29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That marriage is an exclusive lifelong partnership between one woman and one man, which should not be dissolved at the will of one party after 12 months notice nor without a reasonable attempt at reconciliation and
That a husband should normally be responsible for maintaining his wife and children within marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill 1974 be amended
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham, Mr Kevin Cairns, Dr Gun, Mr Kelly, Mr Killen, Mr McVeigh, Mr Reynolds, Mr Eric Robinson 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 marriage is an exclusive lifelong partnership between one woman and one man, which should not be dissolved at the will of one party after 12 months notice nor without a reasonable attempt at reconciliation and
That a husband should normally be responsible for maintaining his wife and children within marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill 1974 be amended
To specify three objective tests for irretrievable breakdown, namely
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morrison, Mr Stewart, Mr Cadman, Mr Kerin, Dr Klugman, Mr Riordan and Mr Ruddock
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
It is granted that the present law respecting divorce is deficient in some of its provisions, and needs reforming.
Your petitioners consider preservation of the family essential to the healthy function of society, and that every effort should be made to preserve traditional attitudes to marriage and child-bearing.
Certain aspects of the Family Law Bill 1974 conflict with these concepts, and endanger the security, welfare, education and development of children.
We request that the Bill be not enacted in its present form, and that consideration be given to our concerns in formulating amendments thereto.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morrison, Mr Stewart, Mr James, Mr Kerin and Mr Lucock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned, all being of or above the age of 18 years as follows:
Your Petitioners oppose and seek the deletion of those provisions of the Family Law Bill 1974 which supplant the existing grounds by the introduction of the sole ground of irretrievable break-down, which remove any consideration of fault, and which will weaken the family unit while causing more widespread injustice because:
Your Petitioners commend the divorce legislation introduced in Great Britain in 1 973, which acknowledges the importance of the family unit, mirrors community requirements, secures justice for innocent people and establishes a realistic definition of irretrievable breakdown, and call for similar legislation to be provided in Australia.
Your Petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will make provision accordingly. by Mr Drury, Mr Hodges and Mr McVeigh.
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 Family Law Bill at present under debate in the House needs further discussion and amendment. The family, being the basic unit of society needs to be protected and fostered. The Bill unfortunately fails to foster the growth of the family and undermines its security, especially in the following areas:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will debate the Family Law Bill further and amend it in the areas outlined so that the family will remain the basic unit of society and will continue to grow in our country.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fisher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in this present Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth enrolled in the seat of Angas respectfully showeth:
That whereas your petitioners consider that the Family Law Bill at present before your Honourable House making twelve months separation the only effective ground for divorce tends to make illusory the concept of Marriage as the union of one man with one woman for life as provided in the Marriage Act.
Your petitioners therefore pray that your Honourable House will not pass such Bill unless it is so amended as not to be inconsistent with the above concept of marriage.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Giles.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
Clause 54 (2) of the Family Law Bill 1974 No. 2, should be tried and we humbly pray Members of the House will restore this concept fully by deleting Clause 75 (n) from the new Bill “as read a third time”.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howard, Mr James, Mr Kerin, Mr Reynolds and Mr Riordan.
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 there is great urgency to preserve the family as the basic unit in society and therefore the stability of family life requires the urgent attention of Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morrison, Mr Stewart, Mr Ellicott and Mr Lucock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Bill 1974 would be an unjust law if passed since the innocent party could be divorced against his or her will after a year ‘s separation.
That the Bill does not only facilitate divorces but changes the nature of marriage and the husband-wife relationship. Legislation ought to reflect public opinion, not attempt to condition it. Gallup Polls indicate 75 per cent of Australians are opposed to the concepts of the Family Law Bill. Therefore Parliament has no mandate from the people to ask such a far reaching change in the nature of our society.
That children need a stable emotional and psychological environment in which to grow up. This stability is upset by divorce. A high proportion of criminals come from broken homes. Consequently any law which makes divorce easier is harmful to society.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament so vote to defeat the Family Law Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Snedden, Mr Malcolm Fraser, Dr Jenkins, Mr Nixon and Mr Willis.
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
Your petitioners humbly request that the Bill not be made an Act of Parliament in its present form.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Malcolm Fraser.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will do everything possible to promote and preserve the permanency of the married state, and not admit into the law of this land any provision for such easy divorce that threatens the stability of family life- for although the present divorce system has weaknesses, these will not be righted by an even weaker and more unjust ‘Family Law Bill’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKillen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we have read the petitions concerning the Family Law Bill and support the Bill as sufficiently protecting the legal and social rights of women and children in the family.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Barnard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we support the concept of no fault divorce in the Family Law Bill because:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Family Law Bill be debated and passed as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mrs Child.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
That we support the Family Law Bill 1974 and urge the House of Representatives to pass the Bill in its present form without delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction,
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over 540 000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilized in Light Water Reactors overseas,
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.00000025 gram,
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers,
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years,
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form,
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us,
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKerin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the udersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored in those areas where the greatest inconveniences and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever humbly pray. by Mr Willis.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I ask: Will he inform the House why no decision has been made either to deport or to grant residency in Australia for the British Member of Parliament, Mr John Stonehouse? Have investigations been made into the circumstances of Mr Stonehouse ‘s disappearance from the United Kingdom? Has the British Government requested Mr Stonehouse ‘s extradition? Has Mr Stonehouse complied with all the conditions attached to his release from custody? Has the Minister given any personal assurances to Mr Stonehouse as to that gentleman’s status in this country? Finally, for how much longer is the Minister going to allow himself to be an accomplice in the public farce that is being played out concerning this matter which has received such widespread Press publicity?
– I did not hear all of the question asked by the acting Leader of the Opposition. But I can say to him that I am seeing Sir Mortice James, the British High Commissioner, on this matter this afternoon and the honourable member would know it would be quite discourteous for me to deal with the question -
– Is that the first time you have seen him about it?
– It would be quite discourteous for me to discuss this matter in view of those circumstances. If the acting Leader of the Opposition will renew his question tomorrow I shall be very happy to answer the whole range of queries contained in the speech he made just a moment ago.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Northern Development I refer to the Queensland Premier’s threats against Japan that unless it buys beef from Australia the Queensland Government will not ratify any further coal agreements with Japan. Have any requests been made by the Queensland Government to the Australian Government for a beef income stabilisation scheme, for finance to help the cattle industry, as occurred when recent droughts prevailed, for freight concessions or for any special meatworks finance to enable meat works to open? Can the Minister outline to the
House what action the Queensland National Party Government has taken to help the cattle industry?
– I am aware of the statements made by the Queensland Premier threatening Japan. They are irresponsible and they can do Australia a tremendous amount of damage in international trade. Any nation that attempts commodity blackmail by standing over countries to try to sell its commodities will never achieve that aim. The regrettable thing is that Australia as a nation will not be trusted by other countries because of the intolerable actions of the Queensland Premier in this matter.
In reply to the question, there has been no move by the Queensland Premier to the Australian Government for a price stabilisation scheme, an income stabilisation scheme, freight concessions for the cattle industry or specialised financial assistance for meatworks. In fact, there has been no approach whatsoever. All that the Country Party dominating Queensland, assisted by the Country Party on the other side of this House, seems to be concerned about is stirring up trouble in Queensland within the cattle industry to the degree that the industry is torn apart. Last night we heard the secretary of the United Graziers Association, the major ruling cattle authority in Queensland, condemning the actions of the Queensland Premier over confrontation with Japan and then we heard the secretary of the graziers association in northern Queensland condemning the UGA. All honourable members in this House saw what happened to the wool industry years ago. The industry was torn apart by dissension. It is quite clear that the cattle industry must sit down and put up constructive proposals as to what it wants.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration a question. Was the Minister or the Minister for Social Security responsible early in the term of this Government for the change in the work test concerning eligibility for unemployment benefits? Has that change led to bludgers, to use the Minister’s own term, not my term, abusing unemployment benefits? If not, what led to the Minister’s statement over the weekend which was widely reported throughout the media? What changes does the Minister now intend to make to rectify the situation in accordance with the undertaking he gave over the weekend to see that, to use his term again, bludgers do not continue to abuse the system?
-Yes, early in the life of the second Whitlam Government -
– The third.
-No, early in the life of the second Whitlam Government there was a change made in the work test by the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden. Mr Hayden took the view that the previous work test was quite unacceptable to the Australian people. It required that married men should leave their homes and go long distances away from where they lived to take work where it was offered to them. He did not believe it to be right that families should be broken up in this way or that work situated long distances from a married man’s home was an appropriate offer in those circumstances. Because of the humanitarian attitude that my colleague the Minister for Social Security has on all these matters, he perhaps did go just a little too much on the side of humanitarianism. But that is the nature of the man.
However, it is also his nature to apply a commonsense attitude to a problem when it has been shown that abuses could follow from the change that was made. When I put it to my colleague that abuses were occurring as a consequence of the changed work test he accepted with alacrity the proposition I put to him that there ought to be some tightening of the work test, and he did that. In fact, he did it just before the last Federal election. I remember it so well. It is true to say that most of the examples of bludging, to use a term that I do not very often use, have been eliminated, but it is impossible, under any system that you could care to name, excepting one that would do incalculable harm to genuine cases, to eliminate all cases of bludging. We are doing our best and we will continue to do so.
My weekend statement referred to what was alleged to have been a proposition put by Mr Arch Bevis, the Federal President of the Transport Workers Union of Australia, in which he is alleged to have said that the rate of unemployment benefit should be reduced. What I said in respect of that was that I did not think it would be right to reduce the rate of the unemployed benefit. In other words, it would not be right to punish the thousands of genuine cases in order to get at one or two people who were work shy. Mr Bevis has since made it clear that he made no such statement at all, that he was not advocating a reduction in the unemployed benefit. The unemployed benefit in Australia is the best in any pan of the world where there is unemployment. We lead the world in the rate of unemployment benefit we pay, and for that we have to thank my colleague the Minister for Social Security, who succeeded in having the unemployment benefit put to the same level as the pension benefit and repatriation benefit.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I take it that as a result of the Minister’s statement the weekend statement means that there is going to be no change in the present situation?
– No point of order is involved.
-I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy: What stage has been reached in the construction of the Moomba-Sydney natural gas pipeline? When is completion of the main trunkline expected? When will the laterals to the major provincial cities in New South Wales, including Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange, be completed? I have not asked anything on prices. No doubt a further question will be asked.
Mr CONNOR The commitment of the Pipeline Authority is to construct 1300 kilometres of pipeline from Gidgealpa to a point some 60 kilometres south of Sydney. Thirty per cent of that- 387 kilometres- has been constructed. The target date for completion- this allows for possible bad weather but not for industrial stoppages- is 2 1 January of next year. With regard to the laterals, now that the New South Wales Government has finally decided that the lateral to Newcastle will be built along the coast, we are in a position to make a final determination in respect of them, both to the areas in which the honourable member is rightly interested and also to Wagga Wagga and Cootamundra.
-My question, directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, concerns the recent sale of beef to Russia. I ask: What was the price per lb paid under this contract? What will be the effective return to the grower? Does the price include freight? Can he say whether those who were negotiating the contract asked the Government to consider subsidising the sale in order to ensure a greater return to the beef producer than the reportedly low return under the contract?
-The Leader of the Australian Country Party knows, and ought to know, that the prices received under commercial contracts are confidential to the parties negotiating those contracts-in this case, from the point of view of Australia and from the point of view of
Russia. Naturally the cost would include freight; that is, it would cover the price of meat in Australia plus freight. As regards the question of whether the contract will mean a loss, my understanding of the situation is that the cost, taking into account freight, has not yet been finalised by the Australian Meat Board. When it is finalised those matters to which the right honourable member referred will be given every consideration by the Government.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to recent suggestions that an election should be held before the Parliament has run its full 3-year term? Has he any reason to suppose that the verdict of the people would be accepted on the next occasion when it has been so clearly rejected on the previous 2 occasions by the Liberal and Country Parties?
– I hear such suggestions constantly. I heard them over the weekend, the weekend before that and the weekend before that and I have heard them ever since last May when the people last were invited to express their view on this matter. At that time, in the May election, the Leader of the Opposition who had produced the election never gave any inkling that if he did not win he would not accept the verdict and would be pursuing the same disruptive and delaying tactics as he had before the election.
– Which Leader of the Opposition?
– I mean the Leader of the Opposition who is not here today. I do not know whether he is trying to bring into line the Premier of Queensland or the Premier of New South Wales. If he ever tried to do either he would keep it to himself. He knows what they should do but he will not publicly state it. That is a great display of leadership. But I must come back to the question and ignore interjections. I should like to point out that as a result of the failure last April to accept the verdict of the people in December 1972 Australia was without a Parliament for 3 months. Unquestionably there were pieces of social and economic legislation which should have been considered by the Australian National Parliament. They could not be. When the attempt was made by my colleague, the Minister for Services and Property, to bring in more streamlined and contemporary electoral laws so that at any future election there should not be a 3-month gap in the life of the Australian Parliament, the Bill was tossed out. There was no debate in committee at all and no amendments were moved or debated. The Bill was just rejected. So that means that if there is another election brought about by the refusal of Supply, presumably Australia would once again be without a Parliament for 3 months and, accordingly, it would be impossible to have any of those discussions with the States or with various industries which have to take place before a Budget can be introduced. I believe that it is about time the Liberals accepted the verdict of the people. The people have had 2 opportunities to give a verdict. I have no doubt whatever, particularly after the events of the last week, that there would be again a verdict in favour of my Government. But in the meantime we have to accept the fact that Australia would be without a Parliament for 3 months, there would be no legislation on important economic and social matters for 3 months and it would be impossible to have the necessary discussions with industries and with the States during that period. I should have thought that the Leader of the Opposition would have learnt his lesson. He had his opportunity last May and, as his supporters elegantly put it, he stuffed it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. In the light of his answer to an earlier question, does the Minister now agree that the action of the Waterside Workers Federation in preventing a sale of wheat to Chile was a stand-over tactic against one of Australia’s trading partners and against Australia’s long term trading interests?
– There is a very great difference between the action taken by the waterside workers and that taken by the Premier of a State- the Premier of Queensland in this instance- in threatening a foreign government. That is what the Premier of Queensland has done. It is an arrogant attitude which has never been tolerated in international trade and it can only bring discredit to Australia. While I am on my feet, Mr Speaker, might I say that what the Queensland Government has done has apparently got the full support of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in this House. To his credit-
– The State Government has every right-
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Country Party will cease interjecting.
– I have not yet read a statement by the Leader of the Country Party-
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister at the table is making allegations about me, having just stated that he does not know what they are. He has no right to make such allegations, and they are totally inaccurate.
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– It is quite obvious that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party made the statement. It is in the newspapers today.
– What statement?
-That you fully support the action of the Queensland Premier.
– That the State Parliament has the right to determine its order of business.
– It is quite clear that the members of the Country Party sitting behind their Deputy Leader fully support this attitude of the Queensland Premier in using blackmail tactics in standing over Japan in an attempt to sell beef.
-What about Chile?
– Order! Interjections will cease. I shall take the appropriate action if they do not.
– I mentioned before that the Secretary of the United Graziers Association had condemned the move. I mentioned also that the Treasurer-
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister is confused. The question was on Chile. Could he give us an answer?
-Order! There is no point of order involved. The Chair is not responsible for the way a question is answered.
– I should also point out that the Treasurer of Queensland, Sir Gordon Chalk, has condemned the action, as I believe the missing Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, has also condemned the action. I am waiting to hear what the Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony, has to say on this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Services and Property. Is it in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act for political parties to collect funds at public rallies? Is the Minister aware that funds were collected last weekend at a place which is reserved for gambling? Is there any requirement that the amount collected must be disclosed? Is there any truth in the suggestion that certain of the participants last Sunday have been called before the stewards to explain their sharp reversal of form?
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Electoral Bill proposed by the Minister for Services and Property has not gone through the Parliament. Therefore the question does not come within the jurisdiction of the Minister and is out of order.
-Order! No point of order is involved. The question does come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Services and Property. The Minister may answer the question.
– It is in order for political parties to collect funds at public rallies and they have not to disclose the source of those funds. It is strange that this question should have been asked of me today because I received in my mail an interesting little document headed ‘Liberal Rally’, which says: ‘Randwick Racecourse- Sunday, 16 February 1975- Live Entertainment- The Buffaloes and Boa Dicea Groups- Pop Artists’. It also says: ‘Speakers- Liberal Leader Bill Snedden- Premier of N.S.W. Tom Lewis- and Mr 40 per cent, the Leader of the Australian Country Party’. It also says: ‘Take Away Foods, Soft Drinks, Tea and Coffee are available. Bring a cushion- impressionable’. I understand that the cushions came straight from Dublin. It also says to bring a litter bag and to leave the course clean.
I understand that the meeting was held at Randwick Racecourse, which is on hallowed ground because His Holiness the Pope appeared there. I also understand that there have been some famous thoroughbreds and a good collection of ‘dead-uns’ on the same course. But it was a wet day and the Leader of the Liberal Party found that it was much more difficult to get people to follow him over wet grass than it was over hot coals or into the Valley of Death. I also understand that one thing missing was Leilanithe only asset of the Liberal Party, which is owned by the Honourable Andrew Sharp Peacock. Leilani is a champion thoroughbred but, like the Leader of the Opposition, is a bad performer on a wet track.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Why did the Prime Minister tell the Australian Labor Party conference at Terrigal that he hopes that the South Vietnamese Government will be ousted before the next Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party? Why does he in that way now encourage the massive invasion and aggression by the North against the South in defiance of the Paris agreements which he welcomed so fulsomely 2 years ago?
-My concern in South Vietnam is to ask the regime with which we have diplomatic relations to honour those agreements. It has conspicuously failed to do so. My only interest is that the regime with which we have relations in South Vietnam should do its part, undertaken now over 2 years ago, to bring about an end to hostilities there. It has not played its part and we have told it so.
-Has the Minister for Social Security seen Press reports lately of statements by major private health insurance organisations defending their recent fee increases? Has the Minister noted that one of the main reasons why the health insurance funds say that their fees have increased is that the Australian Government has refused to increase its hospital and medical benefit subsidies? Is it correct that in fact the Australian Government already pays large hospital and medical benefit subsidies? Are these health insurance funds which are so keen to urge the Government to increase spending on health subsidies the same funds as say that Medibank is undesirable because it will lead to increases in Government expenditure?
