is true.
– Previous Liberal governments were not asked to do anything about this matter. I make this speech in no mean party political atmosphere. The Minister for Transport is trying to reduce this to a matter of Party politics. The May 1973 amendment to the Defence Service Homes Act provided that in the future women will be eligible for home loans in the same way as men. In other words, if men are entitled to receive a housing loan assistance grant, women will be entitled to receive that grant also. Previously, such benefits had been restricted to persons whose terms of enlistment involved their preparedness to undertake active service overseas. During World War II the majority of men in the Australian Imperial Forces, and the other Services, enlisted in such a way that they indicated their preparedness to undertake service overseas, whereas most women - similar to members of the Citizen Military Forces - were engaged for home service only. This fact, in itself, automatically disqualified those women from eligibility for home loan assistance. Only those who actually served outside Australia or in the Territories of Australia qualified for special housing assistance. I am told - and this is very interesting - that the first women who enlisted in fact did enlist on the same terms as men but when, later, they requested the same sorts of facilities and repatriation assistance as men, these were not granted to them. Shortly after some hundreds of women had been enlisted on the same terms as men, the method of enlistment for women was changed.
The point I raise is that it is not the service outside Australia or in its territories in time of war which counts, but it is the enlistment and preparedness of a person to serve outside Australia and not necessarily such actual service which determines whether a man received housing loan assistance then and receives it to this day. Many men, who enlisted as being prepared to serve outside Australia but who did not serve outside Australia, still qualified for a loan. In other words, they were in the same position, except for the form of enlistment, as women who served in the Forces at home. I understand also that many women who served in a war zone, such as Papua where obviously they were serving under extremely arduous conditions, did not receive the benefits which men alongside whom they were serving did in fact receive.
I refer to a case of a man who volunteered to serve overseas but was not posted overseas. This man, who worked on the home front, is eligible today under the old regulations for housing benefits because of the nature of his enlistment but not his service. On the other hand his female co-worker is not eligible for a loan simply because of the terms of her enlistment. In fact, they did the same kind of work. The women acted as flight mechanics, transport drivers and cooks doing precisely the same sort of work as men and, often, as I say, in Papua New Guinea working under the same dangers. For this work they received, I understand, two-thirds of the male wage, as well as having to suffer the indignity of having to wear blue calico bloomers and men’s giggle suits.
– How do you know?
– They told me. I did not look. Female flight mechanics had great difficulty getting promotion until the end of the war. Whereas male flight mechanics could do a course to get their stripes, female mechanics were not able to do a course until the end of the war so that they too could get their stripes. In future men and women will be entitled to the same benefits, so what I am talking about really is the present effects of what are now historical circumstances. The Second World War is now nearly 3 decades past, and most women who served in that War have established themselves in civilian life, but there are some ex-servicewomen, some of them fairly elderly, who are in very straitened circumstances and who cannot help noticing that, with all that is happening to the young women today, they, the older women who served their country in the same circumstances as did many men, are’ not getting the benefits to which the men alongside whom they served are entitled. I realise that extending the benefits does involve some complications because there are also men who enlisted for service only in Australia who have to be considered, but the point remains that women doing the same work, wearing the same clothes, getting less pay, suffering the same hardships, sometimes working in areas where war was raging, do not today get the benefits to which men are entitled. I ask the Government to consider this matter with the greatest sympathy.
– I will endeavour to keep my remarks at the same tempo as did the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley). I congratulate him on his submissions in the Grievance Day debate in which he put stress on inequality between men and women. But I think that the honourable member for Chisholm, in fairness, must agree that the Australian Labor Party has led the field in eliminating areas of inequality between man and woman in our country and in following the principles of the International Labour Organisation.
I want to make some submissions to the House today in the knowledge that what I say is now being considered by business and political advisers in Australia and Japan. It is my wish, and I believe that of the overwhelming majority of the electors of Hunter, that soon the proposals being considered by Japanese political leaders and industrialists will become a reality. I refer to the black coal industry, particularly on the Maitland coalfields and in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, which since the early 1960s has been slowly dying because of the lack of markets for high quality gas coal and because of the intrusion of oil into the gas coal industry and the introduction of modern coal extraction machines that reduce the work force by onehalf to two-thirds, causing a great deal of chaos in the transition period. This has brought about an unparalleled gloom in the northern coalfields area, but owing to the initiative, forthrightness and honesty of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) strong possibilities for the northern coalfields to live again might be a reality in the foreseeable future. Because of the Minister’s frankness with them, the Japanese Government and industrialists are seriously considering investing in the process of obtaining petrol and oil from coal from the northern New South Wales coalfields, a course of action which was recommended to them by the Minister. They are prepared to act in accordance with the Australian Whitlam Government’s guidelines that 51 per cent ownership of such an industry should remain in Australian hands. All Australians know that petrol and oil can be successfully extracted from coal, but up to the present time it has never been an economic proposition. At present there is a world energy crisis, of which all members of this House are aware. The Arab States, because of their conflict with Israel, are restricting the supply of petroleum products to unfriendly countries. It is the intention of the Arab States to raise substantially the price per barrel of Middle East oil and this, I hope, will revive the coal industry in my area with the initiation by the Minister of a modern plant to extract oil from coal.
I believe that the coal industry today stands on the threshold of a period of great challenge and opportunity. On the one hand, it is challenged by the nationwide problem of complying with stringent regulations regarding pollution. On the other hand, it is faced with the opportunity of creating a new source of synthetic liquid fuels to meet the growing world needs. Particularly in the United States new technology is becoming available which can realistically allow some countries, and particularly the United States coal industry, to achieve these objectives. The hydrogenation process, for instance, is an attractive new method for the manufacture of low sulphur liquid fuels from coal.
Air pollution laws in the United States have created problems for the United States coal industry. Low sulphur coal is demanded, and because the United States industry’s coal markets have been threatened by its inability to supply coal that will comply with the stringent low sulphur coal specifications required in many and an increasing number of areas, there is emerging in the United States a brand new market which the Australian coal industry can develop realistically and profitably. The United States realises that its domestic needs for liquid fuels cannot continue indefinitely to be filled by domestic suppliers. Therefore the United States oil magnates have been turning their interests to coal for the purpose of supplementing their fuel and energy needs. One could measure Australia’s liquid fuel needs by those of the United States, which expects to consume 2.2 billion barrels per year by 1980. In the absence of the discovery of new oil basins, coal remains the most natural alternative. I welcome the initiative of the Minister for Minerals and Energy in stimulating interest by the Japanese Government and industrialists in sharing in the development of northern coal for the creation of a modern plant to extract oil from coal. The cost of such a plant is estimated at about $400m, an expenditure which, at this time in Australia’s history, would be too great for our nation to contemplate.
The Minister for Minerals and Energy has been the target of much unfair criticism in recent times. This criticism, in my view, has only projected his earnest in pursuing Labor Party principles. He has shown a determination to use Australian natural resources in the best interests of Australian people. This man, who has been depicted by the misleading media and anti-Labor politicians as a fumbling, irresponsible failure appeared on television recently, and he wiped the floor with his critics, slaughtered his opponents and finished with the greatness of Gala Supreme. Capable, informed and determined, he created an image of being the type Australia needs for the long hard task of winning back, and judiciously rationing with future needs in mind, control of vital national assets that anti-Labor governments have been losing to overseas interests.
I am proud of my Government’s achievements in education, social services, giving local government direct access to the Loan Council and in establishing the Grants Commission which will relieve the financial burden on local government councils which have been starved of funds for far too long. Under the administration of Mr Whitlam bridges are being built between East and West. The countries of our region respect us more than ever. The most populous country on earth - China-now respects us and it has taken its seat in the United Nations. The Australian Government is using its influence on leaders of countries big and small. They have begun to turn their old divisions into co-operation. We are in the infancy of world order, but immense progress has already been achieved. If all leaders of nations and all men of goodwill will join their hearts, their wills and their efforts, surely permanent peace will at long last be given to all the peoples of this earth. I am a supporter of a Government which realises the problems of the Australian people, a Government to whom the burdened heart may pour forth its sorrows, to whom distress may prefer its suit, whose head is guided by justice and whose heart at all times is expanded by benevolence.
– I want to bring to the notice of the Parliament another shocking abuse of taxpayers’ money for the benefit of the Australian Labor Party. The facilities of Parliament and the privileges of a Minister have been abused in this case to promote further the Australian Labor Party in the New South Wales State election. A few minutes ago I received a letter from a person from the electorate of Monaro asking me who is paying for a circular letter which has been sent to that person as a constituent of that electorate. The letter has been sent by the Minister for Health, signed ‘Doug Everingham’, written on ministerial paper with the Commonwealth crest at the top and the words Minister for Health’. It is soliciting the support of electors in that electorate to vote for the New South Wales Labor Party. The first 2 paragraphs read as follows:
On 17 November you will be asked to vote for the person who will represent you in the State Parliament for the next 3 years. I am writing to ask that on that day you make a choice in favour of Margaret Gleeson, the ALP candidate for Monaro.
Margaret, a former officer of my Department, is an enthusiastic and intelligent young woman with a sound understanding of people and their problems. I think she will make an excellent representative for the people of Monaro.
And so it goes on. I do not know who is paying for this letter or for its postage. I know that it is on official notepaper. To print this letter and to send it out to every constituent of Monaro would cost the taxpayers at least $2,000. In how many electorates in New South Wales is this being done? If this can be done in a State election, goodness knows what will be done in a Federal House of Representatives election or a Senate election where Ministers have unlimited use of departmental facilities and officers and a stamp allowance on which there is no limit.
– Order! I draw the attention of the Leader of the Country Party to standing order 76 which says:
All imputations of improper motives and all per sonal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
The impression I have gained from what the right honourable gentleman has said so far is that he is reflecting on the motives of a mem ber of this House who happens to be a Minister. I suggest that he use caution in his manner of speaking on the subject because, under the standing order which I quoted, that is considered highly disorderly.
– I am not reflecting on the character of the Minister but I am speaking about an extremely important departmental matter which involves the taxpayers of this country. As Leader of the Australian Country Party, I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) earlier this week and asked that I be given a fair stamp allowance. My entitlement was $150 a year. It was doubled to $300. As Leader of a party, one can spend $300 in a very short time. But here is a case where a Minister of the Crown, if he posted those letters, would have spent at least $2,000 on this one operation alone. The Australian people are becoming sick and tired of a Government which is building up personnel around it for political purposes. Mr Young has been appointed as political liaison officer, virtually as an organiser for the Labor Party, and he is being paid by the taxpayers.
– What about Bill Arthur, my temporary silencer?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! As honourable members know, interjections are out of order.
– The Prime Minister already has a gigantic staff of 22 working for him - far in excess of that of any former Prime Minister. That alone will cost the taxpayer $200,000 a year. When overtime is taken into account, it will probably cost another $100,000. Be that as it may, when the Government buys into the area of political campaigning using the public’s money there is every reason for this House and for the Government to question that action.
– I take a point of order. The Leader of the Australian Country Party is making imputations now.
– I am making imputations against the Government.
– He is making imputations which have not been substantiated and have not even been checked.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! In ruling on the point of order I suggest to the Leader of the Country Party that he should not make any imputations of improper motives against any members of this
House. He may make them against the Government if he wishes to.
– I would be out of order if I were to make any personal reflection on a Minister, but certainly I have the right to make imputations against mismanagement or bad administration by a Minister’s department. I have before me substantial evidence in the form of a letter which was roneoed and sent out by the Minister for Health to electors in the electorate of Monaro on official letterhead with the Commonwealth crest on the top of it. I want to know who is paying for this and what right has a Federal Minister to spend Commonwealth money on campaigning - more especially in a State campaign such as this. This is the greatest abuse that I have seen so far although we have seen Minister’s sons being appointed to their staffs and defeated members of this House being appointed right and left to ministerial staffs. More and more, abuses are being carried out to support and back up the activities of the Labor Party with taxpayers’ money. I just want to know how far the Australian people will accept this sort of thing - the sending out of a circular letter on the eve of an election campaign. Goodness knows how many thousands have been sent out. The letter is just headed ‘Dear Elector’. There are about 17,000 or 20,000 people in the electorate. One can imagine how much that would cost. There is no limit to the excesses of this Government in using the taxpayers’ money to prime up its own political machine.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been grossly misrepresented, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have in my hand an identical document, presumably, to the one which the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has just brought into the House and which, as he said, has printed on the top the crest, the title ‘Minister for Health’ and the address ‘Parliament House, Canberra’. This letter did not come from my office. One copy was typed in my office. The other copies were reprinted outside Canberra. I also have in my hand an envelope that contained one of these copies. With your permission, Sir, I will table it. It bears the post mark ‘Queanbeyan - 12 November 1973 - paid - New South Wales’.
-Order! Are you asking for leave to table that document?
– The envelope and the letter it contained, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I point out that none of the printing cost, none of the stationery cost, and none of the postage cost came from any government department or from me personally.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. On the basis of the statement made by my colleague the Minister for Health, I ask that the Leader of the Australian Country Party withdraw his imputations.
– He should be put out of public life. He has done this before.
-I call the Leader of the Australian Country Party.
Mr ANTHONY (Richmond- Leader of the Australian Country Party) - Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– He did it to a sergeant of police. He had him railroaded when he was the Minister for the Interior. How he got to where he is I do not know.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will please restrain himself.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I appreciate the explanation by the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham). I believe that what he has said is true, that is, that it is a roneoed letter and that it has not been paid for by the taxpayer. I appreciate those remarks. But this letter has been drafted for one purpose, that is, for being used for political campaigning. It was drafted in his-
– What is wrong with that?
– Why do you not be a man and apologise? Why do you not apologise straight out?
– Fair play is fair play.
– Official notepaper has been used.
– He has been cleanly bowled and he will not apologise.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to do something to control the rabble on the other side of the House.
– Rabble! I resent the word being used by that log. He is all timber.
-Order! I think all honourable members will appreciate that there has been a certain amount of provocation, but I do ask honourable members to exercise restraint while the Leader of the Australian Country Party is on his feet. He is making an explanation of the circumstances that led him to make the remarks he made.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I said that I acknowledged the remarks of the Minister for Health regarding the cost factor, but I think a question of ethics is involved in the use of official notepaper for election campaign purposes, especially in the area of a State election campaign. Sir, the official crest appears on this notepaper. Irrespective of whether it has been roneoed, the letter is being used for a special purpose, that is, for campaign purposes in New South Wales.
– I rise to a point of order. Every member of this House is aware that once he has been elected to this place he is entitled to express a view as a member or as a Minister for election campaigning and he can do so on letterhead which has the Commonwealth crest on the top as long as it is not provided at the taxpayers’ expense. It is done by all candidates and all members of Parliament. It has been done by Party Leaders. The Leader of the Australian Country Party knows that. He has made an allegation which has been proved to be untrue. He should do the decent thing and apologise.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)That is not a point of order. The point of order which was raised by the Minister for External Territories was whether, in view of standing order 76 and the explanation given by the Minister for Health, the right honourable gentleman is prepared to withdraw certain imputations.
– Sir, I thought that in my remarks I did withdraw the challenge as to who was paying for this matter because the Minister explained the situation and I accepted his explanation. But I do question very much the ethics of this form of- (Honourable members interjecting) -
-Order! The imputations have been withdrawn by the right honourable gentleman.
– I am glad that the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has raised this matter today because it shows just what a shabby, weak person he is. Every member of this House knows that he can use the Commonwealth crest in a private capacity, in a personal letter and in a letter to an elector without any question of ethics being involved. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) has just reminded me that the previous Speaker, Sir William Aston, used the crest in his last election campaign. It is the normally accepted thing and the Leader of the Country Party knows it.
There has been talk about corruption in an electioneering campaign. I would like to refer again to the corruption by the Country Party in the State seat of Murray and the offer by its candidate of a bribe to the Labor Party candidate. I commented on this matter a few days ago. I was followed in the debate by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in this House, who said of the Labor candidate for the State seat of Murray that if - I emphasise the word ‘if’ - he was going around offering his preferences to everybody and if he was happy to sell them, then he would probably do it again. On the basis of that ‘if and that concocted allegation, the honourable member for Murray in this place was able to have the Country Party oriented newspapers in the electorate smear the Labor Party candidate, Mr Drew.
I have a tape recording in my hand of the Country Party candidate, Mr Jeffrey, clearly offering a bribe to the Labor Party candidate for the State seat of Murray. I intend to tender this tape to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). In raising this matter, I ask the Attorney-General to investigate and give an opinion of it. I have obtained specific and authoritative legal advice in regard to the allegations made against Mr Bruce Jeffrey, the independent Country Party candidate, in relation to the evidence produced. The considered opinion is that there is an open and shut case of bribery and that if this candidate happens to win the seat of Murray he has Buckley’s chance of surviving an inquiry by the Court of Disputed Returns, because there is clear evidence of this man’s offering the Labor Party candidate a bribe and asking whether $1,000 will be sufficient to get Labor Party preferences to destroy the Liberal Party candidate in the State seat of Murray. It shows just what unity there is between the Country Party and the Liberal Party. The Country Party would not endorse a candidate. It had a public meeting and endorsed an independent candidate so that it could get around the agreement and then it tried to knife the Liberal Party candidate, who is the sitting member, by offering a miserable, filthy bribe to the Labor Party candidate to get-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– Resume your seat.
– You resume your seat.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! I ask both honourable members to resume their seats. I call the honourable member for Gwydir.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The speech that the honourable member for Blaxland is making is completely untrue. He has no evidence to substantiate-
– Here it is. I am going to give it to the Attorney-General.
– Give it to the Attorney-General and give it to a court. You try to prove-
-Order! That is not a point of order.
– Similar frivolous points of order were taken the other night. The slimy tentacles of organised crime now reach from King’s Cross right down to the banks of the River Murray and the Askin Government is prepared to sit by. This criminal element in the Country Party knows it can do this and have its progress unchecked by the Askin Government. The fact of the matter is that the Country Party will stop at nothing when it comes to any electoral bribery and corruption; yet the Leader of the Country Party has the hide to come into this place today and talk about campaign letterheads. The Leader of the Country Party has used his public office to send out pamphlets and letters. There was a great scream a few years ago in the Public Service because public servants objected to having to prepare campaign literature for Sir John McEwen and the Country Party. They have abused their positions in ministries and they know it. Not only that, but also when they get down to basic electoral matters they want to abuse the rights of the electors of Murray by offering a $1,000 bribe to the
Australian Labor Party candidate to destroy the Liberal Party candidate for that seat. To the credit of the Liberal Party, in the adjoining seat of Temora, it has put out a how-to-vote card giving its preferences to the Country Party. But the Country Party is not honouring its commitment. If the Country Party can get out of its commitment by a little shady deal on the side, it will do so.
Members of the Country Party held a meeting of the State organisation of the Country Party within the State seat of Murray. They decided that they could not endorse a Country Party candidate so they left that meeting and went to a public meeting and endorsed that same man as the independent Country Party candidate. So, of course, that same fellow then ran around to the Labor candidate and offered him a bribe. That is the Country Party for you and yet the Leader of the Country Party comes in here today and tries to smear a Minister - an honest man - because he happens to use his public office to support a candidate in another seat. He is entitled to use that office, as everybody knows. The Leader of the Country Party talked about the staff of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) but the Leader of the Country Party and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) have a staff that is bigger than any Opposition Leader has ever had before in this House. They have been more than fairly treated. In my view, they have been too kindly treated. Let us look at the cronyism in which honourable members opposite have engaged. Members of the Liberal and Country Parties talk about friends of the Labor Party getting jobs, but let us look at some of the former members of the Liberal Party who have been placed in jobs. Honourable members opposite made Sir Paul Hasluck Governor-General. They made Mr Chaney Administrator of the Northern Territory. Gordon Freeth was made Ambassador to Japan. Sir Garfield Barwick was made Chief Justice of the High Court.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I believe it is against the Standing Orders of this House for any inference to be made against the personal representative of Her Majesty in .Australia. The personal representative of Her Majesty is no longer in any way associated with any political party and I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark and that inference.
-I did not hear any remark relating to the representative of
Her Majesty, but if the honourable member for Blaxland did make such a remark I ask him to withdraw it.
– He mentioned the GovernorGeneral by name.
– There was no imputation against the Governor-General. I was merely pointing out that the present Governor-General was at one stage a member of the previous Government.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable gentleman referred to the political associations of the present Governor-General.
– He was appointed by you.
– That is a direct reference in a way which is contrary to the Standing Orders of this Parliament and I ask that the honourable member withdraw.
-If the honourable member for Blaxland made any reflection on the Governor-General, I ask him to withdraw.
– If there was any personal imputation in what I said, I withdraw it. But I also referred to other people appointed by the previous Government. Sir Garfield Barwick was appointed to the position of Chief Justice of the High Court. Bill Arthur, the former honourable member for St George, was appointed by Prime Minister Gorton to his personal staff. Mr McKinnon is another example. The list is a hundred long, if one looked hard at it. It is cronyism at its worst and honourable members opposite have been experts at it for 23 years. All the boards of statutory corporations are loaded with tories and I see it as one of the roles of this Party in the next decade in office to remove all these characters from these boards and appoint some impartial people. So, there is no basis for the charges made by the Leader of the Country Party. It is just another example of the depths of degradation to which the Country Party will sink in order to achieve any miserable little political gain.
I refer again to the State seat of Murray and the scandalous allegations made by the honourable member for Murray in this place last week when he said: ‘If this Labor Party candidate offers preferences.’ He said ‘If. He made no specific charge because he can make none. But I was referring to a specific allegation with a tape recording to prove it and
I have asked the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth to investigate the matter. Because the Country Party is in league with the newspapers in that electorate, the spurious allegation of the honourable member for Murray received coverage while the matter to which I referred, relating to the bribe offered to the Labor Party candidate, did not gain any prominent position in that newspaper. If members of the Country Party wish to persist with this corruption and bribery, we will have the Attorney-General investigate it and the matter will be taken to the Court of Disputed Returns in New South Wales. I publicly ask the Chief Electoral Officer for New South Wales to disallow the candidature of Mr Jeffery in this election for the State seat of Murray.
-Order! It being 12.45 p.m., in accordance with standing order 106, I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– -Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). The honourable member for Blaxland said that I used the word if in relation to whether a bribe was offered by Mr Drew. The actual words I said were that a bribe was offered by Mr Drew and it was offered on his behalf by 2 State members of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hallam and Mr Gordon.
– A point of order-
– In Deniliquin they made an offer of $3,000 for Country Party preferences.
-Order! Mr Keating- Point of order!
– And there are witnesses to prove it-
-Order! Would both honourable gentlemen resume their seats.
– Including the State Leader of the Australian Country Party.
-Order! Would the honourable member for Murray please resume his seat.
– Point of order!
– I have made the charge and I can prove it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member for Murray should know that when the person who occupies the Chair stands on his feet the honourable member should sit down.
– I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– A point of order was taken.
– I have not finished my personal explanation.
-The honourable member for Blaxland is taking a point of order on your personal explanation.
– My point of order is that the subject matter of the personal explanation of the honourable member for Murray is untrue.
– That is not a point of order.
– May I finish my personal explanation? Furthermore, in this election, Mr Drew in the first instance through his wife, Mrs Drew, repeated the offer of a bribe to Bruce Jeffery.
-Order! Mr LLOYD - If there is any question of a bribe, it was offered by Mr Drew.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Is the honourable member permitted to make a personal explanation on behalf of another person who is not present or is not a member of this House?
-The honourable member for Murray claims to have been misrepresented and he is making an explanation as to the manner in which he has been misrepresented. I would be pleased if the honourable member would confine himself to remarks in that regard.
– The points of misrepresentation are that the bribes have been offered. In the first instance, they were offered on behalf of Mr Drew by 2 State Labor members. There were witnesses present, including Sir Charles Cutler, the Leader of the Country Party in New South Wales, who refused this offer point blank.
-Order! Unless this matter affects the honourable member personally, he cannot canvass other circumstances which arose. However, if it affects the honourable member personally, he may do so.
– It does, because my reputation for veracity has been impugned by the honourable member for Blaxland. The second offer of a bribe was made by Mr Drew-
– Point of order!
– Initially through his wife to Mr Jeffery. If there was any question of a bribe being offered-
– Point of order!
– The bribe was made by Mr Drew.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Murray is entitled to state how he has been misrepresented; he is not entitled to canvass the details of the offer and make another speech. I am asking you to ask the honourable member for Murray to resume his seat because he has made his personal explanation.
– Apparently the honourable member for Murray has made his personal explanation.
– I am quite happy.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, and I hope that the House might just calm down while I make my personal explanation. It relates to an allegation and a charge made across the chamber to me by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) with respect to the Party of which I am a member.
– Point of order!
-Order! The remarks must relate to the honourable member for Gwydir.
– I was misrepresented and you have not heard how I was misrepresented, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-If the remarks relate to the honourable member personally, he may make a personal explanation.
– Mr Jeffery is not the endorsed Country Party candidate for the State seat of Murray and no Country Party member of
Parliament has been down to support him throughout this election campaign.
-Order! That is not a personal explanation in regard to yourself.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend Section 128 of the Constitution, the provision in the Constitution which lays down the way in which the Constitution itself can be amended. Two changes are proposed to Section 128.
By the first, we aim to facilitate alterations, to the Constitution by amending the requirement that, in addition to a majority of electors voting, there needs to be a majority of States in a referendum to amend the Constitution. The amendment will change the requirement to consent by voters ‘in not less than one-half of the States’.
By the second, we aim to give a vote in referendums to the people of our mainland Territories - the Australian Capital Territory, including Jervis Bay, and the Northern Territory.
The real difficulty is that the Australian Constitution has proved in practice to be extremely difficult to amend. Although 26 proposals for amendment have been put to the people since 1901, only 5 of these have been passed. I remind honourable members that there have been no less than 26 amendments of the Constitution of the United States, of which 11 have been since 1900. After exhaustive investigation, the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1958, and again in 1959, recognised the vital interest of the people in proposed constitutional al,tera.tions. In its 1958 report, the Committee observed:
If a clear majority of the electors who vote at a referendum are in favour of a proposed law, their will should not be frustrated because separate majorities of electors have not been obtained in a majority of the States. It is, in the Committe’s opinion, more in accord with democratic principle and the develop ments since Federation that it should be sufficient to obtain separate majorities in at least one half of the number of States. (Paragraph 169)
The 1959 report of the Committee had this to say: Something should be done, in the Committee’s opinion, to reduce the excessive rigidity which experience has shown that section 128 possesses and the Committee proposes that it should be sufficient to obtain separate electoral majorities in at least one-half of the States instead of in a majority of States.
The Committee’s proposal would not disturb the federal fabric of the Constitution, inherent in Section 128, but its proposal would serve to lay more emphasis on constitutional change by the democratic process of majority vote than there at present exists.
Section 128 of the Constitution says:
If, in a majority of the States, a. majority of the electors voting approve the proposed law, and if a majority of all the electors voting also approve the proposed law, it shall be presented to the GovernorGeneral for the Queen’s assent.
This provision, in respect of the requirement to have ‘a majority of the States’ as one of the conditions for the passing of a referendum, does not, in our view, put the right emphasis and value on a national vote and imposes an undesirable rigidity on the system. The emphasis, in this day and age, should be on flexibility and on what a majority of the electors want, wherever they live, while retaining a proper position for the States.
We are one nation, we are one people, and on national issues it is desirable that the will of the nation should be determined more by the total vote of all the people entitled to vote than by State borders.
The need to change the emphasis by amending section 128 of the Constitution has been felt for years; but like so much else, including the second proposal I will put in a moment, nothing - I say nothing - was done by our predecessors in office. By the new proposal, it will still be possible to obtain an amendment of the Constitution only if a majority of all the electors voting agree. But instead of requiring a majority of the States - which at present means four out of the six States, and thus a two-thirds majority - what we are proposing is that a majority of voters in not less than half of the States will be necessary, as well as an overall majority of voters.
The provision requiring a majority of States was put in to protect the interests of the smaller States. A reference to Quick and Garran indicates that the framers of the Constitution had in mind that new States would quite quickly be created - which would have made more relevant the provision requiring a majority of States. But the two-thirds majority is unreasonably high and, given that we have not gone beyond the original six States, means in the elegant words of the Constitutional Review Committee that ‘for every State in which there is an adverse vote there must be a favourable vote in two States … a constitutional change has to be supported not only by a majority of States but by two-thirds of the States.’