-It is true that the great proportion of the costs of medical and hospital services is in fact met by government directly through subsidies or indirectly through the taxation system through tax collections foregone as a result of the tax deductible system. Tax collections foregone represent a cost to consolidated revenue, and of course, impose an obligation upon the tax collection system to raise money from other sources. Accordingly, on this basis it is possible to calculate that on average about 60 per cent of the cost of a medical service or the cost of private ward hospital accommodation is met by government. The health insurance funds have been better treated by this Government than by previous governments. For instance, in 1971-72 the previous Government met 56 per cent of the average medical benefit refund, the year before it met 54 per cent and the year before that it met 46 per cent. In 1972-73 this Government met about 58 per cent of the average cost of a medical benefit refund, and in 1973-74 it met 57 per cent of the average cost. This year the Government will allocate about $185m for medical benefits, including the special account. Last year the Government allocated $ 1 63m. The fact is that this Government has been extremely generous in its support of private health insurance in spite of the misrepresentation and the many provocative statements made by spokesmen of the private health insurance funds. These are the same people who are currently asserting, on the one hand, that the Australian Government should not undertake further public expenditure and on the other hand are demanding even further public expenditure from this Government to support a rather tottering and discredited system of private health insurance. The scheme of Medibank- the universal health insurance program- will come into operation on 1 July and will cover the whole Australian community. It will not incur the additional expenditure of several hundred million dollars which would be necessary under the present system of private health insurance to give universal cover.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I refer to the closure of the Nymboida coal mine in northern New South Wales, which has placed the jobs of some 100 workers in jeopardy. Will the Minister give consideration to providing financial support through the Joint Coal Board to save the mine, which has been favourably recommended as a viable mine by the Board? Will the Government urgently give practical support to this small mine in its hour of need and show confidence in it similar to that exhibited by the miners who are continuing to work the mine although they were paid off by the mine owners last Friday?
-We have been actively engaged in propping up this colliery for some considerable time. I know the function that it serves; I share the honourable member’s concern. But to say that the mine could be subsidised indefinitely would be a foolish commitment. Nevertheless, the Government will re-examine the position and see what can be done to help.
-Has the Minister for Education seen the report on a proposal for the abolition of free tertiary education and free tertiary student allowances? What would be the effects of such a proposal?
-I think the most serious immediate effect of the proposal would be that 400 000 technical education students would be affected. The honourable member will recall that this Parliament appropriated $3 8m to pay the fees of these students over a certain period. Many students are getting their opportunity for technical education through this scheme. It is a scheme very definitely related to national efficiency. The second most serious effect would be in the vague suggestions made by the speaker at a function at the Southern Cross Hotel -
– Who was it?
-I shall reveal that in a moment. The speaker at the Southern Cross Hotel, addressing himself to the subject ‘Operation to Save Australia from Sinking’, made a vague statement about student allowances. The student allowances are means-tested and those who receive them receive them because they are needed. If I have had any criticism in this Parliament by way of correspondence from members it has been that the means test is fairly stringent. That at least ensures that those who are getting the assistance need it. The Leader of the Opposition, as reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ in making these -
– Inaccurately reported; it was a misrepresentation.
-I hope he will explain that. But, as the report stands, it goes out as a statement of policy. It is a statement of policy upon which the honourable member is asking me to comment. I could understand criticism of expenditure on tertiary education coming from those who want to spend money on people in greater need further down the line. But the last statement we had from the Leader of the Opposition on that issue was during the Karmel debates when he suggested that expenditure should be concentrated on those schools which have the highest resource levels in Australia. The criticism I could make- it is one that was made of myself at one stage- is this: Both the Leader of the Opposition and I are beneficiaries of what was once the only free university in Australia and the world. We both had our fees paid and I think we both have reason to be grateful for that and both have reason to wish to see others as beneficiaries.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration whether entry visas have been granted during the period since the Labor Party came to power to representatives of the PRG and African liberation movements. Has an entry visa recently been refused to a member of the South African Cricket Board of Control? Will the Minister explain to the House why representatives of organisations actively pursuing policies of warfare and terrorism are more acceptable as visitors to Australia than the representative of an organisation devoted to pursuing the sport of cricket- moreover, a representative who has actively promoted anti-racialism in cricket in South Africa?
– I do not know how many visas, if any, have been issued to the representatives of North Vietnam and the other countries that the honourable member mentioned. There may not be any. I do not know of any. I am not saying there are none, but I do not know of any. Therefore I cannot deal with that part of the question.
– You will check it out and provide a statement in some form?
-When would you like that?
– Whenever you are in a position to give it. The information should be available in your office if you check it properly.
-The reason for refusing a visa to the cricketing gentleman, I think the honourable member is talking about, is that this Government is utterly opposed to the South African Government’s policies of apartheid. We believe that all human beings are brothers, that they are equal and that anyone who discriminates against another human being because his colour is different or because he belongs to a different race or nationality is antiChristian, anti-democratic and anti-Australian.
(Mr Martin having addressed a question to the Prime Minister)-
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that he cannot quote from a newspaper article in asking a question. The question is out of order.
– It is written under the authorship ofthe -
-Order! The question is out of order.
– It is a report.
-Order! The question is out of order. You cannot quote from a newspaper.
-My question is addressed to the Treasurer in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Prime Minister. I refer to the open aggression which has for some time been conducted by North Vietnamese forces and agents against Cambodia. I ask: When he was Acting Prime Minister what statements did he make or what other action did he take in relation to the North Vietnamese aggression against Cambodia? Does he still follow the line of assisting to maintain the fiction that
North Vietnam is not involved in this aggression? In other words, is he still following his customary practice of covering up for his communist friends?
– The question could have been answered by the reading of a book which I wrote on this subject some years ago in which I pointed out clearly- I think that the book stands more or less unchallenged in all these thingsthat what was happening in South-East Asia was a war in which Cambodia, North Vietnam and South Vietnam were all involved. It was a war for the independence of those countries from the colonial occupation established by the French in 1847 and continued by the United States of America after 1954. The history of that war is that the frontiers of those 3 countries were continuously crossed by the forces on both sides. If there had not been interference by the French and by the United States, that conflict would have long since been over.
– And the Chinese.
-There has been no interference by the Chinese. There has never been a Chinese person discovered anywhere in Vietnam.
– What about the Russians?
– The same thing applies to the Russians. If there had not been the kind of bloody military interference which the honourable gentleman himself has supported, there would long since have been peace in that part of the world.
– The Minister for Housing and Construction will recall informing the House that consideration was being given to changing the means test under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. I ask: Has a decision been made and, if so, what effect will it have?
-To establish eligibility under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement an applicant may not receive more than 85 per cent of average weekly earnings or, in connection with the home builders account, not more than 95 per cent of average weekly earnings. The level of average earnings was determined at the time the Agreement was made as being the level at the December quarter preceding the application. Fortuitously, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has established a new process for determining seasonal average weekly earnings. I have been able to invoke that process to the benefit of applicants for housing commission loans. The net effect of the new arrangements is that, whereas before throughout Australia the limit of an applicant’s weekly income for housing commission eligibility was $102, it has now been increased to $1 19 and, in respect of the home builders account, the amount has risen from $1 14 to $133. New South Wales has a slightly higher level in each case. What it really means is that people with a larger income than was previously the case are now eligible for assistance under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. The income figures I have mentioned exclude overtime and apply to the main breadwinner.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration: Is it a fact that considerable delays are still taking place in payments to retrenched employees in country industries adversely affected by tariff decisions of the Government? Is delay caused by lack of administration, with inadequate staff and office facilities? Are considerable delays taking place in accepting approved applicants under the National Employment and Training Scheme? Is this causing great financial problems to such applicants? Will the Minister take immediate steps to rectify these problems?
-Yes, there are considerable delays in paying people the amounts to which they are entitled under the income maintenance proposals. There are also considerable delays occurring in processing applicants for the National Employment and Training Scheme. The delays are due to the fact that the Department of Labor and Immigration is determined that it will see that there is no slipshod manner of handling both of these matters. The Government cannot afford to be careless or reckless in the way it administers a law which deals with the distribution of the taxpayers’ money. It is regrettable that some delay has occurred. But if we were to take the short cuts that would have to be taken to prevent the delay honourable members opposite would have a right to accuse us of being recreant to our duty to the taxpayers.
The number of people seeking NEAT assistance far outstrips the capacity of the Department to process the applications. The Department is heavily overworked. People are working in Commonwealth Employment Service offices almost until they drop, and in a few cases that is literally true. The number of unemployed has increased, according to the Opposition, considerably over the last few months. We have had superimposed upon that the requirement of income maintenance. The Regional Employment Development Scheme and NEAT have been superimposed upon my Department’s normal work. We have now had permission from the Public Service Board to recruit another 529 officers. The Public Service Act requires that certain formalities be observed in recruiting labour. Applicants have to be interviewed. There can even be appeals against their appointment. Then they have to be trained. All of this is going on right now and not until the recruitments and the training are completed can we expect any improvement.
-For the information of honourable members I present a copy of the statement and the text of the broadcast by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral on the Australian system of honours and awards and the letters patent and the statutes relating to the Order of Australia, Australian bravery decorations and the National Medal.
– Pursuant to sub- section 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1974 1 table the following documents:
A determination by the Remuneration Tribunal of the remuneration payable to the person retained to conduct the independent inquiry to determine the fees for medical benefit purposes, the executive member of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority and the Director of the Legislative Drafting Institute;
A determination by the Remuneration Tribunal of the remuneration payable to the Fire Commissioner in the Australian Capital Territory and the Chairman and members of the Aboriginal Loans Commission;
A determination by the Remuneration Tribunal relating to positions in the Health Insurance Commission, the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, the Law Reform Commission and the Social Welfare Commission.
Each of the last 3 determinations is followed by an explanatory statement issued by the Remuneration Tribunal.
– For the information of honourable members I present 3 ministerial communiques on the Geelong growth complex.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the ‘Sun Herald’ of last Sunday the following short paragraph appeared:
The Federal Government’s Family Law Bill looks like taking some time to get through Parliament. Liberal backbencher, Mr Bill Wentworth, is planning to move 45 amendments to delay its progress.
This is a complete misrepresentation. The amendments that I will move are not in any way meant to delay the progress of the Bill but to improve it. There are some things in this Bill which would commend themselves to me but there are so many drafting amendments necessary in the text that has come down to us that amendments have to be moved in this House. Particularly may I draw attention to the fact that some of my amendments are directed to reducing the intervention of lawyers into the family courts to be set up under the Bill.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. In the current issue of the ‘Australian Medical Association Gazette’ which was circulated last week Senator Baume, representing the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, stated inter alia:
A recent public statement attributed to Dr R. Klugman, M.P., calling on contributors to transfer to other health insurance funds to avoid paying arrears, is a blatant incitement to ignore a decision by the N.S.W. Supreme Court.
He then went on to refer to a case which was decided before the New South Wales Supreme Court in November 1974 by Mr Justice Shepherd and he concluded by saying:
Dr Klugman ‘s ill considered advice to fund contributors is unworthy of a parliamentarian who must respect judicial decisions, whether he personally agrees with them or not.
What are the facts? Before the Supreme Court of New South Wales, at present part heard, is a case of Lance Rickards, a totally and permanently incapacitated repatriation pensioner of Pendle Hill, against the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd. It is case No. 3049 of 1974. The plaintiff, Mr Rickards, claims declarations and orders as follows:
Might I suggest that it is Senator Baume who is in contempt of court by attempting to prejudge a case before the New South Wales Supreme Court at the present time and likely to go before the High Court of Australia, no matter how confident he may be that the people who have been appointed to the High Court by previous governments will rule in his favour.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During question time the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) alleged that I had made a statement about a newspaper report of a statement by the Premier of Queensland regarding refusal to enter into negotiations on coal exports until some announcement had been made by Japan with respect to beef exports. I have made only one comment to a newspaper and that comment was that it was in my opinion quite understandable for the Queensland Premier to be concerned at the complete failure of this Government to take any action to press for beef access into the Japanese market and, secondly, that it was understandable that the leader of any government should be in a position to determine the order of business and what business should appear before his Parliament. As I understand the position, the Queensland Premier has said that no legislation pertaining to the extraction of coal in one particular project will be appearing before the Queensland Parliament until something has emerged from the Japanese Government with respect to beef exports. That is a decision entirely within the province of the Queensland Premier; it is quite properly being made by him. He should have the complete ability to determine the order of business before his Parliament. I believe that this is a matter which falls within the State’s responsibility and that it is not within the responsibility of this Government in any way to suggest the order of business or even whether a State parliament should consider any particular piece of legislation.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-In what regard was the Minister misrepresented?
– I was misrepresented by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in the remarks he just made. At question time I simply stated, as has been recorded in today’s ‘Canberra Times’, that ‘the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, Mr Sinclair, supported the attitude taken by the Queensland Premier’.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely.
The failure of the Government to provide effective remedies to overcome the private sector investment crisis.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
-The policy actions of the Whitlam Government have led to an investment crisis in the Australian economy. During a period of 2 years the Government has systematically withdrawn every major incentive for productive investment and, by creating a climate of damaging uncertainty, in fact has set the stage for a decline in real investment spending during 1975. The failure of the Government to maintain the growth in the productive capacity of the economy- particularly the installation of modern equipment- will be felt for years to come.
This investment crisis is serious. There is no evidence that the investment outlook will improve under present policies. The latest investment statistics, for the September quarter 1975, were below the previous peak of $899m in the December quarter of 1973. The only reason that the statistics have not fallen further is the lagged response to import orders. The Australian Bureau of Statistics survey of capital expenditure in
September 1974 indicated a decline of 10 per cent, in real terms, in capital expenditure for the second half of 1974. This implies that a substantial fall in investment would have occurred in the December quarter. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia- Bank of New South Wales survey for September showed that proposals for future capital expenditure were the worst since the survey began in 1960. There should be no doubt that continued long term real growth in manufacturing investment is fundamental to Australia’s economic development. This fact has not been recognised by government policy.
In the 1973-74 Budget a wide range of investment incentives for manufacturing, primary and mining industry production were removed; private company tax rates were increased and additional tax burdens were placed on the insurance industry. In the 1974-75 Budget further tax burdens were placed on insurance and mining companies. The second stage of the increase in private company tax rates was confirmed; and the introduction of a capital gains tax and a surcharge on property income were announced. In each of Labor’s first 2 Budgets deliberate action was taken to reduce corporate profits and to slow down the overall rate of investment.
For well over a year evidence of the investment crisis has been building up. There has been a rapid acceleration of current liabilities relative to current assets in corporate balance sheets. Debt-equity ratios have widened and short term borrowings have expanded in place of longer term debt financing. The fact is that even the current level of private investment has been largely supported by capital raisings and spending plans set some 12 to 18 months ago and is, to a significant extent, being held up by a plough-back of company earnings from the last financial year.
These facts were ignored by the Government in preparing this year’s Budget just as they were ignored while intensifying the credit squeeze during the Budget period. Budget statement No. 2 sounded 2 clear warnings. First, it acknowledged the role of business confidence in determining the level of investment. Second, it forecast a likely decline in fixed investment by businesses. The truth is, of course, that the Budget papers themselves implied a decline of around 2 per cent in real private investment spending.
No substantive action has been taken by the Government to redress the decline in investment.
The mini-Budget, introduced by the Prime Minister on 12 November, was a totally inadequate response. The decision to reduce public company tax rates from 47.5 per cent and to maintain private company tax rates at 45 per cent could best be described as inconsequential. The letter of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to the Prices Justification Tribunal was in the same category. This House will recall that the Prime Minister requested the Tribunal to give particular attention to: the problems of sustaining and stimulating an adequate level of private investment and of maintaining rates of return on capital which will induce the new investment required to maintain economic growth and employment.
The Chairman of that Tribunal responded to the Prime Minister in the following terms:
We regard Mr Whitlam ‘s statement as a submission like any submission made to us. It will not alter the Tribunal’s thinking to any great extent.
In other words, the Government has been forced to stand aside while a major matter of policy is to be determined at the discretion of an independent agency not subject to effective guidelines and largely operating on the basis of selfdirection and initiatives which it itself is taking. This is a situation which no government should be prepared to tolerate.
Apart from the marginal adjustments to company tax rates, the only substantive measure implemented by the Government to boost investment was the decision to permit deductions for depreciation in respect of certain plant and equipment at twice the prescribed rates- the accelerated depreciation allowance. But the new provisions are to apply only to new plant and equipment used or installed ready for use after 1 July 1974 and before 1 July 1975. In other words, the accelerated depreciation provisions are to be withdrawn in little over 4 months.
The Government has demonstrated, beyond doubt, that it has no conception as to the manner in which business investment decisions are determined. It is inept and bumbling in its approach to economic management and its Cabinet is apparently leaderless, divided and confused. The Government has failed to show any appreciation of the fact that continuity of corporate investment planning demands consistent Government policy making. Nothing highlights this more than the Government’s announced intention to abandon the accelerated depreciation allowance by the end of this financial year.
The time allowed for this debate does not permit a detailed analysis of the reasons for the present investment crisis. Nevertheless, they can be briefly summarised as follows: The decline in the profitability of existing investment due to accelerating wage and salary costs; the degree of import competition; the prohibitive cost and the scarcity of long-term investment finance; the downturn in demand; the distortive impact of inflation and the obsolescent nature of present accounting practices; the punitive and unrealistic operations of the Prices Justification Tribunal; and the serious erosion of business confidence arising from uncertainty and confusion as to this Government’s intentions.
The profit squeeze has been as dramatic as it has been unprecedented in its intensity. During the September quarter of 1974 company profits fell to only 10 per cent of the gross domestic product compared to their long-term average of around 15 per cent. No economy can withstand such a massive reversal of its long-term economic balance between wages and profits. The fact is that a regeneration of private sector investment hinges on a restoration of profit levels. The private sector will not invest unless prospective earning rates keep pace with inflation.
This Government’s policies have demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding- a misconceptionof the role of profit in a mixed economy. Profits are a reward for risk taking, financial enterprise and efficiency and sound judgment. But above all, they provide the essential incentives to and rewards for effort and initiative. Profits are a vital source of investment capital and a fundamental part of the incomes of thousands of Australians, particularly the aged and the . fixed income earners who rely on their accumulated life savings for their security. The odious and inequitable notion held by this Government that such income is, to use its own term, ‘unearned’ is closely bound up with its general anti-profit posture. A restoration of profit levels and a positive commitment to the private enterprise system are essential to an investment recovery. The Government must understand that it is the private sector which creates our national wealth and employs the great bulk of the Australian workforce.
No coherent policy in respect of investment has been put down by the Government. On 4 September 1973, only 2 weeks after the former investment allowance was removed, the Melbourne ‘Age’ ran a story headlined ‘Canberra plans Fresh Subsidies’ which stated:
Investment allowances on new plant- scrapped in the Budget last month- might be reintroduced, but on a limited basis. The Federal Treasurer (Mr Crean) said this at a lunch in Sydney today.
On 21 October 1974 the ‘Australian Financial Review’, in a story headlined ‘Capital Slump Worries Crean’ said:
The Government’s public appreciation of the need for some action to boost private sector investment took a leap forward at the weekend with some unexpectedly direct remarks by the Treasurer, Mr Frank Crean. … In his remarks to the convention on Saturday Mr Crean took not just the Government, but also his own department, publicly into support for measures to boost investment.
These reports highlight the Government’s capacity for saying one thing and meaning another. It is nothing less than absurd to abolish an investment allowance and then to advocate a re-introduction of investment incentives only 2 weeks later. It is equally absurd to deliver statements and issue Press releases about the serious nature of the investment downturn and then to neglect completely the need for a decisive and long-term investment program. This, more than anything else, simply exposes the Government’s apparent willingness to boost the private sector as no more than a political masquerade.
The Opposition has put forward a positive and constructive program to stimulate and boost private sector investment. I want to make it quite clear that our policy recognises the critical importance of basing an economic recovery during 1975 on investment rather than consumption spending. Seen in the context of our total economic program, our investment policy will stimulate soundly based private sector activity without at the same time causing excess demand pressures to develop. We believe that an investment allowance should be introduced without delay for manufacturing and primary industry. That allowance should run for a 6 year period prior to any review. In the first year the allowance, in addition to normal depreciation, should operate at a rate of 40 per cent. For each of the next 5 years the rate should be set at 20 per cent.
The purpose of providing a higher rate of investment allowance for the first year is, of course, to encourage the maximum possible investment expenditure in the short-term. The extension of the allowance for a further 5-year period is to provide continuity and confidence for major investment decisions. Our investment program is quite distinctive from the present Government’s temporary accelerated depreciation allowance which can be described only as a futile and inadequate method of regenerating investment spending.
In addition, we have made it perfectly clear that a Liberal-Country Party government would extend the allowance to other areas, in particular to those which have potential for employmentproducing investment and technological advancement. We believe that a major inquiry should be established to lay the groundwork for, and to determine the cost of, a national system of inflation accounting. Present Government inquiries into the tax system do not meet this objective. The impact of inflation together with the present system of historical cost accounting have been a substantial impediment to investment.
The time allocated for this debate does not permit a detailed exposition of the Opposition’s investment policies. Those policies were comprehensively outlined in the Opposition’s recently released economic policy. Briefly summarised they are: The abolition of the surcharge on property income; the abolition of the Prices Justification Tribunal; the review of government regulatory bodies; the provision of new tax concessions for investment spending by private companies; the permanent rejection of the Government’s capital gains tax proposal. We believe that there must be a firm and unequivocal commitment to the future of private enterprise, backed by substantive policies. The Opposition Parties- the Liberal and Country Partiesbelieve in free enterprise and on return to government we will support that system with policies which are comprehensive and positive and of the type which we have outlined. The future well being of the Australian economy certainly demands no less.
– The matter of public importance raised today by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) is part of the political debate that the Deputy Leader and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) seem to be intent upon making, and I emphasise that it is essentially a political debate, it is not an economic debate. Nowhere in anything the Deputy Leader has said, or the Leader in his turn, is any analysis given of the causes of the conditions that they are talking about. Nowhere do they given any recognition to the fact that the economic problems that underlie the situation in Australia are identical with the situation in every similar country in the world, that at the present time we are part of a world recession far more serious than any in the last 50 years. Nowhere do the Opposition spokesmen give any recognition to that. Nowhere do they recognise the causes of the inflation that we have just experienced and are still experiencing. Nowhere do they recognise the causes of the unemployment that we are at present experiencing. It is true that, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just said, for employment and income in this country we are predominantly dependent upon the private sector. What the Deputy Leader has just said is: ‘We will outbid the Government in assistance, in grants, in the concessions we make to the private sector’. The responsible position a government has to take, while recognising the essential role that the private sector plays, is to keep the assistance, the grants, the concessions made to the private sector within some kind of reason.
I do not intend to join in the bargaining, the offering of assistance, of concessions and of grants to the private sector. I will tell the House in a few moments what the Government has done, and I consider that that is reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances. But let us first get the figures right. If we are to discuss what is happening to private business investment we should get the facts straight. In quoting the latest figures available for private business investment the Deputy Leader of the Opposition merely compared the September 1974 quarter with the September 1973 quarter. September 1973 was at the height of the inflation. Private investment and everything else then were at excessive’ heights. We had indications of this in so many areas where demand was in excess of the goods and services that were available for supply. There were shortages everywhere, and 1973 is not a suitable basis for comparison. But if one looks at 1 974 one find that in real terms the 1 974 level was 8 per cent higher than a year earlier and 18 per cent higher than the level in the December 1972 quarter, when the Opposition was last in government. By contrast, private business investment had fallen by 14 per cent in real terms over the last 2 years of the Liberal Country Party Government’s term of office. In short, as the figures stand at the moment, if one takes a comparison for longer than a year and if one takes a more suitable base than September 1973, the Whitlam Government has a vastly improved record on that of the previous Government.
Let me look at a number of the things that have already been done to deal with the situation. First of all, in 1973 we had an excess of inflation. Prices were increasing at 15 per cent or 16 per cent a year. What would the Opposition have done to deal with that situation? No mention at all was made of any anti-inflationary policy in 1973, no mention of the necessity to deal with that problem; no mention at all. There was no mention at all of whether there should have been any attempt to regulate prices through the Prices Justification Tribunal. No mention at all was made of whether there should have been any attempt to increase imports, to increase supplies, and I point out to the House that half of the increased demand for goods and services in Australia from the end of 1973 to the end of 1974 was supplied by imports alone. I point out that if our measures had not been taken it is quite clear that the inflation that is the basic cause of the trouble would have been 10 per cent or more higher than it is now, or higher than it was during the course of the last 12 months. But nowhere does the Opposition do any more than criticise the action taken by the Government to reduce that inflation. Nowhere is there any more than criticism of that. Nowhere does the Opposition suggest: ‘We do not agree with what you did. This is what we would have done’. The whole criticism by the Opposition has been completely destructive. After we had brought about a check to the inflation at the end of 1973 and at the end of 1974, with certain inevitable consequences, that is, that there would be a lesser degree of activity- and inflation cannot be checked unless there is a lesser degree of activity- some of those inevitable consequences began to show. As soon as they did the responsible course that the Government had to take was to deal with that situation, and it immediately began to do so. I point out that the Government in this country began the policy to get the economy going again some 3 or 4 or 5 months earlier than any comparable country did.
I want to point out a number of things that the Government has done. Money supply is now increasing rapidly. Over the December quarter the volume of money rose at an annual rate of over 20 per cent. Liquidity has risen sharply. In the 6 months from July to January private sector liquidity has increased by $ 1,850m. That must have had a significant influence on the rate of investment with which this matter of public importance is concerned. That must have been of very great and considerable benefit to the rate of investment. In relation to bank liquidity, the LGS ratio- the liquids and government securities ratio- of the major trading banks has risen from 19.2 per cent of deposits in June to about 25 per cent at present. Bank advances and lending have increased sharply. Advances outstanding have risen strongly and lending approvals have increased substantially from $35m per week 3 months ago to about $90m per week today. That must have had a very considerable effect upon the rate of private investment with which this matter is concerned. Short term official interest rates have declined and some private interest rates, especially on certificates of deposit and bank bills, which went to very high levels in mid- 1974, have fallen sharply. Other bank interest rates which did not rise much in mid- 1974 remain steady but are still low compared with other private interest rates. Housing finance is increasing quickly, due largely to a big rise in lending by savings banks from $209m in the September 1974 quarter to $429m in the December 1974 quarter. Those figures must have had a very considerable effect on the rate of private investment.
Turning to banking policy, banks were asked in early October to increase appreciably their lending to meet the basic immediate needs of the economy for finance. Banks have responded quickly. In the December quarter the weekly rate of new overdraft approvals was more than double that for the September quarter. The Reserve Bank has told the trading banks that banking policy in 1974-75 will be administered so that bank liquidity will be maintained at a level sufficient to enable banks to continue to meet the basic immediate needs of the economy for finance. This lending policy has a number of aspects. Firstly, it has general application over the whole field of enterprises, whether in the primary, secondary or tertiary industries, with full regard for the needs of small and medium sized enterprises. Secondly, it is designed to enable soundly managed and viable enterprises to carry on and to maintain a reasonable level of activity. Thirdly it is designed to take into account the diminished supply of funds from other intermediaries, including funds for consumer finance, but it does not envisage that all demands arising from inflation should be met. At the present time there is no evidence of any shortage of funds through the banking system for the needs of private industry.
I have looked at the side of banking policy and its relationship to private investment in this period of recovery. I want now to look at what is done on the fiscal side, what is done in relation to Budget outlays. The amount of assistance given to private industry in this country through the Budget is nothing less than enormous. Let us look at the 1974-75 figures- the revised estimate of the Budget. Firstly, the amount provided for housing is $645m, which represents an increase this year of at least $244m. That is direct assistance to the private sector of the economy. The assistance of an even more direct kind- industry assistance and development- amounts to $947.2m. How far does the Opposition expect a responsible government to go? The increase in the financial year in that category alone is $373.8m. More than half of the $ 1,200m increased Government expenditure provided for in the Estimates is direct assistance to the private sector. I point out that when the effect of that increase is being examined, when the effect of the Budget deficit that is inevitable in circumstances like that is being examined, it will be found that the most significant component in that increase and in that deficit is direct assistance to the private sector of the economy.
I think that the record of the last 12 months, which I have just indicated with those figures, has been totally disregarded by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the statements he has just made. Taking into account that this has occurred- that, first of all, we have had to deal with the problem of inflation and that we have continuously to balance measures that are calculated to restrain the economy from continuing further into inflation against the measures that are needed to provide employment directly and to stimulate investment- I think that the record of the last 12 months, is in advance of that of any comparable country.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition finished his speech with a statement with which I agree, that is, that the lack of activity in the economy at the present time is caused by a decline in profitability due to accelerating costs. That situation has to be seen in the context of what has occurred over the last 2 years. Firstly, when we came into office inflation was already operating in the economy of this country. The causes of the inflation that lifted the price level to 16 per cent in the following year were here and operating by December 1972. The cause of inflation is an excess of demand over supply. In the year 1972 new expenditure of about $7,000m was created. During the following year there was a decline in practically every one of the products that went on to the table of the consumer. The inflation of 1972 was an inflation in food prices in the main. Given that, it was inevitable that there had to be wage increases- and wage increases there have been. The average of all the industrial groups during the year that followed was 33.2 per cent and the average increase in female rates was 44.6 per cent. The increase in the age and invalid pension was 55 per cent. I would think that the first responsibility of a Labor government is to make sure that the people who benefit from those wage rates and from those pension rates do not suffer in respect of inflation, but inevitably as a result of those increases there have been increases in costs and those increases in costs have resulted in a decline in profitability in the private sector. So unemployment has begun to appear. It is essential for us in this House and elsewhere to make clear to the community that unemployment is a result of excessive costs and that if wage increases continue at 25 per cent or 30 per cent then that declining profitability and that unemployment will recur.
-Order! The Treasurer’s time has expired.
– I do not intend to devote very much of my speech to chasing the red herring about the causes of inflation. Of course, as the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) has said, there has been a pattern in this country over the last 2 years similar to the pattern which may be seen in overseas industrial countries regarding the actual rate of inflation, but the causes of inflation are vastly different. It has been said ad nauseam in this House that the causes of inflation in Australia stem more from domestic management or mismanagement of a different kind than the causes of inflation overseasthe essential difference being the fact that we have bountiful resources and the fact that we have a 70 per cent self sufficiency in oil. How long that position will continue is another matter for another debate. In fact, during this period of crisis- the world inflationary situation- we have been cushioned or should have been cushioned from the ramifications of the world trading patterns. However, as a result of the fundamental failure of the Government to understand the workings of the private sector, we now have a similar problem on our hands. Statistically it looks the same, but in terms of the cause it is rather different.
Before I continue in that vein and lest I be accused of trotting out old economic cliches, let me refer to some of the statistics again. I do not wish to be thought of as having twisted any statistics. I take the point made by the Deputy Prime Minister that it is not quite sufficient to look at the figures for one year. As has been mentioned, the latest figures available to us are those for the September quarter of 1974. The figures for capital expenditure by private business in Australia, as published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, show the capital expenditure by the type of asset in respect of new buildings and structures. In the September quarter of 1971 $347. lm was expended on new buildings and structures. In September 1972 there was a slump because of the economic situation following, it must be said, the 1971 Budget. The slump was to $2 18.2m. The September 1973 figure of $305. 9m represented an increase of 9 per cent, which was slightly ahead of the rate of inflation. The expenditure in September 1974 was $367.7m, which represented a 20 per cent increase, which would do no better than keep pace with the rate of inflation.
So in that period, which covers the period since the Labor Government came to office, there has been a decline in real terms in the capital expenditure of private business in Australia. That is the situation in respect of new buildings and structures. Much the same comments may be made in respect of new capital equipment. In the September quarter of 1971 $502.7m was expended. In the September quarter of 1974 $559.9m was expended and this represented an increase of 23.4 per cent on the expenditure for the September quarter of 1973, but in fact in money terms it was only slightly higher than the expenditure in the September quarter of 1971. One must make the same comment that we are doing well if we are in fact standing still, but we are not expanding our industry. The capital expenditure for all industries shows a similar pattern. The figures for the September quarter of 1974 show an increase of 22.1 per cent over the figure for the September quarter of 1973, but that again would only keep pace with inflation. There was no real expansion. Those figures have been canvassed and partly rejected by the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns).
I think it is useful to look quickly at some particular industries. We know that the textile and clothing industries were affected not by the world situation, but by the policies of this Government. The textile and clothing situation is such that in the September quarter 1974 there was an increase in investment of 2.7 per cent over the September quarter 1973. That is a loss in real terms, and for the industry merely to maintain its position it would have had to spend a great deal more than that. But it is not just the textile and clothing industry which is affected. The Government cannot even rejoice at the figures relating to the engineering industry. We find that $34.6m was expended in the September quarter of 1972, $39m in the September quarter of 1973 and in September 1974 there was what looks to be an astronomical jump to $60.5m. But the engineering industry at this moment is feeling the transfer of the recession. The clothing industry, the footwear industry, the textiles industry and other industries have now reached the bottom. They either go right under now, or they manage to survive in their somewhat truncated form. For some months the engineering industry has had a policy of not replacing people, but information which one is able to obtain indicates that the metals and engineering industry will be retrenching people. One cannot even take comfort from the apparent increase in the investment figures for that industry, and I mention them merely because they look favourable to the Government on the latest investment figures. When the Deputy Prime Minister talks about the liquidity problem having been solved, he is certainly not even keeping up to date with the latest surveys published by his former Department, the Department of Overseas Trade, which indicate great pessimism among the notoriously optimistic people in the manufacturing sector.
If we look at the extracting, refining and foundry areas, we see a similar pattern. We see, as the Deputy Prime Minister rightly said, that in 1973 there was in fact a downturn. In the September quarter of 1972, $53.3m was expended on investment; in the September quarter of 1973 the figure was $38m and in the September quarter of 1974 it was $55.8m. From these figures it looks as though there was an upswing but if one remembers that there was a low base in 1973 and that $53.3m is not very different from $55. 8m, one sees that there has been a loss in the extracting, refining and foundry industries in the 2 years of office of the present Government. I would have thought that this would point to a very serious, cautionary note for the Government. The December survey of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and the Bank of New South Wales reveals that 6 1 per cent of manufacturers surveyed said that they would be investing a much lower proportion of funds in real terms than they had previously done. This is the greatest number of persons reflecting this gloomy outlook that has ever been recorded since the surveys began in 1 960.
There is an investment crisis and it is beside the point to talk of overseas causes. Much of it, as these figures reveal, can be traced to the domestic mismanagement of this Government. One sees that there has been some recognition of this crisis by the Government when one remembers its recent reversals of its policies and its newfound respect for the private sector. But the Government has only partially recognised this crisis, especially in respect of the liquidity problems to which the Deputy Prime Minister referred. He said that there is now more liquidity around than previously. But it was not very long ago- last November in fact- that his predecessor told us that there was not a liquidity problem; he was not interested in postponing the quarterly tax payments because there was no liquidity problem. We all knew that there was one. We know the sensitive nature of that sort of mechanism.
But what is important is the stop-go mentality of this Government. One can remember that when the present Government was in Opposition it accused the Menzies’ Government of stop-go economics. But we have a more dramatic form of stop-go economics than has ever been seen in Australia’s history. Industry and the community generally will take a lot of convincing that Labor really understands the workings of industry, the role of investment, which is what this debate is all about, and the role of profits. The structure of our economy is such that the standard of living increases when we have real economic growth. I do not mean growth for growth’s sake, but growth which is balanced with social policies. Labor has acted on the myth that private investment is inexhaustible and that industry can be taxed indefinitely and abused constantly yet go on providing money for the Government’s public spending programs. Labor is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. This is really the crisis which we now have. Private industry simply does not trust Labor to understand the workings of the private sector or to manage the economy. That is why it will not invest.
-I have listened in vain in this debate to find a justification for the raising of this so-called matter of public importance. I believe that it can be summed up as a damp squib. In fact, what the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) has said virtually is that we live under an economic system which is subject to trade cycles and to stop and go practices. In fact, we all suffer from it, no matter which party is in power. Certainly the honourable member pointed out accurately that policies have to change, and thank goodness we have had in power a Government which is responsive to the changes in the economy and changes its policies accordingly. There is no doubt also that businessmen’s confidence is one of the main factors involved in the working of the capitalist system which we have, and it is indeed a fickle flower. But businessmen’s confidence is not helped in any way by the sort of attitudes that have been adopted and the sort of actions that are threatened by the Liberal and Country Parties in Australia which have brought about the political instability that exists. If the creation of this lack of businessmen’s confidence can be said to be the fault of this chamber, we can point the finger very justifiably at every honourable member opposite for creating that political instability.