I believe that this change will bring the constitutional provisions more into accord with the spirit of the founders in 1901; more into accord with today’s mood of national awareness; and more into accord with democratic principles and processes. At the same time, in case any have a sense that this change will make amendment of the Constitution too easy, let me remind honourable members that had the original Constitution requirement been for no less than one-half of the States, as we now propose, only two more of the 26 proposals put to the people would have been approved. They were both submitted at the 1946 referendum. One was to give the national Parliament power to make laws with respect to the organised marketing of primary products unrestricted by section 92. The other dealt with the terms and conditions of industrial employment. Both secured an overall majority of total votes but a majority in only three States. They were therefore not carried. As a matter of historical interest social service proposals of a wide-ranging nature which were submitted at the same time obtained a majority in all States and an overall majority.
I come now to the second part of the proposal contained in this Bill. It is designed to remove the anomaly that Australian citizens in our mainland Territories have no voice or vote in constitutional referendums. There are 264,000 Australian citizens in the two Territories^ - the Australian Capital Territory, including Jervis Bay, and the Northern Territory - of whom 130,700 are voters. They have elected representatives to this House; and they would also have representation in the Senate, if the Opposition had not blocked our legislation, which would have provided for this in accordance with the ALP platform.
It is wrong that residents of the Territories should be denied a vote at referendums. They are citizens equal in every way to their compatriots who live in the States. They have asked for their rights often enough. As recently as 1 1 October this year the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory passed a resolution seeking voting rights in referendums on the same conditions as those enjoyed by citizens in the States. They conveyed to me their disquiet at the continued denial of this right. I, and my colleagues, share that disquiet. The people of the ACT have sought no less. They, too, are entitled to the vote. Between 1965 and 1967, before and after the last referendum - on the nexus with the Senate and also on Aborigines - the ACT Advisory Council passed a series of resolutions seeking voting right for ACT residents at referendums. They were refused. They were fobbed off with the promise of review. In 1970, I understand, the former Government considered the matter, but took no action. Like so much of the business of those days, I imagine it stood deferred.
We are now doing a very simple and proper thing. In this Bill we seek to delete from the Constitution that part of section 128 which limits voting at referendums to people qualified to vote ‘in each State’. It is reasonable that electors of the Territories should have the same right as electors of the States to determine the subjects on which the Australian Parliament should have the authority to make laws for the whole nation. If this proposal is carried, electors in the Territories will have the right to vote in all subsequent referendums. The electors of the Territories may be thought to have an added claim to voting in national referendums on constitutional matters. As residents of the Territories, they are more immediately associated with laws on many subjects enacted by the Australian Parliament than are the people of the States. The electors of the Territories may in this sense be able to contribute their informed judgment on many of the matters likely to be the subject of constitutional referendums. They have been denied their rights for too long.
This Bill will join the three proposals for alteration of the Constitution at present before the House - the proposals for simultaneous elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives, for democratic electorates, and for powers in relation to local government finances.
These four proposals will be joined later by a further proposal I foreshadowed last week and also in the week immediately following the Constitutional Convention. This relates to a mutual reference of powers between the national Parliament and the parliaments of the States. Consultation is continuing with the States. I anticipate that a text agreed with the States will be ready for introducion early next year. We believe that the two changes to section 128 of the Constitution contained in this Bill will put referendums on a more democratic basis and make it more possible for the Constitution to reflect more accurately, in contemporary terms, the spirit and the fact of Australia as one united nation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
At the outset, as the House will be aware, I am representing the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) who is indisposed at the moment and not able to be here. I should like to place on record the splendid work he has already done for education. I am convinced the speech I am now about to make will be a monumental work to his credit. The expressions contained therein are really his expressions and clearly indicate the humanitarian aspect that this man has already shown in the case of the underprivileged and the disadvantaged.
Honourable members will recognise that the measure now before the House involves a marked increase in the expenditure of the Australian Government on primary and secondary education. This increase is immediately the result of the recommendations of the Interim Committee for the Schools Commission (1973). Less immediately it is the result of the views expressed by the Australian Education Council in its Nation Wide Survey of Educational Needs (1969). It is also an expression of the conviction of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of the need for a transformation of education as contained in his policy speech of 1972. It is a response to the representations of a great many organisations and individuals.
Outside of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, and with the exception of benefits to students, the Australian
Government does not have direct responsibility for primary and secondary education. The States create and conduct State schools. The States register non-government schools, satisfy themselves that these schools are efficient and worthy of existence, and in some cases grant them financial assistance or grant some of their scholars financial assistance towards the payment of their fees. The States themselves, however, have clearly indicated that after all their efforts towards their own government schools and all their actions in relation to non-government schools, serious deficiencies remain. Some years ago, after a needs survey, the States sought action by the national Government to fill the gaps which perturbed State Ministers for Education.
There were disadvantaged schools, especially in inner areas of great cities. Teacher education left much to be desired. The education of handicapped children was characterised by omissions to meet need which bordered upon the callous. Migrant education was profoundly unsatisfactory. Some States had no schemes for the assistance of isolated children worthy of the name of assistance. Primary school libraries were characterised by general neglect. Buildings, playground space, physical education facilities and the capacity to employ teachers were generally defective. Clerical and ancillary assistance in schools were woefully inadequate. A scheme existed through the Australian Department of Social Security to assist the education of handicapped children by private charities, but not in State schools. Knowledge of the medical, psychological and physical characteristics of young children, and their home environments, was a closed book to the first teachers enrolling them at school. Disadvantaged children and handicapped children suffered greatly in this situation.
This is the background against which the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission took up its task. The crisis in Australian education - though the expression crisis is not used by the Interim Committee - is perhaps summed up in a few words of the Interim Committee’s report in paragraph 5:1 on page 48 of Schools in Australia, where it points out that in too many schools the level of resources employed: is below that required to implement modern educational methods, and to prepare all children, irrespective of their rate and style of learning, for full participation in a complex society. In both government and non-government sectors there are schools where the quality of personnel, buildings and equipment reflects an attitude towards children which, whether it arises from public indifference or ignorance is incompatible with the manifest values of our society. Many of these schools are attended by children of relatively poor families, a significant proportion of them migrant or Aboriginal, whose schooling should offer a measure of redress for the economic and political disadvantages of their background rather than a compounding of them.
The report does not suffer from materialist delusions. It draws attention, on the same page 48, to 2 points which express ideas which must govern every decision. These are:
Human and physical resources do not of themselves ensure a high quality education. Many essential ingredients of good schooling, notably attitudinal and organisational ones, cannot be bought with dollars.
The quality of relationships between and among pupils and teachers may have more lasting significance than the acquisition of any specific skills.
The Interim Committee asks for action which will attempt, both within the schools and beyond them, to supplement the opportunities open to children whose general conditions of life are least conducive to the development of scholastic ability.
The States Grants (Schools) Bill, 1973 will give effect to the recommendations of the Interim Committee. Honourable members will note that the Bill carries a comprehensive index, a format which provides a ready reference to the 7 programs devised by the Interim Committee for the years 1974 and 1975. Each part of the Bill, and its associated Schedules, sets out the purposes for which the funds appropriated for a program may be applied and the conditions to be attached to the grants for government and non-government schools. The general approach in the Bill is that the
Minister may authorise grants up to the limits of the appropriation, with the Schools Commission carrying a delegation from him to approve individual projects for non-government schools. Recipients of grants through the State Treasuries must account to the Minister for their use and provide him with information on which lie can report annually to the Parliament on progress under the program. The Schools Commission is empowered to obtain statistical and other information on which it can judge the improvement in quality resulting from these grants.
A detailed description of each program and its treatment in the Bill would require a lengthy address from me and I have circulated for the information of honourable members an explanatory statement covering such matters. I shall direct my remarks briefly to each program, and in doing so will deal in greater detail with 3 of them - disadvantaged schools, special schools for the handicapped and grants for recurrent expenditure.
Funds to be Appropriated
With the concurrence of honourable members I shall have incorporated in Hansard tables listing the various grants appropriated under this Bill, together with figures covering those present programs which will continue side by side with the new measures. I ask for leave to have the tables incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
-I thank the House. These tables speak for themselves. They show that in 1974 and 1975 a total of $694m will be available to all schools in the States and that of that amount $466m will be for the States’ own schools and $198m for the nongovernment school sector. A further S30m will be available for joint programs in both government and non-government schools. The net additional cost of the Interim Committee’s recommendations is $468.5m, which honourable members will agree constitutes _a dramatic increase, the expenditure of which will be of great significance in improving the quality of education in schools. I must emphasise here that the ‘Karmel funds’, as they are generally now referred to, are additional to the amounts which the States will spend from their own resources. No ‘set offs’ are involved against other grants to the States as the result of the funds which this Bill seeks to appropriate.
General Building Grants
General building grants are to be provided under Part II for both government and nongovernment schools as an addition to the sums already appropriated under the 1972 Act. As contemplated in chapter 7 of the Interim Com mittee report the additional grants for government schools will be for replacing and upgrading to improve the quality of existing school buildings. Housing may be provided for teachers in government schools in country areas. The grants for non-government schools may also be used for replacing and upgrading of buildings, but it is also intended that up to 50 per cent of the total for these schools may be applied to new pupil places. The nongovernment schools will be expected to make some contribution of their own towards the capital costs of buildings.
A total of % 117.7m is to be appropriated as general building grants under the Bill, made up of $100m for government schools, $16m for non-government schools and a supplementary sum of $1.7m to complete the present program for science laboratories in nongovernment schools.
Grants for Primary and Secondary School Libraries
Grants are to be made available for the first time for the provision of library buildings and library facilities in both government and non-government primary schools. In addition, extra funds for secondary school libraries will be provided over and above the $30m now available in the 3-year period ending on 31 December 1974. The provision of library facilities are, as the Karmel report expressed it: ‘one of the most effective means of assisting the development of changed patterns of teaching and learning in schools’. They improve the quality of education by encouraging an individual approach to learning. Unlike the existing secondary schools libraries program, grants will be based on the concept of needs. That is to say, once a physical need for library facilities is established, the individual non-government school to receive a grant will be expected, in the light of its financial circumstances, to make a realistic contribution to the total cost of the new facilities. Similarly, the States will be expected to take account of this concept in the distribution of the funds available to them under these programs.
For secondary school libraries, $ 17.3m will be appropriated for government schools and $2.7m for non-government schools, plus a further $1.3m to meet commitments to nongovernment schools under the existing program. The Bill will appropriate SI 6m for primary libraries in government schools and $4m for similar facilities in the non-government primary school area.
Teacher Librarian Training
As well as providing funds for physical facilities, assistance will also be given for the training of teacher-librarians in both government and non-government schools and for the replacement of teachers while training is being undertaken. A sum of $lm will be appropriated under the Bill for training courses, plus $2.8m for replacing the teachers concerned.
Chapter 11 of the report ‘Schools in Australia’ stressed the crucial importance of opportunities being constantly available for teachers and administrators to upgrade their competence’. Consequently grants will be provided for the in-service education of teachers in 1974 and 1975. These courses will be planned in each State as a joint approach by State, Catholic, and non-systemic, nongovernment school education authorities. They will be open to teachers from all school sectors. Assistance will also be provided for inservice education initiated by the teachers themselves rather than by their employers. These funds will be for the establisihment and for the operation of education centres where teachers would meet their fellows. The centres will serve to stimulate initiatives from the teaching profession. They will be run by a management committee in each case. Funds for pilot projects in each State will be appropriated under this Bill.
The funds to be appropriated for in-service training total $7.6m. To establish education centres about $2m is to be appropriated under the Bill and a further $600,000 will be made available for the operating expenses of the centres concerned.
Innovation - Special Projects
Change in education is essential. Innovation can only be encouraged by ‘fostering opportunities, providing stimulation and rewarding initiative on the part of those in and of the schools themselves - teachers, parents, pupils and the local community’ (Interim Committee, para. 12.6). To give the necessary encouragement, funds will be made available to support special projects of an innovatory kind at the school level. At the system level, support will be gwen for innovations aimed at the general improvement of the quality and welfare of the schools within the system. At the national level, projects of sufficient magnitude and national importance will be supported from funds to be appropriated under the Bill.
In order to ‘raise the quality of schooling by fostering change and diversity’, the Bill will appropriate $6m in 1974 and 1975 to establish a special projects fund from which the Schools Commission can support projects designed to promote change at the three levels referred to.
Chapter 9 of the report ‘Schools in Australia’ explains the concept of disadvantaged schools. The chapter establishes beyond doubt the appalling variations in opportunities available to Australian children, the cruel and senseless waste of potential skill, and the callousness with which this situation has been allowed to drift through the years. Children in disadvantaged areas are constricted in a vicious circle. On page 92 the Committee expresses this in superb prose:
Involvement of parents in school affairs, and hence their power in the school, is minimal; indeed in many cases no organised parent body exists. The schools are often old and dilapidated, the urgent need for upgrading and rebuilding having been bypassed constantly in the struggle to keep up with population growth in the developing areas.
I interpose the comment that the articulate sections of the population active in the interests of their children are very much to be commended, not to be condemned. But the children who have no perceptive, intelligent and active advocates are not to be neglected. As the report comments at page 92:
Low income parents, being generally ill educated themselves, do not establish habits associated with a high level of literacy as examples which their children might follow. Education in a formal sense thus becomes entirely the business of the school, parents being unable to provide assistance and reinforcement, even if willing to do so. Parents are often ignorant of the implications of educational choice and of the range of the alternatives which exist.
Children and young people in disadvantaged schools are likely to be the early leavers. They are most likely to need education in arts, crafts, mechanics, technical skills, the most likely to need to be given the most intelligent, informed and precise advice on the choice of careers and courses of study leading to such careers. They are the scholars and young people most likely to stand in need of personal tuition to make good the gaps in their schooling which might have been caused by illness, broken homes, shifting places of residence and some other maladjustment at some stage of their career. They are the scholars and students most likely to be in need of speech therapy or special assistance in oral and written expression. The scholars and students of disadvantaged schools are the ones most likely to be in need of financial assistance for the purchase of books and educational equipment if they come from underprivileged homes.
Funds for Disadvantaged Schools
On the recommendation of the Interim Committee we propose to set aside $50m for disadvantaged schools - $43.8m for government schools and $6.2m for Catholic systemic disadvantaged schools. These sums are in addition to grants which may be allocated to this class of school by the recipients out of other more general programs.
The Government believes that this program is only the beginning of a great deal that needs to be done to create the highest quality in Australian education. There will assuredly be no high quality in Australian education as long as there continues to be public indifference and official complacency about the fate of children in disadvantaged circumstances.
The years 1974 and 1975 will see the beginning of an effort to solve the very formidable problems in special education for handicapped children. The Interim Committee has recommended expenditure of $34. 2m for capital and recurrent purposes and in addition, a sum of $9.4m for training and replacement courses for teachers of the handicapped. We will continue with the grants under our predecessors’ Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act and also with grants for training teachers for special education under our teacher education programs in colleges of advanced education. It is imperative, however, that these should not constitute a series of operations unguided by an overall strategy and philosophy, and I propose to outline such a philosophy now.
Local communities and local governments should become much more actively involved in supporting action for the families of handicapped children and for the handicapped children themselves. The role of voluntary organisations will remain a role of vital and essential importance.
Our Department of Education, enlightened and guided by the Pre-School Commisison and the Schools Commission - or in the event of the destruction of the Schools Commission by the Senate, the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission - should consider itself as having a special obligation to children and young people up to the age of 18 who have these special needs.
Special Education - Aims of the Government
The principal aims of the Government in the area of special education for the handicapped are as follows: First, the development of each handicapped child to the fullness of his potential as an effective integrated, selfrespecting and independent person. Second, recognition that the ability to work and to be self-supporting is absolutely crucial to adult independence, to happiness, and to self-respect, and to gaining the respect of others. Handicapped education must always aim at this independence and at this capacity for self support. Third, the condition the child must surmount is not the only objective of. remedial action. The focus should be an the child as a total person, living in a family and a community. Efforts to assist him ought not to be concentrated solely on his handicap. Fourth, we need a comprehensive screening system for the early identification of handicaps - in child care centres, in pre-school, in primary school and in secondary school. As an aside let me say we need a system which can also identify talent and foster skills well above the ordinary levels. This is especially necessary at the secondary level when the life style and the life aims of the young person are being determined.
To implement the report of the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission on the subject of handicapped children we must develop a system of administration which actually expresses compassion. If we are to detect need in children we must face the fact that families most at risk are least likely to go voluntarily to infant welfare clinics, least likely to use child care centres, least likely to have the services of competent medical practitioners, social workers or phychological advisers. Research is needed to identify what characteristics of children are most predictive of subsequent educational and social difficulty. We just do not have enough trained people capable of physical, intellectual, emotional and social assessment of any child. This is why the Government is giving high priority to accelerating the training of social workers and medical practitioners.
General Recurrent Grants - Government Schools
For the first time in Australia the national Parliament is now being asked to make direct grants towards the recurrent expenditure of government schools in the States. Our predecessors did this for non-government schools. We intend to do it for all schools, with grants determined on the basis of relative need. The Bill appropriates $ 175.9m for government schools and $64.8m for Catholic systemic schools over the 2 years 1974 and 1975. It also provides the mechanism for the payment of grants to other non-government schools estimated to cost $70m over the 2 years.
There has been a great deal of public comment on the Interim Committee’s approach in this area. Criticism has been directed at the allocation of categories of relative need to some non-government schools, including some Catholic schools, in substitution for across the board per capita grants to all non-government schools. The Interim Committee, of course, worked within a Government directive that it should make its recommendations on the basis of relative needs and priorities, without any predetermined basic level of support to all these schools.
The non-systemic schools, after the determination of appeals, recently accounted for 734 schools and some 308,500 students in 1972. Among them, category A schools which are to receive no recurrent grants because of their very high present use of recurrent resources, account for 50 schools and 33,300 students. By contrast the Catholic systemic schools - which are predominantly the parish primary schools - account for some 1400 schools and 290,000 students. They educate 78 per cent of all non-government primary students and 16 per cent of all primary students.
The Interim Committee found that Catholic systemic schools were operating in 1972 at an average standard of some 80 per cent of the average of government schools. This year they have received grants from the Australian Government at $62 per primary pupil. In 1974 under this Bill they will receive average grants of $90 per pupil and in 1975 the figure will rise to $135 per pupil.
I invite the House to consider what might have happened in 1974 and 1975 if the previous Government had remained in office and its States Grants (Schools) Act of 1972 had continued. For the purpose of comparison let us assume that the cost of operating the government schools, on which the 20 per cent calculation is based, would rise by 10 per cent in each year, with the projected student spread between systemic and non-systemic schools as in 1972. In tabular form we see:
This estimate reveals that on these assumptions, in 1974 the total contribution from the present Government would be $3m greater than under the previous arrangement and the Catholic systemic schools will receive $5. 6m more.
When we look at the second year, 1975, our program will provide an additional $20m for all non-government schools, of which the Catholic systemic schools will receive $15.2m.
Change in Basis of Allocation of Recurrent Grants
In accordance with our policy of making grants to schools in the States on the basis of relative need, we have provided in the Bill, at clause 66, for the termination at the end of 1973 of the across the board per capita grants approach of our predecessors in assisting nongovernment schools with recurrent expenditure. Clearly the Catholic systemic schools will benefit greatly under our approach.
Continuing Efforts by the States
There are 2 respects in which we wish to have a particular understanding about the new arrangements. Firstly, the grants to be made available under the various programs I have mentioned are intended to be additional to continuing efforts by both the States, in respect of their own government schools, and the nongovernment school authorities. We look to the States to maintain the percentage of their total capital expenditure they have allocated to schools in recent years and to continue to devote to the operation of their primary and secondary schools the percentage of net budget expenditure which applied in 1971-72. Secondly, as recommended by the Interim Committee, the State Education Departments and the Catholic systemic school authorities will have wide discretion in the use and distribution among schools of both the general recurrent grants and the additional grants for disadvantaged schools. We expect them to adopt the relative needs principle in their allocations and to follow the guidelines of the Interim Committee and the Schools Commission.
Administration - Advisory Boards
In the administration of the programs emphasis will be placed on the devolution of responsibility and local initiative. The Schools Commission will have two way consultation with an advisory board in each State and will establish specialist committees to assist it.
Buildings Priority Committees - Non-Government Schools
In addition to the work of the Catholic Systemic Boards in each State to which I have referred, there will be a single priority committee for all non-government schools in each State, with most members nominated by the schools themselves. These committees will initiate recommendations for grants for general school buildings and libraries for all these schools. The Education Department in each State will determine its own projects under each program.
I am sure all honourable members will agree that this legislation marks a turning point in Australian education. We are commencing a new deal for Australian schools and Australian school students. There can be no room for complacency about what can be achieved under this major initiative by the Australian Government. Nevertheless, as the schools program gathers momentum during 1974 and 1975, preparations will be made by the Schools Commission for a researched and planned policy for the following triennium to carry forward the development of our schools.
In commending this Bill to the House I place on record the appreciation of the Government and the nation of the work of Professor Karmel and the members of his Interim Committee. When the Prime Minister appointed the Karmel Committee it was expected to do for schools in the 1970s what the Murray Committee did for universities in the 1950s and the 1960s. I am confident that they have done a good deal more because of the magnificent foundation they have set for the achievement of acceptable standards of a high order for all Australian schools.
Debate (on motion by Mr King) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
On 23 August 1973 my colleague the Honourable Kim E. Beazley made a statement to this House on Government initiatives in education. At that time he indicated that the Australian Government would assume full financial responsibility for tertiary education from January 1974, and also tuition fees at universities, colleges of advanced education, teachers colleges and technical colleges. The purpose of this legislation is to implement that policy with regard to university education.
In addition, provision is made in the Bill for a number of other matters which are being implemented as a result of Government decisions. In accordance with established practice, provision of supplementary grants to universities is included to meet the costs of academic salary increases from 1 January 1973 as a consequence of recommendations made by Mr Justice Campbell and to allow for salary increases due to the national wage case decision in May 1973. As indicated by my colleague the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the Budget Speech, the Australian Government has decided to establish a national school of management education at the University of New South Wales, and provision is made for recurrent and building grants. An extension of grants to two more universities to increase the numbers of qualified social workers in the community, which has been announced as Government policy, is included. This is in addition to grants provided in legislation already passed by the Parliament for the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. The Premiers of all the States have agreed to the major policy change which is incorporated in this Bill and have been informed of details of additional grants.
Turning to the Bill itself, I should point out that its primary purpose is to amend the existing States Grants (Universities) Act 1972-1973 to remove the need for State Government matching contributions of finance to universities in 1974 and 1975. Clause 4 provides, amongst other things, for the abolition of tuition fees. Clause 5 outlines new approved rates of remuneration for academic staff. In clause 6 of the Bill provision is made, amongst other things, for a capital grant of up to $1.8m to erect buildings to house a National School of Management Education. Recurrent expenditure for this project is provided in the First Schedule to the Bill.
In accordance with this Government’s desire to increase the output of graduate social workers, additional grants to the University of Queensland and Monash University are included in clause 15. Apart from the amounts for social work - $125,000 - and Management Education - approximately $2.3m - the additional funds available to the universities - $76m - are entirely accounted for by salary increases and do not represent an expansion in the universities’ programs of real expenditure. The basic programs as recommended by the Australian Universities Commission in its fifth report of 1972 are unchanged. The assumption of full financial responsibility and the abolition of fees from 1 January 1974 will involve the Australian Government in additional expenditure of $447m for the years 1974 and 1975. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr King) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8 November (vide page 3056) on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill has 7 clauses and as a result, if the referendum is put, what will be put to the public is an acceptance of the entire 7 clauses. The whole Bill goes together. There is no part of the Bill that can be taken separately. I think it is important to make that point. The first clause merely gives the short title. The second clause provides that the Bill shall come into operation on 1 July 1976. Clause 3 provides for the deletion of section 25 from the Constitution. I wish to make it clear that we on the Opposition side would support the deletion of section 25 from the Constitution, but that cannot be done separately. The whole of the Bill stands together. Section 25 of the Constitution reads:
For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.
I think this is the sort of thing which historically went into the Constitution or legislation and which progressively ought to be taken out because of its radical overtones. So I think that can be put aside.
Clause 4 of the Bill deals specifically with the Commonwealth Parliament. It is a most remarkable clause in that it proposes that there shall be added certain words after section 29 of the Constitution. I will not read the whole of that section. I will read just the significant words which are the opening words. It reads:
Until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides, the Parliament of any State may make laws for determining the divisions . . .
The fundamental point is that the Constitution gives to this Parliament the right to provide for the determining of divisions in each State for the House of Representatives. This power is already available. Everybody must wonder, upon looking at that section, why it is necessary to amend the Constitution to give the Parliament power to do something which it now possesses power to do. It has always possessed that power. We have the power in this Parliament. There could be legislation introduced, as indeed there was earlier this year, to deal with the question of determining the divisions for the House of Representatives. We now have a proposal to add certain words to that section which, if adopted, will give a new power. If the proposed new power is examined according to the rules of interpretation it will be seen that it is a lesser power than the power that already exists because the present power is totally untrammelled and unqualified. This Bill proposes to add to section 29 of the Constitution these remarkable words:
The numbers ascertained in respect of the several divisions of a State by dividing the number of people-
Please mark the words, ‘the number of people’- in each division by the number of members to be chosen for the division shall be, as nearly as practicable, the same.’
It therefore involves 2 propositions. The first is to make a substitution in the present legislation - not the Constitution - pursuant to the Constitution which now provides that the division into electorates shall be on the basis of electors. This clause proposes a constitutional provision to make it ‘people’ instead of ‘electors’. There is a very big difference between electors and people. Electors are those who are qualified to be enrolled and to vote. People includes everybody who lives in Australia - those who are not yet naturalised, those who are not yet 1 8 years of age and those who for any reason have not put their names on the electoral roll even though it is an offence not to do so. So the proposed change is very significant. Yet there is no absence of power in this Parliament to introduce legislation to do exactly the same thing which this Bill proposes. There is no want of power at all. Yet we are going through this facade of a referendum to give us power to do something we already possess power to do.
– And very expensive too.
– And it is very expensive, as I am reminded by my friend and colleague. The second proposition is that all those electorates should be as nearly as practicable the same. Let me examine the consequences if this clause were passed. Firstly, it would take away forever the power to divide on the basis of electors and it would require it always to be on the basis of people. It needs to be examined in demographic terms to ascertain just what the consequences are. Everybody will know that within a metropolitan area there will be some suburbs which are peopled by elderly people. Twenty or thirty years ago those people were young married couples with a family. Today they still live in the same house but their children have grown up and have gone off to new suburbs. In those new suburbs there are young families with three, four or five children. The population in the newer suburbs will be higher than it is in those areas which are now peopled largely by those in middle age. If I may take an example, in my electorate, the area of Glen Waverley is a young area with a higher population than, for instance, Caulfield or Malvern which have low populations. What we do now is to distribute electoral boundaries on the basis of the number of electors because we believe that is the proper and democratic way to do it. There are other demographic areas such as Carlton and Richmond where there is a great number of migrants who are not yet naturalised and therefore cannot be placed on the roll. Those areas have a very high population but a relatively low number of electors.
In regard to rural areas, we all know that it is the purpose, I think, of both Parties to try to achieve decentralisation in order to provide employment opportunities for young people living in country areas who are now faced with either unemployment because of structural unemployment or the necessity to go to the city. It is a tragedy but it is happening. Therefore in the rural areas the ratio of electors to population is more nearly in balance than it is say in Carlton, Richmond or Redfern.
Let me illustrate the consequences of this proposal by which the Government seeks to make the number of electors in each electorate as nearly as practicable the same. If this is done on a population basis, it may be possible to have numbers of electors as nearly as practicable the same but enormous differences will exist in the number of persons in the electorates. The value of an elector’s vote will vary greatly depending on which suburb he lives in or whether he lives in the city or in the country. That is totally the reverse of the proposition which is constantly being put by the Government and the proposition which was put in the Electoral Bill earlier this year. It is either a giant somersault or a sheer failure by the Government to be able to apply a logical mind to legislative proposals.