Let us look at some of the policies that have been instituted by this Government in order to bolster the confidence of businessmen whose investment decisions are important to the rate of economic activity in Australia. There have been successive reductions in the statutory reserve deposit ratios from June through to October, which lowered the ratio from 9 per cent to 3 per cent. Is the Opposition suggesting that that is not one of the effective remedies for the present situation that started many months ago? I repeat, the ratios have been reduced from 9 per cent to 3 per cent and have helped to bolster demand. There is nothing that will do more for businessmen’s confidence and their investment decisions than making sure that there is demand in the community needed for the purchase of the goods which that private sector is making. This, of course, has increased enormously the ability of banks to lend and banks are lending.
There have been various measures to revive the housing industry, including a change in September last in the 60/40 ratio for savings banks. The ratio was changed to 50/50. It allowed savings banks to lend more for housing. An allocation of $150m for housing was made on 12 November last. Does anybody suggest that this was not a measure to remedy a lack of demand in the community? Does anybody suggest that it has not been effective? If we listen to the wails and the whingeing, to coin an excellent phrase, from the Opposition, we would have thought that indeed there would not have been the same capacity in the building industry to produce the same desire to produce the houses as we are experiencing at present. But there has been an upturn in the building industry, and it has not been due to the efforts of the Opposition that that has happened. Thirdly, there has been the elimination of the variable deposit requirements, reduced from 25 per cent to 5 per cent on 8 August and eliminated on 10 November. There has been the reduction of the embargo on overseas borrowings from a minimum of 2 years to a rninimum of 6 months to encourage foreign capital inflow. That last policy change was made in November.
Is this the action of a Government that is not very aware of the need to bolster investment in the private sector? It certainly is not. One Opposition member suggests that this is desperate action. Is he going to suggest to us that it is action that should not have been taken? Is he suggesting to us that, when those embargo measures were introduced soon after this Government took office in December 1972, they should not have been introduced, when so much in foreign funds was flowing into this country and the banks had money running out of their ears?
I quote what the ‘Australian Financial Review’ had to say on 10 October about the situation we took over:
The McMahon Government … for electoral reasons, promoted a rate of monetary expansion which was totally unjustifiable in its rapidity and which, with the accompanying rate of capital inflow, was mainly responsible for the demand inflation of 1972-73 and the inevitable consequence of the current cost inflation. This is something which has been said often enough before but which should not be forgotten in the heat of political controversy . . .
I repeat that statement. I have said it myself often enough in this chamber. But it is not good enough for the honourable member for Balaclava or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) to rise in this chamber and suggest that it is domestic management in this country that has created this present economic situation when an independent observer, such as a leader writer of the ‘Australian Financial Review’, can put the real blame so succinctly.
I continue to list the remedies which this Australian Labor Government has initiated to overcome these difficulties with this fickle flower, the businessmen’s confidence. I have outlined three of the Government’s proposals. I turn to the fourth step it has taken, that is, the devaluation of 12 per cent announced on 25 September which was roughly equivalent to a 40 per cent increase in tariffs. The fifth measure was successive reductions in Treasury note yields from 10.75 per cent on 13-week notes and 10.76 per cent on 26-week notes in mid 1974 to 7.8 per cent and 8 per cent respectively as announced on January 9. The list is as long as my arm. The sixth action is revision of the September Budget policy from a balanced domestic budget to a large domestic deficit. The next is a range of protective measures for domestic import-competing industries, such as textiles, footwear, automobiles, and so on, designed to create employment in Australia.
The eighth point I mention is the comprehensive, across the board, cuts in income tax dating from 1 January this year. This was followed by the investment allowances decision. The only practical suggestion we heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his 15-minute speech was that this should be extended to primary production manufacturing. Perhaps that is a worthwhile suggestion, I am not going to argue the merits of that now. But to bring on a debate and to take up the time of this House by suggesting there have not been effective remedies to overcome the private sector investment crisis, socalled, when one can read out a list of about 1 5 remedies, all of which have been effective in overcoming the fact that private investment is less than it ought to be, is, I repeat, to take up the time of this House unnecessarily.
On top of all that, to suggest, as the honourable member for Balaclava has done in his speech, that this trade cycle is not to a large extent world promoted, also is misleading the members of this House. Of course it is. Is anybody going to suggest that the decline in the demand for our beef, the imposts that have been put on beef imports into Japan, the Europen Economic Community and the United States of America, have not affected the beef industry. Is anybody going to suggest that, with the beef producers having less in their pockets from selling their products, this does not affect the level of demand in this community? What about the price of wool? Is that not determined on the world market? Is not the fact that the world trade is in a slump affecting the level of demand in this country and therefore the investment decisions of businessmen in this country? Is anybody going to tell us that we are not one of the great trading nations- per capita, one of the greatest trading nations- and that, indeed, any of the factors that are affecting world demand are not going to affect us here? Is anybody going to suggest there is not a decline in private sector investment in New Zealand, the United States of America, Great Britain and Japan, and that as a great trading nation this does not affect us enormously in this country?
The fact is that this Government is aware of the need for private sector investment. It is aware that private sector investment is so important in order to provide full employment. The Australian Labor Party, in Terrigal, has written this into its platform. It was always implicit; now it is explicit. There is the need to overcome the paranoia of some members from the other side of this House and, indeed, of some businessmen who make these decisions. All in all, this debate has been a waste of time in this House. I have not even concluded the list of the measures this Government has taken.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs
Tariff 1966-1974. These Proposals formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notices during the last recess. These changes arise from the Government’s decisions on the recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on:
Wood-working and Metal-working Machinery, etc.;
Woven Man-made Fibre Fabrics;
Yarns, Knitted Fabrics and Towelling; and by the Temporary Assistance Authority in its reports on:
Also included in these Proposals are the addition of further commodities to Schedule A of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the withdrawal of the developing country preference on certain types of glass and glassware. In view of the numerous reports involved, I do not propose to detail the contents of each of those reports. However, I have prepared a comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the changes in the duty rates and the origin of each of the amendments contained in the Proposals. This summary is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
– I ask for leave of the House to move a motion to discharge certain Tariff Proposals which were moved last year and which constitute part of order of the day No. 29. These proposals were incorporated in the Customs Tariff Bill 1974, Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1974 and the Excise Tariff Bill 1974, all of which have now been assented to.
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
That the following Tariff Proposals, constituting part of order of the day No. 29, government business, be discharged:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 1 February on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This is a Bill for a referendum. I suppose the first observation that should be made about it is that it is passing strange that, just eight or nine months after the Parliament faced the people and 4 referendums were put to the people, we are now being invited to consider another one. I take the view that it is imposing somewhat upon the patience of the Australian people to have yet another referendum thrust upon them.
– And an election, too.
– My honourable friend from Hunter says: ‘An election, too. ‘ That is one of the splendid speculations that surround us at the moment. Whether the honourable gentleman will be vindicated or not, only time will tell. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) during the course of his prime ministership has sought to establish a reputation in the country as a constitutional reformer. I do not seek to adjudicate on whether or not that record has been well founded but I would say that I do share with him an anxiety to see proper constitutional reform. Indeed, some 18 months ago there were gathered in the city of Sydney representatives from every Parliament in Australia at a Constitutional Convention, when people sought to consider what were the deficiencies within the Australian Constitution having regard to the times in which we live. From that Convention various committees were set up and each committee was given various fields of activity to consider.
In tracing the narrative of events, we then come to the double dissolution of Parliament of April of last year and the May election. To my astonishment the Prime Minister persisted and put to the Australian people 4 referendums in areas into which the various constitutional subcommittees were already locking. Surely it would have been in accord with common sense, quite apart from any considerations of nicety or of propriety of manner, to have waited for the reports of the various sub-committees. But that was not done. Of the 4 referendums put to the people contemparaneous with the general election was one referendum described as one to alter the Constitution so as to ensure that Senate elections are held at the same time as House of Representatives elections. To read the title of the
Bill is to encourage a sentiment of support because at first blush it appears as though there is very considerable merit to have an election for the House of Representatives and an election for the Senate held at the one and the same time.
Having said that, let me say that I would express the view that the Prime Minister’s anxiety to go about constitutional reform and the manner in which he has sought to prosecute what I regard as being strongly held convictions have been in the ultimate resulted in setting back genuine constitutional reform in this country by 20 to 25 years. There is a very real measure of concern in Australia today- not always articulatedregarding what is the future of the Com.momwealth Constitution. Now we are being asked to consider this Bill for a referendum- a referendum that was rejected at the election some 9 months ago. But I will say something of that later.
May I invite my friend the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) to agree with me that we have our priorities with respect to constitutional reform dead wrong? We are now seeking to bring into being a proposal- I put to one side the merit of it- that, if this House goes to the people, half of the Senate must go to the people. At the same time we have in our Constitution a complete gap relating, for example, to the control of nuclear power in Australia. In the course of recent weeks- recent weeks, mark you- various State Premiers have sought to give expression to their views as to what should be done regarding the establishment of nuclear power stations in Australia. The fact of life is that there is a grey area of doubt as to where this power rests. Does it rest entirely with the Commonwealth? If so, under what head of power? Is it a power which resides with the States, even though unexpressed? It may be true that the Commonwealth, by dint of signing an international convention relating to nuclear power in some form or another and the control of nuclear waste, would be able to assume a clear responsibility in this field. But I mention this as one which seems to me to have a towering sense of priority. Yet, compared with that, we are invited by the Government to busy ourselves with, and to approve a Bill for, a referendum relating to the simultaneous holding of elections for this House and for the Senate.
The Government certainly deserves a prize for persistence. The Prime Minister deserves a prize for persistence. Eight or nine months ago the proposal was defeated at the polls, and he comes back and says: ‘We are going to try again.’ I looked at his speech, with my customary charity, and was tremendously impressed with what he had to say. I formed the view that his argument is a classic illustration of sophistry. When he presented this Bill for the second time to this House the Prime Minister said:
The proposal -
He was speaking of the proposal relating to the referendum- failed only narrowly to obtain an overall majority of yes votes. Over 3V4 million voters endorsed the proposed law and slightly less than 3% million voted no. The proposed law received a majority of yes votes in the most populous State New South Wales and was only narrowly lost m Victoria and South Australia. The proposal is clearly one that has great appeal to the electorate. My Government is of the view that it is of such importance and merit that it should again be put to the people.
What yardstick is the honourable gentleman prepared to accept that the people have in fact rejected the proposal? I would find life a most accommodating business if every time I backed a horse of my selection which failed, albeit narrowly and in a photo finish, I were to present the ticket to the bookmaker, ask him for his indulgence and say to him: ‘This horse ran with very considerable merit indeed. It failed narrowly, Will you please meet this?’
– Bad track work.
– That is very true. I know of some horses which, if they were to be sent over a 6 furlong journey, would give the impression of running on. One tries them then over a mile and they fail. One could send some from here to Coonabarabran and they would still be running on at that distance. They never quite get up. That is approximately the position with respect to referendums in this country. Let me illustrate, for example, my own State of Queensland which has 18 Federal electorates. This proposal was resoundingly defeated in 16 of them. The Prime Minister says of the people of Queensland in the May election of 1974 that it was a substantial aberration of intellect that drove them to reject what he describes as meritorious proposals. Failed narrowly! By jove, would not the Government like to be able to say that it won 16 seats in Queensland at a general election? But the melancholy fact for it with respect to this proposal is that it was defeated. Five States voted against it; one State voted for it. What basis or what character of logic is it that has driven the Government persistently and obstinately towards embracing this argument: ‘Well, it had merit; we only just missed out; we will keep on trying “? The spirit of Robert Bruce is a spirit I can admire deeply. But obstinacy which degenerates into the stage of not being able to accept the expression of opinion is no longer to be dignified as obstinacy; it is to be characterised as stupidity.
Beyond that, one goes to the description of the proposal put to the Australian people last time. I would hesitate to describe it in what would seem to me to be proper language because that may give offence to the forms of this House, but it was a form of description which was not accurate. The proposal was one described by the authors of the Bill as Constitutional Alteration (Simultaneous Elections). The majority of people reading the proposal upon which they were asked to vote would look at it and say: ‘ Well, there is very considerable merit in this, having both of the Houses of Parliament elected at the same time’, little realising, of course, that the proposal to be put into the Constitution related to almost a hideously confused set of provisions. For myself, I acknowledge my own limitations in this matter. But I would hardly describe the proposals which have been presented to us as representing the quintessence of clarity. I have no doubt that many of the provisions, if enacted into law- law in the sense that they became part of the Australian Constitution- would lead to very, very considerable litigation and confusion.
There is one fascinating feature in the Bill to which I draw the attention of the AttorneyGeneral and I know that he, being such a responsive soul, will give us the benefit of his advice. Ironically, part of this Bill deals with the matter of casual vacancies. If this Bill became an Act and were submitted to the Australian people and the proposal were affirmed there would be a new form of control over casual vacancies. If I were in the shoes of the Attorney-General I would think this was a thunderingly appropriate time to do something about casual vacancies. May I invite the honourable and learned gentleman to amend clause 5 of the Bill, dealing with section 1 5 of the Act, on the matter of casual vacancies. I think that this would be a splendid way of showing the country the bona fides protested by the Government. Having said that, may I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Why is it that the Government has plucked this particular referendum proposal from the cluster of 4 proposals put to the people? What splendid form of virtue does this proposal command that the 3 other proposals do not have? Why is this so distinctive? There has not been one syllable of explanation which has fallen from the Prime Minister during the course of his speech as to why that is the case.
I turn to what I would regard as being the nub of this problem. The argument advanced by the Government for the acceptance of this Bill for its passage, the argument which the Government advanced during the course of the referendum campaign as to why the Australian people should approve of the proposal, was an argument in both instances based entirely upon convenience. It is convenient, said the Government, for the people to vote for the Senate at the same time as they vote for the House of Representatives. I concede that there is a distinct plausibility about that argument. But it is an argument which is on analysis pretty hollow and it is readily tested. No reference has been made by any Government apologist for this measure concerning the relationship between the 2 houses. The relationship between this House and the Senate is of vital consideration.
I have never apologised for the view I have taken as to the character of the House of Representatives. But to fail to acknowledge that the Senate has a character quite different from this is to ignore one of the facts of constitutional life. The Senate is not controlled by this House, and this House should not be controlled by the Senate, save for and except in accordance with section 57 of the Constitution. No other section of the Constitution attracted as much attention during the convention debates of the 1890s as did section 57. The deal- let us face it- was simply this: Some of the colonies were not prepared to enter into the Federation unless their position was safeguarded. We would be a little unreal today to imagine that that conviction held in the 1 890s has been suffocated in the 1 970s.
If I may indulge myself in a personal observation, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would express an opinion on the point. I think that there is a greater sensitivity today in the States, no matter what kidney of government may preside over them, concerning their respective positions than there was in the 1890s held by the colonies as they then were-they did not become States until they entered the Federation. Those of us who sit here in the Federal Parliament have to accept that. We cannot laugh it off. The views expressed by our colleagues m the States are views that must be taken into account and must be respected where appropriate and there must be candour in the conduct of all observations. That seems to me to be a pretty reasonable charter in the running of a Federation. But here the real reason is not put. The real reason, of course, appears to be mat if this House, for some reason or other, goes to the country it would be a matter of convenience to take the Senate with it. That would disturb the relationship of this House to the Senate and that is the principal ground upon which the Opposition as presently minded bases its objection to the Bill.
I would sum up- and I will endeavour to do so as crisply as possible- by saying that we are curious as to why this measure has been introduced at this time. There is no clamour for it in the streets. I would assure my friend, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), that I have not detected anything of the spirit of revolution in the country upon this issue. At the Doomben races in Brisbane on Saturday I was not accosted and directed that I should expend my energies and enterprise and what initiative I may have on seeking to bring enlightenment to the Parliament upon this issue. There was a great silence upon the issue. Beyond that, we are apprehensive as to why the Prime Minister, the Government, has plucked out this measure from what I have described as the cluster of referendum proposals. Finally, we believe on our present consideration of the measure that it seeks to disturb the relationship between this House and the Senate and to ignore some of the realities of political life in this country. For those reasons the Opposition will oppose the Bill.
-This is a minor proposal to amend the Constitution.
– There are far more substantial propositions which could be put with some validity to amend the Constitution. All that is proposed by this amending legislation is that elections for the 2 Houses of this Parliament shall be held on the same day on each occasion that such elections take place. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) made great play of reference in the Bill to casual vacancies. The only alteration proposed to be made by this Bill as regards casual vacancies is to bring the terms of the section of the Constitution relating to persons appointed to fill casual vacancies into line with the terms of office of senators who would be elected under the other provisions of the Constitution proposed to be altered by this Bill. I would have thought that even in such a light-hearted and obviously less than convincing opposition to the Bill the honourable gentleman would not have expected the Government to exclude from the Bill provisions under which senators filling casual vacancies would be elected to serve the same periods set down for those persons whom they were replacing.
It is difficult to understand why the Opposition feels that it has some political benefit to gain by the maintenance of a situation not envisaged by the Constitution but which occurs periodically because of electoral accidents in which elections for each House take place at different times, as has been the case since 1963 with the exception of a double dissolution which did not bring the Houses back into line. It is difficult to know why the Opposition is afraid of bringing elections for the Houses back into line. Surely it is a reasonable proposition that the 2 Houses of the Parliament of Australia should be elected at the same time when the issues before the people are over who should govern the country and of questioning the administration, whoever it may be.
Single Senate elections are about nothing. I think it should be clearly understood that they are about nothing. Of the 60 members of the Senate 48 have been nominated by political parties and there was nothing the electors could do to prevent their election. That means that in any single election for half the Senate 24 positions in the Senate- it may vary by one but no more in any given election- are filled at the time of the close of nominations and the election is conducted for the position of one senator for each State. If there is nothing at stake other than the election of senators, the election is, as I said before, about nothing. It tends to be an inconsequential election. It is used as a by-election situation. It tends to have little relevance to the realities of politics in Australia and creates a situation in which the Senate is composed of persons who do not reflect the opinions of the electorate as to who should govern the country. That is all right if the Senate accepts its role as a House of review and if the Senate accepts that governments elected at the time when government is on the line are entitled to govern. That convention has been observed for 73 or 74 years. It is no longer observed by the Opposition parties in this House. They have now clearly established that they do not believe that the tenure of office of governments elected to govern has any relevance whatsoever where it interferes with the personal ambitions of men whose greed for power would destroy the whole parliamentary system if necessary.