Let us examine what would happen under these terms. There would be vast differences in the number of electors in electorates. If the number of electors in each electorate must be as nearly as practicable the same, there can be no legislative capacity to provide that the size of an electorate will depend upon difficulties of communication, distance, community of interest and so on. If one adds the fact that the Government does not have the power to do that to the proposal for distribution according to the number of people in an electorate, one doubles the problem. The divergence is made even greater. The result can be seen by taking as an example the electorate of Darling where the population more equates the number of electors. In that case, the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) would represent not merely what is known now as Darling; his electorate would extend into the electorate of Riverina. He would have an enormous electorate. One can imagine haw large the electorates of the honourable members for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) and Kennedy (Mr Katter) will be.
If we look at the electorate of Kalgoorlie, which I understand covers approximately three-quarters of the whole land mass of Western Australia, and compare the relative population of that electorate to electors, and if we eliminate any possibility of provision for distance, difficulty of communication, community of interest and so on, the electorate of Karlgoorlie will end up covering about seven-eighths of the land mass of Western Australia. The 2 electorates of Kennedy and Leichhardt would probably cover more than 50 per cent of the land mass of Queensland. My friend, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) represents already a large part of South Australia. If the present criteria were removed or were enforced in terms of a constitutional amendment, the honourable member for Wakefield would represent about threequarters of the land mass of South Australia.
– Eccles would not like that.
– Eccles would not like that. Wait till Eccles hears about that. The Government is trying to hoodwink the people of Australia into unknowingly making this proposal a constitutional requirement when the Parliament, on examination of all the concepts, refused to accept it.
I refer next to clause 5 of the Bill - it is another remarkable clause - which seeks to add certain words to section 30 of the Constitution. I shall read the power that is given to this Parliament under section 30 of the Constitution. That power is untrammelled arid unqualified. Section 30 states in part:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualification of electors of members of the House of Representatives shall be in each State that which is prescribed by the law of the State . . .
I repeat the words: ‘Until the Parliament’ - > this Parliament - ‘otherwise provides’. Therefore, under the Constitution we have total power to say that everyone who has red hair and is 10 years of age can have a vote. That is a stupid proposition but I put it in that sense merely to explain that the Government does not lack that power. Yet, for some unexplained reason the Government is to put a referendum to the people to change the Constitution in order to give it power to do everything which it now has power to do.
Again, if this proposal was passed, a proper legal interpretation indicates that it would have a diminishing power to what was originally granted. The words proposed to be added to the Constitution are:
Laws made by the Parliament for the purposes of this section shall be such that every Australian citizen who complies with any reasonable conditions imposed by those laws with respect to residence in Australia or in a part of Australia and with respect to enrolment and has attained the age of 18 years is, subject to any disqualification provided by those laws with respect to persons of unsound mind or undergoing imprisonment for an offence, entitled to vote.
Therefore, there are 2 propositions contained in this clause. One is that every Australian citizen shall have the right to vote. That means that the parliaments have to be directly chosen by the people. The second proposition is that everybody 18 years of age and over shall have the vote. This is what the Government seeks to amend the Constitution to achieve. We are talking about the Commonwealth Parliament
Is there any honourable member or. any member of the other place who would seriously assert that the House of Representatives or the Senate is not directly elected by the people? There is not a person in Australia who enrols, and who is not of unsound mind or undergoing imprisonment, who is not entitled already to vote for the House of Representatives or the Senate. That right already exists. It exists pursuant to legislation enacted under the power of section 30 of the Constitution. So, every Australian has the right to vote and the 2 Houses - the House of Representatives and the Senate - are chosen by the direct vote of the Australian people.
The other proposition put forward is that every person 18 years of age and over should have the right to vote. Has any honourable member forgotten that earlier this year, with the support of all parties, all members of this House and all members of the Senate, we conferred a vote on all people aged eighteen and over? According to the Government we are going to the people to ask them to give everybody direct power to vote, and everybody who is aged eighteen or more the right to vote. This provision already exists. This proposal is a complete nonsense.
I refer next to clause 6 which states:
Section 75 of the Constitution is altered by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph:
The High Court shall have original jurisdiction in matters arising under sections twenty-four, twenty-nine, thirty, fourty-one or one hundred and six a of this Constitution. . . .
The first words of section 75 of the Constitution deal with the original jurisdiction of the High Court of Australia. It states:
In all matters -
Arising under any treaty; <ii) Affecting consuls or other representatives of other countries:
In which the Commonwealth, or a person suing or being sued on behalf of the Commonwealth, is a party:
Between States or between residents of different States, or between a State and a resident of another State:
In which a writ of Mandamus or prohibition or an injunction is sought against an officer of the Commonwealth: the High Court shall have original jurisdiction.
This is clear enough. Section 76 of the Constitution which is not mentioned in this Bill - mark these words - states:
The Parliament may make laws conferring original jurisdiction on the High Court in any matter -
Arising under this Constitution, or . . .
Arising under any laws made by the Parliament.
The powers which the Government is trying to obtain by putting, a referendum to the people to alter the Constitution it already possesses. All it has to do is introduce a Bill in the House and pass it. The Government wants to go to the people at a referendum to ask for the power to do something which is already provided for in the Constitution and has always existed. The proposition put forward by the Government is a nonsense, and honourable members opposite know that it is a nonsense.
Clause 7 of the Bill deals with the States. In effect what it really does is to apply to each of the State parliaments the same provisions which the earlier clauses that I quoted would apply to the House of Representatives and the Senate in this Parliament. It provides that every Australian citizen who complies with reasonable conditions about enrolment shall have a vote for all Australian Parliaments.
There is one chamber only in Australia which is not elected by the direct vote of every State citizen, and that is the upper House of New South Wales. I believe there was a referendum a few years ago in New South Wales for the purpose of dissolving that House, getting rid of it, and it failed. That House has existed to this day, and its members are elected by the combined vote of all members of both Houses of the legislature. The consequence is that one can only assume that this provision will permit a determination by the people of Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Victoria as to what should be the provisions for the upper House of New South Wales. Why should the Commonwealth Parliament say, through all the people of Australia in the other 5 States, what shall be the conditions for the upper House in New South Wales? That is the sole purpose of this clause. The other provision in clause 7 is that everybody over 18 years of age shall have a vote for State elections. Can anybody tell me which State either has not now got law or has not legislation before the Parliament to provide for 18 year old franchise? In all States 18 year olds already have the right to vote or will have by the next election. Therefore, why do we need a constitutional referendum to force the States to provide a vote for 18 year olds when the States have already given it?
The final provision is that, just as with Federal electorates, the State electoral divisions will be resolved on the basis of population instead of electors. In this provision we run into the same problems - only they are worse in the State sphere. It means that a State electorate which is now determined on the basis of electors in future will be determined on the basis of population. With the State electorates being smaller than Federal electorates there is an even larger difference between the number of population and the number of electors. In one area the ratio of electors to population may be 1 to 1.5, in another it may be 1 to 2 and in another area it may be 1 to 1.25 depending entirely on the age structure of the people living there or on the geographical distribution of the population. Mostly adults live in the remote outback. In certain parts of the metropolitan areas the population consists mostly of young families with a lot of children. I do not believe that it is a democratic proposition to determine electorates on the basis of people.
Again there is a provision in clause 7 that the numbers in each electoral division shall be as nearly as practicable equal, therefore doing away with all considerations of transport difficulties, communication difficulties, etc. Let me give an illustration. There is an electorate in South Australia named Eyre. The member is Graham Gunn. He is a very fine member too. His electorate has 9,441 electors and comprises 50 per cent of the land mass of South Australia. Next door to him is the electorate of Frome, with about the same number of electors and covering 38 per cent of the land mass of South Australia. Between the two of them these electorates cover 88 per cent of the South Australian land mass. If this provision went through, these 2 State electorates would be combined into one and we would have one electorate extending over 88 per cent of the land mass of South Australia. Is it right for this Parliament to determine that or to put it to the people in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth that this is the way it ought to be done? Of course it must be left to the State Parliaments. Incidentally, the electorate of Eyre is bigger than the whole of Victoria. It runs from the Western Australian border to 50 miles from Port Lincoln, from the Northern Territory border to Andamooka. That is how big it is. But just over the border in Western Australia is a State electorate which is even bigger, and it has only 2,000 electors. Are we to say that the Western Australian State Parliament cannot authorise its electoral distribution commissioners to form an electorate of that size for the specific pur- poses it has in mind? This is taking upon ourselves the idea of authoritarianism in Canberra, the like of which was not intended by the Australian people at any time of their history, and I am sure it will not be their intention in the future. Everybody can think of these examples in Western Australia, South Australia, to some extent in Victoria, and certainly in New South Wales and certainly in Queensland.
Is it any part of our purpose to put together 2 extraordinary conditions? One is that we change the basis for creating electoral divisions from the number of electors to the number of population, and the other is that we eliminate any prospect of making any special allowances for the size of the territory which an electorate may cover. I spoke to Graham Gunn on the telephone only a short while ago. He told me that, to cover his electorate, each year he drives 50,000 miles in his car. Would Mr Speaker, who represents the electorate of Redfern, travel 50,000 miles in Sydney? I think that from what I have said it has been demonstrated that there are two fundamental propositions in this Bill. The first is that the Bill is unnecessary because all the things it would do we already possess the power to do just by legislation. It is totally unnecessary to have the referendum. Secondly, if the referendum were passed, it would be imposing on this Parliament and upon the State Parliaments conditions which would not contribute to democracy but would make democracy in certain areas unworkable. Therefore I believe that this referendum proposal should be rejected.
The Government has the numbers. We know that it will use the numbers. Notwithstanding the arguments that are put, it will use the numbers and the question will go to the people. The way in which the question will go to the people will be in accordance with the long title to the Bill. The long title to the Bill states that it is a Bill for an Act:
To alter the Constitution so as to ensure that the Members of the House of Representatives and of the Parliaments of the States are chosen directly -
There is nothing wrong up to that point. That is a fair description. Even though it may be faulty in logic, it is a fair description, but then it adds these words: and democratically by the People.
It is an assertion of two remarkable things. Firstly, it is an assertion that the Government was not elected democratically. What an extraordinary proposition. The Government is putting the proposition that it was not elected democratically. Now it wants to amend the Constitution to make sure in the future it will be elected democratically. It is also an assertion that there is not a single State Parliament that was elected democratically. That is a nonsense. Therefore, because this is the question which will be put to the people, I have formed the words which I will put as an amendment to the long title. Normally one does not bother about amending a long title to a Bill because the Bill speaks for itself. But in a referendum proposal it is not the Bill that people read; it is the long title that they read. Therefore, I give notice that I will be moving at the Committee stage, if I am permitted to do so - there are only about 15 minutes left for the second reading debate, a division and then 7 minutes in Committee - to delete the words and democratically’ and add the following words: and that the criterion for determining the size of an electoral division shall be the number of people within it.
I disagree with the proposals in the Bill but I think that if we are to put the question to the people it ought to be described properly to the people. This is the way the long title will then read:
A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to ensure that the Members of the House of Representatives and of the Parliaments of the States are chosen directly by the people and that the criterion for determining the size of an electoral division shall be the number of people within it.
That would be a fair description of this Bill.
This is one of the most poorly thought out pieces of legislation that has ever been put before this Parliament as a proposal on which the people of Australia should vote. To give powers by the Constitution which were given in the Constitution at Federation is to pretend that the Australian people do not understand and are foolish. The fact is that the people of Australia do understand. It will be the Opposition’s purpose to make sure that they understand. The Opposition asserts that they are not foolish. Therefore, we will oppose this referendum Bill and I believe that the Bill will be soundy defeated, as it deserves to be.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) can be seen to be not opposed to this proposition from any deep principle. At least one would gather that from listening to his speech this afternoon. His criticism of the use of the word ‘people’ rather than ‘electors’ is indeed a very shallow criticism. He would know if he had read the Australian Constitution that section 24 already provides that in determining the number of members from each State the quota shall be determined by the number of people, not electors. So if such an amendment were to be made, the Bill would be inconsistent with section 24. I will return to that point a little later. The Leader of the Opposition criticised the Bill on another ground. He said that it would establish authoritarianism in Canberra. He seeks to deny this Parliament the right to ask the Australian people to determine whether individual citizens’ rights should be guaranteed in respect of the election of members of all parliaments throughout Australia. In my view, the people will have their say and they will make the ultimate decision.
This Bill is a further example of the Whitlam Government’s determination to ensure that the will of the people is supreme. On no occasion since Federation have the Australian people been given such a clear opportunity to gain effective and permanent control of the Australian Parliament. It will also give the Australian people the first opportunity since colonial days to end the cynical manipulation of political power in certain of the States. It is a basic, fundamental principle of democracy that all people must be regarded as equal and must be treated as equal. The concept of equality is the distinguishing feature of a democratic society. To allow for discrimination against citizens on the basis of their wealth, colour, creed or race would outrage the ethical standards of our community. In my view, it is equally outrageous to discriminate against citizens on the basis of having more or less representation depending on their place of residence. Electoral boundaries should be drawn to suit the convenience and to guarantee the rights of citizens, not to allow the manipulation of political power that we have seen in this country in the past.
The present position is a serious abuse of what was intended by those who drafted the Australian Constitution. It was clearly intended that, as far as practicable, electorates should have equal numbers of people resident within the respective boundaries. The variation allowed by the original Electoral Act was intended to meet quite exceptional circumstances. It was intended to cater for those who lived in isolated places. An examination of the reported debates in the Parliament discloses that a clear distinction was drawn between the population living in true rural circumstances and those living in country towns. The argument in support of there being a variation in the quota was related to the lack of capacity of those living in isolated places adequately to communicate with one another and indeed to exercise the right to vote at all.
In speaking in support of the Electoral Bill on 5 June 1902 Sir William Lyne said:
The principle of the Bill is equal representation. If the number of electors exceeds 1,000 more or less, the reason for not adhering to the quota must be stated.
That is the position that was envisaged at the start. In Opposition the then honourable member for Gippsland, Mr McLean, complained that citizens in country areas had to travel long distances in order to vote. He claimed that one of the consequences was that many citizens in country areas were unable to exercise their right to vote. He also claimed as another consequence that one person scarcely knew the views of his next neighbour. It can therefore be seen that the advocates of electoral inequality have been present since the first days of the Australian nation. The speeches are the same; only the names of the personnel have been changed.
It is an argument consistent with the horse and buggy era. It is a relic of the days when communications were either poor or nonexistent, when there was no radio or television, when the mails were slow and irregular and when means of transport were expensive, irregular or unavailable. None of these factors exists today. The excuse or alleged justification for maintaining the inequality in electoral boundaries no longer exists. The only reason for a continuation of the present discrimination in respect of electoral representation is the cynical wish to obtain -and retain improper minority control of certain electorates. The Australian Constitution is at present severely lacking in respect of control by the people over Parliament. So many of those who speak about outside control by faceless men and so on are now resisting putting the control of this Parliament into the hands of the people themselves.
Section 24 of the Constitution really intends that, subject to each State of the Commonwealth having a minimum of 5 members, the members elected from each State shall be in proportion to the number of persons resident in the particular State. In other words, it provides for equality of the value of votes as between the States. One vote one value was clearly intended. It is my argument that the concept as between State representation in this Parliament is on the basis of one vote one value. Yet the apologists - particularly the Australian Country Party - argue consistently that, that having been laid down by the Australian Constitution, they can justify having inequality of voting within those State boundaries. The present system with the 20 per cent variation above or below in electoral quotas makes a farce of the concept of equality of voting as between the various States.
The shameful manipulation, the cynical gerrymander, arose because it was left to the Parliament to work out the electoral divisions within each State. In other words, the drafters of the Constitution trusted politicians. What this Government seeks to do is put future gerrymander beyond the reach of cynical politicians who may from time to time, by electoral accident, have the majority in this House. It is a denial of logic to suggest that, having determined that the number of members elected from each State should be determined by equal value of votes, the electoral divisions within the States should be determined on a different basis. There are many examples of gerrymander in certain States. New South Wales and Queensland are outstanding examples. Indeed, New South Wales has a redistribution before every election; at least that has been the pattern in recent years.
In June this year the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) made a statement which was reported in the Brisbane Courier-Mail’ in which he agreed with a suggestion that State governments had jockeyed the electoral laws. The newspaper article states:
Speaking in an open-line radio program, he said it had been done in all States over the last 50 years. I don’t approve of it’, he said.
Let us see whether the Leader of the Country Party is now prepared to back up his earlier statement and support this proposition to give the Australian people the opportunity to express their views. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in introducing this legislation, showed many discrepancies in State electoral populations. The people have a right to have a say on this matter. They have a right to be heard. They have a right to decide.
Unscrupulous opportunism by certain politicians determined to maintain minority rule must be subject to the scrutiny of the people. Unprincipled political misdealings must be terminated. Some apportionments of electorates are insidious and infamous. No amount of cunning or attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian electorate will succeed in deceiving the Australian people on this occasion. Fair play is the cornerstone of the concept of the Australian way of life. The pettifogging arguments that have been advanced so far against this far-reaching and basic proposition will not convince the Australian people that they should not take the steps which will put the gerrymandering of electorates beyond the reach of those who seek a political advantage. The Australian people are tired of being manipulated. One vote one value is a principle which must be upheld.
It has often been said by Opposition spokesmen over the years that the party which has received the majority vote has always been in government in Australia. On 3 occasions in the last decade the Australian Labor Party has received substantially more votes than the Liberal-Country Party candidates but did not have a majority of seats in this House. In 1954 the Australian Labor Party received just over 50 per cent of the votes. The LiberalCountry Parties received 47 per cent but they formed the government. In 1961 the Australian Labor Party received about 48 per cent of the vote. The Liberal-Country Parties received less than 42 per cent of the vote, but they formed the government. In 1969 the Australian Labor Party received 47 per cent of the vote. The Liberal-Country Parties received 43 per cent and again formed the government. Is it any wonder that they oppose giving to the Australian people the right to have a say as to whether there should be equal representation, whether there should be upheld in this country the concept of one vote having equal value to another. There is no room for electoral discrimination in this country.
There is also a provision in this Bill which seeks to give to the High Court of Australia power of original jurisdiction, power to exercise a control over manipulation of Australian electorates, a power which will be a safeguard, a sentinel, on behalf of the Australian people. Of course, the Opposition is opposed to it because it has seen what has happened in the United States where the United States Supreme Court has cracked down hard against the sort of electoral gerrymander which has been per petrated in this country both in respect of this House and in certain of the States over the past generation.
– You are out of date. You do not have the latest verdict.
– No matter how much the Leader of the Australian Country Party may try to divert this debate and no matter how much the Leader of the Opposition may try to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people and, by pettifogging arguments, try to confuse the issue, the Australian people will not be fooled. No matter what obstructionist tactics are adopted by the Liberal-Country Party in this House, the Constitution provides that the matter can still go before the Australian people. It will go before the Australian people and they will have their say. In my view there is no doubt as to what that say will be. I certainly support the proposition.
– The use of the guillotine to force this legislation through this House is possibly the most despicable display of arrogance that we have seen by the Government and is in complete contempt of the functions of the Opposition to be able to expose the fallacies of the arguments which the Government is using to substantiate its case. It appears that the Government hopes that this referendum question will be passed because of the ignorance of the people in not knowing the full facts; in other words, it is to be approval by stealth. If Parliament is to act effectively it must be used as a sounding board for points of view. When Parliament does not operate freely and effectively the most important ingredient of democracy - that is, free speech and liberty - is replaced by bullying and tyranny.
One cannot help but react strongly to the storm-trooper tactics that are being used by the Government on this and another 2 constitutional issues. Nothing is more fundamental to our parliamentary system and to our way of life than the very great questions that are now being brought before this Parliament and that will eventually be put before the Australian people. They are issues which took our founding fathers years to decide upon. They have been in operation for 72 years. Now we have the farce of the Government trying to force amendments to them through this chamber in a matter of hours. The Government is using the most repressive parliamentary procedures that it has at its disposal. This important question is being forced through this House in a debate limited to 2 hours. That means that the Opposition will have only one hour in which to put its case. Only 15 minutes have been set aside to debate the Bill in the Committee stage. Democracy is under challenge. We see a power hungry socialist Government in operation. It is trying to stifle free speech and the operations of this Parliament.
For a Prime Minister so dedicated to the principle of one vote one value as the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is, it is remarkable that he has introduced a Bill which will take us further away from that principle than we are now. The fact that the Prime Minister has done this must throw into question his motives and the genuineness of his Government’s attitude to the electoral system. The explanation is that when political gain and expediency come in one door attachments to so-called basic principles go out the other. In his second reading speech the Prime Minister spoke of writing into the Constitution the principle of substantial equality of electoral divisions for all parliaments of Australia. Just what right or justification the Prime Minister has to tell the States what they must do escapes me; but I will come back to that question in a moment.
Earlier this year the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), introduced legislation providing for what he saw as equal electoral divisions, even though he proposed a 10 per cent tolerance either side of the quota. The Parliament rejected that proposal, as it should have. The clear intention of the Government is, by one means or another, to minimise the representational strength of country areas. Having failed to do it with the Commonwealth Electoral Bill the Government is now resorting to another tactic. If it felt so strongly about this issue before, why has it been ducking the issue? Why has it not taken the issue to the people? The grounds exist for a double dissolution to be sought. But no. This new attack on the voting system, even more so than the earlier one, is designed to give the Labor Party a political advantage. No doubt the devious ingenuity of the Minister for fiddling with the electoral system has resulted in his discovering yet another means that is even better than his previous one of entrenching the Labor Party in office.
This time the Prime Minister is not simply asking the Parliament to change the law to the advantage of the Labor Party. This time he wants the Parliament to ask the Australian people as a whole to approve at a referendum a change in the Australian Constitution to give an advantage to the Labor Party. There seems to be no limit to the lengths to which the Labor Party will go to try to tamper with the electoral laws in order to help itself. And this time it is even prepared to throw overboard and move right away from a principle which it has always championed and demanded should be applied to the electoral system.
May I quote a gentleman well known to honourable members as an expert in electoral matters, Mr Malcolm Mackerras of the Australian National University. He states:
I am firmly of the belief that redistribution conducted in accordance with the provisions of Mr Daly’s Bill-
This Bill before us - - would result in the greatest departure from the principle of one vote - one value ever seen in the history of Australian House of Representatives elections.
For many years, the Labor Party has claimed that in the absence of one vote one value, country people in Australia have enjoyed an unfair voting strength against the people of the city. This allegation has been answered many times, and the special representational difficulties of large, sparse electorates have been pointed out.
But what is being put to us now? We are being asked to support a proposal which would result in the votes of urban workingclass people, for want of a better term, having the highest value; the votes of country people having a lesser value; and the votes of urban middle-class electors having the lowest value. The reasons for the Labor Party wanting to bring about this situation should not be very difficult to discern. Why is it that the proposal put forward by the Prime Minister would bring serious inequities and unfairness to the voting system? In some areas, particularly in the capital cities, there are large concentrations of unnaturalised migrants. The Prime Minister wants the electors in such areas to have proxy votes for the people who are ineligible to vote. In many city suburbs there are large numbers of children. Again, the Prime Minister wants the parents to have proxy votes on behalf of their children.
As we all know, population figures taken from the census returns would be very quickly out of date, whereas the electoral rolls are kept up to date all the time. The census does not always show where a person lives, but where that person happens to be on a particular night. As a result, thousands of country people, or people from other cities, or even from overseas, would be counted for inclusion in the population of electorates. Other countries do conduct redistributions on the basis of population, rather than on voters simply because they do not have electoral rolls like ours. We do not need to use an unfair, unbalanced system. We have the most advanced system of keeping up to date electoral rolls of any country. We have led the world in the development of permanent electoral officers and of the maintenance of permanent and regular electoral rolls.
If we look at some figures relating to various electorates, we will soon see what the Labor Party’s real motives are. For example, take the electorate of Grayndler. We already know it is the smallest electorate, and therefore its representative in this House, who is the Minister for Services and Property, is quite unable as he so often demonstrates, to have any understanding of the problems of those members representing large electorates. But the interesting thing is that only 47 per cent of the people in Grayndler are on the electoral roll. Having seen the kind of member they have, it is not surprising that they are discouraged from wanting to put their name on the electoral roll. But we can easily see what the Government has in mind.
In the electorate of Sydney, Mr Speaker, you will be interested to learn that only 45 per cent or 46 per cent of the people are on the electoral roll. This means, of course, that if the Prime Minister’s proposal had applied in 1969, and electorates had equal populations, one vote in Sydney would have been worth 1.7 votes in the electorate of Robertson for example. This is a far bigger departure from one vote one value than actually occurred in 1969. Yet this is what the Prime Minister - this great champion and protector of the sacred law of one vote one value - wants the Australian people to approve. This must be the greatest display of cynicism and political opportunism this country has ever seen. Using the same kind of example in Melbourne, one vote in the electorate of Melbourne would have been worth 1.77 votes in Diamond Valley - an even bigger departure from one vote one value than would have occurred in New South Wales in 1969.
The abandoning of principle by the Labor Party becomes even clearer if we look more closely at the situation which would have applied in 1969 if the Prime Minister’s proposal had been operative then. If New South Wales electorates had had equal populations, in Grayndler it is estimated there would have been 44,125 electors on the roll instead of the 58,782 who actually were on it. In 1969, there were 43,409 voters actually enrolled in Darling, compared with 62,087 in Parramatta. This is the kind of thing that has caused such long and agonised wailing from the Labor Party, and such indignation at the so-called prostitution of our electoral laws for political advantage. Yet if the Prime Minister’s proposal had applied in 1969, there would have been, for example in Sydney, 42,999 voters on the roll, and 67,878 in Robertson - a far greater prostitution of the electoral laws than the Labor Party has always claimed already exists. In Victoria in 1969 there were 45,457 voters in Mallee and 58,776 in Batman. But the Prime Minister, under his proposal, would have seen to it that there were 38,788 voters in Melbourne, for example, and 64,709 in Diamond Valley. These illustrations serve to completely destroy any claim the Labor Party has ever had to really stand for the principle of one vote one value.
Mr Mackerras, whom I quoted earlier, has done a very interesting examination of the party advantage which would be gained under the method proposed toy the Prime Minister. In Victoria, for example, a table showing the advantage or lack of it that would have been gained at the 1969 election if electorates had been drawn on a population basis shows the greatest advantage going first to 8 Labor seats, then a lesser advantage, or disadvantage, to a mixture of seats consisting of 5 Country Party, 7 Liberal and 3 Labor - and then the least advantage, and in fact an increasing disadvantage, going to 11 Liberal seats. If any honourable member has any remaining doubts about the Prime Minister’s motives, surely these examples will dispel them.
Coming back to the proposal to insert a new section into the Constitution dealing with the election of members of State parliaments, I must say that I find it quite remarkable that the Prime Minister is so filled with a sense of power that he has taken it upon himself to initiate this matter. This certainly accords with his well-known views on the powers and the rights of the Commonwealth, and on the role of the States. It must seem odd, even to a layman, that the Prime Minister feels it is open to him to initiate action which he intends should lead to the States being told by him in effect how their Parliaments should be elected. I think the States would be quite entitled to tell the Prime Minister to go and mind his own business. I certainly believe that this proposal is arguable as to its correctness under the Constitution, and further I should be very surprised if the States did not challenge it in the High Court. If they did not do so, they could well live to rue the day when they allowed the Prime Minister’s unbridled arrogance to go unchallenged.
What the Prime Minister is proposing, it seems to me, raises questions of the most fundamental importance for the federal system. Surely nothing is more central to the authority of the States than the methods of election of the Parliaments of the States. Yet here we have the Prime Minister presuming to tell the States that they must change the methods they now use to elect members to their Houses of Parliament - methods which are laid down in the States’ own Constitutions. We should remember that the Constitution came into existence as a result of each State, or the people of each State, agreeing to unite in a Commonwealth under the Constitution. The Commonwealth was the creation of the States. They created the Commonwealth, and they surrendered to the Commonwealth many powers which formerly they had exercised. But the Prime Minister is not content with the existing situation. Not only does he want new powers written into the Constitution dealing with federal powers to control prices and incomes, but he now wants also a whole new section written into the Constitution directing the States as to how they shall manage their parliamentary elections. This strikes at the very heart of the States’ authority. Of course, the Prime Minister will say that he is merely proposing that the Australian people be asked to decide whether his intentions should be given effect. But before that happens this Parliament is being asked to decide its attitude, and in my opinion this Parliament should reject outright the over-riding of States’ rights which the Prime Minister’s proposal represents.