We are talking about an amendment to the Constitution which will ensure that each time there is an election for the House of Representatives half the members of the Senate will retire. The original drafting of the Constitution envisages that the terms of senators will be twice that of a member of the House of Representatives. It is stated in years- 3 years and 6 years. Under the proposed alteration it would be stated purely in terms of 2 parliaments or one parliament. Is anyone in this House prepared to stand up and say that if the Houses came into line again as a result of an election for the House of Representatives between 1 July next and 1 July 1976 this would be a blow to the Senate, would create a situation in which the Senate’s independence would be destroyed or would prevent the Senate from functioning properly? Of course not. That situation has occurred in the majority of elections for the 2 Houses in this country. Why does the Opposition wish to impose on the electorate an election in 2 years out of every 3 years which is what has been occurring in recent years in Australiaand I am talking about Federal elections only?
In Vittoria between 1949 and 1974 there were 25 separate elections for parliaments covering the whole of that State. In 25 years there were 25 elections. The Victorian Parliament, controlled by members of the Liberal Party, has since 196 1 consistently passed special legislation in order to circumvent the Constitution of that State, which requires that the Upper House should be elected at a different time to the lower House, in order that conjoint elections can take place. Both Houses of the Victorian Parliament are now always elected on the same day by resolution of Houses of Parliament in which the Liberal Party has an absolute majority, but in this Parliament for some short term temporary political gain the Opposition wishes to preserve ad infinitum a situation in which one House at a time can be elected and elections are held for part of the Federal Parliament in 2 years out of every 3 years.
I think it is worth while reading to the House, so that we can clearly understand exactly what the Opposition is about, the case which was put at the last referendum against simultaneous elections for the 2 Houses of Parliament. These are the points put forward, I presume by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), as a rational, reasoned case against simultaneous elections:
This so-called Simultaneous Elections referendum is the first one of four which the Government is holding with the Senate elections, and in each one the Government has deliberately attempted to mislead you.
I do not see what could possibly be said to be misleading in our saying that we are holding a referendum in relation to simultaneous elections when in fact that is exactly what we are doing. Nevertheless, the Liberal Party’s case continues:
The Government also hopes these referendums will also put up a smokescreen over the central issues . . .: runaway inflation, absurdly high interest rates, staggering tax payments, irresponsible government spending, a public service growing like Topsy.
That is the case put against the referendum. It is purely a statement of political sloganising which was distributed for that purpose and that purpose only. No serious attempt was made to rationalise the reasons that the elections for one House of the Parliament should be held at a time different from the elections of the other. I do not know whether the Liberal Party still has a commitment to try to ensure the election of Democratic Labor Party senators to the Senate. Certainly any commitment it had last May was dishonoured, and dishonoured quite openly, to the quite obvious anguish of former Senator McManus. But that such commitments are entered into could be one of the reasons for the present proposal. I do not want to continue on at great length on this aspect. The Bill proposes a simple alteration to the Constitution. The result of its passage will be that the elections for both Houses of this Parliament will be for evermore held at the same time and will not be conducted on the patchwork basis where sometimes simultaneous elections occur because of political accidents and at other times they do not.
– It is a waste of money too.
-There is money involved, but I do not think that is relevant to the real argument that elections should be conducted for both Houses of this Parliament on the same day. Elections for both Houses in Queensland are held on the same day. They do not bother to elect any members for one of the Houses because they do not consider it necessary to have an upper House. But they do hold elections up there, not to elect a government but to elect members.
The opposition to this Bill is, I believe, bordering on political irresponsiblity. I believe that it is an opposition of the moment, designed to oppose for the sake of opposing and for no other reason. I do not believe that the power, the effectiveness or the activities of the Senate will be in any way altered by the proposed amendment to the Constitution. I would suggest to members of the Opposition that they would be far better spending their time in trying to maintain the Senate as an elected House of the Parliament whose members represent the wishes of the people of the various States who elect them. They would do far better to put their time into that sort of activity than they would in trying to carry on a facade of independent separate elections, whilst in one State of Australia we have at the moment a situation in which one million voters are about to be disfranchised purely for the purpose of satisfying the political needs of the Liberal Party.
– During the period in which I have represented the electorate of Darling Downs in this House the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), who preceded me in this debate, has always struck a chord of sympathy with me because of bis dedication and his sincerity. However, today he both fascinated and intrigued me because, to my knowledge, it is the first occasion on which he has made a speech in which he had an argument without a brief. I want to assure the honourable member that we are not opposing this legislation simply for the purpose of opposing, but rather we are opposing it as the protectors of the people’s rights and the preservers of the decision of the people. The honourable member for Corio failed to admit- possibly he did not admit it because he wanted to be quite truthful and honest about the whole proposition- that only a few short months ago the people of Australia at a referendum decided what their point of view was on this particular issue. Knowing the honourable member for Corio as I do, I was intrigued, therefore, at his failure to accept the inevitable. He failed to accept the decision of the Australian people and he continued to spout forth rather spurious arguments which have no basis in fact and which do not pertain to the issue.
This legislation is typical of the unsatisfied hunger for power of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). One cannot but comment on the apparent arrogance of the man and his bending of the willow to suit his arguments and his overbearing demands. His appeal to the nation and his second reading speech are direct opposites. In effect, he has polarised his points of view. His left hand knoweth not what his right hand is doing. We remember him making in a rather amateurish and offensive way on free time on national television on Sunday night last an appeal to allow democracy to function. Of course, he was neither accurate nor convincing. In the interests of democracy and fair play it is to be hoped that the Premier of New South Wales is given the opportunity to disseminate the truth and negate the spurious arguments of the Prime Minister. Mr Lewis will not need to use the sledgehammer blows of personal vituperation and vilification of the Prime Minister to destroy his false propaganda; all he will need is a nutcracker.
The Prime Minister says that he seeks to uphold conventions. But of what conventions does he speak? Does he mean the convention adopted by his cohorts in crime- the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party in 1931- when they appointed a member of their own Party, Senator P. F. Mooney, to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Senator W. L. Duncan, a National, or does he mean the convention adopted by the Queensland branch of the Labor Party in 1928 with the appointment of Senator J. V. MacDonald to fill the vacancy created by the death of Senator the Hon. T. Givens, a member of the National Party? In these matters the Prime Minister sways around like a flimsy beanpole in a gentle breeze. There is absolutely no substance in his argument. Notwithstanding the fact that he was floored for the political full count by the honourable Joh Bjelke-Petersen in the recent Queensland State elections- I liked the remarks of the honourable member for Corio when he said that they were democratic elections, and I thank him for that admission and for the accuracy of his political comment and that he was defeated by a majority of 3.75 million votes to 3.5 million votes on 18 May last, on his own admission, on the self same referendum issues he now seeks to introduce the proposal again. He is plunging ahead dangerously, creating an environment of dictatorship as though to say: My will shall be done’. He refuses to accept the judgment and the decision of the Australian people. In effect, he is an autocrat. One cannot accept his argument but one can appreciate the rather curious plurality of his logic. He claims a mandate for this and for that, but he never ever states that his Government is a minority government which attracted only 49.3 per cent of the vote at the last election, a decline of .3 per cent in 1 8 months and the loss of a number of seats.
The Prime Minister is totally incapable of accepting the will of the Australian people. In his second reading speech he states: . . most importantly it will assist in reflecting in both Houses simultaneously the people’s will, so that the government of the day and the Parliament may get on with their job.
What does the Prime Minister’s high-sounding shibboleth mean? The people of Australia refused to give him the majority in both Houses and the Prime Minister will not accept this decision. In effect the people told him last May, at democratic elections, that they did not trust him, that there is to be a brake on him and that they want an overseer of the works he tries to carry out. That is the wish of the Australian people. Who is the Prime Minister to rebel at the expression of the people ‘s will?
The Australian Labor Party is out to scuttle the ship of the Senate. That is its declared policy. It wants a power monopoly in the House of Representatives and it is endeavouring to achieve this by typically socialistic tactics- by stealth and erosion from within. It wants to topple the sovereignty and independence of the Senate, the House of State rights. The Senate is equal to and distinct from the House of Representatives. Pressure is being exerted on our present fundamental democratic principles. The tap is being tightened and the press is being screwed.
One has to admire the Premiers of the free States for their united effort in organising a secretariat in Canberra to protect their rights. But this, in a democracy, should not be necessary. After even only a cursory examination one has to agree that this is a matter of extreme national importance and necessity. Violence is being done to democracy and the Premiers of those free States are the last line of defence. ALP policy is for the abolition of federalism, the Senate and States’ rights re the Privy Council, Queen’s honours lists and Agents-General, and for the refusal to allow people to decide whether ‘God Save the Queen’ should be the national anthem. The Labor Party seeks the take-over of the people’s rights. Its moves in endeavouring to control the activities of the Senate are a sacrilege, a contempt of democracy and indicative of its thinking. It has tried to make an ass out of the Senate.
We express both ritual horror and shock at its decision to appoint a former senator to the bench of the High Court. We express concern at the raids on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Gair affair- all have a familiar ring about them- and avowed centralism. With knowledge of Labor Party policy re the abolition of the Senate and a record of defeat of referenda proposals, one cannot but arrive at the observation that the Federal Government, aggrieved by the regulator placed on it by the people in the Senate, is out to achieve by judicial means powers which it cannot obtain through the Senate or referenda. But we will oppose this legislation, reinforce the arbitrary decision of the Australian people and force the Prime Minister to walk the tight rope of people’s rights. The independence of the Senate is guaranteed by the Constitution. It is not, and cannot be, a photocopying machine of the House of Representatives. It is not a broom to sweep the legislation enacted in the House of Representatives through its chamber. It is both a check and a balance on irresponsible action in the House of Representatives. We have had streams of that pouring forth from demagogues skilled in the artful and deceitful methods of counterfeit legislation.
Our rejection of the proposal is not based on novelty but on its merits in our parliamentary system and the Labor Party’s departure from established practice. We are aware that this juicy bait of simultaneous elections is a bait with a sharp hook that will snare the unwary. Clearly in this debate we have to expose the hooks of the Prime Minister. He is impatient with the Senate. He is now making his second head-on attack on the rights of the Senate to amend, delay or defeat the Government’s legislation. He wants to do this by offering the rather frail argument of simpler and cheaper elections.
I endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) who by interjection said that to try to do away with the State’s House, which is the preserver of the democratic rights of the States and through the States the citizens who live in them, was a most despicable act of the Prime Minister. How can one put a price on freedom? This is what the Prime Minister is endeavouring to do by saying that the proposed method of simultaneous elections- as I said, defeated at a referendum by the Australian people- will be cheaper. He said that if these elections are held together there will be a consequent reduction in costs. I submit that this argument ill behoves the Prime Minister, who for the future of our society we hope is the first and last of the globe trotting big spenders. We have seen him shed crocidile tears about savings in costs as the great argument for his proposals. One could accept these as being sincere if one noted a corresponding incentive, if one heard corresponding words of support uttered by him opposing the payment of handouts to slackers in our community or if one heard one word of opposition to the wasteful expenditure in industry caused by irresponsible trade unionists and their leaders who are holding and will no doubt on account of the feather-bedding of the Labor Government hold Australia to ransom. The Prime Minister stands condemned as a destroyer of the Constitution and as a person who wants to shelter under its umbrella when it suits him. Never before have we seen so many attempts to rewrite the Constitution. Yet in his second reading speech the Prime Minister said:
The intention of the men who drafted our Constitution and the expectation of those who voted for it was that every 3 years there should be an election of the House of Representatives and half the Senate.
On one occasion he is running around condemning the Constitution and on the next occasion, to support his rather spurious argument, he is quoting what the framers of the Constitution said way back in the 1890s and early 1900s. Obviously we cannot accept the Prime Minister as being a credible person if, in effect, he has his twopence each way every time he speaks. The Constitution to him is a matter of convenience to be used or not to be used as he sees fit.
Centralised government, we submit, is not good for Australia. The people of Australia will not tolerate this type of political action. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he withdraw this Bill with as good a grace as possible otherwise a worse fate will befall him- the incurred wounds of defeat- just as he was annihilated about eight or nine months ago. He wants to conduct another referendum proposal which will necessitate a great deal of unnecessary expenditure which could be used in other necessary avenues of political activity. Over recent weeks, with swift and unnerving change in all spheres of political activity, the Prime Minister, with his supporters disillusioned, has been floundering and the problem is getting worse. He is stubbornly unwilling, perhaps emotionally unable, to see a situation not as superficial and temporary but as a crisis of the system itself. He is after power for power’s sake, and he wants to control the workings of the Senate, an independent body, the House of the States.
We therefore oppose this legislation. We do not dismiss it as an idle moment in our political history. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) suggested that it was not of any great moment. We on this side of the House maintain that there is a fundamental principle at stake. It is the very basis on which our democracy is based. We had the formation of the Australian nation with the implementation of a Constitution in the early years of this century. That was a solemn agreement between the States, between the emerging nation and the people of Australia. It should not and, we submit, it cannot be changed merely at the whim of a person who, for his own political advantage and cheap notoriety in the short and long term, seeks to continually put propositions before the Australian people which will have the end result of making all power reside in one House of the national Parliament.
We are opposed to this legislation. We submit that it is both unnecessary and unwanted and we ask the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to accept the democratic vote of the Australian people, who told him in no uncertain manner that they do not want a bar of this type of legislation and they will not stand his meddling in the affairs of substance in a way which interferes with their basic rights. The Senate has a responsibility to the Australian people to stand up and fight for its basic preservation. Irrespective of the result that accrues to this Bill in this House, where we can be crushed by the savage onslaught of numbers, I hope that when the BUI is in the upper House the men there when they are confronted with big issues will not be like the men in this House who, when confronted with big issues, prove that in essence they are only little men.
– Unlike the previous speaker, it is my intention to speak to the Bill before the House. I am afraid that the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) rather lost me on more than one occasion with his great tirade of abuse against individuals and his constant stringing together of cliches and calling that a speech. It seemed to me that he lost sight of what the Bill is all about and ignored the fact that the purpose of the Bill is to bring into line elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate and to ensure that that continues for evermore. After listening to him intently for the 20 minutes that he spoke, it seemed to me that someone was going to abolish the Senate. I remind the honourable member that in fact the last Senate election in this country was a conjoint election. The members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate were elected on the one day, and certainly I do not think that the Prime Minister of this country got any advantage out of that situation. The honourable member spoke about the Government of this country not accepting the will of the people. Next time he meets in the Party room with his confreres from another place he ought to remind them that they have done nothing but obstruct legislation, and worthwhile legislation, on the whim of some short term political advantage rather than act in the interests of the nation as a whole. When he can show me that he has persuaded his colleagues that they should reject that attitude then I will be prepared to listen to any argument that he might care to put forward to the people of Australia that Senate elections and House of Representatives elections should not be held on the same day. If he is going to accuse this Government of refusing to accept the decision of the people, the same sort of allegation can be levelled against him and people of his ilk.
The honourable member said, mustering all the oratory at his command, that there is a fundamental principle at stake. What is the fundamental principle that is at stake? How does the changing of the date for a Senate election, making it conjoint with the House of Representatives election, deny the Senate any rights whatsoever? How does it ensure that the Government of the day will or will not get a majority in the Senate? How does it deny the Senate the opportunity to conduct its obstructionism, as it has done since the conjoint election and prior to that? If he can explain these things to me I might be persuaded by his argument; but he cannot. The rights of the Senate will not be affected in any way whatsoever by the carrying of this legislation. The rights of the people- and I do not support States rights; I think people are far more important than States- will never be denied by the carrying of this legislation. In fact, it could be said, and I think quite rightly, that their rights are strengthened because on the one day the people of this country will come out and do what the Constitution envisages they will do. They will elect a parliament, and our Constitution states that Australia shall have a Parliament which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
It seems to me quite fallacious to advance an argument that elections ought to be held on separate days to elect half a parliament. I do not think that those people who drafted our Constitution, those people who debated it in the various State Parliaments, those people who eventually voted on it, ever envisaged that there would be an election to elect half the parliament. It seems to me that the concept must have been at all times that there was to be an election to elect the Parliament. The words ‘three years’ and ‘six years’ are certainly used in the Constitution to describe the Senate.
-Because it was envisaged, and this is stated in another part of the Constitution, that the House of Representatives should stand for 3 years. That got out of step for a variety of reasons, and again might I say that it was not for any benefit to the people of this country but for the short term political advantage of those who sat in this House at that time. What is being proposed is that the 2 elections should be held on the same day. It was stated in the document setting out the case for a No’ vote at the last referendum- with the greatest of respect to those who drafted it, a completely dishonest document- that it is easy to bring about a conjoint election. All that the Prime Minister has to do is to call an election for the House of Representatives on the day that the election for the Senate is due and you will have conjoint elections.
– For half the Senate.
-For half the Senate or for the whole Senate, it matters not; half the Senate, you are quite right. But that is only a onetime operation and, as was proved in 1963, the elections can very easily get out of kilter again. All that is being proposed by the Bill is that the Constitution should be altered and instead of stating that a senator should enjoy 3 years or 6 years in this Parliament it should provide that he should enjoy as long in this Parliament in time as 2 terms of the House of Representatives. Again, I do not know why some people in this country want to place senators as legislators in a different position from members of the House of
Representatives, who are also legislators, and insist that a senator have a guaranteed term of office. Nobody has yet explained to me why they want to pursue that line of argument and yet say to the members of the House of Representatives: You can go to the people at any time. ‘ Nobody has ever explained to me why a distinction is always drawn between a senator and a member of the House of Representatives, between the Senate and the House of Representatives, between the 2 Houses of the Parliament which in the eyes of everbody in this country, certainly in my eyes, are regarded as being equal. When those questions are answered I might be inclined to change my mind on the legislation now before us.
I discount the argument about the saving of something like $9m required to hold an election. I think it is not a relevant argument. I do not think that money is relevant when the views of the people are to be sought. The fact that it might cost $100m to run an election is no good reason not to hold an election, but I would argue against spending $9m unjustifiably. In the present situation I do not think any good argument has been advanced against the Bill. Even my eloquent and learned friend, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), whom I usually listen to with great interest when he speaks on matters of law, and I hope I learn something from him, on this occasion disillusioned me, because even he, with his eloquence and with his knowledge of the Constitution and of constitutional law, could not show me a good reason why elections ought to be held on separate days, why one half of the Parliament ought to be treated differently from the other half. As I have already said, because of the proportional representation method that is used to elect senators in this country- and my colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has already pointed out that there are only ever 6 senators elected in a half senate election situation, the other 24 being in effect appointed by their various political parties- the Senate for ever more will be evenly balanced. We will never again see the situation that occurred prior to the introduction of proportional representation when, in a Senate of 26 members, the Australian Labor Party held 25 seats and those who opposed it held one and when, in the space of 3 years or 6 years, the position was reversed. We will never see that situation again. The ballot for the Senate always will be evenly balanced between those in the community who are progressive and belong to the Labor Party and those who are retrogressive and oppose it. Because of that it is very dangerous to rely on the present situation and to imagine that it is going to continue to evermore. Because of the fine balance in the mind of the electorate the balance of power in the Senate can change.
I do not think that the Constitution gives the Senate the right to govern the country; yet that is what is being done at the moment by the obstructionists who sit there. Those who stand up and accuse the Prime Minister of this country of being a dictator ought to have a look at their own positions before they level those sorts of accusations. There is every justificaton for bringing the elections into line. There is every justification for making a senator equal to a member of the House of Representatives in terms of the time that he shall serve in this Paliament between elections. I have heard of no argument that carries any weight as to why the present situation should remain. The time for this debate is limited. I simply want to wind up by saying that the attitude expressed in this House by those who sit opposite is clearly indicative of the obstructionism and bloody-mindedness that besets their colleagues in another place.
-At first blush the proposition contained in this Bill to amend the Constitution by way of a referendum is a thoroughly acceptable one. It is that at the same time as there is an election for the House of Representatives there should be an election for the Senate. But I remind the Government that this proposition, as acceptable as it may appear to be, was rejected by the people as recently as May 1974. The people therefore did not accept the attractiveness of the proposition. In his second reading speech the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that the proposal failed only narrowly to obtain the overall majority of yes votes. He failed to say in his second reading speech that the proposal failed dismally to obtain the majority of votes in the States as required by the Constitution. In fact, the proposal received a majority of votes in only one of the States. Five of the States voted no. So there was a five-to-one failure on the part of the Government in putting the proposal to the people in May 1974.
On what grounds, then, has the Government now come back to the Parliament and said: ‘Give us another chance’? It has tried once and failed. It now says: ‘We want another chance to try again. Maybe they will fail a second time but, in terms of the old saying, if they try a third time they ought to have an even better chance of getting it through’. I simply ask: Why is the Government so persistent when it has already put such a proposition to the people and received the expression of the people’s will as recently as 1974?
I have put it in that way because the Governmentthe Prime Minister in particular- is so fond of calling in aid the people’s will as if that gives it a mandate to do everything that it perceives is contained in the people’s Will. Of course, we know that the people’s will does not operate in that way. It is a concept a couple of centuries old that is quite inappropriate to today’s world.
What does the Bill actually propose to do? I think that question needs to be asked to get to the nub of the whole thing. What it proposes to do is to destroy the fixed term of tenure of membership of the Senate now given by the Constitution and to put in its place a variable term that is dependent upon the whim of the Government of the day as to when the House of Representatives will be dissolved, because by this Bill the term of a senator shall be equal to 2 terms of the House of Representatives and by the Constitution, which will not be altered in this respect by this Bill, the House of Representatives may be dissolved at any time by the Governor-General within 3 years of the election most recently past.
If the Government were to put forward a proposal by which it would give to members of the House of Representatives a fixed term of office and then double that period so as to render the term of office of senators also fixed there might be some merit in that proposition because that is the situation arising under the United States Constitution whereby members of the House of Representatives have a fixed term of office of 2 years and members of the Senate have a term of office of 4 years. Of course, in America as in Australia there is a rotation of the senators from each of the States. But this is what the Bill seeks to do: It seeks to destroy the fixed term of office of senators and put in its place a variable term according to the life of the House of Representatives. That renders a fundamental alteration in constitutional terms of the system of government upon which our Constitution is based because our Constitution is based on the convention of the Westminster system whereby the House of Representatives may be dissolved at any time by the Governor-General, as the delegate of the Queen, upon the advice of the government of the day. That is the situation which obtains in the United Kingdom. We have seen it operate as recently as the election in early 1 974 which was lost by the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, and the election in October 1974 which was won by the now Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. That constitutional convention is written into our Constitution by the operation of sections 5 and 28 of the Constitution. I remind the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) of those 2 provisions. Section 5 states:
The Governor-General may appoint such times Tor holding the sessions of the Parliament as he thinks fit, and may also from time to dme, by Proclamation or otherwise, prorogue the Parliament, and may in like manner dissolve the House of Representatives.
Section 28 of the Constitution states:
Every House of Representatives shall continue for 3 years from the first meeting of the House, and no longer, but may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General.
I pricked up my ears when I heard the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) say that the House of Representatives has a term of 3 years. The honourable gentleman, with the greatest respect to him, simply has not read the Constitution because as section 28, which I have just read to the House, points out the House may be dissolved within 3 years. So the effect of acceptance of the proposal to amend the Constitution to bring about simultaneous elections will be to maintain the provision that the House of Representatives can be dissolved at any time by the Governor-General and, when that dissolution occurs, automatically the Senate shall be dissolved. That would bring about a fundamental change in the constitutional framework of this country.
I ask the Attorney-General whether that is appreciated and whether it is really intended. If that be so, why does the Government- the Prime Minister in particular because he is the one who seems to be so anxious to bring forward these matters of constitutional reform- not at the same time seek to amend section 57 of the Constitution, which contains the double dissolution provisions? Those provisions relating to a double dissolution have been included in the Constitution to break a deadlock, to resolve a disagreement between the 2 Houses. They are very careful and explicit in their terminology and in the circumstances in which a double dissolution can be brought about. Under the present Constitution, that is the only way in which the Govern.mernt can compel an election or, more particularly, a dissolution of both the Senate and the House of Representatives at the same time. If this proposal to amend the Constitution is passed, there would never be a need for the double dissolution provisions to operate, because if the Government had one of its pieces of legislation, upon which it regarded its authority as a Government depended, rejected by the Senate, it could immediately go to the Governor-General and advise him to dissolve the House of Representatives. Automatically the Senate also would be dissolved. The Government would not have to resort to the procedure of waiting 3 months after the first rejection of the Bill by the Senate, before submitting the Bill to the House of Representatives again, sending it back to the Senate where it would be rejected once again, and then calling for a double dissolution and, in the end, convening a Joint Sitting of the 2 Houses if there should still be disagreement.
– The section would appear to become largely redundant, would it not?
– As the honourable member for Moreton so correctly points out, section 57 would become redundant. This makes me wonder whether the Government has really thought out all the consequences of the proposal which it is putting forward now. I would not have thought that any parliament would want a Constitution which becomes something of a patchwork quilt of constitutional provisions, and this is what would happen if a proposal such as this altering just one part of the Constitution was not followed by complementary and necessary alterations to other parts of the Constitution. I think it can be fairly said- this has been recognised by constitutional lawyers, politicians, and commentators on government- that the Australian Constitution is an extremely well written document. It is extremely well framed as a document establishing institutions of government and establishing also a thoroughly consistent framework of government. There is expressed explicitly in the Constitution a balance of power between each institution of government- the Parliament, with its 2 parts, the Senate and the House of Representatives; the executive government drawn, in the Westminister tradition, from that parliament; and the judicature, separate from parliament and the executive. There is a balanced framework of government which I venture to suggest, if this proposal were passed by the people, would be put into serious imbalance.
Looking at the matter in practical terms, as has already been pointed out in this debate, there is a ready means by which this Government can bring about simultaneous elections by calling a House of Representatives election- that is, by calling that election, pursuant to the authority of section 28 of the Constitution, at the same time as the next Senate election which must be held before 30 June 1 976. This is precisely what Mr Menzies, as he then was, did in 1955 in order to bring back into line the House of Representatives and Senate elections. He took advantage of section 28 of the Constitution and advised the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives. The Governor-General did that, and so we had simultaneous elections of the 2 Houses of the Parliament. If the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is so fond of relying on the statements and actions of Sir Robert Menzies in justifying his own constitutional statements and the constitutional position that he so frequently adopts these days, let him do what Sir Robert Menzies did in 1955. In that way he can accept the decision of the people at the referendum of May 1 974 when the people said that they did not want the proposal which is now before the House. If the Prime Minister were to do what Sir Robert Menzies did in 1955, he would bring about simultaneous elections of the 2 Houses of this Parliament in a practicable, sensible, efficient and less costly way. He could, in that very practical way, thereby maintain the stability of our present Constitution. He would not distort the framework of government, which is so wonderfully written into the present Constitution, and he would maintain the excellence of it as a balanced framework of government where each institution has its place clearly expressed by the present Constitution of Australia.
-This proposal is superficially an attractive one. All of us, no matter on what side of the House we may sit, must at times have been told by constituents: Would it not be a marvellous thing if we could remove these separate Senate elections? Would it not be a marvellous thing if we did not have to have a Senate election within 18 months or so after a House of Representatives election?’ I can recall quite clearly our supporters saying that when the Liberal and Country Parties occupied the Treasury benches. I doubt whether the supporters of the present Government said that at the time of the 1 967 Senate elections because it is a fact of political life in Australia that, for one reason or another, separate Senate elections tend to find more favour amongst opposition parties than they do amongst government parties.
The proposal in this Bill is a superficially attractive proposition. But when one goes beneath the surface, one finds that it is a proposition which does some violence to the place of the Australian Senate in the government of this country. The Australian Senate, in common with most other upper houses of the Westminster system and in fact other parliamentary or congressional traditions, has the feature of being fundamentally a House of review. But in addition the Australian Senate has a number of other features which distinguish it from some other upper houses throughout the world. It is a House which is elected by universal franchise; it is a House which has a built in equality of State representation; and it is a House which, by reason of developments in recent years, is adopting for itself a role quite separate and distinct from the role of upper houses of the various States that make up the Australian Federation. The Senate is essentially a House which is required to take a long view of the legislative processes of this country. It is certainly a House of review, but it is not simply a House of review. It is a House which, by reason of the development of its various committees and the role that it has taken upon itself, is increasingly taking a longer view and making a more detailed consideration of legislation than unfortunately is the case with the popular House of the Australian Parliament. I think on balance that it does considerable violence to the role of the Australian Senate, as it has now evolved, to remove from the Constitution the built in proviso that except in the case of a double dissolution, a person elected to the Senate shall serve a period of not less than 6 years. It is on this argument that I rest my oppostion to the Government ‘s proposal.
My colleague from Moreton (Mr Killen) has outlined already, better than I could, the political unreality of a Government, which only 9 months ago received a rebuff in this proposal, attempting to crash through with this proposal- to use a description which has often been used of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)- by presenting it to the Australian people again. My colleague from Stirling (Mr Viner) has pointed out already that without the cost of a referendum, without the necessity for this legislation, without the need for this debate, the Government at any time after 1 July this year can bring elections for the Houses of Parliament back into synchronisation in precisely the same way as Sir Robert Menzies brought them back into synchronisation in 1955. I am rather surprised that this has not been more freely acknowledged by those who speak in favour of the Government’s proposals. I think that of the many issues that have characterised the Whitlam Government in its slightly more than 2 years of office, one that has really categorised it is its mania for seeking to alter the Constitution, its mania for trying to alter the ground rules under which elections in this country are conducted. I am not one of those persons who regard the Constitution of this country as being a static document, a document written for all time in 1901 and a document that should never be altered. I have always believed that the Constitution of Australia must be reviewed constantly and, where necessary, altered. I am just extremely disappointed that a Prime Minister who professes such a commitment to responsible and reasonable constitutional change and reform should have concentrated his energies on the sorts of provisos for constitutional and electoral reform that his Government has sought over the past 2 years.
So, on balance, I think this is a proposal which the Opposition ought to oppose. To borrow a popular phrase which is often invoked by the Government to criticise the behaviour of the Opposition, the Government clearly has no mandate to resubmit this proposal. I would have thought a decisive defeat on the popular vote and a loss in 5 of the 6 States of Australia ought to have been a clear enough indication to the Government of Australia that the people did not want this change. Secondly, I believe that if this proposal were to pass into law it would alter fundamentally the nature and role of the Senate in the Australian Parliament, a role which in the years to come will be of increasing importance and a role which I believe is contributing greatly to effective government in this country.
– I listened with considerable interest to most of the speeches made on both sides of the House- I do not say all speeches, but certainly most speeches- and I mean that quite sincerely. For obvious reasons, I will keep my remarks short. I select the speeches of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) as symptomatic of what this debate is all about. The Government wishes to bring about this change of the law- the consent of the Australian people will be required- because the change is consistent with common sense.
In delivering his speech on the second reading of the Bill the honourable member for Moreton used all the points that an orator tends to take in this place. I listened with great interest to him for the 20 minutes that he spoke, and I say this to him as a friend: I did not know whether he was in support of or opposed to this measure almost until he was about to sit down. Then, right at the end of his speech, he asked why this matter should be put to the people again and why more important matters such as nuclear energy were not being submitted? He asked by what yardstick these matters were judged and why the Government thought that people wanted this and other similar matters put to them. Right at the end of his speech he reached what he was trying to say: The legislation proposes a referendum which seeks to destroy the relationship between the House of Representatives and the Senate. Indeed, the last speaker, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), made the same point. It was implicit also in what the honourable member for Stirling said.
Here lies, I think, the crux of the difference between Government and Opposition spokesmen. On the one hand we have spokesmen for the Labor Party; on the other hand we have spokesmen for the Liberal and the Country Party who always oppose measures of this sort which seek to improve the Constitution. The Government tries to do something about the Constitution. We introduce measure? perc arid we initiate action to allow us to put referendum questions to the people. Opposition members talk about and concede the need for. change in the Constitution but have never ever done anything to achieve this end.
It seems to me that, behind the Opposition’s point that there is a relationship between this House and the Senate lies a basic proposition that this Parlaiment is more important than the people. That is the fundamental difference between the Government and the Opposition Parties. The Opposition takes the legalistic approach. It says: ‘There is a thing called the Senate’. It was created back in the 19th century to reflect 19th century views’. It reflects good 19th century views, according to the likes of some people. Most people today would argue that those views are not in accordance with the needs of people today:’ When a Labor Government comes along and’ points’ out that common sense dictates that 15 national’ elections in 22 years are far too many, the Opposition falls back on its legalistic argument and says: ‘Ah, hold on! You would be interfering with the relationship between the Senate and the House of Representatives if you sought to bring elections for both Houses into line. If you said that they had to hold their elections simultaneously, you would be taking away a measure of the rights of senators’. To that proposition, I answer- and I say as strongly as I can- that there is something more important than the rights of senators; there is something more important than the rights of members of this great House <?f ^preventatives: I refer to the rights of the people of Australia.
The honourable member for Stirling used the expression ‘the will of the people’ in almost a derogatory way as if this was irrelevant and a principle to which it was impractical to give expression. The view taken by the Government is quite different Our point of view is that we should try to give effect to whatever the people want. The Opposition claims that we should not even bother the people again with this question.
We say that this matter is most important because every criticism that is levelled at our Australian Constitution turns on the claim that it does not work today as well as it should. Either the honourable member for Bennelong or the honourable member for Stirling- and I return to this point- seemed to be saying that our Constitution was wonderful and perfect. Whichever honourable member it was, the expression he used was ‘beautifully written’. It has been described also as the ‘frozen document’. Professor Sawyer of the Australian National University has said that, in constitutional terms, Australia is the frozen continent. It seems almost that the 19th century views embodied in our Constitution cannot be changed.
By what basic law of natural justice or common sense should the Australian people be required to elect half the Senate from time to time but at times different from the times when they elect the House of Representatives. The Constitution gives paramountcy of power to the House of Representatives. I appreciate that an argument can be made out on the basis of a partnership between the 2 Houses. But the House of Representatives is the people’s House. The power and control exercised by the Government stands or falls in the House of Representatives. This House is where money Bills are initiated. This is where the fundamental action, if I may put it that way, takes place. By what rule of common sense do we approve of a situation in which these elections are held at different times and people elect a House of Representatives- the House that they think is the Government- and then have that Government’s will thwarted and frustrated by the members of a chamber which is elected at different times from members of the House of Representatives and half of whose members are elected at a different time from the other half of its members. That does not make common sense, and it does not make commonsense to anyone to whom one may try to explain the position. There is a difficulty in explaining it to anyone as the legalism creeps in and people turn off and do not wish to listen to that argument.
It seems to me that implicit in every argument used against this Government initiative, this still new Government initiative, is the point of view put forward by Liberal Party and Country Party spokesmen that nothing must be changed no matter how bad it is. They pay Up service to the need for change but do not do anything about it. They frustrate and confuse the people so that they become frightened about change. Honourable members opposite approve of a principle that says that a government shall face the people of Australia or shall face the risk of facing the people of Australia every 6 months. The honourable member for Stirling spoke about section 28 of the Constitution and said that it does not give a term of 3 years to this Parliament. When I was a law student one used to argue that a term of 3 years was too short. One used to argue that parliaments needed more than 3 years to give effect to policies. One used to look at the British experience where parliaments had a term of 5 years. But we all grew up with the concept that the term was 3 years. Section 28 certainly assumes that. It says:
Every House of Representatives shall continue for three years from the first meeting of the House, and no longer, but may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General.
But because honourable members opposite occupy the Opposition benches they seem determined to assert the principle that they will not stay there. Because of the relationship between the House of Representatives and the Senate which they applaud and which leads to the situation that exists in this country today, the properly democratically elected Government cannot at any time govern for more than 6 months with any assurance of continuity. That is what Opposition members put as a sincere point of view. That is the inevitable consequence of the point of view that they take when they talk about refusing Supply and maintaining this relationship between the House of Representatives and the Senate.