I think we should look closely at section 106 of the Constitution which provides that the Constitution of each State shall continue as at the establishment of the Commonwealth ‘sub ject to this Constitution’ - that is, the Commonwealth Constitution - until altered in accordance with the State Constitution. It seems to me that if the Prime Minister’s proposal purports to bring about changes in State Constitutions, then it runs counter to the Commonwealth Constitution. If the words subject to this Constitution’ in section 106 mean the Constitution as passed into law in 1900, then the Prime Minister cannot use the amending power of section 128 to cut down the rights of the states under section 106 simply by the device of inserting a new section called 106a. It is interesting to note that Sir Owen Dixon has referred to the Constitution providing for the ‘Independence from Federal control of the State in the discharge of its functions’. He also supported the proposition that the legislative powers of the Commonwealth could not ‘be used directly to deprive another Government of powers or authority committed to it or restrain that Government in their exercise . . .’. (Extension of time granted.)
Sir Owen Dixon also pointed out that Parliament could not deal with a State as if it were legislating for a person. He said:
It may be that section 106 provides the restraint upon legislative power over the States which differentiates it from power over the subject, and that no law of the Commonwealth can impair or affect the Constitution of a State.
It seems to me that the Prime Minister wants this Parliament to pass laws which will, if approved later by the people, affect in the most fundamental way the Constitutions of the States. I believe that this proposal runs counter to the provisions of the Constitution, and certainly to the spirit of the Constitution. I believe the States should very carefully consider the attack which the Prime Minister clearly is making on their authority and I think their study of this proposal could well lead them to the conclusion that it demands their challenging it in the High Court. If they do not challenge it, they are likely to find their authority undermined to a far greater extent than it already has been, and indeed to find the stage set for an even more rapid undermining of their authority in the future. Mr Speaker, because the Australian Country Party is implacably opposed to these two fundamental provisions of the Bill, it will vote against it. In doing so it will assist in preserving the long established and highly respected electoral system that has operated since
Federation and it will be acting to defend the sovereign rights of the States.
– One can always be certain that the very mention of electoral boundaries gives a nightmare to every member of the Australian Country Party. They sit in this place only because they are the greatest gerrymandered in any parliament anywhere in the world. Here is a Party one of the members of which, sitting in the back, the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson), was elected on 16.63 per cent of the primary votes. No wonder he does not want the system changed. The Australian Labor Party candidate who was defeated got 48 per cent of the primary votes and the Liberal Party candidate polled 24 per cent, with the Democratic Labor Party candidate getting 8 per cent and the Independent candidate 6 per cent. The honourable member for McMillan beat only a couple of Independents and the DLP candidate, but he is now sitting in the Parliament. Why would he not fight for the gerrymander? Why would not the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) get animated? Why, he has a Party that since 1949 has only once polled more than 10 per cent of the vote of the people but has exercised 16 or 20 per cent of the power in this Parliament. Why would he not want a system that has given the Country Party the premiership and government in Queensland on 19 per cent of the vote? No wonder members of the Country PartY do not want the Australian people to pass judgment on this kind of system.
The Leader of the Country Party, speaking today, was not attacking the legislation; he wants to deny the people the right to say whether or not they stand for Country Party gerrymanders or for a fair and equitable system in respect of electoral boundaries. The honourable member spoke about distance in relation to country seats. The Australian Labor Party holds more country seats than any other party in this Parliament. In addition, we hold the largest seat - Kalgoorlie. We have the seats with the highest population. We are the only Party that has done anything to make the task of country representatives easier by providing them with some of the things needed to make it easier for them to represent their constituents.
The Leader of the Country Party said that only 2 hours had been allocated for discussion on this Bill. Does he not know that the Liberals wasted last night on tin pot points of order and hurly-burly an hour and a half that might well have been spent in debating this measure? An hour and a half was thrown away last night by the Opposition which, in a contemptible way, had no respect for the dignity of this Parliament. Some months ago in this Parliament we debated the issues involved in this measure. There was lengthy debate on it, and I remind the Leader of the Country Party that it was not rejected by this House. It was passed twice in this chamber in an attempt to give equality of voting to the Australian people, but decadent old men in the other chamber, comprising mainly the rump of the Liberal Party, decided that they would not allow the Australian people to have equitable voting. That is why we have not got it today. Having a good look at the Leader of the Country Party and the Country Party itself, one asks how could they win without loaded electorates. Who would vote for them? The Leader of the Country Party talks about 45 per cent of the population enrolled in my district. Only slightly more than 50 per cent of the eligible population is enrolled in the electorate of the Leader of the Australian Country Party, yet he reckons he will be the next Prime Minister. I do not aspire to that position. He can get only 50 per cent of the people in his electorate to bother to enrol. No wonder Country Party members want to fight for the present system.
I shall now outline at some length why they fight for it. The honourable member who received 16 per cent of the votes has had more say in the Parliament than the honourable member who got 80 per cent of the votes. He interjects constantly. The principle of universal suffrage was enshrined in the Federal Constitution of 1901. But attempts to frustrate the effective implementation of this widely accepted basis of democracy continue to this day led by every member of the Australian Country Party and their lap dogs along at their heels, the members of the Liberal Party supporting them. One way of judging whether we have a fair and democratic electoral system is to relate the percentage of votes won by a party to the seats gained by it at an election. I have a table prepared for me by the Chief Electoral Officer, showing a comparison of results of the last 4 elections for this House. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– I thank the House.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
– Here you are.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I should like to point out to the House-
– That is not it. Here it is.
– This is a different one.
– You have seen it.
– No, I have not seen this one.
– Anyhow, you can work it out later. The table shows that the seats won by the Liberal and Labor-
– No. I have not seen this one.
– The table shows that the seats won by the Liberal and Labor Parties have been approximately in proportion to the percentage of first preference votes gained-
– Is leave not granted?
– First preference, yes.
– By these parties. However, it shows that the Country Party- (Quorum formed)
– Order! Is leave granted for the incorporation of the table? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) for calling for a quorum because my speeches are always worth hearing. The table shows that the Country Party has consistently gained almost twice the number of seats in this House in relation to the votes polled by it. No wonder the Country Party is not happy about any change that might be made, not by the Government but by the people. For example, at the 1972 elections the Country Party gained 9.44 per cent of the votes yet it has 16 per cent of the seats in this chamber. The situation in Western Australia is astounding. There the Country Party gained 8.32 per cent of the votes yet it won 22.22 per cent of the Western Australian seats in this House.
In Victoria the Country Party gained only 7.43 per cent of the votes at the last elections yet it has 17.65 per cent of the Victorian seats in this chamber. These figures show why the 20 per cent rural weighting of electorates must be retained at all costs - a measure which the Senate recently rejected for a second time but which this democratic Government voted for and so did the honourable member for Mackellar in one of his brighter moments. Where is the fairness in this? Where is this electoral system any good?
The gerrymandering of electoral boundaries and the creation of electoral zones with the essential purpose of varying the value of a vote between such zones have been the typical means of frustrating the popular will. Until quite recently the Upper House of the South Australian Parliament was elected by means of a restricted franchise and, even today, the Legislative Council of the New South Wales Parliament is elected indirectly. Similar practices were typical in many State legislatures in the United States - particularly in the deep south. The Supreme Court of the United States, however, ruled in a historic judgment that such practices were prohibited by the Federal Constitution - in particular, by the equal rights amendment. Unfortunately opinions differ as to whether the Australian Constitution affords such protection to its citizens.
Only recently, the Senate of this Parliament twice rejected the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973, the principal aim of which was the establishment of electoral divisions which would be more nearly equal in size. Accordingly, the Government has found it necessary to take the issue of malapportionment to the people at a referendum. We will let the people decide whether they want rigged electoral boundaries like the Australian Country Party does or whether they want just and equitable voting systems in Australia. We will let the people decide, not the Parliament. That is the basis of this legislation. When such proposals are advanced there is strong opposition all the way from the Country Party.
The Bill before the House today has been made necessary by the intransigence of vested political interests in this country in maintaining their privileged position by the techniques of indirect election, gerrymandering and restricted franchise. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in introducing this Bill, in his second reading speech, presented some figures for State legislatures showing just how really deplorable is the existing situation in the Australian States. Some of the States are worse than others but there is not very much to be said for the fairness of the electoral systems as used in the upper or lower Houses in the various State Parliaments.
Consider New South Wales for example. We have in the New South Wales Upper House one of the classic examples of the frustration of democracy, namely, the process of indirect election. Indirect election is one of the favourite means often used to avoid too much control of the elite by the bulk of the population. In other words, indirect election is a means of frustrating the popular will of the majority of the people. The New South Wales Upper House has repeatedly refused attempts to reform it from within. It refuses to accept the reform of its own structure to bring it into line with the requirements of the second half of the twentieth century. In the Lower House in New South Wales - the Legislative Assembly - is another classic illustration of the frustration of the popular will. There, the technique employed is not a matter of indirect election - this is under a Liberal Party-Country Party government - but rather the division of the State into electoral zones so that the number of electors returning one member of Parliament differs substantially from zone to zone.
The zoning system is used in the majority of State Parliaments of Australia but let us look at New South Wales in particular. The State is divided into two zones - a central area which is basically an urban zone with a population of 1,949,075 electors and an average enrolment of 29,531 electors in each State district, and a country zone with an enrolment of 713,021 electors with an average enrolment of 21,606 electors in each State district. Thus, electors in the country zone are given a disproportionate value for their vote relatively to electors in the central area. In other words, by the method of dividing a State into two unequal zones, electors in these zones are given different values for the vote which they cast in a system which is supposedly democratic. To be precise, an elector in a New South Wales country zone has a vote worth 1.37 times that of an elector in the rest of the State. Moreover, within each of these zones, electors are by no means equally represented. (Quorum formed) In the’ central area zone, the electorate of Phillip has 32,977 electors, whereas the electorate of Mt Druitt has only 24,017 electors. In the country zone, we have the electorate of Wollondilly with 25,265 electors, as opposed to the electorate of Murray with 19,011 electors. Therefore, if in New South Wales we compare the electorates with the highest and the lowest enrolments, we find that Phillip has 32,977 electors as opposed to Murray with 19,011 electors. No wonder the. Country Party wanted to bribe somebody in the electorate of Murray. In other words, the vote of an elector in Murray is worth 1.73 times the vote of an elector in Mt Druitt. This can only be described as a most deplorable situation.
Should we leave it to the States to remedy that situation? Should we leave it to the electors of New South Wales to remedy the degree of malapportionment in their own State? First, even if the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales were willing to reform itself and institute a more equitable distribution - the signs, of course, are that the lower House is certainly not willing to do so - any such proposals would need to be accepted by the indirectly elected upper House - the Legislative Council of the New South Wales Parliament. This upper House, which is not elected by the people, is in a position to frustrate the will of the lower House.
In Victoria, zoning systems are used to destroy the principle of equal representation and to distort the value of the vote. In the Legislative Council, which has only 18 members, 2 zones are represented. The Southern Zone has an average enrolment of 153,599, but the other zone, consisting of 8 districts, has an average enrolment of only 74,381. Thus, the value of a vote in the second zone is worth 2.07 times the value of a vote in the Southern Zone. Similarity, for the Legislative Assembly 73 members are returned from 3 different zones. The Port Phillip Zone has an average enrolment for its 44 districts of 32,643; the Coutnry Zone has an average enrolment for its 21 districts of 22,876. Honourable members can run through the pattern and see the malapportionment of those zones.
In Queensland, of course, they go to the extent of having 4 zones for the return of members of the Legislative Assembly, the only House of the Parliament of that State. The average enrolment in these zones varies from 13,937 in the South-Eastern Zone, to 7,726 in Western and Far Northern Zone. Thus, a vote in the Western and Far Northern Zone is worth almost twice the value of a vote in the South Eastern zone. Only in this way can the Country Party gain election in that State with 19 per cent of the vote and win more seats than the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. South Australia has provided Australian politics with some of its most famous examples of gerrymandering - so much so that political scientists in Australia have begun talking about ‘playmandering’. Consequently, it was not until a Liberal Premier rebelled against his own party’s efforts in this regard that the system could be altered, and subsequently Labor came to office.
Again, the New South Wales LiberalCountry Party Government, although unable to carry out the program for which it was given a mandate, has continually changed the system of voting in elections in order to maintain its place in the Parliament. In Western Australia the picture is much the same as in the other States; there is a tremendous variation in the number of voters in each of the Western Australian electorates. One finds, for instance, that the electoral district with the least number of voters has 5,457 electors, and the largest has about 84,999 voters. That is the result of the ideas forced on Western Australia by a LiberalCountry Party controlled upper House. I merely make the point of these variations in order to show the need under this legislation for something to be done in respect of these matters by the sort of constitutional approach the Government is now making.
I have here some tables that were prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer. The first of them, described as Attachment ‘A’, shows the current electoral enrolments as at 26 October 1973 in each of the 125 Federal divisions, and the proportion of electoral enrolments as at 30 June 1971 to the total population as at the census of that date. I ask for leave to incorporate that table in Hansard.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Is leave granted?
– I do not object to this table, but I do draw your attention to its extraordinary length and complexity and question whether it would be appropriate for inclusion in Hansard.
-If there is no objection to the table being incorporated, I think that leave should be granted, if Hansard has the facilities to reproduce it. (The document read as follows) -
– I make it clear that earlier the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) showed me a document that he said he would seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard. Leave is not granted for the inclusion of that document because it does not show all the parties and we do not consider it a fair document.
– I can understand the honourable member’s desire to hide the facts. If leave is not granted, I shall certainly circulate the document to all Labor members in due course. I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a table, described as Attachment ‘B’, showing current enrolment details in respect of the various State legislatures, and showing how the technique of zoning has been used. It shows the complete system of gerrymander in all States by the Liberal-Country Party. The table was prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Is leave granted?
– This is the document to which I drew your attention a moment ago. It is an extraordinarily long and complex document. I have not bad time to study its full complexities.
– Will the Minister clarify this document. Leave has already been granted for one set of tables to be incorporated in Hansard. This is a second set of documents. I take it that leave is not granted.
– I want to be quite clear on this. There is no objection to leave being granted for the incorporation in Hansard of the document described as Attachment ‘A’, for it shows the Federal divisions.
– But leave is not granted for inclusion of the second document? Mr Street - No.
– I do not intend to read those tables, but it is interesting to note that the Opposition has refused leave to incorporate them in Hansard. I ask all Government supporters to note that leave was refused, Requests will be made from the other side from time to time for the inclusion of documents. (Extension of time granted). I thank the House. What I wanted to incorporate in Hansard were the details of the distribution of New South Wales into State electoral districts; the details of the distribution of Victoria into State electoral districts; the details of the distribution of Queensland into State electoral districts; the details of South Australia into State electoral districts; the details of Western Australia into State electoral districts - all taken from the official reports. The Liberal and Country parties, represented at the table at the moment by a former Prime Minister, are so ashamed of them that they will not allow the details to be incorporated in Hansard. Is it any wonder? I shall make certain that they are circulated. At least the members of the Country Party have some self-respect; they are ashamed of their past. It is no wonder the Party is changing its name, for those associated with it want to get away from all the crimes they committed. I can understand the attitude of the former Prime Minister who is sitting opposite, for he was a party to all the gerrymanders that have occurred here in the past 20 years.
Even a cursory glance at the current enrolments for Federal divisions shows that there is a considerable variation in enrolment between the divisions. Diamond Valley in Victoria, for example, has an enrolment of 83.970 electors as at 26 October 1973 whereas Maranoa in Queensland has an enrolment of only 45,800 electors. Thus, if an election for this House were held tomorrow, an elector in Maranoa would have a vote worth 1.83 times the vote of an elector in Diamond Valley. Current enrolment details for State legislatures make the Federal figures look almost respectable. The schedule shows how the technique of zoning has been used to achieve a degree of malapportionment that might be thought to occur only in fairy tales.
This is the real situation in Australia today under Liberal-Country Party governments. Now we know why they do not want it on record. Now we know why they do not want to face the people at a referendum. Now we know why they have survived in government; it is because of gerrymanders and cooked electorates, which they seek to perpetuate. It is obvious that efforts to reform the basis of the electoral system to ensure equal representation for people in Parliament are bound to end in frustration. The only way in which the evils of malapportionment can be banned from the Australian political scene for all time is to inscribe the principle of equal representation into our Australian Constitution - one vote, one value. I thought 2 Country Party supporters were going to pass out just then. It is useless to attempt to enshrine such a principle in the Constitution of any particular State or States, for such Constitutions can be changed at the will of the Parliament concerned. The only Constitution that is unalterable except by the express permission of the Australian people is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is in our Australian Constitution that we must provide a strong guarantee of equal representation.
That is the purpose of this Bill. As the Prime Minister said in his second-reading speech it is designed to seek approval for ‘an amendment of the Constitution which would write into it the principle of substantial equality of electoral divisions for all the Parliaments of Australia and a provision that the State Houses of Parliament be elected directly by the people’. In those circumstances we find that honourable members opposite not only will not face the people at a referendum; they are ashamed to agree to publication of the details of their re-distribution.
They seek by malapportionment to cling to power in this Parliament, and the Country Party will fight to the last in order to ensure that. Others yap along at the heels of the Country Party, and the former Prime Minister is one of them. Let us not forget that the members of the Country Party did not want the former Prime Minister once, and can honourable members blame them? Then they took him back and he nearly wrecked the country. Members of the Country Party were right the first time. I submit that the people are entitled to express their opinion on any issue, and honourable members opposite who fight that deserve the fate that they met at the last election. If they do not trust the people they should not be in government. This is precisely what the Leader of the Australian Country Party and other honourable members opposite will not do: They will not let the people pass judgment on a constitutional change.
– It must now be obvious that the Australian Labor Party is suffering from an acute form of referendum diarrhoea. Referenda are the means by which alterations to the Constitution are made. That is, they ask you, the people of this country, in whom true sovereignty resides, to transfer from the States to the Commonwealth constitutional and legal power over a wide range of matters. They ask you to do so by your vote and to do so permanently.
It will be a permanent and complete transfer of power. From 6 State parliaments, governments and bureaucracies spread throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth to one all-powerful parliament, one government and one bureaucracy, centralised in Canberra, isolated from the people and remote from their needs.
You, the electors of this country, would be transferring power to a group in Canberra which, as a group, is apt to think that their interests and inclinations are paramount and dominant. You will not have a second opportunity. You will have, in fact, given away a bit more of the farm to the Commonwealth Government in Canberra, much more distant and less responsive to your wishes than the States. No matter how much you might subsequently regret the transfer of power, you will not be able to have another go - another chance - as a result of your experience and more considered opinion. You cannot recall a power once it is given to the Commonwealth.
With one exception, none of the powers proposed to be transferred by the referendum will benefit the people of this country in a personal way, as was done in 1946 in the amendment, by referendum, to section 51 (XXIII a) of the Constitution which conferred power on the Australian Parliament to make provision for such benefits as child endowment, unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits and family allowances.
I readily confess that my belief in federalism stems not only from the belief that a wide division of powers and the widest debate and discussion in and out of Parliament is in the interests of the people themselves. I also believe - and history confirms - that too great a concentration of power is apt to corrupt, and that corruption feeds on the inevitable failure of secular gospels based on the conviction that some in high office are all powerful and have a monopoly of wisdom.
Proof is easy to come by, and events in the world of today are clear testimony to the fact that administering the government of each and every democratic country raises intractable problems and is better in the hands and minds of many representatives of the people than in the vanity of the few.
As I have said, the Whitlam song and dance comedy soloists in his 27-member assortment - somewhat roughly called the Whitlam Cabinet - are suffering not only from an acute form of referendum diarrhoea but, as I shall show, interference in the affairs of others mania as well.
Already we have debated in this House 2 referenda Bills relating to prices and incomes - both with scanty bikini-type presentation but precious little substance, justification or information. Neither Bills were wanted by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Only one, the prices referendum, was wanted by his bosom and loving but long-suffering pal, Mr Bob Hawke who, I understand, is now to be replaced in the pecking order in a $15,000 a year job on the Prime Minister’s personal staff by Mr Mick Young who is later to be appointed to a permanent Cabinet post by the direct edict of Mr Whitlam himself.
Now we have 3 more Bills and the forecast of a fourth - one relating to simultaneous elections for the Senate and House of Representatives; the second relating to the qualifications of electors at House of Representatives and State elections and the quotas for each Commonwealth and State electoral division; and the last relating to borrowing for and financial assistance to local government bodies.
Before I turn to the Bills themselves, there is a threshold constitutional problem that should be considered. That is the question of whether or not the Commonwealth has legal and constitutional powers to introduce such referendum legislation which touch and concern powers and functions that are clearly within and remain within the jurisdiction of the States, and are related almost exclusively to electoral matters involving the States. This matter is discused fully in Quick and Garran’s The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth’, chapter 481, pages 988 to 995. On page 989 this passage appears:
Hence it may be concluded that there is no limit to the power to amend the constitution, but that it can only be brought into action according to certain modes prescribed.
There is also the question of the need for and desirability of changes to the Constitution. Even the Prime Minister has on more than one occasion stated that amendments to the Constitution are not necessary. Last year, referring to Labor Party policy on democratic socialism, he said that it would be intolerable if a Labor Government were to use the alibi of the Constitution to excuse failure- to achieve its socialist objective. He added that it would be doubly intolerable because it is just not true that it need do so. On the 13th of this month the Prime Minister repeated what he had already said in different language. He said:
A determined Federal Government could find ways of living with the existing Constitution.
The Constitution imposes great limitations- and it should - but the Constitution is not an alibi.
So in his view, and also in the view of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) amendments are not needed. Why then the haste to make changes when there is so much to be done of a substantive kind which affects the livelihood and interests of all? In my view the Bills are a smokescreen to cover Labor’s failure with its economic, industrial, defence and other policies and to confuse the issues at the next Senate election, and also the election in 1974.
The Bill we are now discussing is deceptive, incomplete and incomprehensible. Although it has a persuasive title, which reads:
A Bill to ensure that the Members of the Parliaments (Australian or the States) are chosen directly and democratically.’
Before debating the 3 significant proposals in the Bill let me mention that clause 3 proposes to repeal section 25 of the Constitution. This section contains a provision relating to races disqualified from voting by the law of a State and provides that in reckoning the numbers of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth persons of that race shall not be counted. It is a sensible proposal.
As to the 3 significant proposals, clause 4 proposes that the number of persons, in each electoral division, Commonwealth or State, and not the number of electors, that is, the people actually voting, should as near as practicable be the same. A proposal in clause 5 deals with the qualification of electors for both the Australian and State parliaments. Finally the Labor Government wants to add a new section to the Constitution to provide that the same provisions of the Australian Constitution, as set out in clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill, shall apply to the elections in the States with respect to both the qualification of electors and the numbers of persons in electoral divisions.
Clause 6 of the Bill is designed to amend section 75 of the Constitution to confer original jurisdiction on the High Court in respect of certain matters affecting Commonwealth and State elections and electoral disputes. The proposal does not of itself take away jurisdiction in these cases from the State courts. However, the Australian Parliament can remove this jurisdiction from the State courts, for example, by inserting a new provision in the Judiciary Act to remove the jurisdiction. Already there are some provisions in the Judiciary Act which could, perhaps, enable cases that are commenced in a court of a State and which involve the exercise of such jurisdiction to be removed into the High Court.
Let me now examine in detail the three substantial issues raised in the second Bill. Probably the most important clause is clause 4. It proposes to add a new paragraph to section 29 of the Constitution. Section 29 itself is irrelevant to this debate. In substance it says that until the Australian Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament of any
State may make laws for determining the electoral divisions in each State and the numbers of members to be chosen for each division. Already the Australian Parliament has otherwise provided. So this section is now inoperative. The proposal is that the following words be added to section 29 of the Constitution, and I ask honourable members to listen to them intently:
The numbers ascertained in respect of the several divisions of a State by dividing the number of people in each division by the number of members to be chosen for the division shall be, as near as practicable, the same.
The new sentence is incomprehensible unless the reader has already been told what it is all about and the way in which the Labor Party wants - to coin a phrase - to dilly dally Daly.mander the electorates. The change could, of course, be made by legislation of this Parliament without the need for a referendum. The reason for the proposed referendum is that the Labor Party wants to achieve its purposes for ulterior reasons contrary to the best interests of the democratic system of Government in this country.
So far as I can ascertain, the new paragraph is local in origin but the words ‘shall be as nearly as practicable the same’ have been taken out of the Labor Party’s platform, which in turn were taken from an interpretation of Article 1 section 2 paragraph (i) of the United States Constitution which, insofar as it is relevant, says:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen by the people’.
There is no reference anywhere in the United States Constitution itself to the words ‘as nearly as practicable the same’.
The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who preceded me in this debate, has informed us that in the United States case, Wesbury v. Sanders (1964) the then Chief Justice of that country, Earl Warren - a man more noted for his political judgments than his knowledge of jurisprudence, as will become obvious - ruled that the relevant part of this Article should be interpreted as meaning that in United States Congressional elections - to use his own words - one man’s vote in a Congressional election (in the United States) is to be worth as much as anothers’
This was pulling a rabbit out of the hat. As must be obvious, there was no justification for this interpretation. A margin of 15 per cent from the average has, until recently anyhow, normally been considered acceptable in the
United States. But obviously the Supreme Court ruling has not had time to work through the United States and State courts and the trend is now to favour a strict and literal interpretation of the words themselves. It must be remembered too that whilst the High Court of Australia would undoubtedly consider the United States Constitutional and law, it would riot necessarily be found by it. In recent years ‘the high’ has been much more prone to adopt the literary and dictionary meaning of words than to use the precedents and interpretations of the past. Providentially so but the concrete pipes case is a precedent.
In any event, I do not understand the infatuation with the United States system or the decisions of its Supreme Court - neither seem to be doing anywhere near well as our own - unless, of course, old Dilly Dally or the Prime Minister are aspirants for presidential honours.
The next question is one of logic. As I have said, the Bill proposes that Commonwealth boundaries be drawn up in such a way as to reflect equally the number of persons living within an electoral division or electorate, not eligible electors, that is, the people who in fact elect the members for the electoral divisions of the parliament. Surely the appropriate way to determine the numbers of electors in each State division is by means of a quota of electors properly enrolled and legally entitled to vote, not the number of people including the very young - even .the one and 2-year- olders and up to the 17-year old group - and the migrants who have not become naturalised citizens of this country. The voters are the people who determine the results of the elections and they should be the people who count.
Indeed the proposal must discriminate against those who have raised their families and whose children have moved to other electorates. I refer to the elderly, the young couples with few or no children and single people. It must also discriminate in favour of electorates with high migrant populations.
Furthermore, the proposal cuts directly across the Labor Party principle of one vote one value, and is inconsistent with Labor’s alleged fundamental philosophy. This raises the question of both ideology and political opportunism. Labor’s proposal means that every vote is not equal in value. It can have one or more electoral values. One vote may represent one or even more than 1.5 people in the electorate, not one qualified elector, that is, an elector qualified to vote. As an example, in an area with 50,000 migrants, many of whom are not yet naturalised, with 25,000 of them voting and 25,000 Australians voting there would be an electorate with 75,000 people and 50,000 voters, a vote in which the actual voter would be worth 50 per cent more people than in an electorate with a predominantly Australian grouping.
I repeat that this is a blatant attempt to gerrymander the electorate by a constitutional amendment. It would mean that the high density areas with a large percentage of people, not qualified to vote, could strongly influence the results of the elections. As Labor thinks these high density areas are red ribbon Labor electorates with much more than average numbers of non voting people it would obviously falsify the vote and any new electorates created by a spill-over would probably trend strongly towards Labor.
More importantly, the essential test of the fairness of a voting system depends on whether or not it truly reflects the opinions and voices of the Australian electorate as a whole. In other words, does the vote at election time enable the party which polls the majority of votes to win the majority of seats?
There is proof beyond any reasonable doubt that since 1949 the legal tolerances have invariably produced fair distributions. Only twice since 1949 has the party with the highest percentage of votes - or the votes of the parties which usually distribute their second preferences to another party or parties - failed to win a majority of seats. One of those occasions was in 1954, when the election was contested on boundaries drawn up under the supervision of the late Mr Calwell when the Labor Government was in power.
The other occasion was the result in the 1972 election which is especially interesting. In this case the boundaries gave Labor an advantage. The figures are:
Labor polled only 49.6 per cent of the vote but won 53.6 per cent of the seats. So on the evidence, the present system is somewhat biased towards Labor.
I wonder whether Labor has thought its policies through thoroughly. Has it abandoned its zero population philosophy? Does it intend to advocate a baby boom? If so, to what extent? Will it increase child endowment in order to achieve these purposes? Taken to extremes, has the Labor Party taken to heart Neville Shute’s views as expressed in his book ‘In the Wet’ that some people should have as many as 7 votes - a vote for himself, his marriage, his family, his property, his overseas travel, his war service, and his service to the Queen?
Clause 5 of the Bill seeks to amend section 30 of the Constitution. I do not have the time to deal with this aspect in any detail. I point out also that under the Constitution the Commonwealth already has power to pass laws relating to such matters. Why then does the Labor Government seek to write specific laws of this kind for which it already has general power under the Constitution? I have already given some of the reasons and time alone precludes me from mentioning the balance. I conclude with this supplication: Save us this day, and on all other days and nights, from our Daly dread in this House - the Minister for Services and whatever else the other part of his portfolio description means.
– I am somewhat astounded after listening to some of the statements which have been forthcoming from members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) spoke about the despicable display by the Government in wanting to go to the people of Australia to seek their opinion on an alteration to the Constitution. Supporters of the Government believe that this is the democratic right of the people of Australia. I was rather astounded to hear the Leader of the Country Party make such a statement.
Several speakers from the Opposition, particularly the Leader of the Country Party, relied heavily on the Constitution and its reference to how the electorate should be determined. I think the point that has been missed is that over the years there has been a great drift of population from the country areas to the cities and particularly to the capital cities. For instance, 60 per cent of the people of Australia lived in country areas in 1916. When I refer to country areas I include country towns. Forty per cent of the then population resided in the capital cities. At present, about 55 per cent of Australian people live in the capital cities and about 85 per cent reside in the capital cities, provincial cities and towns. There has been a marked shift of population from the country to the cities. The Opposition has not taken this into account when it has considered what the Government is endeavouring to estabilsh.
One point that became evident after listening to Opposition speakers was that the great majority of Australians and particularly those who live in the larger cities, the provincial cities and towns, have been informed in no uncertain terms by Opposition members that their vote should not have the same value as the vote of people who live in the country areas. Speakers from the Opposition side have dealt mainly with how many square miles are contained within the boundaries of a few electorates. They have sidestepped the real issue that is being debated in this House, that is, whether members of this House and of State Parliaments should be chosen directly and democratically by the people. I submit that this is an admirable objective and one which I believe should have the full support of all fair minded people. It appears that those in Opposition seek to walk roughshod over the Australian people and to treat city electors as second rate citizens. They appear not to understand the provisions of this Bill.
The provisions of the Bill have been dealt with at some length. But, in short, the intention is to introduce into the electoral laws provisions which will ensure that electorates are evenly weighted. I submit that this, in turn, will lead to the conduct of truly democratic elections by applying the principle of one vote one value.
I submit that there should be no opposition to the proposal to seek the people’s views on altering the Constitution in the manner sought because if the people of Australia are in accord with the views of the Opposition they will reject the proposition that is put before them. But they should be given the opportunity to express an opinion on this matter. I believe that members in this House have no right to refuse the move to gain an expression of opinion from the electorate. On the contrary, I suggest there is a moral obligation on all elected representatives in this House to permit the people’s view to be obtained.
Much has been said concerning some supposed ulterior motive to gain an advantage for the Australian Labor Party. Of the three political parties whose members sit in this House, the members of the Liberal Party should be the most active in supporting this measure. I say this because I seriously believe that the Liberal Party should take stock of its position, I point out that in the community there are people who belong to a branch of the Liberal Party who appear to subscribe to the view that the Liberals should be looking where they are going. I refer to a Press report in the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ of 29 January 1973 which was headed: ‘Young Libs. Proposal to Scrap States’. The article states:
Surfers Paradise: A radical policy document which even questions the present States system in Australia has been drawn up by Queensland Young Liberals. . . .
Entitled ‘Towards a New Freedom’, the document is expected to be resisted strongly by the senior Liberal Party in Queensland.
The document drawn up by the young Liberals in Queensland states in part:
We therefore seek to encourage the development of the Parliamentary Committee system, particularly in the Upper Houses of the Parliaments of this nation where it is not necessary for the government of the day to retain control of the day-to-day business of the House.
One real step forward in the creation of such a system would be the democratisation of the election procedures of these Houses, as the undemocratic nature of their composition currently would prevent their holding the respect of the electorate when they inhibited the activities of government.
It states further:
Liberals therefore seek to include in the constitution of all governments the principle of a continuing independent electoral commission determining boundaries on a basis of community of interest whose numbers of voters are equal subject to an allowable variation of not more than 10 per cent in order that the future development of growth areas would not make the distribution obsolescent within a very short period.
There are young people in the Liberal Party who can see what is occurring and they show some concern about it.
If we look no further than the voting results at the 1969 and the 1972 Federal elections, we see that the voting trends, so far as the 3 political parties which have members in this House are concerned, show some startling results in some respects. I shall deal with New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland to illustrate the manner in which the Liberal vote fell and the Country Party vote increased. Between 1969 and 1972, while the Australian Labor Party vote went up considerably in New South Wales, the Liberal Party vote declined by 37,673 votes and the Country Party vote rose by 14,593. In Victoria, the Liberal vote dropped by 20,201 and the Country Party vote increased by 20,200. In Queensland there was a drop of 2,407 in the Liberal
Party vote and an increase of 35,000 in the Country Party vote.
At the 1972 Federal elections the Australian Labor Party gained 49.6 per cent of the total primary vote and won 67 seats. The Liberal Party received 32.1 per cent of that total vote and had 38 members elected. The Country Party received 9.4 per cent of that vote and that Party won 20 seats. There emerge from the foregoing figures 2 important factors. The first is that as a result of the Country Party manipulation, this minority group has 16 per cent of the total membership of this House, although its vote was only 9.4 per cent of the total vote recorded by the electors of Australia. When we hear the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) speak about what might occur in the future ‘by way of gerrymandering of electorates if the people of Australia decide that they want the Constitution altered, it makes us realise why the Country Party has no desire to see any change made. As I indicated, it recorded 9.4 per cent of the vote but has 16 per cent of the membership of this House.
The second factor is one which should be causing grave concern for every person in the community who believes in the principle of one vote one value. It appears that as a result of the manipulation of the Country Party the Liberals have been robbed of five or six seats in this House. If they are happy to accept this kind of situation - after listening to some of the speakers today it appears that they are - the people of Australia should be asking why this type of gerrymander should be permitted and why the Liberal Party is so anxious to allow a situation like this to continue.
– It might have no choice.
– The tail apparently is wagging the dog. I am of the opinion that the Liberals should hang their heads in shame for permitting a minority group to outmanoeuvre them. I anticipate that they will rue the day that they buckled under Country Party persuasion and allowed their position to be weakened. When we look at the question of responsible government in the Queensland Parliament, the situation is even worse. For people who have any desire to see democracy working as it should, the situation in Queensland is particularly frightening. In Queensland the most blatant, dishonest and immoral gerrymander possible has been engineered by the minority party, the Country Party. The minority party is in command of the Queensland Government because of dishonest rigging of electoral boundaries. The sad part about the whole rotten business in Queensland is that the Liberal Party has caved in under the minority domination of the arch boundary rigger, and the result is staggering.
I would explain that prior to the 1972 State election there were 78 electorates in Queensland. The Country Party and those who are in control of that Party in Queensland, having the cunning of all confidence men, sensed the support that the Australian Labor Party was gaining and decided to increase the number of electorates from 78 to 82. Great shadow sparring by the State Liberals followed, but the minority Party soon flattened its weaker unholy partners, and the Liberals again bowed to Country Party pressure. While this argument concerning the rigging of boundaries and the gerrymander that was to take place in Queensland was going on the ‘Australian’ newspaper of 30 March 1971 ran an article under the heading ‘Politics versus principles*. I shall quote from a section of that article under the subheading ‘Worst ever’. It reads:
The Liberal Party State president, Mr E. Robinson-
He now sits in this House- says that if the Country Party’s proposal is adopted it will mean ‘electoral injustice at Country Party insistence,’ while Mr Houston says it is ‘the worst gerrymander the world has ever seen.’
So it came to pass that at the 1972 State election in Queensland the people went to the polls to elect-
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wonder whether the honourable member would do us the courtesy of describing the Labor Party’s suggested boundary-
– Order! The honourable member for Angas wil resume his seat.
– It is a good point.
– Of course it is a good point if it wastes time, but I will not waste time answering that sort of interjection. When the people went to the polls they went to elect 82 State Government representatives. I can easily understand why honourable members opposite, particularly those who belong to the Country Party, do not want to hear what goes on in Queensland. The result of this election illustrates the detrimental effect to democratic elections that the political racketeers achieved in Queensland. The Australian Labor Party received 430,476 votes, which was 48 per cent of the total votes cast, and had 33 members elected. The Liberal Party received 201,608 votes, or 22 per cent of the total vote, and had 21 members elected. In democratic Queensland, where the Country Party is in control of the coalition, the Country Party gained 181,288 votes - less than 20 per cent of the total vote - and won 26 seats. I point out that 2 independent candidates also were elected.
Examining the results, it can be seen that Liberal Party candidates gained 20,320 votes more than their co-runners for 5 fewer seats. That is how strong the Liberal Party is in Queensland. The Liberals clearly failed the people who supported them and they failed democracy. Further, the combined votes of the Country Party and Liberal Party candidates totalled 382,896 or 47,580 fewer than the total ALP vote, but won 14 seats more than the Australian Labor Party. In short, the present coalition Parties combined gained 42.2 per cent of the total vote for 47 seats, and the ALP gained 48 per cent of the total vote and won 33 seats. If anywhere in this country there is need for democratic electoral reform, surely it must be in Queensland. I submit with all honesty that reform should be made not just to benefit any political Party but to ensure that elections are properly conducted.
I have illustrated how the Country Kid, the oil baron of Kingaroy, and his hatchet men put it all over the city slickers, the smart businessmen of the Liberal Party, whom they took for a ride about 1 8 months or 2 years ago. I must point out that in a spirit of true charity a little heart balm was handed to the Liberals. This was done in the form of a gerrymander in the Brisbane metropolitan area which favoured the Liberals. The result of this was the election of 17 Liberals who collectively gained 36.7 per cent of the city vote and the election of 15 ALP candidates who collectively gained 51 per cent of the vote. The rotten position in Queensland as a result of political wheeling and dealing is that, at the 1972 State election, on average it took 13,045 votes to elect one ALP candidate, 9,600 votes to elect one Liberal and 6,972 votes to elect one Country Party member.
The magnitude of the political racketeering which has been imposed upon the people of Queensland is shown when one realises that Brisbane’s Lord Mayor at the last Brisbane City Council election received 30,000 votes more than the Country Party could muster in the whole of the State at the previous State election. The excuse usually put forward by those who support dishonest electoral boundary rigging is that the Country Party held electorates are large in area and sparsely populated. This false argument falls fiat in Queensland, because of the 8 large country electorates 5 are held by the Australian Labor Party. These are the electorates of Mount Isa, Cook, Tablelands, Warrego and Belyando. It is clear that the whole dishonest electoral mess in Queensland is easily exposed, and the shallow arguments of the architects of the crooked system which exists are easily destroyed.
It has been pointed out here today by previous speakers that similar gerrymanders exist in other States, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. I have pointed out that the Country Party in this House has overrepresentation, if one considers the vote it receives throughout the nation. I believe this is a matter that should cause concern to the people of Australia, and it should particularly concern those honourable members opposite who belong to the Liberal Party, because they should come to realise that the tentacles of electoral corruption are spreading and it emerges that the old buddy of the Liberal Party, that is the Country Party, is well on the way to white-anting the Liberal majority of the Opposition.
I want to refer to a Press report which appeared in yesterday’s ‘Canberra Times’ under the heading: ‘Kane Urges Joint DLP-CP Ticket Under Anthony’. It reads in part as follows:
The Federal secretary of the Democratic Labor Party, Senator Kane, has called for a new national force in Australian politics led by the Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony.
If Doug Anthony can campaign for the Senate in the 4 smaller States at the bead of a joint DLP-CP ticket, it will lay the foundation for a strong political force in the smaller States prepared fo defend their interests against Canberra,’ he said.
That indicates that the DLP and the Country Party do not place much reliance on the strength of the Liberal Party in campaigning.
I believe that the people of this nation are fed to the teeth of the electoral gerrymanders which have been permitted not only in the Federal sphere but also in the States, and particularly in Queensland. Minority control is undemocratic. I am confident that it will not be accepted or tolerated by the people of Australia. All the arguments that might be put forward against the Bill that is now before the
House must fall flat because we of the Australian Labor Party Government merely seek to give the people of Australia the right to make a determination.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have but 3 minutes before the guillotine falls. Therefore, the tumbrel must move swiftly. I think that 3 minutes is quite ample time in which to explain why there is no necessity for this Bill. The whole purpose of the referendum procedure is to enlarge the powers of Parliament, and the referendum procedure was devised with precisely that in mind. What is offered by this Bill? What is offered is nothing more than an attempt to declare rights as seen by some members of this Parliament. If one turns to the various clauses in the Bill one sees that that is just the case. For example, if one turns to clause 4 one finds a proposal which seeks to have divisions of people that shall be as nearly as practicable the same. Does anybody say that this Parliament does not have that power today? It is here.
Further on the Bill contains an arrangement that there shall be reasonable conditions relating to elections. The only new thing in this Bill, in respect of which this Parliament does not have power, is power to control the States. This has been the lamentation of honourable gentlemen opposite. If they are so virtuous about expressing their concern for State parliaments why do they not turn their attention to some of the local government authorities? Or am I to understand from the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) that he takes the view that virtue is all right done on a regional basis but, when it comes down to the brass tacks of running local government authorities, we can have gerrymanders there in the plainest extent? This Bill is a spurious attempt by the Government to encourage the view throughout the nation that the Commonwealth Government has been created on the basis of gerrymandering. One has only to state the proposition to see the absurdity of it. The Government was elected in precisely the same circumstances as the previous Government was elected. There was no substantial alteration. I think it is a gratuitous insult to the civil servants of this country who administer the legislative procedure to suggest that gerrymandering can and does occur.
The last thing I want to say to the Minister for Services and Property is that he has been travelling around the world for months investigating voting conditions, ensuring that he can pick up something that might help him on his way. Every time anything is mentioned to do with voting conditions the honourable gentleman starts to behave like a fussy old governess - and one riding side saddle at that. The simple truth is that the honourable gentleman has brought nothing back to this Parliament from his experiences. This Bill is a spurious Bill. It reflects an attempt by the Labor Government to declare in some curious fashion what is in fact a political battle cry. The Minister could not explain to the House what is meant by ‘as nearly as practicable’. He did not attempt to explain it. What is nearly as practicable to the honourable gentleman may in the eyes of his friend the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) be thoroughly impossible. The simple truth is that the Constitution should not be subjected to having this sort of rubbish put into it.
– On that note I finish.
-Order! The time allotted for the second reading of the Bill has expired.
That the Bill be read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
– I intend to move the amendment which has been circulated in my name. It relates to the long title to the Bill, which reads:
To alter the Constitution so as to ensure that the Members of the House of Representatives and of the Parliaments of the States are chosen directly-
To that point I agree that that is a description of this Bill- and democratically by the People.
I do not believe that the words ‘and democratically’ should be included in the long title because they carry a very clear inference that the elections until now have not been carried out democratically. A curious result of this is that the Government is alleging that it was not democratically elected and that by the amendment of the Constitution there will be henceforth democratic elections. Quite clearly those words have been chosen because they are words which will appeal to members of the public when they come along to vote. They are not in fact appropriate words because they are argumentative. In a referendum, those in favour of the referendum can put their case and those against it can put their case, and in that putting together of the cases all the argument can be put. Clearly there ought not to be words of argument in the title itself. Therefore I move:
In the Title, omit the words ‘and democratically by the People’, substitute the words ‘by the People and that the criterion for determining the size of an electoral division shall be the number of the people within it’.
If the amendment were carried the long title would then read:
To alter the Constitution so as to ensure that the Members of the House of Representatives and of the Parliaments of the States are chosen directly by the People . . .
That would be a fair description of what the Bill proposes, subject to the additional words which deal with the other major aim of the Bill, that is, the substitution of the criterion of apportionment of electorates by population as distinct from electors. At present the apportionment is all on the basis of the number of electors. The Bill proposes that it be on the basis of the number of people. That would include children, those who have not bothered to enrol and, of course, those who do not have Australian citizenship. I have already explained the differences that this would make and I will not repeat my arguments on this occasion. But I do say that the words ‘by the People and that the criterion for determining the size of an electoral division shall be the number of the people within it’ should be substituted for the words ‘and democratically by the People’. If my amendment were carried the question that would be put to the public in the referendum - if this proposition is accepted by both chambers or if it comes back to this chamber and is accepted the second time - would read:
To alter the Constitution so as to ensure that the Members of the House of Representatives and of the Parliaments of the States are chosen directly by the People and that the criterion for determining the size of an electoral division shall be the number of the people within it.
I think that should be agreed to by the Government. It certainly represents a much fairer description of the purpose of the Bill than do the present words. The words ‘and democratically’ are emotive, highly argumentative and should be eliminated if there is to be a fair referendum.
, that this further amendment was being sought by the referendum. His proposal identifies one amendment alone. It does not identify the other.
Furthermore, it does not identify in any respect the safeguard which the Bill provides in permitting appeals to the High Court.
– Order! The time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill has expired. I put the question: ‘That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the title’.
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be agreed to and that the Bill reported without amendment.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– The question is:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
As this is a Bill to amend the Constitution, the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution must be observed.
– Mr Speaker, I point out that the doors are open.
– The doors do not have to be closed. Although there is no dissentient voice and a division has not been called for, it is desirable that the names of those honourable members present agreeing to the third reading should be recorded. I appoint the honourable member for Wide Bay and the honourable member for Bonython as tellers for the ayes. The ayes will pass to the right of the chair.
– Mr Speaker, are you not appointing tellers for the noes?
– There was no dissentient voice. There is no call for a division. I cannot appoint tellers unless a division is called for.
– The doors are not locked.
– The doors would have been locked if a division had been called for.
– Mr Speaker, is it possible for one of the Clerks to act as a scrutineer in the counting to see that the numbers are counted fairly.
– Order! I think the Leader of the Australian Country Party would know that every division is checked by the Clerks of the House. He should know better than to ask such a stupid question.
– Normally there are 2 counters on each side and one acts as a scrutineer. I do not think your remarks were appropriate, Mr Speaker.
Question put -
That the Bill be read a third time.
Members voting in favour of the third reading.
– Order! As 64 honourable members have agreed to the third reading I certify that the third reading has been agreed to by an absolute majority as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Would you explain to me the reason for the difference in the taking of the vote last night to that taken today? Does it mean that the vote taken today is different in its implication to the one taken last night? The Votes and Proceedings of the House show that last night there were 2 third readings of the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Election) Bill 1974.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party would know that last evening I stated that the Speaker has no alternative but to record the number of honourable members in favour of the third reading of any Bill to alter the Constitution. It must be recorded that there is an absolute majority. Irrespective of what happened before, it is of no consequence.
Debate resumed from 8 November (vide page 3057), on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill 1974 is the third in the trilogy of Constitution amendment Bills that we have had before the House today and yesterday. This Bill has as a long title ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth to borrow Money for, and to grant Financial Assistance to, Local Government Bodies’. It should be to the interest of honourable members to examine the terms of the Bill. They are very short. The first clause deals only with the short title of the Bills, but clause 2 provides that a new placitum (IVa.) be inserted in section 51 of the Constitution. This would give the Commonwealth power to make laws with respect to the borrowing of money by the Commonwealth for local government bodies.
Clause 3 of the Bill proposes to insert a new section 96a into the Constitution. Section 96, as it is at present, is the section of the Constitution which enables the Commonwealth to make grants to the States. It reads: … the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
It is proposed to insert in the Constitution new section 96a which will read:
The Parliament may grant financial assistance to any local government body on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
The consequence, therefore, is that it is proposed to provide the same procedure in re lation to local government bodies as is provided by the Commonwealth in relation to the States. The purposes are clear enough. The validity of the approach needs to be examined, and that I propose to do.
I think the first point that ought to be made is that there is at present a Constitutional Convention being held in Australia. There was a meeting of all States and the Commonwealth, with all political parties being represented, at Sydney in September. There was a week of debate and discussion on constitutional reform. As a result of that week’s efforts, it was decided to set up a number of committees to examine particular aspects of the Constitution. Those committees are at present examining the Constitution and will shortly bring forward recommendations for another meeting of the convention to consider. One of the committees has as its specific task the examination of constitutional relations in respect of local government bodies. The legislation now before the House quite clearly anticipates the report of that committee. It is quite wrong, I would submit to the Parliament, that it should be so anticipated. That is one reason for opposing this legislation.
There are far more cogent reasons for opposing it. I believe that the Australian Labor Party sees the proper structure of government in Australia as a unitary system. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on many occasions has announced uncompromisingly that he believes in a unitary system. There seems to be some misunderstanding of what is a unitary system, so let this be made clear. A unitary system is one in which there is a single central government and there are no State governments. A unitary system would abolish the States.
– That is what the Government wants to do.
– Yes. That is what centralism is. The Prime Minister and the Labor Party propose to create some sort of amorphous provincial system of representation. Just what that would be has never been spelt out, but the clear purpose of the Labor Party is to have a single unitary government in Canberra. We resist that proposal because we believe not only is it a bad form of government; it is also particularly bad for Australia, which has such a large land mass. It is particularly bad for a country which has so much expectation of population increase in the future.
This Bill is part of the proposal by the Commonwealth Government to by-pass the States and contribute to that centralism in Australia which it so ardently wants. The way in which it will achieve centralism is not by the proper and direct device of conducting a constitutional referendum which would have as it purpose the elimination of the States or the substantial diminution of the powers of the States, thus doing it directly. The way in which it chooses to do it is very indirectly to cut down the powers of the States and to see the States decay. That is what it wants. There is no hesitation, I think, on the part of the Prime Minister and presumably on the part of his Party to acknowledge that fact.
In order to do this the Government has set out on a deliberate campaign to try to encourage local government throughout Australia to believe that the Labor Party has the interests of local government at heart. In fact, what the Labor Party has in mind is to deceive local government into believing that it will get a better deal in such circumstances. Of course, if Labor succeeds - and it will be our purpose to prevent it from succeeding - then local government bodies will have no more role in Australia than the Labor Government sees as the role of State governments. There will be this concentration of power in Canberra. I am afraid that those in local government who believe that they will get a tremendous deal from the Federal Labor Government are in for a nasty shock.
– It will turn sour.
– It will turn sour; there is no doubt about that. What the Labor Government is doing in order to win the support of local government is to put out a money enticement. They are making noises to the effect that local government would get more money from the Commonwealth Government if only local government combined with the Labor Party to enable the Labor Party to give money direct to local government. I will go into that point in a moment. I think at this stage of the argument I should make the point that if there is a money enticement being offered by the Commonwealth, it is absolutely certain that there will be conditions that go with the grant of the money.
– There will be strings attached.
– What are the tags that are attached to the money?
– Less money for the States.
– It will turn out to be less money for the States, as my friend and colleague the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) rightly points out. But at the moment I am developing this part of the argument which relates to centralism. Once that centralism is achieved we will find that the grant of money will have a whole series of conditions attached to it which will deprive local government of its own freedom of action, and some bureaucrat in Canberra will decide the way in which local government ought to conduct its affairs. I do not believe that all wisdom resides in Canberra and I certainly do not believe that you can assemble bureaucrats in Canberra who know better than do the elected councillors of the local government areas what is good for local government.
The first part of this referendum would provide power for the Commonwealth to raise loans for local government. Let us just examine this proposition in order to see how much merit there is in it. Firstly, the present position is that the Australian Loan Council consists of representatives of the Commonwealth and the States. The Australian Loan Council determines a borrowing program for the year. Then the Commonwealth Government, on the authority and security of the Commonwealth, borrows all the money. That money, in almost every year over the past couple of decades, has been wholly distributed to the States.
Local government borrowing falls into 2 separate categories. There are the semigovernment bodies and the local government bodies whose borrowings each year are more than $400,000. In respect of those bodies there is what is termed a gentleman’s agreement because it is not covered specifically by the Loan Agreement. Under the gentleman’s agreement the States and the Commonwealth agree as to how much will be the total sum of money to be borrowed on behalf of these large instrumentalities. The reason for that is that if there were no ceiling put on the amount of borrowings, money could be drawn away from the Commonwealth loan raisings, which go to the States. Therefore, the States would suffer if local government borrowings were increased and, accordingly, the gentleman’s agreement is made to fix the levels of both.
Also within the agreement provision is made to fix the interest rates at which the money is borrowed.
That is the present situation. The Commonwealth borrows all the money for the States and the money that it borrows it hands over to the States. The States then use that borrowed money for the purpose of providing State services. Then the larger local government and semi-government bodies, each of which raise more than $400,000 a year, raise their money direct, pledging their own authority which, basically, comes back to the authority of the State and the Commonwealth, and so there is a backing from State and Commonwealth governments for it, in reality. That is fixed with a ceiling. Those local government bodies borrowing less than $400,000 a year are unrestricted as to where they can borrow from, and the total amount that can be borrowed. It is estimated that these borrowings amount to something like $100m a year. Those local government bodies borrow that money from superannuation funds, from insurance companies; and many of them borrow on overdraft from the banks. However, that is the structure that we have at the present time.
Under the proposal now before the House the Commonwealth would be able to come in and borrow money on behalf of local government so that in the future when the Commonwealth issues a public loan, which it usually does about 4 times a year, the money that is being borrowed will have 2 destinations instead of one. Its single destination now is the States. In the future it will have 2 destinations, the States and local government - and possibly, of course, if the burden of taxation is so great and the Commonwealth decides to finance partly on borrowed money and not totally on revenue, it could have a third destination, and that would be the Commonwealth Government. However, leaving that aside for a moment and thinking of it as only 2 destinations, State government and local government, it is as clear as a pikestaff that more money has to be raised by Commonwealth borrowings in order to provide money for local government . than is at present raised when all the money goes to the States. That follows: It is perfectly obvious.
The consequence is that if this referendum goes through and the Commonwealth decides to borrow money for local government, it will have to be more successful and raise more money from Commonwealth loans or else there will be a shortfall in the borrowed funds available to both State government and local government. In other words, the course of action proposed here is not going to assist local government but will harm local government. If it is going to assist local government positively, then it will assist local government at the cost of State government funds. There is no point in providing increased and better local government services to the community if services provided by the States deteriorate as a result.
At the present time money raised by Commonwealth loans goes to the States, and then local government and semi-government authorities borrow money on their own account, and you can aggregate the total. But who is brave enough to say that the aggregate of the two, when it is raised by a single borrower, will be the same? I think there will be a shortfall. The only way in which action could be taken to increase the amount of borrowing is to improve the terms, to make the terms better - that is, to force up the bond rate. If at present you raise $100m for the States through the Commonwealth, and semigovernment and local government bodies raise $20m, the total amount borrowed is $120m. Of the total amount, $100m is borrowed at the Commonwealth bond rate short or long term, and $20m is raised by semi-government or local government bodies at an interest rate which is roughly half of one per cent more than the bond rate. That means that if you wanted to be sure of borrowing an aggregate of $120m, you would have to raise the bond rate over the whole of the borrowing. I realise that those are not the actual figures. I merely use them as an illustration.
We already know that when this Government came into office the long term bond rate was 6 per cent. Within 9 months of their election, the Government managed to jack up the long term bond rate from 6 per cent to Si per cent. This is not a bad effort for a party which has said all its life that it is a low interest party. Everybody knows that increasing the interest rate places a frightening load on an already burdened local government.
– And on the ratepayers.
– And on the ratepayers. The consequence of it is that these proposals, as sure as night follows day, are designed to increase the fundamental level of the interest rate in Australia.
– That is true.
– That is absolutely true, as the honourable member for Mackellar has said. So local government bodies need to examine 2 things in relation to the borrowings: Firstly, will local government get as much money as it gets now by borrowing itself, and secondly, will the interest rate at which local government has to take its borrowings in fact turn out to be higher in the end? They are very significant points which local government has to consider. It has to consider also this other proposition namely, if local government gets more money, will it mean that the States will get a shortfall of money? If that happens, one of two things will occur: Either the States will have to increase their revenue raising by increased taxes, or the Commonwealth will have to increase its revenue raising by increased taxes in order to provide money to the States. All in all, this apparently simple proposition is full of very serious dangers for local government in Australia.