As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said so often- he said it during the recent controversy with the New South Wales Premier over the filling of a casual vacancy in the Senate- the assertion of this attitude taken by the Opposition is degrading the whole institution of Parliament. It replaces cosmos, order or system with chaos and uncertainty. No government can carry out its policies while the Opposition persists in this type of opposition to change- to ordered change, to constitutional change, to change that is designed to make the system work. The system should not be scrapped but it should be made to work. As I said, the honourable member for Moreton spoke for 20 minutes and right at the end of his speech, almost as though he had forgotten to say what the Bill was all about and why he was opposing it, he said that it would interfere with the relationship between the House of Representatives and the Senate. He referred to a yardstick. I believe that the yardstick is common sense. Fifteen elections in 22 years, with the uncertainty, the frustration and the burden that it imposes on good government, is too much. It offends common sense. The people of Australia should be allowed to decide what they think about it.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Enderby ) put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. J. F. Cope)
– There being 64 ayes and 50 noes the question is therefore resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 1 1 February on motion byMrWhitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The House turns to consider probably one of the most historic Bills ever introduced into this Parliament. One may readily concede that it is a Bill that has barely encouraged a murmur either of comment, criticism or indeed praise in the Australian community but nevertheless it is a most historic Bill. It represents one of the conspicuous legislative moves by any Government in the matter of the links of this country with the United Kingdom. This Bill seeks to remove in terms of Australia, and I speak of the Commonwealth of Australia, the last vestige of judicial association with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and one would be lacking in a sense of history not to acknowledge that this is a very great occasion. I mention it not to display any fierce sense of nostalgia. I mention it nevertheless to remind myself and I hope others that this is a very great historic occasion.
When the First Fleet arrived in Australia the common law of England arrived in the country. We sit in a parliament which is the greatest creation of the Anglo-Saxon mind- the parliamentary system- and even though there may be some bold spirits who take the view that the parliamentary institution has no continuing sense of purpose, that it is unresponsive, that it is irrelevant, the fact remains that the parliamentary institution is the greatest creation of the AngloSaxon mind. I mention that to come to what I would regard as being the second greatest creation and that is the common law. The distinguishing feature of the Englishman, no matter where he has gone in this world, has been that he has taken with him the common law of England.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has played a very great role in seeking to explain and to continue the common law of England. This is for all practical purposes a common law country and this Bill we are discussing this evening represents a break with the link that has existed. It is a significant break and it is a break that we should acknowledge. We are driven inexorably to the conclusion that all of the concatenation of political forces in the last generation has taken us step by step steadily, irresistibly towards the stage where this nation must proclaim, establish, identify and, please God, maintain its own national institutions, its own national characteritistics. To say that is not to contend that we should look lightly at our history. It is in keeping with the mood of the nation, it is in keeping with the great gathering of forces in the world that we do seek to assert our own proper sense of nationalism. I for one find it inviting in terms of contemplation to look a century ahead when the United Kingdom may find itself by that time in some Heath Robinson like federation in Europe- a component in a European federation. I find it strange that this country should in that sense be bound legally to a component in that federation. The federation of Europe is a remarkable movement. I do not seek to attack it in any shape or form other than to observe that it produces in terms of the United Kingdom and in terms of this country the most profound and far reaching of political and constitutional changes. This Bill finishes a movement which was begun some 8 years ago by a distinguished colleague of mine, the then honourable and learned member for Parramatta now the Chief Judge in Equity in New South Wales, His Honour Mr Justice Bowen. Speaking in this House in 1967 at the dispatch box, close now to the elbow of my friend the honourable and learned Attorney-General (Mr Enderby), His Honour Justice Bowen in a ministerial statement which was the commencing movement now to be culminated in this Bill said:
Power to limit the matters in which special leave may be granted by the Privy Council is conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament by section 74 of the Constitution. The
Government is of the opinion that this power should be exercised so as to make the High Court the final arbiter in all matters of Federal jurisdiction, that is to say, constitutional questions, matters arising under Commonwealth laws and the various other matters which the Constitution has, in sections 75 and 76, specifically recognised as being appropriate matters to be brought in the High Court.
It is interesting to reflect upon the fact that when the Australian delegation went to the United Kingdom 75 years ago to present to the members of the Imperial Parliament the draft of our Constitution the central point of contention between the Australian delegation and the British authorities surrounded the question of the Privy Council. It was a very great delegation. Great spirits attended it and a great sense of enterprise was in a very real sense the constant companion of those who were there. I hope it would be tolerable on my part to cite the editorial view of a newspaper which has had the longest link with this country- the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. I have not always found myself in happy coincidence of agreement with its editorial views but that for the nonce. When my former learned and distinguished friend Mr Justice Bowen spoke in this Parliament the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of Friday, 8 September 1967 observed:
It is a long time since an Australian Government has deliberately fractured a symbolic bond with the Crown. True, we have moved apart from Britain in other ways: but our leaning to America on defence, to Asia in trade, has been dictated ostensibly by economic and strategic pressures. We have retained the trappings of our British heritage while discarding the bones and sinews. Now perhaps we are to discard the trappings as well.
That editorial was a foresight of this day. This is the last legal trapping to be discarded. For my part, albeit nostalgically but nevertheless purposefully, I see no other course open to this country. I speak of the country in its corporate sense and not in any jingoistic or partisan sense. I speak of this great Commonwealth of Australia.
I have adverted to the fact that when our Constitution was presented 75 years ago this was the point of contention, not by our forebears in this country alone but, indeed, principally by those in the United Kingdom. I am wondering whether it may not be a proper occasion to recall something of the character of the argument, if for no other reason than to acknowledge that the argument did exist and to show that there are those today who care about it and who recognise the tremendous sweep of events that has been upon us and has washed upon our institutions and upon our own political thinking. The Australian delegation, on 23 March 1900, consisted of Edmund Barton, Alfred Deakin, James R. Dickson, C. C. Kingston and P. O. Fysh. They prepared a memorandum which expressed their point of view. It is by no means extinguished in this country and probably is more keenly asserted in this country today than it was 75 years ago. The authors of the memorandum said:
Her Majesty’s Judges, Australian as well as British, will ever be men of conspicuous ability and integrity, whose impartiality will not be prejudiced by their domicile- are not English Appeals heard in the House of Lords?
That was a view put by those 5 members of the delegation. It is a sentiment with which I find myself in handsome agreement today. To those [>eople who may be persuaded that the rule of aw no longer has relevance, who may be invited to succumb to the notion that the courts of law do not represent a bulwark between the caprice of the political practitioner and the liberty of the subject, may I say that that is a notion to which I for my part do not subscribe. I regard the cultivation of proper judicial sentiment as representing the ultimate barrier as far as the liberty of the subject is concerned. I say that without any qualification whatsoever.
But it was one of the principal arguments put by the delegation to which I have just referred that section 74, which is the present section in our Constitution, should be accepted by the British Parliament as it was presented in draft form. British authority had a contrary view. They did not want to see any trammelling of the right of appeal to the Privy Council. They objected to the prospect that this Commonwealth Parliament could legislate to restrict appeal to the Privy Council, and that was the great area of difference between Barton and Deakin and their colleagues and members in the British Parliament. Indeed, the memorandum of objections of Her Majesty’s Government to the draft Bill was returned on 29 March 1900, a few days after the memorandum had been presented by the Australian delegation. It was in fact a week later. The British Government went on to make this observation in reply to an assertion by the Australians regarding delay, confusion and uncertainty if the Privy Council were to be regarded as being at all times, for all practical purposes, the ultimate court of appeal:
To pass this Article -
That is, Article 74 which is now section 74- in its present form would be to introduce confusion and uncertainty in a matter in which it is desirable above all others that there should be clearness and certainty.
The matter did not stop there. The Australian delegation persisted. Its persistence was led notably by Deakin, a most remarkable spirit with not just a sense of history but with a perception regarding the working of the Australian Constitution that I fear that not even the present generations quite understand. Deakin ‘s activities did not meet with the quiet acceptance of Australian authorities. Indeed, the Governor of the then Colony of Queensland, Lord Lamington, sent to Mr Chamberlain in England a cable dated 27 April 1900. 1 mention this just to give an illustration that there is really nothing very new. He sent this cable:
My Government are astonished at attitude of Mr Deakin at Colonial banquet, and they are in favour of inclusion of your amendment re Privy Council in Federation Bill. . . .
Deakin won out and the section as drafted by the Australian delegation survived. That brings us to our present stage. The greatness, the impeccable approach of the Privy Council is, of course, acknowledged by any person who has had anything to do with the law. I believe that one may make that assertion substantially confident that it will not be assailed. Indeed, I remind the House of the views offered by 2 late Justices of the High Court of Australia. Justices Isaacs and Rich in a very celebrated case observed of the Privy Council:
All must gladly and gratefully welcome the opportunity of having the final opinion of that illustrious tribunal . . on all questions of common import. … On all general questions, including even some questions of a constitutional nature having a general import … it must be recognised how much the tribunal has of late years done, and is daily doing, to stabilise and harmonise the fundamental law of the Empire, to find and enforce the basic principles of jurisprudence on which modern civilisation rests, and to assist the development of free institutions in the constitutional units of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
That was a very generous reference to the Privy Council and to its work. But, of course, it is true that once the word of Caesar might have stood against the world: now lies he there, and none so poor to do him reverence The British Empire has faded from the scene and the British Commonwealth of Nations has found for itself a rather strange and a rather unidentifiable role in the history of contemporary world society. But the conspicuous feature of what I have described as the Anglo-Saxon mind is that two great achievements- the parliamentary institution and the common law- remain. It was left, I suppose paradoxically, to a great English judge in a rather whimsical fashion to belittle, although he did it in a kindly way, the Privy Council. The story is attributed to one of the founders of the Australian Constitution, Sir Josiah Symon, that Lord Westbury one day encountered Sir William Earl, the Chief Justice of Common Pleas in London. He said to him: ‘Why is it you do not come and sit with us in the Privy Council?’ to which Sir
William answered: ‘I am old and I am deaf and I am stupid,’ to which Lord Westbury replied: That is nothing. Chelmsford and I are very old, Napier is deaf and Colville is very stupid. Nevertheless we make a very good court of appeal ‘.
This Bill is to be markedly distinguished from another Bill which was offered to be considered cognately. For reasons which I hope become clear later it was a proposal to which on behalf of the Opposition I refused, not out of discourtesy, to respond. This is yet another major step by the Commonwealth of Australia in the march towards complete nationhood. I am sure that no person who has a feel for history and a hope for this nation’s institutions will be unmoved by the occasion. We would at the same time be lacking not merely in a sense of realism but also in a sense of understanding not to acknowledge freely that the High Court of Australia has shown itself to be one of the great courts of this world. No person, no man, no woman, can go before that court fearful that justice will not be done. It is a great court. It has been- I hope it will continue to be- manned by men, and indeed by women, of great accomplishment.
-The Government’s moves to abolish all Australian appeals to the Privy Council should be welcomed warmly on both sides of the House. The tragedy is that we have had to wait for 75 years of Federation for firm, constructive and conclusive action to be taken on this matter to end all Australian court appeals to London. I was interested at the remarks of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) regarding the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ trappings and, in particular, his reference to Deakin. Deakin had other things to say on this controversy over the Privy Council. In his ‘Federal Story’ he recounted the events in London in 1900 when efforts were made to have the Commonwealth Constitution forward appeals to the Privy Council in constitutional cases. These efforts were thwarted by the British Government and some State politicians. Deakin summed up the situation when he said:
The Conservative classes, the legal profession and all people of wealth desired to retain appeals to the Privy Council . . .
Deakin was not, of course, the first to criticise the use of the Privy Council as the ultimate court of appeal from the Australian courts. Even in the early years of the 19th century, long before we had anything like our present court systems, there was evidence that appeals to the Privy Council were of great concern to those who held a responsible view on the working of the law in Australia. As long ago as the second decade of the 19th century in the time of Governor Macquarie the chief law officer in New South Wales, Ellis Bent, complained that even the threat of appeals to the Privy Council could force those with little money to ‘accept terms however unjust ‘ in settling their cases.
Today, when the Privy Council no longer hears appeals in Federal cases- since the Commonwealth legislation of 1968- it is, for the most part, cases dealing with civil actions under State law which go on appeal to the Privy Council. Admittedly, many of these are actions concerning large firms with large funds at their disposal. But how many other cases are there in which litigants do not go on appeal because threats of appeals to the Privy Council can lead their actions to be compromised? How does the accident victim feel about the time involved in an appeal to London while waiting for his damages even though powerful insurance companies are paying the costs? How often is it possible, too, that even relatively large companies are not prepared to risk further legal proceedings after all Australian court proceedings are concluded and an appeal to London is threatened? And this after courts in this country, recognised as amongst the best in the world, have dealt fully with the matter.
Because of the wider recognised status and capacity of our courts it is not surprising too that the Privy Council itself has increasingly acknowledged in recent years that there may well be good reasons for not altering the decisions of Australian courts and particularly the decisions of the High Court of Australia even if the approaches of the British judges might be different. Some months ago it was reported on the Australian Broadcasting Commission that Mr McMahon, the preceding Prime Minister, thought all appeals to the Privy Council in civil cases should be stopped. The report suggested, however, that in some constitutional cases emanating from the States there might still be a case for appeals to the Privy Council. But as the Privy Council showed in the decade or so before appeals in all Commonwealth constitutional cases were stopped, it often preferred to follow judgments of the High Court. How could the position be otherwise when British judges, who have often found it difficult to follow the intricacies of Australian constitutional law, are faced with legal issues based on a system of government which is far from being a mirror of their own?
I refer to a book by Professor Castles titled Australian Legal History’, dealing with the British common law in Australia since 1828. He points out how the continued use of Privy Council appeals has been a factor injecting English judicial decisions into the case law of the Australian States. These decisions must, I would think, often have reflected the social attitudes and ideas of English judges rather than those of our own judges in Australia for, despite the idea that I think many laymen have about the law, there are many students of the law who hold that the social environment in which judges work can often play a role in determining judicial decisions.
Although not openly recognising factors like these, even in the area of private law, as with Australian constitutional law before the abolition of Federal appeals, the Privy Council has begun to show signs of deferring to decisions of the High Court. As Professor Castles points out, the implications of a case such as Australian Consolidated Press v. Uren seemed to point to the ‘development of a unified Austraiian common law, which may, in certain circumstances, be separate and distinct from the common law in other countries, including England’. With developments like these and clear hints of the stature of our own courts, it is hard to concede why there should be any opposition to the final abolition of all appeals to the Privy Council. Distinct and separate development of Australian law is underlined further by the remarks made by the Privy Council in a case of appeal from the High Court of Australia last last year. In that case, namely, Geelong Harbour Trust Commissioners v. Gibbs, Bright and Co.- reported in the Australian Law Journal Reports 1974- the Privy Council refused to disturb the correctness of decisions of the High Court dealing with the statutory liability of ship owners for damage done to harbour property, despite differing possible views that could have been taken in the light of conflicting English decision. Speaking for the Privy Council, Lord Diplock had this to say:
Apart from those factors which are special to the particular field of law in the instant case, there is however a wider consideration which would make their Lordships reluctant to interfere with the decision of the High Court on matter of this kind. If the legal process is to retain the confidence of the nation, the extent to which the High Court exercises its undoubted power not to adhere to a previous decision to its own must be consonant with the consensus of opinion of the public, of the elected legislature and of the judiciary as to the proper balance between the respective roles of the legislature and of the judiciary as law makers. Even among those nations whose legal system derives from the common law of England, this consensus may vary from country to country and from time to time. It may be influenced by the federal or unitary nature of the constitution and whether it is written or unwritten, by the legislative procedure in Parliament, by the ease with which parliamentary time can be found to effect amendments in the law which concern only a small minority of citizens, by the extent to which Parliament has been in the habit of intervening to reverse judicial decisions by legislation; but most of all by the underlying political philosophy of the particular nation as to the appropriate limits of the lawmaking function of a non-elected judiciary.
I emphasise the final words:
The High Court of Australia can best assess the national attitude on matters such as these.
The Privy Council itself, when considering Canadian legislation abolishing appeals to the Privy Council, described the regulation of such appeals as a prime aspect of sovereignty which would be impaired if, at the will of the Canadian citizens, recourse could be had to a tribunal in the constitution of which it had no voice. What was true in Canada in 1947 is surely true of Australia now. Why should there be opposition on the part of any of us here today to the removal of the continued impairment of Australian sovereignty? Australia is one of the few independent countries that has retained any right of appeal to the Privy Council from its own courts. We should follow the Canadian example. It is true that New Zealand is one of the few countries that has retained appeals to the Privy Council, but even that country would probably reconsider its position if we went ahead and abolished all existing rights of appeal.
I draw the attention of honourable members to an article that was published in the London Times’ on 19 January 1973. In that article the legal correspondent of that newspaper mentioned the countries from whose courts appeals still lies to the Privy Council. He also pointed out that some lawyers who practice before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were of the view that those hearing the cases showed little interest in them and rather more often than in other courts exhibited signs of impatience. He went on to state that the privately expressed view of some of the judges themselves was less than enthusiastic about retaining the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in its present role. There is a further point that should be made. In an article published in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ at the time when the Bill was earlier before the House, Professor Castles drew attention to the incongruity of retaining appeals in matters arising in the States when appeals in cases from the Australian Capital Territory and from territorial courts could no longer go to the Privy Council. The article stated:
If the States do not follow the Commonwealth’s lead then conflicts could arise between Privy Council and High Court rulings on legal questions which relate to both State and Federal law. Thus, a High Court decision, for example, dealing with a criminal offence created under federal law could differ from a Privy Council ruling dealing with a similar offence created under State law. Such a situation could complicate the operation of law in this country and militate against the effective administration of justice.
The position is even more clearly illustrated when it is remembered that the High Court can itself have occasion to deal with purely State type cases, applying only State law, in the exercise of what is generally known as diversity jurisdiction of that court, that is, cases involving disputes between residents of different States. Conflicts could then arise between the Privy Council and the High Court on legal questions which relate to the same State laws.
It is made abundantly clear that the States themselves could have acted to clear up this situation, but they have failed to act. It is hardly surprising in the circumstances that the national government finds it necessary to move in a bid to ensure the final abolition of the appeals. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) intimated in his second reading speech that efforts were made as recently as 1973 to seek the co-operation of all the States, but this seems to have been of no avail whatsoever. As far back as 1965, when the Prime Minister raised the question of appeals to the Privy Council in this very House, he was able to point to a number of eminent lawyers, both in practice and at the universities, who supported the abolition of such appeals. That position has not varied. Recently, in a letter dated 20 November 1974 published in the Australian Financial Review’, Mr Edward St John, Q.C., a former member of this House and an acting judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, said in the course of referring to 2 cases decided by the Privy Council on Australian mining and environmental law that the possibility of such appeals still remaining was, in his words, ‘a deplorable anachronism. The sooner we abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council, the better for our national self-respect’. In his view, it was quite inappropriate for the law lords of Her Majesty’s Privy Council sitting in London to determine what was really an Australian land use conflict. Mr Speaker, I wholeheartedly support those remarks.