I come to the second part of the proposition, which is that the Commonwealth Parliament will be able to make grants of money to local government on such terms and conditions as the Parliament sees fit. At the present time that power relates only to the States. We have seen what has happened over the period, and for this purpose I must remind honourable members that it was in a. period during which we were in office that the grants which were being made to the States were getting more and more conditions attached to the grants, until the stage has been reached now where the conditions attached to some grants by the Commonwealth - by a bureaucrat here in Canberra - virtually say what colour the carpets will be and how wide a door will be in a science block.
– And getting worse.
– The conditions being applied are getting worse. When those conditions are applied to a grant, the detail of the conditions is never considered by this Parliament or by the State Parliament; it is beyond the capacity of both so to do. So we get a prescription of details in a way which is not subjected to parliamentary scrutiny. That practice has been growing, and that is precisely what will happen if grants are made direct to local government bodies by this Parliament. A local government body - a council - will sit there and say: ‘Is it not great, we got this money from the Commonwealth. Now let us look at the string of conditions that we have to comply with in order to receive the money*. Local government will wander what struck it when it comes into direct conflict with the bureaucrats that this Government can assemble to tell local government what to do with the funds that it receives.
Let us now examine the way in which grants will be made. Suppose that the Commonwealth Parliament says, as it very likely will say: ‘It would be helpful for local government if direct grants were made to local government. Pursuant to this power we will do it’. Suppose the Commonwealth decided that the fair way to do it is by making per capita grants. If per capita grants are made to local government - let us say, on the basis of $1 a head or $10 a head or whatever it is - it means that whatever inequities exist now between 2 local government bodies will persist after that grant is made, because if a poor municipality and a rich municipality each receive $10 a head, there will be a difference between the poor and the rich municipalities in the same way. Therefore, it is not possible or desirable to give all municipalities a per capita grant in that way because it will not solve inequities or inequalities.
The next thing that has to be considered is: If a grant is not to be given on a straight per capita basis because that is not the correct way, there must be a differentiation and in order to achieve differentiation one needs to look at the local government body and to say of it: ‘Is that local government body doing all it can in order to raise properly and responsibly revenue by way of rates, having regard to its rating capacity?’ I do not think that it would be any part of the purpose of any party in the Commonwealth Parliament to allow local government bodies which have a rating capacity but which do not raise the funds, to sit back in the traces and receive Commonwealth funds, whereas the other municipalities which are making an effort and raising funds would be no better off. Therefore, under this proposal it would be necessary for the Commonwealth to set up a body which would make those determinations and so distinguish as between municipalities. How many municipalities are there in Australia?
– Over 900.
– There are almost 1,000 municipalities. This Government would set up a monster body which would examine the affairs of nearly 1,000 municipalities in Australia to decide who was doing what, why, how and what consideration they deserved. Quite clearly that is a wrong proposal. What should be done is that money going to local governments ought to go to them via the State governments. It so happens that if it were done that way, as I believe it should be done - the money would go to the States and the States would distribute it among the local governments - that is exactly the power that we possess now. What is wrong with this national Parliament saying: ‘As a national purpose we will appropriate X amount of money for local government. It will be distributed to the State government on this formula, and the State governments will distribute it among local government bodies’? That is the way it should be done. It is the policy of the Opposition Parties to do it that way. The machinery is already there.
Let me make this clear: The Opposition parties acknowledge and state quite categorically that local government should receive assistance by way of funds according to the total capacity of the nation to produce funds. Local government should receive extra money, and under a government constituted by the 2 Opposition parties local government would receive extra money. The way in which this would be done would be by making grants to the States so that the States could distribute the money to the municipalities in the correct way, not by creating a monster authorisation regime in Canberra to look into the council rooms of all municipalities in Australia.
For all the reasons that I have given we will oppose this referendum violently. We will pursue our opposition right through to the day on which there is a poll, if there is a poll. I feel confident that local government will not be mesmerised by the propaganda line put by the Government, and that local government will understand that it is in its interests to reject this referendum. It will understand that it is in its interests to have us in government so that money can be given to it in the proper way, as is its right. For all those reasons this referendum should be opposed.
I now come to a rather curious part of this proposal. Each local government body in Aus tralia is created by a statute of a State Parliament. There is no way that a local government body can be created other than by a statute of a State Government. There is no local government body in existence in Australia today that was not so created and there is no local government body in Australia which cannot be extinguished by an Act of a State Parliament. There is not a local government body that cannot have alterations made to its boundaries, its number of councillors, its powers or its authorities. It is entirely within the capacity of a State government to do that. Local government bodies can have 1,000, 200 or 20,000 municipalities by the will of the collective State governments. This Bill proposes to alter the Constitution - so we are led to believe - but we do not know what that body is which is referred to in the Constitution. This Bill will, if it is adopted, enable the borrowing of money by the Commonwealth to assist local government bodies. We may know what local government bodies then are today by looking at the maps and looking up the State Acts, but they could all be changed next week.by State governments. Here is a proposal to have a referendum which asks the people to give this Parliament power in respect of something we cannot describe. The only description of it that we can give is to say that we know what it is today but we do not know what it will be next week, next year or in 10 years time. Quite clearly, that is not the basis upon which the Constitution should be altered. Putting it in that way it is, of course, a joke.
The Prime Minister called a conference of the Premiers of the 6 States for the purpose of considering matters relating to local government and also the question of local government being represented on the Australian Loan Council. Every State Premier, no matter what his political persuasion, rejected every proposal put by the Prime Minister in relation to this matter. As I understand it there were no more outspoken Premiers in rejecting the proposal than the Labor Premiers of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Quite clearly the judgment of those State Premiers is that this proposal is against the interests of the people in their States. A person who lives in any State receives services of 3 kinds. He receives the services which are provided by the Commonwealth, which is not the issue here, and he receives services provided by the State Government and those provided by local government. Every person wanting a service wants that service provided and does not draw a great distinction as to where it emanates - he just wants the service. It is no way to solve the problem of the people of Australia, the new housing areas, the new regional areas or whatever it may be by giving local government bodies a greater capacity at the cost of reduced capacity on the part of State governments.
If this legislation is passed, if the Constitution is altered and then legislation is passed pursuant to that power, it will be to the great disadvantage of the people of Australia who want the services, and it will be to the great disadvantage also of those people of Australia who see our Constitution as a bulwark which is essential for the protection of our standards, our way of life and our democratic centralisation of power in Canberra. If it leads to the decay of the States, it will be. a sad day for Australia. For those reasons the Opposition opposes this legislation and members of the Opposition Parties will do all that they can to defeat the referendum if it is held.
Mi UREN (Reid - Minister for Urban and Regional Development) (6.10) - Let me analyse some of the details in regard to financial responsibilities to which the right honourable Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) referred with a display of crocodile tears. During the 23 years that the parties opposite governed this country the internal debt of the Australian Government increased by 5 per cent; the debt of the States increased toy 323 per cent and the local government debt increased by 845 per cent. I ask honourable members to compare the increased Commonwealth debt of 5 per cent with the 845 per cent debt increase for local government. As our population increased and as the number of migrants who came to this country increased, more and more responsibility was thrown onto local government, but no increase in the percentage of further financial resources was forthcoming from either the Australian Government or the respective State governments to assist local government. That is why last Tuesday in Hobart the local government authorities decided to plan a public campaign to press for representation on the Australian Loan Council. The Australian Council of Local Government Organisations, meeting in Hobart on Tuesday of this week, decided to unite in a public campaign in support of the proposal for representation on the Loan Council. The delegate for New South Wales, Alderman Coates, M.L.A., the independent member for the Blue Mountains in the State of New South Wales, said:
Local Government had been battling for a long time for assistance, and for the first time the Commonwealth had come to the party.
I emphasise the words ‘for the first time the Commonwealth had come to the party’. He went on to say:
It should be a backward step if local government did not show support for the Commonwealth in what it was trying to do.
That is the voice of the Australian Council of Local Government Organisations which met in Hobart earlier this week. It clearly expressed support for the Australian Government’s initiative. This Government’s new commitment to local government is an important part of our overall commitment to urban and regional development. We have taken 3 initial steps already this year to upgrade the resources and to improve the status of the third tier of government in our federal system. The way in which representatives of the Opposition parties carry on demonstrates clearly that they are interested only in cliches and worn out dogma. Just have a look at the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition. What positive proposals did he put forward? The Opposition parties are interested only in business as usual. They do not want to offer any alternative to local government. For 23 years they allowed the position of local government in this country to deteriorate. They condoned the States’ actions in neglecting local government.
Local government is a creature of the States. We all recognise that. But it is apparent that the States have downgraded the position of local government. They have done it in 2 ways. On the one hand, they have passed increasing responsibilities to local government. I refer to things such as child care centres, assistance for aged persons and environmental protection. Local government is so poor that in many cases it cannot afford to police its litter laws. On the other hand, the States have failed to match the increase in financial assistance to local government. Whenever the Labor Party proposed to do something about this the same State governments could only cry centralism. Members of the Liberal and Country Parties in the national Parliament share the responsibility with the States for the downgrading of the position of local government. They condoned the States’ action, they rely on cliches and hide because they are lacking in positive policies. When we talk about centralism we ought to be quite clear that it is the States themselves who are the great centralists in our nation. Does anyone doubt that the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane completely dominate the economic and cultural life in their States?
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was replying to the pompous rhetoric and meaningless cliches of the Leader of the Opposition about centralism. When we talk about centralism we ought to be quite clear that it is the States themselves who are the great centralists in our nation. Does anyone doubt that the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane completely dominate the economic and cultural life of their States? State governments have continued to build up the resources of their centres. They have centralised power in their capitals. Let us not be fooled by the charge of centralism. It is a worn out cliche, just as the cliche about communism which the former Government employed for 20-odd years has now become worn out because President Nixon has gone to China and the Soviet Union. We have now found a new cliche that seems to be a dirty expression - ‘centralism’. If there is any real centralism, it is in the States, particularly Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, which centralise their power in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. They are the centralists. Let us face the issue. Let us not be fooled by the charge of centralism. Not only did the Liberal and Country parties seek to hide their lack of policy behind such charges but they also want to hide the fact that they themselves are centralists.
In our new Grants Commission Act we have proposed that grants be allocated to approved regional groupings. I would have thought that it should be perfectly clear that regionalism is not centralism. We propose to carry out regionalism in full co-operation with the State governments and local government authorities. Regionalism is the very opposite to centralism. It is not good enough to claim that every reform proposed by the Australian Labor Government is centralisation. The reforms we propose for local government bodies will enable them better to carry out their responsibilities. Some State governments appear to want local government bodies to stay exactly as they are now, ‘but this Government does not believe that local government bodies are as conservative as the States which apparently believe that a federal system means a 2-tier system of government and an afterthought. This Government believes that federalism means 3 equal tiers of government. I stress that. If we are to have real progress in co-operative federalism we have to have equal power for the Australian Government, the State governments and local government authorities.
The fear and jealousy which the State governments are exhibiting towards our policies for giving local government bodies some muscle only demonstrate the narrowness and backwardness of their approach to federalism. As far as these States and representatives of the Opposition parties are concerned, cooperative federalism is all right as long as only the State and national governments are involved. That is not a genuine partnership. The new regional groupings of local government authorities backed up by financial assistance from the Australian Government will be a means of allowing local government organisations to assume their proper role in the federal system. Can anyone doubt the strength of their case for more financial assistance?
Some of the figures which are available on the financial situation of these bodies are quite disturbing. For example, as at June 1971 $77 1.4m in debts was outstanding to local government authorities in New South Wales alone. In Australia as a whole $ 1,730m in debts is outstanding to local government authorities. When you examine the percentage change in the public debt in Australia since 1949, the position is just as disturbing. Between 1949 and 1970 the public debt of the Commonwealth increased by 5.4 per cent, that of the States by 323 per cent, but that of local government authorities by 845 per cent. The interest liability of the Commonwealth increased by 54 per cent, that of the States by 571 per cent, but that of local government authorities by 1,931 per cent. These figures are for a period of time when Liberal-Country Party governments, which administered this country for 23 years, were in office. That is the record of the enormous debt burden that they placed on local government authorities. I repeat that during those years the interest liability of the Commonwealth increased by a little over 50 per cent but that of local government authorities by 1,931 per cent. That is why members of the Opposition do not want any change. They want to retain the old, worn out, hackneyed approach of ‘business as usual’.
Under the new Grants Commission legislation which this Government brought in last
May some relief is in sight for local government authorities, but the Grants Commission operation will not be enough. We have never stressed that the Grants Commission is the solution of the problem of these authorities, financial or otherwise; it is only one step in their progress, but it is an important step. We need to provide the third tier of government in this country with the ability to borrow money from the Commonwealth and with the opportunity to receive direct financial assistance from the national government. I ask those in Opposition whether they deny that local government authorities need more money. If they do need more money, why did the former Government, which was in office for so long, not give it to them? After all the years of neglect, do honourable members opposite still believe that the States will provide this money? Will the States provide the solution to the problems of local government? That is the question we have to ask.
Honourable members opposite are not being honest with themseilves if they claim that after years of a worsening financial position the States will suddenly change their colour and grant local government bodies the money they need. Why do those opposite not ask local government bodies themselves whether they want access to Federal finance? They are not game to ask because they know that on only Tuesday of this week the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, many of whose members are not members of the Labor Party but members who would normally support those of the Opposition ranks, unanimously said: ‘We must support the present Australian Government in its claim to give local government a say at the Loan Council’. Honourable members opposite do not ask local government authorities because they already know the answer. The third tier of government in this country has waged a long and effective campaign to gain recognition at the national level and to gain access to national finance. The Liberal and Country parties continue to deny them that access.
In all matters of urban and regional development there is a great need to cooperate with the State governments. I have stressed before and I stress over and over again that if we really want to make progress we must ensure that there is a genuine partnership of all 3 levels of government - the Aus- tralian Government, the State governments and local government - and they must have an equal say. My actions this year bear out that recognition. On 22 October I had a meeting with the Ministers from all States to discuss, amongst other things, land commissions. Let me quote from the communique we released after that meeting to demonstrate the collaborative approach between the Australian and State governments in urban and regional development. The communique stated:
The State Ministers accepted-
I stress that for the benefit of the mournful looking Leader of the Australian Country Party and add that two of them were members of the Australian Country Party - that there will be Australian Government co-operation in urban planning and research and there was agreement that continuing consultation between the Australian Government and the States, particularly at officer level, would be most welcome, would contribute to a sharing, exchange and understanding of views and problems and would be of long term mutual benefit.
It suits Liberal and Country Party members to make public attacks on the Australian Labor Government, although in private they agree that the Government is doing the right thing. But when it comes to toeing the Party line, the old cliches, old worn out dogmas and the old negative attitudes are rolled out again. It suits honourable members opposite because they have no policies and no constructive alternatives to the Government’s policies. I ask the Leader of the Opposition: What are his policies for reforming local government? I ask the leader of the Country Party, who is to follow me in this debate; what are his policies? Let us hear from the Leader of the Country Party what his policies are for local government. He was the Leader of the Country Party for a number of years and was a member of the Cabinet of the Liberal-Country Party Government. What did he do for local government? That is what we want to know. What are their policies? It is all very well for the Liberal Party to mouth pious statements about their concern, but where are the concrete policies? In its short period of office this Government has demonstrated its commitment to making local government an equal partner in our federal system. We believe that this is what local government wants. We believe that this is what the people whom local government serves also want. We are determined to meet our commitments to local government. We will be asking the people of this nation to carry this referendum so that local government can better carry out its responsibilities and be more responsive to the people it seeks to serve. Therefore, I ask that, when this referendum is presented, authority be given to the Australian Government to make direct financial arrangements with local government and to give direct representation to local government on the Australian Loan Council. The Government asks the people of Australia to give it that support so that the Government can give direct financial support to local government.
– This very important matter which we are discussing seeks to make an alteration to our existing Constitution so that local government authorities may have direct representation on the Australian Loan Council. In the last 24 hours we have seen the unprecedented farce in this Parliament of the Government using its repressive powers to guillotine the debate so that Opposition discussion is limited and so that the fallacies of the case which the Government has presented cannot be exposed. The debate is so limited that it gives the opportunity for only three or four Opposition speakers to state their point of view. I have never seen such an abuse of and such an intoxication with power by a government as we have seen displayed by this arrogant, almost dictatorial Government. It is little wonder that the Opposition has been so annoyed at being restricted in this way.
The Government is making a mockery of Parliament. It is abusing its rights as a government by trying to stifle the Opposition and by trying to get this matter before the Australian people by stealth, hoping that in their ignorance they might cast a yes vote. The Australian people are well and truly aware of the actions of this Government in guillotining the debate and preventing Opposition members from having a free expression of their point of view. There is no liberty at all in this place if this is any example of the activities of the Government. The Bill we are examining seeks to transfer the powers of local government to the Commonwealth. That has enormous ramifications. Yet we are given 2 hours 30 minutes in which to debate ‘this question. That means Opposition members will have 1 hour 15 minutes. Then when we get to the Committee stage we are to be given 15 minutes to debate the clauses of the Bill. This is appalling. lt is a complete abuse of the operations of a Parliament which is supposed to be a place where points of view can be expressed so that the Australian people as a whole can make a judgment.
It is quite obvious that the reason for seeking this amendment to the Constitution is to enable the Australian Labor Party to pursue its policies aimed at centralising all power in Canberra. This is just one of the series of steps to by-pass and undermine the authority of the States. I can think of nothing more confusing than to have a situation in which the Commonwealth has a financial lever that it can use against local government authorities when local government authorities are the creation of State governments. They can be created or abolished. The States can put administrators in charge. They can change the boundaries at their will. Yet here the Commonwealth would be negotiating directly with those bodies for loan moneys or even for the provision of grants. Local governments are integrated very much with State lav/. The provision of many of the services, and the laws applying to State governments concerning land, hospitals, electricity, roads and communications are all an integral part of local government affairs. Yet this Government apparently wants local governments to be beholden to it as far as financial measures are concerned. I can understand why all State governments have opposed this measure, including 3 Labor State governments. They understand the very grave implications in trying to manage the affairs of local government sensibly if the Commonwealth pushes its influence into this area.
The Country Party recognises that there is justification for particular measures designed to alleviate the financial problems of local government in Australia. Statistics indicate the scope of the problem. Between 1960 and 1970 the percentage of total government debt attributed to local government increased from 6 per cent to 8 per cent - from $700m to $ 1,600m. Over the same 10-year period local government receipts increased at a slower rate than did State and Commonwealth receipts. There is undoubtedly substance in the observation that revenue available for local government is inadequate in relation to requirements.
These constitutional proposals do not in themselves represent a solution to the problem. They represent a particular approach. In my opinion it is not the most appropriate approach. The amendments to the Constitution outlined in this Bill presuppose that existing constitutional procedures are incapable of effectively meeting the situation. Such an assumption is unfounded. Adequate scope exists for an improved flow of resources to local government through existing constitutional channels. It would be a mistake to deny the need for such an increased flow. It also would be misleading to overstate the problem. In aggregate and on average the interest burden is becoming more onerous, but not dramatically so. The circumstances of individual local government bodies vary greatly. Local government revenue has not kept pace with the growth of Commonwealth revenue, but that is more a long term trend than a short term development. There is need for urgency, but the need should not be overstated as a justification for extreme measures.
I believe that the disparity between the Commonwealth’s financial position and the circumstances of local government in aggregate is a reflection of a broader problem. The State governments have, over a period of time, been restricted in their financial ability to discharge their responsibilities. It would be a mistake to assume that local government is unique in its financial position. It could be argued that State governments have neglected their responsibilities in this area. To advance that argument is to imply either that the State governments do not have sufficient revenue at their disposal or that such revenue is inequitably distributed. I think the first assumption is more supportable than the latter. Under these circumstances the logical approach would be to increase the flow of federal finance to the State governments for distribution to local government. Provision exists for this approach in section 96 of the Constitution. Existing procedures in the Loan Council would enable an expanded borrowing program to be utilised by State governments for local government purposes. However, I am inclined to the view that grant allocations are more appropriate in this instance than further loan revenue. The fundamental philosophy of the Australian Country Party is that financial arrangements should be tailored to the Constitution. One serves and strengthens the other. It is only if the constitutional arrangements are unworkable that a basis exists for an alteration of the Constitution. The arrangements are not unworkable; they need reviving and strengthening.
The proposal that the Australian Government be empowered to borrow on behalf of local government is a dangerous one. At the recent Constitutional Convention the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that the Loan Council should be restructured. At present it comprises 6 State representatives and 2 Commonwealth representatives with the Commonwealth having an additional casting vote. The Prime Minister proposes to restructure the Loan Council so that there will be 6 State representatives, 6 local government representatives and an additional Commonwealth representative to make 4 Commonwealth votes. In other words, on matters affecting local government finance the States would be outnumbered and outvoted. The Loan Council was constituted under the 1927 Financial Agreement. It determines annual borrowing programs for the Australian Government and the States, together with the terms and conditions of loans to finance those programs. If this Bill were passed the people would be asked to vote on the proposition we are now discussing.
About 20 per cent of local government current receipts are derived from net borrowings, of which about two-thirds is raised ‘by local bodies but in many instances guaranteed by the State government. By promising, and presumably offering, favourable interest rates the Commonwealth would be responsible for this element of local government financing. State governments would be bypassed. The Commonwealth would, by financial inducement, take over responsibility for loan raising and be a consequentially more powerful force in the loan market. Its financial power would be greater, its policy leverage more direct. In the Loan Council the States would be outvoted on matters related to local government finance. The method of distribution of loan money to local government would be decided by the collective vote of local government and Commonwealth Government representatives. In practice, the distribution of loan revenue would be at the direction of the Commonwealth Government. The debt burden resulting from the service of the loan commitments will still reside with the local government bodies, instead of being diffused the creditor would be the Commonwealth.
Of course, some may say that the implications to the federal system are overshadowed by the resultant benefits. This is difficult to see. Local government debt burdens have resulted from the commitment of successful loan flotations. There is little evidence that this loan money has been difficult to obtain under normal economic circumstances. Under existing Loan Council procedures the Loan Council approves an aggregate borrowing program for larger State, semi-government and local authorities. In 1973-74 borrowing programs totalling $564m are to be undertaken by the Commonwealth; yet the semigovernment share of government debt has risen most sharply of any form of government debt since the Second World War- from $352m to $6,025m or from 1 1 per cent of total government indebtedness to 29 per cent. Clearly access to Commonwealth revenue does not in itself imply reduced indebtedness.
The proposal that the Commonwealth grant direct financial assistance to local government by amending section 96 of the Constitution also requires close scrutiny. Under Grants Commission arrangements, the Commonwealth may provide such assistance at the initiative of local government authorities. Under this proposal the Commonwealth may initiate grants as well as receive requests. In doing so it may bypass the States. In 1973-74 grants will comprise 32 per cent of the Loan Council programs. The Commonwealth may intend to extend that principle to local government. If the Australian people were to be asked to vote on these proposals I would ask them to consider carefully the full implications of them. It would mean a direct umbilical cord between their local council and the Commonwealth Government in Canberra. It could mean that the State governments would retain their responsibilities to and for local government but that financial authority and control would reside with Canberra. It would mean that the developing and potentially gigantic Department of Urban and Regional Development and its Minister would, in practice, determine the flow of development finance to various nominated regions of Australia. Those regions would in themselves be a basis for central planning on a regional basis and be in themselves significant political entities. It would mean that state governments in effect would exercise a dwindling residual role. The development thrust would occur at local government level without State government participation or approval. As Sir Winston Churchill put it in relation to another matter, the States would be like cut roses in a vase - fair to behold but doomed to die. No doubt the ultimate intention is just that. The Prime Minister in an article in ‘The Australian Quarterly’ of September 1971 stated:
We should not have a federal system of over-lapping parliaments and a delegated but supervised system of local government. We should have a House of ‘Representatives for international matters and nationwide matters, an assembly for the affairs of each of our dozen larger cities, and regional assemblies for the few score areas of rural production and resource development ‘outside those cities.
I ask the people to look beyond the immediate financial attractions of these proposals. They are more apparent than real. By all means, let us improve the position of local government. However, let us not destroy the Constitution in the process. Let us be vigilant against those who are obsessed with concentrating all power in Canberra by eroding and emasculating the authority of State governments. To some people in local government the issue may have a superficial appeal, but the implications for preserving our federal system will be under challenge if this question were to be passed by the Australian people.
– I rise to support the Bill and I am proud to do so because I am acutely aware of the greatly increased pressures that have been placed on local government. At the time of my election to this Parliament I was a councillor for the City of Dandenong and it was around that council table that I gained the experience that convinced me of the tremendous financial problems faced by the municipal government. I might add that at that time, as I remember it, the Liberal-Country Party Government was in power in Canberra. The financial problem existed then, but no money was flowing through from the Federal Government down to the local councils. Today, local councils face ever increasing responsibilities which relate to people and the quality of their lives. No longer can local governments concern themselves simply with matters of drainage, streets, kerbing and pavements, garbage collection and the like. Councils are expected - I believe rightly - to concern themselves increasingly in cultural and social welfare and recreational activities. The result of these increased responsibilities is, of course, a growing sense of frustration among councillors and community alike as they find themselves unable to find the necessary finance to bring these things about.
I should like to speak for a moment of the municipalities in my electorate. They are situated on the fringe of the Melbourne metropolis in the south-east corridor which is the fastest growing area of Melbourne. In the centre is the City of Dandenong, a regional growth centre of some 14 square miles in which a good deal of the land is non-ratable as Australian and State government buildings are located there. To the west, the area is buttressed by the City of Springvale, a city which has had one of the most rapid rates of population growth in the State, while to the east is the City of Berwick, which came into existence only in the last few months and faces the tremendous challenges associated with a new municipality. Then there are the Shires of Berwick and Cranbourne which at this stage are chiefly rural but which are poised to tackle the problems associated with over-rapid development. It is municipalities such as these which are vitally affected by this legislation. These 5 councils desperately need increased financial assistance both in the form of grants and by having access to loans at lower interest rates. And, of course, this is just what is proposed in this Bill - to allow the people of Australia to decide whether they believe the Constitution should be amended in such a way as to allow this to happen.
I remind honourable members opposite that this is not an isolated piece of legislation, plucked out of the air. When in Opposition the Australian Labor Party made 3 specific commitments concerning local government. Firstly, it promised, and carried out the promise at the 1973 Constitutional Convention, that direct representation of local government would be a condition of the Australian Government’s participation. We remained firm to our commitment, and local government was represented. Secondly, we promised to amend the Grants Commission Act to authorise that Commission to inquire into and to make recommendations on grants to regional groupings of local government. In May, we passed the Grants Commission Act 1973. Thirdly, we promised to restructure the Loan Council so that local government representatives from all States could have a voice and a vote on that Council. In October, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) met with the Premiers to present 2 proposals. One was that elected local governments should have both a voice and a vote on the Loan Council and the other was that the Australian Government should be empowered to borrow on behalf of elected local governments. It is unfortunate that some of the Premiers would not accept the Prime Minister’s proposals. Having failed to fulfil our commitment in this way, we now propose to hold a referendum on the matter.
I believe it is important that this Bill be viewed against the total Government record on matters related to the local community. Greater importance has been placed by this Government on local involvement, initiative and interest and I believe this is clearly reflected in our legislative program. I refer honourable members to just a few fields. For example, in the field of social security, we have the Australian assistance plan. In the field of health we have community health centres and community mental health facilities. In the field of urban and regional development, funds have been allocated for public transport, sewerage and open space. I submit that there has never been a federal government which has shown such concern and interest for issues at the grass roots level. I believe that this contrasts sharply with the efforts of the previous Government.
– Twenty-three years of nothing.
– Yes, 23 years of nothing. I believe that brief mention must be made of the whole new range of responsibilities which were not previously associated with local governments. Today we expect local councils to provide facilities over a wide new field, such as infant welfare centres, pre-school centres, libraries, a multiplicity of sporting facilities, meals-on-wheels, family guidance clinics, open space, home-help services, social workers, welfare officers and youth workers. The list could go on. In rapidly expanding areas like mine, the full impact of the provision of such a wide range of services is felt to the full and the result, of course, is what this Government has recognised, namely, a crushing financial burden on local government and the need for assistance to be given.
I have vivid recollections of sitting around the council table at the time of the estimates, which are handled in a rather different way from the way this place handles them. We would look at the money to be spent on the various projects and we would attempt to prune down the requirements - to things that we knew were absolutely necessary in the community - in a desperate effort to keep the rates down. But unfortunately of course this was not possible. So I took the trouble to contact all the municipalities in my area to find out what the rate increase was last year. In 1972-73 the average rise was 20 per cent. Only 2 of the councils had struck their rates for 1973-74 and the average increase for them was 22 per cent. I agree that the system of levying rates on property is no longer an adequate basis for the financing of local government; it is inequitable and totally antiquated. This method was designed for the days long ago when councils concerned themselves almost exclusively with engineering matters such as streets, kerbs and footpaths and possibly a football or cricket oval. But those days have gone and councils today are facing a tremendous and crushing burden of financial responsibility.
Let me now turn to the broader canvas and look at some of the figures mentioned by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). I propose to repeat them because I believe they need underlining. The worsening position is clearly illustrated when one examines changes in the public debt in Australia since 1949. Between 1949 and 1970 the public debt of the Commonwealth increased by some 5.4 per cent, that of the States by 323.3 per cent, and that of local government by the huge percentage of 845.6. As was said earlier, interest liability also increased over the same period. The interest liability of the Commonwealth increased by 54.4 per cent, that of the States by 571.3 per cent, and that of local government by the gigantic percentage of 1931.8. Surely this is clear evidence that establishes the need for increased grants from the Australian Government and access to loans at lower interest rates.
I was hardly surprised to hear from the other side the cry of centralism and the negation of State powers. I have been here only a short time, but I have grown used to hearing constant bleating about centralism. I wonder whether honourable members opposite have had a good look at what this legislation is all about. Its object is to provide a long overdue transfusion to the level of government that is closest to the people. Surely it is at this level that the needs of local areas can be most accurately assessed. Surely it is important that there should be a maximum amount of community involvement in these matters. These things are not mentioned when we hear the old catch cries about Canberra bureaucracy and the like; they are the other side of the story that is never told by honourable mem bers opposite. For years we have operated under a 3-tier system of government, which has been accepted throughout the country. It has become increasingly evident that the final tier of government is in an impossible financial position. The Liberal-Country Party Government for the past 23 years stood idly by and did nothing to arrest this worsening situation. We as a government state categorically that local government is of the utmost importance. We believe that the people of Australia should strongly support this alteration of the Constitution, which would allow us to make funds available direct to local government both by way of grants and by way of loans at lower interest rates.
In conclusion, I believe there are 2 principal schools of thought in local government First, there are those who sincerely experience frustration within the financial limitations of municipal budgets. They believe that powers such as those sought by this Bill should be available to the Federal Government. The people in this group eagerly await the results of the referendum. Secondly, there are those who conveniently find refuge for their lack of initiative in passing the buck to the Australian Government, knowing full well that it has not the power to act in the matter. Some such councils have a majority of councillors who have clear sympathies to reactionary State governments and are often politically and philosophically opposed to the national Labor Government. If this Bill is passed, no longer will such councillors and municipalities be able to use this as an excuse for doing nothing. This Bill is one that sets out to allow the people of Australia to decide whether elected local government in this country should have access to public funds on better conditions and in a more direct way than at present. It is this Government’s conviction that local government should be given this facility. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I am an ordinary citizen with no special knowledge of the Constitution and I am not a lawyer, but I have served for 25 years in local government and I think that should qualify me to know something about it. I agree that local government needs more money; there is no doubt about that. It has been asked to take on additional obligations throughout Australia and it is starved of money. However, an alteration to the Constitution is not needed to give local government more money; the power already exists under section 96 of the Constitution for the Commonwealth to give what it wants to give. That destroys the argument of both the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow). As one who knows local government and understands the obligations of the Federal Government and State governments, I am scared stiff of what will happen if the people approve of this question. I know, as most members here know, that our forebears struggled for many years to create the federal system under which we operate today. There were many years of struggle before the Federal system was achieved, yet the Government is going to destroy the whole federal system within a few hours of debate in this Parliament.
The people should be warned about this. I do not want to emphasise it, as the Leader of the Country Party mentioned it a moment ago, but it is true that the basis of our Constitution is the delegation by the States of certain powers to create the Commonwealth of Australia as provided for in the Constitution. When the Constitution was established, it was a deliberate intention that the States would retain their identity and have the sole right to create and set up their own organisations of a local and domestic character. I do not think anybody can deny that. Local Government is a vital part of the machinery of the States. Local government cannot be isolated from the States. Local government authorities vary as between the States. Without the States local government would die, and without local government the States would be in an unholy mess. They are interdependent upon each other and nobody can isolate them from each other.
This Bill, as we all know but I think it should be mentioned, provides for 2 additions to the Constitution. The first is to section 51, which at present, in placitum (iv) gives the Commonwealth the power to borrow money from the public purse. The proposed new placitum (ivA) gives the Commonwealth the power to borrow money for local government. The second addition - they are only additions to the Constitution - is to section 96, which at present gives power to the Commonwealth to grant finance to any State as this Parliament thinks fit. If that section does not give the right to this Parliament to give more money to local government in any State I should like to know what would. That is very clearly stated. But the Government wants to insert a new section 96a to give this same power to grant finance to any local government body on such terms as this Parliament thinks fit. In other words, the intention is perfectly clear - the Commonwealth wants to destroy the States by by-passing them and taking control of local government with all its ramifications. There can be no doubt about that.
Why was this Bill introduced at all? It must be obvious to all people in Australia that this Government is out to destroy the Federal system in its entirety and to centralise all power in Canberra. One does not need to go over the many pieces of legislation that have been introduced into the Parliament to establish that fact. We have had several Bills on education and another has been introduced relating to health insurance. Right through the whole ambit of legislation this attempt to centralise power can be seen.
– Wonderful things.
– Maybe they are, but the Government wants to centralise all power in Canberra. But the difficulty from the people’s point of view is that the Government is doing things by stealth and trying to deceive the people of Australia. We have only to consider the 2 Bills which were passed by this House in the last 24 hours. The first one was designed to kill the Senate completely. The second was designed to adjust the electorates in Australia so that only the Australian Labor Party could win government in Australia. We know the terms of the referendum to be put to the people but this will be the end result if the people of Australia are stupid enough to vote yes.
We have only to look at the ramifications of the new Department of Urban and Regional Development. My old friend the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is sitting listening to me. The move to alter the Constitution in relation to the States and local government cannot be dissociated from the idea of establishing regional councils. Very soon the whole emphasis will be upon regional councils and local governing bodies will be completely destroyed. These referendum proposals cannot be dissociated from the Labor Party’s scheme for the setting up under the new Cities Commission of bodies to control land throughout Australia. These bodies have been set up to centralise.
Let us consider the proposed amalgamation of the Department of Housing and the Department of Works to establish a huge construction authority. This proposal was admitted to me in answer to a question in this House only a week ago. These are the sorts of things that are being developed to get complete centralised control over the whole of the affairs of Australia. Added to this situation is the fact that a referendum is proposed to give the Government control over prices and incomes. If that proposal is passed by the people who are deceived into believing that prices can be controlled by giving such control to the central government, this power will operate in conjunction with all the other proposals I have mentioned to centralise power in this one government in Australia.
I turn now to the Government’s proposals for the Australian Industry Development Corporation - a newly established organisation. The Government proposes that the Corporation will get from the people of Australia the whole of their savings. Inducement will be given for the people to invest in the AIDC and this organisation will be the means by which the whole of industry, including the mining industry, throughout Australia will be taken over by the central Government. This is the plan. This is how it is working out. The Government intends not only to take over the ownership of industry but also commercial enterprises as well. If the Australian people do not wake up to these facts the future for this country will be frightening. If the people fall for the drive for power by this Government the ultimate result will be that Australia will be a completely socialist country under a republican dictatorship. There is no question that that is the way the Government is leading Australia. All the freedoms that we have cherished and enjoyed are in jeopardy. Our individuality, our way of life, our family life, our standards of citizenship and even our Christian principles are in jeopardy. More power must not be given to this Government. It cannot be trusted by the people of Australia. It is drunk for power and it is dictated to by unions of Australia.
– Immoral they are too. ‘
– That is right. Local government is a wonderful institution. It is an instrument of the State, as I have said. It is really the basis of citizenship where domestic and family associations are nurtured and developed, where human contacts and friend ships and local participations are encouraged in people. If one has been in local government one will understand or if one is a good citizen one will understand-
– And if you are a
Christian you will understand.
– Yes, and if one is a Christian one will understand. The local councils and the local mayor, who is the leading citizen in the area; the town hall which is a focal point for the social good fellowship of people in the area; the chambers of commerce that gather around in the local area; the progress associations; the sporting clubs; the Red Cross; the Legacy movement; the senior citizens clubs; the hospitals and the organisations surrounding the hospitals; the churches; the local pride that is established in the local community and in the local area; and the State pride that is engendered because the people belong to one State and pride themselves on being in co-operation with the total nation of Australia, all form part of local government. It is proposed that all these things in our lives are to be directed from one central place in Canberra. If the people of Australia are to accept that, then I do not know the people of Australia. In my opinion, if this referendum is carried and money is provided directly from the Commonwealth to local government, it could mean less money being available to local councils. A result of that, as was explained by the Leader of the Opposition here today, could be an increase in rates for the people of Australia. Although they might depend upon the Commonwealth to give them money, in which case the Commonwealth will dictate what is to be done with that money, they will remain State organisations. Honourable members should not forget that a State Government can change the composition of local councils, wipe them out, or do whatever it likes in relation to their constitution.
If the Commonwealth fails to give local councils the money they need to do things that they are committed to do, the councils will have to get the necessary money from other sources, and that will lead to an increase in rates. That is why I say that the people of Australia face the possibility of increased rates. Few people seem to think of it this way, but the activities of local government are very much interlocked with other State functions. Those who have been in local government know this.
There is an interlocking between local government, county councils, water boards and electricity supply authorities.
– And main roads authorities.
– Yes, and with authorities concerned with main roads, as well as with new departments established to look after ecology and the environment. All these things are interlocked in a State setup, yet the Federal Government is trying to alienate them and bring the Commonwealth into direct contact with and establish control of local government bodies. Of course, the idea will appeal to many persons at the beginning. It is like handing out the lolly, or dangling the carrot, as somebody else said. The unthinking may grab at the offer, no doubt, but what is the price to be paid? That is what the people have to think about. In my opinion, the price will be the ultimate loss of their freedom, if they pass this kind of legislation and destroy our Constitution. That reminds me of the old story. The Commonwealth is like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood’. ‘What lovely eyes you have’. ‘The better to see you with, my dear*. ‘What big ears you have’. “The better to hear you with, my dear’. ‘What a big mouth you have’. Yes, a big mouth, ready to gobble up local government - and the Commonwealth wolf will gobble up little local government. This is what could happen, and the people must not allow themseves to be deceived.
Of course, the next move by this Government will be to establish, in a local government sense, regional councils. They are already at it. They are out to destroy local government as we know it and to set up great groups in the form of regional councils. This will destroy the individuality of each of the existing councils of which the councils are so proud. Ultimately, of course, if this goes on, it will mean the destruction of the States altogether. Why cannot the Labor Party be honest and ask the people of Australia straight out for power to abolish the States? Why do they not put a referendum question on that point and do it all in one bite? There is no doubt that all the Labor Party wants is power. She wants power to do as she will; and she will centralise all that power in Canberra.
This Bill must be rejected if we are to retain our freedom as individuals in this country. I have had a long experience in public life, including local government, and I would say that if the people are foolish enough to be deceived by the kind of offer they are being made now, in accordance with which money will go direct from the Commonwealth to local government bodies, the good aldermen who in most cases give their services free of charge will soon find themselves in a difficult position.
– Look at what the honourable member for Bennelong got out of local government?
– I did not get anything out of it. I was never paid. I acted in a voluntary capacity. The people ought to be careful not to be deceived by the little crumb that is offered. I would suggest to aldermen that they think deeply before they accept this kind of offer, for many things are involved in it. There would be too much obvious loss of freedom of the individual and too much power vested in the central government. Ultimately that must lead to a state of complete socialism in this country. I refuse to believe that the decent people of Australia want that kind of government.
If the Bill passes this House, as no doubt it will, I believe that the good sense of the Senate will result in its being rejected in that House. No doubt it will then come back here again and ultimately the Government will have its referendum. However, I believe that the good sense of the people of Australia will not allow the Government to do these things. I am sure that the people of this country will vote no at the referendum in such a resounding way that the Labor Party will never come back again trying to get their approval for this kind of socialistic legislation.
– I listened with interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) and also to the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). It is quite evident that they have never played a part in local government, nor have they at any stage been conscious of the financial difficulties experienced by local government since 1950. Ever since the end of World War II local government in New South Wales and, indeed, throughout Australia has been urging that its financial resources be viewed in the light of the heavy demand on it for increased and additional services. Even as far back as 1950 the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, agreed that a conference should be held devoted solely to examining the financial relationship between the various arms of government. He said that he would like to see the Commonwealth, the States and local government represented at such a conference. (He said further that local government was the third arm of government, and that all 3 arms should get together to iron out their problems particularly those dealing with finance. However, nothing happened to hold that conference.
The Australian Council of Local Government Associations attempted to hold a conference on finance in 1952, and its efforts met with a similar fate. So pushed were the councils in 1966 with regard to finance that the New South Wales State Government appointed a royal commission of inquiry into rating, valuations and local government finance. The result has never been made known because the Government pigeon-holed the report of the commission. It is not unfair to say that in the past State Premiers have regarded any proposals for the direct financing of local government by the Federal Government as an intrusion into State rights and responsibilities, and have been loath to let their power go.
Local government bodies are established under State statute, and are the constitutional responsibility of the States. This is one point that has been hammered home repeatedly by Prime Ministers and their Federal colleagues since 1960. The fact that local government in Australia is all too often subject to criticism stems directly from its inability, owing to lack of finance, to provide the services the citizens expect, and even demand. Australian development now depends more on local government and semi-government authorities established by States than on the States themselves. We talk of a tripartite system of government in Australia, but in practice local government today is a client rather than a partner of Federal and State governments. In comparable countries the pattern of local government and its relationship to central government has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.
In England, the Maude report opened up new perspectives for development with its proposals for a strengthened regional role in local government. Since the Menzies conference in 1950 - 23 years ago - no change has taken place in the methods of financing local government. Councils today in the peripheral areas of Melbourne and Sydney, where over the last 10 years mushroom growth has taken place, find themselves in desperate circumstances in meeting the financial demands on them to cover the normal amenities of life.
Interest and principal repayments are absorbing most of the revenue received from ratepayers. Municipal rates have reached saturation point as far as the ability of the individual to pay is concerned. Local government is directly affected by the decisions made by the Federal Government and at Commonwealth and State financial conferences can only wait for decisions to be handed down to it. Local government, with its special needs and problems, has no voice at present in these discussions. If we can make a fresh start on finance, if we can bring local government into discussions on Commonwealth and State finances, we can hope for a revival of interest in local government. This will involve the people because they will see local government as a creative force rather than as a yearly debit rate notice. The problem of local government finance is that the debt and capital burdens fall on those who are least able to afford them. The spread of our cities means that higher rates are paid mostly by the young and by the migrants who live in the newest parts of our municipalities and cities. These people are hardest hit by the high rates and charges forced on them by local government. So, when they have to pay their municipal and water rates, which are amongst the highest in the world for what are too often the most unsatisfactory services in the world, they blame local government.
Australia has one Federal Government, 6 State governments and about 900 local government authorities. The local government authorities are the cinderellas of the government system. They possess no constitutional guaranteee of their functions or revenue resources. Although the absence of constitutional rigidities might have been expected to make for greater flexibility and responsiveness to changing needs in Australia, local government seems to have been characterised by a high degree of conservatism and inertia. This lack of enterprise is due largely to financial constraint. There are great advantages to be gained from a strong and flexible system of local self government, lt can contribute to the maintenance of a healthy and durable democracy.
Local government already plays an important part in determining what uses are made of the resources of the Australian economy. By its nature, it is peculiarly well equipped to meet the diverse preferences of the population, to develop new kinds of public services and new methods of financing them, to counter the excessive concentration of population and industry in the few great conurbations and to maintain a viable system of democracy. In general, local government’s powers over expenditure and regulation are adequate for these purposes. Its financial resources, however, fall far short of the need. The approval of this Bill will give the Government power to grant financial assistance to any local government body. It will then overcome the financial problems of the third tier of government that has been in evidence since 1950.
– I rise to take part in the debate on the Bill to alter the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth to borrow money for and to grant financial assistance to local governing bodies. I have listened with great interest to speakers from both sides of the House in this important debate. As one who has served in local government for more than 30 years I am well aware of the problems that shire councillors and aldermen experience in carrying out the various facets of their undertakings. I should like to say at the outset that I am in favour of financial assistance being made available by the Federal Government to local government authorities, but I should like to see it made without any strings attached.
There are more than 900 local government bodies in Australia and they are all in financial trouble because rates have reached saturation point and because local government bodies today are expected to carry all kinds of works far outweighing revenue from the rating system. So they must get a share of the general taxation revenue of this country to enable them to carry out the duties which they desire to perform. These include the provision of sporting ovals, libraries, swimming pools, baby health centres, a social service officer and many other facilities which local government is expected to provide. It is impossible for them to carry out these duties with the outmoded method of rating which has been in existence for so long.
As has been stated on so many occasions, local government has reached saturation point and financial assistance is vital if local government is to succeed and to carry on. Although under the Australian Constitution the financial responsibility for local govern ment is purely a matter for the States - when federation took place this was one aspect of government which was allocated to the various States - I nevertheless feel that the Federal Government has a financial interest in local government and should make the muscle available for it to carry out the works which I have enumerated. In May this year, the Grants Commission Bill was passed and naturally, ever since it was passed, local governing bodies have been making inquiries as to how and when federal finance would be made available. Shire councillors and aldermen throughout Australia have been asking the following questions: Would money be made available to regional councils, to single councils or to shires? Would it be provided by the Federal Government direct or would it go through the State governments? When will any scheme become operative? Any honourable members who are connected with local government and farm their electorates will, I feel sure, be besieged by these councillors and aldermen and asked how the scheme will operate. If federal funds are made available direct to local government, this will be against the policy of the Party that I represent because we support the federal system. We support the principle of finance being made available to the State governments and through them to the local governments in their areas. In other words, we do not want the Federal Government to step in and take over the duties of the States. Hundreds of statements have been made featuring support for local government and many of them have been airy-fairy statements indeed. The statements have been made by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and by others on the Government side.
This proposed referendum to give the Federal Government power to raise money and to make it available to the various local government authorities has not been acclaimed by the various State governments in Australia. It is true that the State governments desire to secure more and adequate financial help, but they want the assistance to come through their own State governments and the money to be made available direct to them by the State governments. Who knows the needs and requirements of local government better than the various State Departments of Local Government? The local government departments know the needs of local government in the States and if the money is channelled through the local government departments it will be put to good use. I would suggest, with all due respect to the Grants Commission, that no one would be better able to understand the requirements and needs of local government authorities than the State local government departments which are dealing with shires and municipal councils every week in carrying out their functions. It would be a tragedy if the State governments were passed by. The adoption of this legislation will be the commencement of the destruction of the Federal system and a big step towards centralisation. I feel that in the main the borrowing of money for local government is not a real problem in relation to shires and municipal councils.
I have found in my long experience in local government that there has never been any problem about borrowing loan funds. Most of the councils with which I have been associated have been able to manage over many years and to make great progress until the repayment of these funds and interest payments has caught up with them and has had to be recouped by increasing rates, which have reached saturation point. There is no problem about borrowing loan funds for local government. There are times possibly when the big local governing bodies in the cities of Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Brisbane may have some problems in this regard, but I am one who is in favour of local government having a say on the Loan Council in regard to local government finance. But this is not the real problem. The real problem lies with local councils which require relief from the rating system under which they have to impose charges in order to carry on local government in various areas. I hope that some definite decisions will be made by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development so that local government will know where it is going and where the funds will come from.
As I said, many statements have been made on this matter by the Minister. I am not doubting his sincerity in this field at all. I know that he has worked extremely hard but I know also that he has made available money to the City of Melbourne and the City of Sydney to assist in the provision of water and sewerage facilities. I hope that this Government will make available finance - this request will please the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) - to the Hunter Water and Sewerage Board so that it will be able to carry out extensions of water and sewerage facilities in the Hunter area and its environs, including the city of Maitland which is within my electorate. If the Minister can make this money available to the City of Sydney and the City of Melbourne for these purposes, he should be able to make money available to the Hunter Water and Sewerage Board in order that it may carry on with this important work.
So far as I can see the only benefit that so far has been derived under the provisions of the Grants Commission Act in the field of local government is in the money that has gone to the cities. When one reads the statement by the Minister it will be seen that country areas receive very little mention at all. In the main assistance is given for the development of urban and city areas. I remind the Minister for Urban and Regional Development that if we are to centralise, if we are to develop local government right across the board, then country municipalities and shires should receive some consideration from the Grants Commission and also under this local government assistance Bill. I know that in New South Wales regional bodies have been formed, particularly in my own area, and that members of those bodies have come to Canberra to see the Minister. I do hope that some assistance will be forthcoming to them.
To return to the need for positive action and positive statements, I would like to hear the Minister make some really positive statements as to how this money will be made available to local government. We have heard mention about regional councils and local councils. Local councils can apply direct for assistance. Where’ do we go from there? Shire and municipal councils are asking these questions. They want to know whether the money will be made available direct to the regional councils for distribution to the councils in their area or whether local governing bodies will be able to apply direct for assistance. Recently the members of a regional council came to Canberra. I will not mention its name. They came here in all good faith to see the Minister with a view to receiving some financial assistance. After they returned to their district a member of that council and one councillor slipped down to Canberra on their own and tried to undermine the regional council. It will be a tragedy if this sort of thing is allowed to continue. I feel that more positive action and decisions have to be taken by the Minister in the field of local government so that local councils will know where they are going.
– In the few moments that are left to me in this debate I would like quickly to nail some of the nonsense that has been put forward by the Opposition this afternoon and this evening in what should have been a most important debate on an historic piece of legislation. I hope sincerely that the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) will get some copies of Hansard and take them back to his own electorate so that the local government authorities up there may see what he had to say in this place. If he nas had anything to do with local government he would know that his remarks could be regarded only as a betrayal of the interests of local government.
– I have had more experience in it than you are ever likely to have.
– You just send them some copies of your speech and tell them what you had to say. As far as local government is concerned, one would gather from the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) that local government was being asked to agree to access at a national level to the Australian Loan Council. All this has emanated from a request throughout the land from local government, from every State and from almost every region. As recently as 2 days ago while this Bill was on the notice paper the Australian Council for Local Government Associations meeting in Hobart resolved to support this Government in its campaign at the referendum for local government access to the Loan Council. That shows how up to date the honourable member is. In addition to that, the Australian Council for Local Government Associations resolved to set up within its own organisation a body to raise funds and to seek financial assistance at a national level. For whom is the Opposition speaking? It certainly is not speaking on behalf of local government and it certainly is not aware of the needs of local government - otherwise it would not be opposed to this legislation tonight. Look at the delegates. The delegate who put the case for New South Wales local government authorities is one of the colleagues of the Leader of the Party to which the honourable member for Paterson belongs and one of the colleagues of Mr Cutler in New South Wales. I refer to
Alderman Coates, M.L.A. for Blue Mountains in New South Wales, who said that local government authorities need access to Federal finance, that they need access to lower interest rates.
– Order! The time allotted for the second reading of the Bill has expired.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Legislative powers of the Parliament).
– This is the Mediterranean of this Bill’s proposal, because it seeks to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate directly for local government bodies. I eschew the temptation to deal with any second reading consideration, but I want to invite the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), who is directly concerned, to consider quite directly what is involved in conferring upon this Parliament power to legislate with respect to borrowing of money by the Commonwealth for local government bodies. It is to state the obvious to state that this Parliament in no direct sense has control over local government bodies. The creation, the destruction, of local government bodies is a matter entirely within the province of State Parliaments. I would illustrate this very quickly for the benefit of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) by saying that the New South Wales Parliament snuffed out of existence the life of the Sydney City Council. And it restored it. No greater legislative power can be imagined than the power to create and the power to destroy. What would the Prime Minister say if, as a matter of pique, the Government of Tasmania should seek to convert what may be its 20 local government authorities into 5 local government authorities?
– There are 49. I am indebted to my honourable friend for his interjection. What would happen if Tasmania decided to translate its 49 local government authorities into five or ten? The scheme made by this Government relating to the 49 local governments authorities could be emasculated effectively simply by an Act of a particular State parliament. Let us take the case of Queensland with its immense number - almost a phethora - of local government authorities. The Queensland Parliament in quite distinctive circumstances substantially altered the ‘boundaries of the Greater Brisbane City Council. What if the Government had made a commitment to the previous Brisbane City Council for a particular proposal and, when it turned around, found itself in the position of having to face an entirely different character of local government? I submit that this is a classic illustration of the planner proceeding on the basis that he has a fixed set of circumstances to deal with. The simple truth of the matter is that this Parliament has no power to create tocal government authorities and no power to destroy local government authorities, but the States have that power. I invite my friend the Prime Minister to say what is wrong with dealing directly with the States. Suppose a local government authority came along -be it the Beaconsfield local government authority or the Outer Barcoo local government authority - land said: ‘Mr Prime Minister, we are in trouble. We would welcome your assistance. We would value your support.’ He would say-
– Sit down and let him answer because the the debate will be gagged in 2 minutes time.
– I am grateful. I have a few other questions to ask. I was not the one who applied the guillotine; you were the one who applied the guillotine and you object to questions being asked in this field. I have a whole catalogue of questions to put down and I have the greatest of doubt whether my friend the Minister could answer one of them, even vaguely. I think he would get 5 per cent of the marks for good writing and nothing else. The second question I want to put is: Why seek to alter section 51 of the Constitution? The whole of the borrowings of this Parliament are involved in section 105. I venture this view to the Prime Minister: If this referendum gets to the people and is passed by the people it could well involve the country in a celebrated court case - not that I object to litigation, no matter where it occurs. Section 105a(1) of the Constitution provides:
The Commonwealth may make agreements with the States with respect to the public debts of the States including-
The borrowing of money by the States or by the Commonwealth, or by the Commonwealth for the States.
Why not seek to alter section 105a of the Constitution? Why seek to confer a plenary power in section 517 I suggest that, on the assumption that the Government received a plenary power under section 51, this could well be in direct conflict with section 105a. If my honourable and learned friend reads on in section 105a he will find the following provision:
The powers conferred by this section shall not be construed as being limited in any way by the provisions of section 105 of this Constitution.
This seems to me to involve the Government in a headlong conflict. I am sorry, Mr Chairman, that the simple exigencies of time-
– Order! The time allotted for the Committee stage of this Bill has expired.
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is that the remainder of the Bill be agreed to and that the Bill be reported without amendment All those in favour say ‘aye’, to the contrary no’. I think the ‘ayes’ have it.
– May I have a word on that, Mr Chairman?
– I did not think you would say yes.
– Is a division required? Ring the bells.
That the remainder of the Bill be agreed to and that the Bill be reported without amendment.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr G. G. D. Scholes)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Uren) proposed:
That the report be adopted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– Under the provisions of standing order 399, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the immediate recommittal of the Bill.
Mr Speaker, I have very good reasons for moving this motion. I think that they can be summarised by the remarks made by my friend the honourable member for Moreton. The honourable member for Moreton-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I moved the report be adopted before the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders was moved by the honourable member.
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to standing order 236, which reads:
On report from the committee or on the motion for the adoption of the report the bill may, on motion by any Member, be recommitted . . .
I am entirely and completely in accordance with Standing Orders.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired.
– On the motion-
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired. The question is: That the report be adopted’. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’, to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ‘ayes’ have it.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Before the time for the debate had expired I moved, as I am entitled to do under the provisions of standing order 399, that the Bill be recommitted. That motion must be heard and I must be heard on that motion before you put another motion.
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– Do you so rule?
– I move: That Mr Speaker’s ruling be disagreed with’.
– Order! The time had expired-
– No, it had not.
– Order! The time had expired. I think I can tell the time. I was taught to do so at school, even if the honourable gentleman was not. The time allotted for the remaining stages of the Bill has expired.
– Mr Speaker-
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I warn the honourable gentleman that if he keeps on defying the Chair I will name him. The question is: ‘That the report be adopted’. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’, to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ‘ayes’ have it. Is a division required?
– I am trying to take a point of order.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Is a division required?
– Ring the bells.
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be now read a third time.
That the Bill be read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . . . 64
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Question Time - Political Parties - National Service -‘Blue Poles’ Painting
– Order! It being 15 minutes after 10 p.m., in accordance with the order of 1 March I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise to a point of order. I think that in the confusion of a few moments ago you may have misinterpreted the facts. Let me put them on record. I moved a motion before the expiration of time for the consideration of the Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill. It was after I had moved that motion that you said that time had expired. You then, I think wrongly and perhaps confusedly - I am not trying to cast any reflection on you - said that time had expired before I had moved the motion. I put that on record. Thank you.
– Order! The motion had not been proposed or seconded.
– It had been proposed.
– It was not seconded.
– I wish to talk about a very grave matter that occurred in the House this morning during question time. I refer to statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other statements. ‘If I may, I should like to quote from an editorial of a newspaper to put my remarks into context. This editorial says:
Question time in Parliament was designed to allow members of both the Government and the Opposition to obtain information which they consider vital to the efficient performance of their duties as elected representatives of the people.
Regrettably this most important period has now reached the level of a third rate comedy where a tiresome cast of frustrated humorists now see it as an opportunity to make a near mockery of the entire proceedings.
Unfortunately most questions are directed to the Prime Minister who seems to believe that the best way to answer an Opposition question is to belittle the member asking the question or to give an answer so facetious that it is, in many cases, little more than a direct insult.
It goes on to say:
It is indisputable that the Labor Government was given a mandate to govern, but it is traditional -
This was a point mentioned over and over by members on this side of the House - that members of Her Majesty’s Opposition be recognised as men with a sense of both duty and responsibility and it would be as well for the Prime Minister to recognise this fact.’
– What paper is that?
– .What paper are you reading from7
– I will table that article whenever honourable members wish me to do so. The next article I wish to quote from appeared in this afternoon’s Press.
– I rise to order. Am I in order, Mr Speaker, as the honourable member has offered to table the article, in asking him to do so now?
– He can have it. If it is worth that much to the honourable member, there it is. The next article from which I wish to quote appeared in this evening’s paper and it makes very plain that the most senior members of this Parliament said to a colleague of mine, for whom I personally have great respect:
It is what he puts into his guts that- him.
I think we all know what is represented by the dashes, and it probably was not quite as bad as some honourable members are thinking.
My question to the House is this: If the senior - and one would hope the most respected - member of this Parliament, the Prime Minister, is entitled to make these remarks and is not required to apologise or withdraw -
Or Cass - But he did.
– What the Minister at the table has just said is quite untrue. If this is the standard of behaviour that is tolerated by the Prime Minister in this Parliament what chance have you, Mr Speaker, of controlling what other people say? An opportunity was lost today for the sake of the future of this Parliament to protect people against silly smears, some of which can stick. Years ago - I have not the authority but I can find it quite easily - a Speaker who was famous for his courage in this place, in fact the previous member for Barker, rose and said: ‘If any honourable member dares to say that someone looks as though he has been drinking, or that someone has been drinking, or that he is drunk, the member who says that thing will be named by me’. This was Speaker Cameron. He made the statement because if such a charge is made even against the greatest teetotaller in the land, such as the previous honourable member for Swan, it can stick.
I intend to explore all avenues open to me to see what can be done to protect in this House members from such a scurrilous, cheap, and unmitigatedly stupid attack on other members as we heard in this House by the Prime Minister today. Out of deference to all members of this place, from the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) to myself, something must be done to stop this rubbing off of dirt by low people who should not be taking this attitude in the forum of the nation.
Having made that point, I wish to make another one. Several honourable members, some of whom hold positions of authority in this Parliament, quite recently have had trouble in getting vehicles early in the morning to convey them from their homes to their place of work in Parliament House. I request the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), to have a look at this problem because I believe it is probably true to say that some Ministers in this place are using vehicles for one, two or three hours in the mornings which means that the vehicles cannot be made available to members of Parliament to get to work. I was held up for 40 minutes the other morning from the time when I had ordered a car. Other members will have had similar experiences and after all we are not all that important. But I would like the Minister to give an assurance to the House that these vehicles are not being used capriciously for shopping expeditions.
– That is a slur.
– The honourable member for Adelaide can have his say in a little while. I want an assurance from the Minister, and I am entitled to ask for ian assurance from him, that Ministers’ cars are being used for their proper purposes and not improper purposes for which tie people of Australia might have to pay.
– If you have evidence, you bring it out. Do not slur.
– The honourable member’s attempt at trying to run the Joint Committee on Prices is pretty punk, so I advise him to shut his trap. All I am asking for is some assurance on the matter I have put before this House. I conclude by reading from an editorial from the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ - if that is of interest to the honourable member for Adelaide with his pettiness. It states:
In May, Mr Whitlam told Parliament he had approved a maximum personal staff of seven for each Minister, and variation would require his personal approval.
I note that since then not only has the Prime Minister taken on board a good adviser - I hope for the sake of the country he turns out to be better than I expect - but also that Professor Colin Howard has been appointed to Senator Murphy’s staff.
– At $25,000 a year.
– At a cool $25,000 a year. If the people of Australia are paying for cars that I am implying are sometimes misused, they are also paying for more and more experts for incompetent Ministers to hide behind. This is another matter. I quote from a comment by Senator Carrick in another place and I ask the House to note it. He said: the elegance, the expansiveness, the luxury of style of this new socialist government, this government of the workers, a style which in its Bacchanalian excesses, in its nepotism, by contrast makes the members of the previous Government look like Trappist monks in retreat.
I oan quote any number of examples if honourable members opposite want me to elaborate on this statement. This Government must start to come down to earth. The people of Australia want to know that their funds are being spent properly and that their Prime Minister is a man of dignity with some decency in his makeup. I think it fair to say that until the Prime Minister tells us about the staffing arrangements of Ministers, which he has promised this Parliament to do but has not done, the people of Australia are entitled to know who these faceless men are who are not elected by the Australian people but who cover up for Ministers in every way possible at huge public expense. I ask the House to note the 2 points I have made tonight.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Angas who has accused Ministers, of whom I am one, of certain things. Before the House concludes I will reveal to this Parliament all the excesses of the previous Ministry in the use of cars, facilities and everything else. I will put that on the record.
– Order! The Minister is not in order.
– I shall not waste my time answering the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) in detail but will point to 2 matters to which he referred in his short speech. Firstly, he hammered the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his insulting remarks to the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes). A few minutes later he slandered Ministers of this Government for using motor cars on shopping expeditions. How can a man be so irresponsible and so inconsistent in such a short space of time? Secondly, he spoke about an appointment to the staff of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy). I have it on good authority that a Mr Sheppard has this week been appointed as an economist to the staff of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), at a salary of $15,000 a year. What is good for the gander is good for the goose. Honourable members opposite are completely hypocritical when they start criticising us for doing the things that they did themselves.
I want to talk tonight about the Australian opinion polls. The Australian opinion polls have become a massive brainwashing device in this country mainly manipulated by forces opposed to the Labor Government. With the right people selected to do the questioning it is possible to get the result they are wanting, especially on political questions. The elector who is interviewed could easily be of the same political complexion as the interviewer who would know the people in his district and their political affiliations. There are very grave dangers and discrepancies in this sort of set-up. For a true and honest selection of people to interview it is important that interviewers operate in areas where they do not know the people personally. The public opinion poll representatives will still say that they get a cross-section of the people, and so they do, but a cross-section of what sort of people? Since December 1972 the opinion polls have set out to get this Labor Government and to show it up in the worst possible light. Never have so many surveys been conducted in Australia before in a given period of time. During the regimes of the Liberal-Country Party coalition the poll organisations seemed to select times which were most favourable for taking public assessments of the Government’s performance. But this year opinion polls have deliberately, cunningly and shamefully exploited the slight fall in Labor’s electoral image. It seems to me that they have developed an anti-Labor bias which destroys their credibility. The polls have ceased to be what they have maintained in their charter to be from the beginning, interested only in assessing public opinion on national issues, especially electoral opinion. They have ceased to be a means of gauging public opinion or a means of assessing public opinion only.
The public opinion polls are now influencing public opinion in a diabolical and ruthless fashion which was outside their original charter. They are brainwashing electors and in one sense they are making Hitler look like an amateur in brainwashing techniques. Never has this attempt to brainwash and shape public opinion been more in evidence than in the opinion polls on the popularity of political leaders. This technique moved into full blast during the past 3 years. The opinion polls gunned for the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and later the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). The poll people fed to the Press what the Press wanted to know at the time. The opinion polls created an image of both leaders as incapable, unpredictable, inept and indecisive. This image was then taken up by the media which took the result of the polls as gospel and printed in banner headlines ‘Gorton is finished’, and later: ‘McMahon is on the way out’. This was pumped into people’s brains constantly, subtly and deliberately. From an assessment of public opinion this massive exercise became a clever shaping and moulding of public opinion with the public being brainwashed on a national scale.
How do people really know how a government is going or how leaders are going except through the media? And if this image in the media is a biased and malicious image the people are basing their opinions on biased and even untruthful material or evidence. More recently the opinion polls have been after the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), fashioning, moulding and shaping public opinion against both leaders with the dutiful public making the right noises for the opinion polls. In this sense they are a fraud and are enemies of sane, unbiased and uninfluenced decisions. I believe they have become a national menace. This week Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls is showing the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in rapid decline with the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) and Bob Hawke in a big deal upswing. I ask honourable members to please note that Bob Hawke is not even in Parliament. Therefore, to compare him with the Prime Minister is both dishonest and irrelevant. To compare the Leader of the Country Party with the Leader of the Opposition is also false and dishonest because the Leader of the Country Party can never be Prime Minister while he is Leader of the Country Party. What, therefore, is the purpose of bringing these chaps, who are in opposing camps, into public opinion polls?
Opinion polls feed the Press with unreal and exaggerated material. Anti-government editorial writers then write screaming headlines to further brainwash the gullible public, taking their cue from highly suspect opinion poll material. They only have to pound away with this exaggerated material month after month to mislead and brainwash the people. Finally I ask, what of the old Australian adage: ‘Give him a fair go’? It seems to have disappeared out of the country. The Labor Government has been in office for only 1 1 months and it has not for a moment been given a fair go in the Press, on television, in cartoons, in most editorials or by some competitors. Therefore, both the opinion polls and the media are working in conjunction to produce the sort of image of the Government and the Party leaders that both desire, which can be off course in reality.
In conclusion I want to say a few words about the conduct of the Opposition in this
Parliament. I have been here for a long time. When I came here in 1946 the Labor Party was in Government. Then for a number of years we were in Opposition, and now the position has changed again. From my experience in that time I can say I believe that the present Opposition is the most arrogant, most negative, most abusive, disruptive, most ill-disciplined, destructive and noisiest Opposition the Parliament has even seen. After 10 months the present Opposition has not put forward one new idea or one progressive thought. It is bankrupt of ideas, yet has the colossal nerve to declare itself fit to govern again in this country. There are huge chasms of differences running between the Opposition leaders.
– They are even self-righteous.
– Of course they -are. They have imported larrikinism into the Parliament from the back streets on many occasions. Not all honourable members opposite could be accused of that. Only a small group, I would say, could be accused of that sort of conduct, but it definitely degrades the whole Parliament. Noise is supposed to be intelligence; larrikinism is supposed to reflect responsibility. No attempt has been made to have in depth research, generally speaking, of legislation put forward. There is just opposition, opposition, opposition for the sake of opposition. The philosophy is: If you see a head, kick it.
An Irishman arrived in Fremantle once and asked the first chap he met: ‘What Government is in office at Canberra?’ On being told he said: ‘Well, I’m agin it’. That is the philosophy of this disunited Opposition. Whatever the Government puts up is wrong; it has to be opposed just because members on the other side of the House are in Opposition. That means that the Parliament is listening to expressions of this destructive, disruptive attitude day after day, week after week. ‘If Labor introduces a Bill, kick it to death’, they say. That is their philosophy. Never mind if the legislation is desperately needed for the building of a better Australia. Just because the Labor Party has introduced a Bill, and they do not like our philosophy or ideology, they want to kick it, and kick it to death; and if it passes through the House of Representatives, they will kick it to death in the Senate for sure. This is a terrible attitude for an Opposition to adopt. We know that they have to oppose if what is proposed is utterly against their principles, but they are overdoing this completely and creating a great imbalance in the Parliament as a whole.
– I was a little surprised to hear the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) carry on as he did this evening. It is amazing how people change. I happen to have a pretty vivid recollection of ia few things that happened prior to 2 December last. I just cannot understand the attitude of a man whom I would call a close friend, a former resident of my great electorate.
– My brother is in your electorate.
– He votes for me, too, I understand. It is surprising to see how a person can change almost overnight. I could not write down all the nasty things which the honourable member said about members of the Opposition - about them being ignorant and arrogant. I remind the honourable member of the conduct of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) on one occasion. I say that very seriously. Has the honourable member for Wilmot ever seen, while he has been a member, any member of the Liberal and Country Parties do what the honourable member for Wills did on that occasion? He refused to leave the House when asked to do so by the Speaker of the day. The Speaker had to adjourn the House in the early hours of the morning because the honourable member for Wills refused to obey the Chair. So, I am a little surprised at the honourable member for Wills.
Before I get on to the subject matter which I wish to raise specifically, I wish to associate myself with the comments of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). He raised some very important questions tonight about the smearing that goes on in this chamber, particularly what went on this morning. I agree entirely with his comments in relation to a former Speaker. It happened before I was a member of Parliament. Like many other members, I read and I am prepared to accept information which is given to me. When I was elected one of the first things which the then Country Party Whip, who was giving the new members a rundown on what we were permitted to do, did was to warn us against casting reflections- on a member’s ability to carry on effectively because he was under the influence. It would be terribly easy for me to accuse the honourable member for Wilmot of being unsteady on his feet. We all know that he is a teetotaller. It would be very easy for somebody else to follow suit and stay that he is always unsteady on his feet. In other words, we would imply that he is an habitual drunkard, when we know very well that he is a teetotaller. Mr Speaker, I would urge you to give a lot of consideration to this point, to try to stop these imputations being thrown around the chamber. Unfortunately, I must say that they come from both sides.
Some of the questions which were raised by the honourable member for Angas in relation to the statements and words used by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) this morning were very disturbing to me. To think that the leader of a nation can carry on in this way. Perhaps backbenchers can be excused for losing control of their senses in this place because they have not the authority and they cannot get the things they want. But the Prime Minister is the No. 1 man in this country. Recently somebody said that he was the greatest. I wonder who it was.
One of the other things which I wish to mention relates to the Post Office. This subject seems to be a favourite of members in this corner of the House - members of the Country Party. We are always raising questions about the Post Office. This is because it is so important to the constituents whom we represent. Reference has been made to the possible closure of many non-official post offices in country areas. One of the problems which I can see developing if the Government closes these non-official post offices which may be uneconomic to keep in operation is the loss of services to country people. It has been put to me quite seriously that it is impossible for anyone to become an agent of the Post Office for the purpose of selling postage stamps. It is illegal for anyone to trade in stamps for postal purposes. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) to give some consideration to appointing agents of the Post Office so that they may sell stamps for the convenience of people in a particular area. It might mean that they will have to be paid some form of commission. I do not know; the Post Office could work that out. I appeal to the P.M.G. to consider that.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is an article that appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of today, Thursday, 15 November. It is headed Labor to Limit Subsidy to Wheatgrowers’ and is written by David Wilson. I do not know who David Wilson is, but I suggest to the editor of the ‘Age’ that perhaps he should have a little yarn to this fellow and tell him to get a few of his facts somewhere near the ball because some of the things which he has said in this article indicate that he knows little about the subject. What he says is somewhat confusing to the industry, to consumers and to taxpayers alike. After all, people read things in newspapers, and when they are set out like this people expect them to be somewhere near the facts. After reading this article one would think that the wheat industry was literally fleecing the consumers in Australia today, but I point out that on today’s prices the wheat grower is subsidising the consumers tremendously. I do not know how many people are aware of this fact, but taking into account the cost of the material in bread, namely flour, for every loaf of bread that the consumer purchases the wheat grower donates another loaf - it is two loaves for one. If one compares the international price for wheat today with the price of wheat for home consumption, and provided that the price, the level of consumption and a few other things remain the same for a 12-months period, one sees that growers are making a contribution of $120m to consumers in Australia. I repeat that growers are providing a subsidy of $120m to the consumers. It is not a matter of the taxpayers, providing a subsidy to the growers as we so often hear the people allege. The article goes on to state:
The Government also plans a guaranteed price for wheat exports, adjusted to the ruling world price.
A little further on it states that the Government intends to conclude this open-ended commitment; and that it will now limit the subsidy to $30m a year to keep the stabilisation fund intact. The interesting point is that that is part of the original recommendation of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. But this article does not point out that wheat growers are prepared to contribute another $80m to keep the fund in balance.
The other point I make is that the article indicates that there will be a guaranteed price for wheat. The Government has the funds available to guarantee the price and will hold the price. I want to know how it will level this thing out. Then the article goes on to state:
Wheat industry sources last night applauded the new proposals.
That is rather interesting because there has been no announcement. Even the so-called wheat experts have been told nothing. There has been no announcement in this House, and no mention of individuals in the wheat industry. Is this a case of a little bit of speculation on the part of a writer for the Melbourne ‘Age’? That is what I suggest it is. I suggest to the editor of the Melbourne ‘Age’ that he look closely at this article and find out where the writer got the information. There are other points in the article but time will not allow me to deal with all of them. There is another inaccuracy in the last paragraph. It refers to growers having to plan their industry. Heavens above, they have planned it for years. Any man who has had any success has planned.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to draw the attention of the House to the confidence trick that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) is trying to perpetrate on the young people of Australia in the matter of conscription. I rise to expose the way in which the Leader of the Opposition seeks to disown the conscription policies to which every Liberal Minister for Defence and every Liberal and Country Party Minister for the Army have repeatedly committed the parties to which they belong; conscription policies on which successive Liberal Prime Ministers have campaigned at successive elections for the House of Representatives and for the Senate; conscription policies to which each and every honourable member opposite has repeatedly dedicated himself. I would like to put on notice for the honourable members for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), Flinders (Mr Lynch), Corangamite (Mr Street), Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and Kennedy (Mr Katter), none of whom are present in the House now or have been present in the House for the past several hours, whether they acquiesced in the repudiation of conscription which has been undertaken in their name by their Parliamentary Leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). In his reply to the Leader of the Opposition in the debate on the censure motion of 23 October, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said:
Every young Australian should realise that if the Party the Leader of the Opposition leads should ever return all those things will return including conscription. Nobody denies that it would return.
– In fairness to the honourable member for Corangamite, perhaps you meant the honourable member for Kooyong.
– I did not. I meant the honourable member for Corangamite. The
Leader of the Opposition rejoined with the synthetic indignation to which the House has become accustomed and said:
The statement has been made that ‘nobody denies*. I will deny it. What the honourable gentleman has said is a farrago of untruths. If it must be denied it will be denied.
I quote from the Hansard record, from Press statements and from newspaper reports so that honourable members can judge for themselves the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition in this matter which is of such crucial importance to the young people of Australia. I quote from these unimpeachable sources so that honourable members opposite who take little pride in the parliamentary performance of their Leader can judge for themselves whether he is entitled even to reliance on his word.
The honourable member for Wannon, as Minister for Defence, told the Western Australian State Conference of his Party on 6 July 1970:
After Vietnam we will not be able to sustain the kind of forces that the Government believes Australia requires without national service.
The honourable member for Wannon went on:
Let me argue the reasons for this and why 1 believe there is no viable alternative to that which we have pursued.
If the honourable gentleman has changed his view on the matter, he has not taken this House into his confidence. Let him say in the near future, when he is present in the House, whether he repudiates the arguments to which he attached both, weight and universality only 3 years ago.
The honourable member for Flinders told the House on 9 September 1971, when he was Minister for Labour and National Service:
National service was not introduced because of Vietnam. It was introduced in November 1964 but national servicemen were not sent to Vietnam until 1966. National service has not been maintained for 7 years solely because of Vietnam. In fact of all national servicemen called up only one-third have served in Vietnam. National service cannot be discontinued because we are withdrawing from Vietnam. It is vital that it be maintained because the alternative would be a significantly reduced full-time military force unable to meet its defence obligations. This would be quite unthinkable for the Government.
If the honourable member for Flinders finds thinkable in Opposition those things which were unthinkable to the Government in which he was a Minister, he has studiously kept secret his change of heart. The honourable member for Flinders has denied the House details of a conversion which if it has occurred - and I doubt it - rivals the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus.
The honourable member for Corangamite, who was Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Labour and National Service, said on the same day and in the same debate:
National service was introduced before Vietnam and it will be continued after our withdrawal from Vietnam for the same reasons as it was introduced. . . . We on our side of the House make no apology for continuing this system of national service.
I wonder how the honourable member for Corangamite felt while his Leader was making on his behalf, the apology which he himself had refused to make. I wonder how he felt while his leader, was making a mockery of the stand to which he had previously committed himself. The honourable member for Farrer, again on the same day and in the same debate but as Minister for Defence, said:
The scheme as now adjusted is an important element in our defence preparedness. The fluid strategic situation in which we find ourselves demands flexibility in our strategic policies and the progressive development of self-reliant forces and an evident defence capability. The national service scheme is an important element in this capability and in the retention of a readiness for various situations which might require the involvement of our forces.
If the honourable member for Farrer has detected any change in ‘the fluid strategic situation in which we find ourselves’ his public utterances have given no sign of it - quite the reverse. I believe that the honourable member for Farrer is sincere in his statements. I believe the honourable member was as stunned as other honourable members opposite who heard their Leader repudiate the foundation stone on which Liberal defence policy is based.
Finally, Mr Speaker, there was the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), then Minister for the Army. The honourable member for Kennedy said:
One of the great things about national service is that it produces fine men. National service brings all classes of people together. It breaks the class barrier that some people would solemnly wish to create, pitting Australian against Australian. The barriers come down and all people are equals when they go into the Army. If national service had nothing to do with defence but was purely a system of training it would pay handsomely.
He went on to say:
I support this Bill-
That is, the National Service Bill- most strongly. I again say that if this Government were to abandon one iota of the firm stand it has taken in regard to the defence of Australia it would deserve to go out of office.
If the honourable member saw any inconsistency between these strong statements and the repudiation of national service uttered by the Leader of the Opposition on 23 October, he chose to remain silent. The honourable member for Kennedy professed to believe that a government which abandoned national service should go out of office, but he is quite happy for office to be assumed by a party which, according to its leader, has abandoned national service.
It cannot be argued that the honourable members whose words I have quoted saw the light later in the term of office of the Government in which they were Ministers. The honourable member for Flinders was quoted in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 11 May 1972 as believing abolition of national service would be a totally irresponsible step for any government to take’. The honourable member for Kennedy was quoted in the Hobart ‘Mercury’ on 25 October 1972 as saying: ‘In no circumstances would we cut out national service.’ The honourable member for Farrer was quoted in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 23 November 1972 as saying that ‘Without national service at this stage the regular Army’s military capabilities would be crippled’. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) was quoted in the ‘Australian’ on 29 November - 3 days before last year’s election - as saying: The abolition of national service would decimate our defence forces. National service is something we don’t like but it is a premium we must pay to look after our interests’.
The inescapable fact is that there has been no change of heart over national service on the part of the Opposition. The inescapable fact is that if members opposite were to resume the government benches they would have Australians back in uniform and back in the jungles of South East Asia just as rapidly as they could rush legislation through this Parliament. The inescapable fact is that the Leader of the Opposition is well aware of these matters, and that, even so, he was willing to mislead this House and the hundreds of thousands of Australians who were listening to what he had to say over their radios. The Leader of the Opposition fools nobody with his statements on conscription, but those statements inflict great damage on his own credibility.
– Last week in this House the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in reply to my question on the controversial painting “Blue Poles’, reported to have been purchased by his Government at a cost to the Australian taxpayers of $1.3m, indicated that the Government intended to continue with this irresponsible purchase. I note that he has done exactly that, despite the desperate bid in another place by an honourable gentleman, who was Wright by both name and intention, to delete a similar amount of money from the Supply Bill (No. 3) 1973. When one considers that out of an allocation of $2m only $700,000 is left for the acquisition and conservation of the national estate, the Prime Minister’s action is irresponsible. The honourable gentleman used as his rationale the hypothetical supposition that the painting will continue to appreciate in value. Might I say that he appears to be one of the few people in Australia currently holding that opinion. In his usual loquacious manner the Prime Minister quite flippantly joked away this blatant misuse of $1.3m of taxpayers’ money and now he has the audacity to tell this House that this valuable painting will appear on the Whitlam Christmas cards. This will make it so common that if it had any curiosity value that too will be gone. Unfortunately I cannot let this wanton waste pass so lightly. I have a very obvious duty to my electorate of McMillan.
-Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 20 November, at 11 a.m., or such later time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair.
Mouse adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
I also draw his attention to the last sentence in paragraph 7-15 of the White Paper which says “The total net cost to the budget, including the effect of tax deductions, will be approximately the same as would be the case under the existing health insurance scheme’.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Will the Minister provide a list of the interdepartmental committees which have been established since 2 December 1972, of which officers of the Department of Primary Industry are members.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
No. On 20 September 1973, my colleague, the Prime Minister, informed the right honourable gentleman in reply to a Question Without Notice about interdepartmental committees that, if he wished to know the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee, and for what period of time it had been active, the Prime Minister would be happy to provide him with that information.
If the right honourable gentleman wishes to have information about a particular committee on which my Department is represented, I will assist him as far as possible having regard to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question Nos 964 and 1057.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
All Australian States grow apples and pears and all engage in varying degrees in export The economics of the apple and pear growing industry would vary greatly as between States and the indications are that there would not be any unanimity of view of the industry that the proposal would be economically advantageous to the industry viewed as a whole.
I recently announced the Government’s decision to establish an Australian Apple and Pear Corporation to replace the present Australian Apple and Pear Board.
The present board has no trading powers and an important difference between it and the new Corporation will be that the Corporation will have power to engage in trading.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Br Patterson - The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The lease is for15 years with rights of extension totalling 84 years.
Lessees rental includes provision for interest and loan redemption, municipal rates, ground rent and insurance. The rental arrangement is to be renegotiated at the end of 20 years whenloan redemption will have been completed.
In the interval, adjustments are made periodically to meet cost increases in the rental charge components.
Lessees may not sub-lease without consent, but the Corporation may repossess land or space not in permanent use.
Lessees may escape from the lease under certain conditions, for example, if action by the Corporation or the Government makes woolbroking impractical at Yennora.
Lessees are to divulge information on handling costs to the Corporation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Australian Wool Corporation and Wool Brokers are presently conducting a survey to arrive at an estimate of receipts for the next five years.
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Projected business trends and development are taken into account as are the views of the Postmasters’ Association with whom the gradings are discussed when decisions are being taken. The grading of each office is further reviewed upon the Postmaster’s position becoming vacant.
If more frequent reviews were undertaken It would be necessary to review those offices which may justify downgrading as well as those which may warrant an upward adjustment.
However, in the light of the present practice more frequent reviews would not be justified.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
What proportion of doctors’ incomes was derived from
How much of the remainder was estimated to derive from insurance companies.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On the basis of the information contained in Table 2a, estimates of the proportion of doctors’ gross incomes derived from
I wish to advise the House that there were errors in Table 1 ‘Doctors’ Incomes’ which was included in my reply of 2 May 1973 to Question No. 488 by Dr Klugman. For 1967-68 the ‘Percentage of actual to gross’ shown in Table 1 of that reply should be 60.6 per cent instead of 62.3 per cent. For 1969-70, under the heading of ‘Recorded Payments’, the ‘Subtotal’ should be S206.3m (not $ 196.3m), and ‘Others’ $33.7m (not $43.7m).
Published figures for the year 1968-69 were reduced by $0.7 million to eliminate cost of services to members of contract organisations. Published figures for 1969-70 onwards did not include cost of services to members of contract organisations.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 November 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731115_reps_28_hor86/>.