Continuation of appeals not only appears to impair Australian sovereignty but also inhibits the development in Australia of an integrated judicial system. Whilst there is an outside appeal this is impossible. How can the High Court be a final court of appeal while appeals from State courts to the Privy Council remain? I would suggest that no honourable member with any sense of national pride should be in any doubt that these appeals ought to and should be abolished. This should be acknowledged here and now, and all the parliaments of Austrafia should cooperate in bringing about the abolition of this right of appeal at the earliest possible date. It is not as though the Australian High Court has not been capable of handling all cases emanating from Australia. Whilst perhaps it was arguable at the time of Federation that an Australian superior court could not recruit within Australia men of sufficiently high learning and experience to deal with the more complex cases coming before the court, subsequent events proved that, far from being incapable of providing judges of the highest calibre, Australia has had the good fortune to produce jurists who have shown themselves as world leaders in their field. Men such as Griffiths, Isaacs, Higgins, Evatt, Fullagar, Latham and Dixon would have added lustre to any superior court in Britain or anywhere else, and the frequency with which such men have been quoted in the Privy Council shows how eminent they were.
The Australian federal system creates a great deal of confusion in the minds of jurists outside this country. Only those who have grown up and matured within the system can have any appreciation of how it really works. To suggest that an English, Irish or Scottish judge sitting in the remoteness of London can understand the dichotomy of the Federal-State system is absurd. The utter confusion apparent in the minds of Privy Councillors in the early section 92 cases led, in the estimation of many lawyers, to the appalling difficulties we now have with this unhappy section of the Constitution. The States which say that they still favour appeals have no concrete reasons for their action. Is it that they do not believe that we are in a position to order our own legal affairs or could it be that they wish to complicate, exacerbate and add to the heavy costs of government in this country by using for political purposes the remaining right to Privy Council appeals and so-called advisory opinions by having outside courts deal with issues which should really be the concern of Australians alone?
As far as appeals are concerned, if the States support these still, the onus is surely on them to rebut what Alfred Deakin said at Federation, and I conclude by quoting Deakin ‘s remarks that the conservative classes, the legal profession and all people of wealth’ desire to retain appeals to the Privy Council. I commend both Bills to the House.
-Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House to explain a question of procedure, or more particularly my own dealings with the 2 Bills before the House.
-Is leave granted?
-I raise a point of order first, Mr Speaker.
– No. The honourable member for Moreton is seeking leave. The answer is either yes or no.
– Leave is granted. I understand my friend ‘s embarrassment.
-Mr Speaker, I should be the last one to attempt to deny that I am in error. The speech that I delivered was in support of the wrong Bill. At least this is a palpable demonstration of the fact that I am human, a proposition that I should not be prepared to make quite so gaily about some people with whom I do business. There are 2 Bills before the House, one of which, for the purposes of explanation, I should describe as the short Bill. That is the Bill with which I thought we were dealing- the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Bill. The other one is the long Bill for the abolition of certain appeals from State courts in Australia to the Privy Council. As a consequence of an inexcusable error on my part, I seek the leave of the House to make some observations on the Bill now before the House.
-The honourable member for Moreton has already obtained the leave of the House.
– I am indebted to my honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General for his assistance and for the quite unconcealed way in which he has not sought to exacerbate the embarrassment which I know he feels.
-I would suggest that a time limit should be put on the speech. What do you suggest, Mr Attorney-General?
– I am only aware that there are other honourable members wanting to speak in the debate, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable member for Moreton is allowed to speak for half an hour.
-I suggest, Mr Speaker, that my honourable friend should confine himself to speaking for 15 minutes as there are other honourable members on his side of the House who wish to participate in the debate.
– I would like to think that in nearly 20 years as a member of this House I have not been a bore.
-The honourable member for Moreton is allowed to speak for half an hour.
-I will not transgress the patience of this House. If I do that I hope that I will have earned my state funeral. This Bill seeks to resort to one of the most unusual or- probably better expressed- one of the most unknown aspects of the Australian political and legislative process, that is, the Statute of Westminster. This Bill seeks to have recourse to section 4 of the Statute of Westminster to request the Imperial Parliament to pass legislation with respect to Australia. If any person had ventured the view that the Australian Constitution could be altered other than by referendum and other than by the State Parliaments voting to concede power to the Commonwealth, I suppose the response would have been one of astonishment, but the truth is that the Statute of Westminster offers another way of altering our Constitution. When it was ratified in this Parliament in October 1942 the Honourable Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, sitting where the present Attorney-General now sits and then occupying that high office, adverted to the Statute of Westminster and to several provisions in it. For the sake of convenience they are happily recorded in an article written by a gentleman whose initials are D.J.K. The fact that they happen to stand for Denis James Killen is a matter of no great consequence. The article was published in the ‘Bulletin’.
– It is good to know that the honourable member is still human.
-Yes. I hope that the position will never be disturbed. The article was published in the ‘Bulletin’ on 5 January 1955. The final paragraph, written in vigorous terms of partisanship, as one would expect of a callow youth in those days, concluded with this sentiment?
Nothing is very certain about the Statute of Westminster. Indeed the only certainty about it is its uncertainty. Its full implications and possibilities remain perilously unexplored. It is, as Lord Jowitt described it, ‘a Statute of stupendous constitutional importance’. Above all, there remains a clear need for determining whether a Socialist Government of the Ward variety in Australia could connive with a Socialist Government of the Aneurin Bevan variety in the United Kingdom to use the Statute of Westminster to smash the Australian Federalist system and erect a Socialist State in its stead.
– How old were you then?
– It was written in the same year, I must confess, as I started on the path which has irritated my friend ‘s Party ever since. I came into the Parliament in that year. I admit to the fact that I have modified one or two of my views. It is a continuing regret for me that the honourable and learned gentleman has been incapable of modifying some of his. In that article I referred to a speech given in this House from the dispatch box opposite by Dr Evatt dealing with the request and consent provision in the Statute of Westminster which is being used or sought to be used by the Government, led by my friend the honourable and learned member for Werriwa and Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Dr Evatt said:
Yesterday I received from the Premier of Victoria a letter in which he again suggested that there should be inserted not in the section (i.e., section 4) -
That is the section upon which this Bill rests- but in the preamble, a provision to the effect that it would not be in accordance with practice that the Commonwealth should make such a request, unless the matter were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
Dr Evatt went on to conclude:
Of course, I do not think that the House should adopt such a formula. Our right to request should not be limited to matters within our exclusive jurisdiction, but to matters within our jurisdiction.
Plainly Dr Evatt apprehended the fact that the requesting power in the Statute of Westminster could be used in quite a spectacular fashion and he was there echoing the views put 6 years prior to that by one of the greatest lawyers this country has ever known, the late Sir Owen Dixon. Sir Owen Dixon, then Mr Justice Dixon, spoke on this subject at the law conference in Australia in 193 1. 1 cite volume 10 of Australian Law Journal at page 96. He spoke of this requesting power in the Statute of Westminster- I know that this is not the sort of argument to excite rapt attention throughout the country; nevertheless it is a very important position as far as the States are concernedat page 100 as follows:
A danger to the States for which the Statute of Westminster does not provide is that the British Parliament should come to conceive it to be its duty to pass any enactment affecting only Australia, if it is requested to do so by the Commonwealth Government and Parliament. If it should develop such a conception of its obligations to the Dominions, a new means of overcoming constitutional restrictions would then be open to the Commonwealth.
The proposition I put to my friend the AttorneyGeneral and to the Prime Minister is a short one. It is this: If it is within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament to request by means of section 4 of the Statute of Westminster the passing of an Act of Parliament cutting off the right of State supreme courts to appeal to the Privy Council is it not within the competence of any Commonwealth Parliament to make a similar request for a different purpose- in other words, a vindication of the view put by myself in January 1955? Would the Attorney-General, for example, be attracted to a proposition to ask of the British Parliament to pass an Act that the requesting power in the Statute of Westminster should never again be resorted to by a Commonwealth Parliament? I submit that that would put the ultimate test to both honourable and learned gentlemen. Why do they not do that and thereby remove the anxiety and the sense of apprehension that some people have that this may open yet a new way of changing the Constitution of this country. The Government should not for one moment suggest that it is not doing it by this means because it is doing it by this means. The requesting power has already been used on 2 occasions by this Parliament. Two Acts have been passed by the British Parliament. I cite the Acts, acknowledging the fact that both of them relate by contrast with this to matters of no overwhelming moment. I cite the Christmas Island Requesting Act of May 1958, a United Kingdom Act which says in the preamble:
And whereas the Parliament and Government of the Commonwealth of Australia have requested and consented to the enactment of this Act:
In regard to the Cocos Islands Act which was passed 3 years prior to that in 1955, there was a similar provision relating to a request and consent being made by this Parliament. The point I make is a very short one. I share the view expressed by the Prime Minister on many occasions that it is proper for this nation to develop its own institutions and to maintain them. I agree completely and utterly with that. I understand his sense of resentment that a nation outside Australia should seek to direct, albeit judicially, the affairs of this nation. I share that view. But I would invite the honourable gentleman’s attention to the fact that all of the components in the Australian federation, all of the States, remain legally tied to the United Kingdom, notwithstanding the Statute of Westminster. I will give a few illustrations of that assertion.
There is the Colonial Laws Validity Act. No State parliament can pass legislation which is repugnant to laws which may be applicable to the State at the time of the coming into being of the States- when they moved from the metamorphosis, from colonial status to the status of States. There is the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction Act which still appiles to all the States, the Merchant Shipping Act, the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, the Admiralty Offences Act and the Australian States Constitution Act. The salary of no Governor in Australia can be altered without the legislation relating to that being reserved for Her Majesty’s pleasure. The Constitutions of the States cannot be altered without the relevant Bill being reserved for Her Majesty’s pleasure. I am submitting to the Prime Minister and to his Government that there is a clear need for something in the nature of a Statute of Westminster to apply to the States.
It is a matter of historical record that the States of Australia, during the passage of the statute of Westminster, did not seek to avail themselves as did the provinces of Canada of the provisions of the Statute of Wesminster. We have the incredible situation today where the States are still legally tied to the United Kingdom in a great variety of ways. The States were not the creation of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom created colonies which were transformed to States when the federation was established. But their links with the United Kingdom are firm, clear and direct. I share the sentiment that something should be done about that. I am encouraged by the views of Dr Darrell Lumb who is one of the finest academics in Australia. I hope that is not merely because of the prejudice of admiration and friendship that I express that sentiment, but Dr Lumb, in one of his works, The Constitutions of the Australian States’, at page 106 observed:
It is clear that the time is ripe for the repeal of the Colonial Laws Validity Act in respect of the Australian States and for the extension to them of the ‘Autonomy’ provisions of the Statute of Westminster, so as to give them full legislative power commensurate with their responsibilties as component parts of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Prime Minister, speaking on this measure when it was before the House last year, made this observation:
It is impossible for this Parliament or for the State Parliaments, by legislation, to abolish appeals from the State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council. This is because the Australian States opted out of the Statute of Westminster. The Australian States are still British colonies.
That, with respect, is very true. The Prime Minister continued:
If they wanted to abolish appeals from their Supreme Courts to the Privy Council they would have to ask the British Parliament to repeal the Judicial Committee Appeals Acts of 1833 and 1844.
I agree with that assertion, but even it if were done, the matter would not be finished. The States still have their various links with the United Kingdom, notably the Colonial Laws Validity Act and the Australian States Constitution Act. They are the 2 principal Acts that continue to bind the States to the United Kingdom. It is because of a reflection upon those facts that the Opposition has been driven to the conclusion that this is an inappropriate way of seeking to correct what some people would regard as an anomaly and what others would regard as an anachronism. We invite the Government to persuade the States to have recourse to the United Kingdom, for the United Kingdam Parliament to pass legislation to change their status which is long overdue for change.
One may give final point to the submission by arguing in this fashion: Assuming that this measure is passed and that the United Kingdom Parliament consents to it, it does not disturb the fundamental principle that the Austraiian States still cannot continue to pass legislation which is fundamentally repugnant to the laws of England. I am sure that the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister would acknowledge that this is an unsatisfactory way to seek to assert national independence and to seek to encourage an acceptance of national institutions. I thank the Attorney-General and I thank the House for the indulgence which he and the House have shown to me. I apologise for the fact that I have probably taken a few minutes longer than I properly should have done. I have sought to explain to the House the situation as I see it. It is a situation to be described as one of confusion; it is a situation which, in my respectful opinion, will not be rescued by this measure.
– I should like to endorse the remarks which have been made by my colleague the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) with respect to the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Act. There is a consensus on our side of the Parliament with the view expressed in general by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that the time has come in the evolution of our society when there is reason for us to move from a dependence upon that sole remnant of our colonial days- the right of appeal to the Privy Council. However, I trunk it is also necessary that the members of this House, and the people of Australia, should be made cognisant of a number of factors that pertain to this piece of legislation. If one could refer to the whole arena of change in the last 2 years- far be it for one to be political in a legal debate -
– That is unusual for you.
– The honourable member is right; it would be unusual for me not to be political. There has been a very real concern about the degree to which centralism or federalism can be used as the most meaningful basis upon which Austrafia can best be governed. It is a form of interpretation which in the hands of the present Government has been seen by the State governments as not only pertaining to the exercise of financial responsibility but also going to the very degree to which they will retain any policy initiating ability whatsoever.
For that reason I think it is important that we recognise that when there was a conference convened to review the Australian Constitution it was on the initiation of the States. The States felt very strongly that they were inhibited under the present financial constraints exercised by the Commonwealth and suggested that it would be desirable for a convention to be held to look at the provisions of the Australian Constitution. Both sides of this House accepted the concept of a constitutional convention. We were then in government, but it was under this Labor Government that the Constitutional Convention was initiated. The Convention provided an opportunity to ensure that the Constitution itself might be changed.
The degree to which there was co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in determining changes within the Constitution was dependent very considerably upon the success of that Convention It is now history that the Government has successively initiated a number of referenda which have been defeated by the Australian electorate and which sought, without the consent of the States, to change the Australian Constitution. Each of those referenda was in areas which were raised or at least discussed in the context either of that Convention or of the committees associated with it. The result was that the States, not unnaturally, felt that this Government was not the slightest bit interested in changing the Constitution other than in those areas which suited it and particularly in those areas which restricted the degree of sovereignty of the States.
It is true that there is an area for philosophical discussion whether or not the centralist administration of power or federalist administration of power is in the best interests of the Australian people. It is my strong view, a view which is shared by all members on this side of the House, that the distribution of power among the people of Australia and the exercise of that power among the people is better implemented by a federal system which extends through the threetier system of Government- local government, State government and federal government. For that reason we strongly supported and still support the concept of constitutional change by a constitutional convention. The prediction by the then Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, that the Constitutional Convention might result in a monumental flop regrettably and tragically has come to pass as the product of this Labor Government being prepared to assert its interpretation of what should be the changes in the Constitution without reference to the Australian people and without their consent.
When we look at a piece of legislation such as this I think, first of all, we need to realise that the States, not unnaturally, today are very loath to pass to this Government any powers pertaining to the settlement of residual sovereignty by the States. This can be determined through the exercise of the ultimate interpretation of the law which for the time being is protected under the Constitution but which, as a result of this legislation, would henceforth be denied the States. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that section 73 of our Constitution provides: no exception or regulation prescribed by the Parliament shall prevent the High Court from hearing and determining any appeal from the Supreme Court of a State in any matter in which at the establishment of the Commonwealth an appeal lies from such Supreme Court to the Queen in Council.
So there was a provision for the hearing of appeals from the supreme courts. But there was also a specific retention of the opportunity for the Privy Council, being the ultimate court of appeal from the supreme courts of the States prior to the constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, to be retained as an ultimate court of appeal from those State courts. It is hardly to be expected that States, at this stage, would be prepared to give this Government that final sanctuary through the High Court; that is, that the High Court would be the ultimate determinant of the laws of this country. For all the references made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his second reading speech to a number of instances where he suggests the States might not be justified in having suggested the opinion of the Privy Council, I think there are 2 matters to be determined: One is the essence of whether or not in a particular case the States were justified and, secondly, whether or not they should have the right. I do not wish to argue the merits of the former but I am afraid I would come out very much on the side of the interpretation by the Premiers, rather than the Prime Minister of that aspect.
– That is logical.
Mr SINCLAIR You are right. But with regard to the second point, it is certainly true that it is necessary at a time when there is a suspicion by the States as to the intentions of this Government in the application and creation of laws as well as in the constitution of the High Court, that they should not be prepared to accept that the High Court should be the ultimate determinant of any of the laws that they might pass and that they should forgo the right of ultimate appeal to the Privy Council. As far as CommonwealthState matters are concerned, I think this matter needs to be seen in the light of the recent appointment of Mr Justice Murphy and in the light of the continued suspicion- a natural and justified suspicion- by the States of the abuse and exercise of centralised power by this Government. For that reason this Bill needs to be seen as one which would be repugnant to the preservation of a federal system, considering the degree to which this Government has been prepared to abuse that system and to move in a philosophic concept so diametrically opposed to that of the States and to those of us who believe in a federal system of Government.
The second point which makes me concerned about this Bill- this is the reason why I support my honourable and learned friend, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), in his opposition to this Bill- is my worry about the degree to which I see this Bill as a device to change the Australian Constitution, not by recognised procedures that are set down within the Constitution but by a procedure on which there has been comment and which has been, at least to date, not regarded as being an acceptable procedure by an Australian government. Having said that, let me say that I completely support the philosophic objective that the High Court should be the ultimate court of appeal from all decisions made within the Australian legal system.
– You just sabotaged the whole idea.
-I did not. I said that, as far as the preservation of the federal system is concerned, I can understand the States being worried that this Government would abuse the powers that might be given to the High Court, were this Bill to be passed. I can understand and sympathise with them in their concern that the High Court might well be stacked. I can understand and sympathise that they would not be prepared to give a government of Labor persuasion the right to pass from themselves the ultimate right of appeal to the Privy Council. Therefore, I believe that there is a recognition- a necessary recognition- by sane and sensible federalists in this country of the State point of view.
Having said that, I am asserting my own point of view, which is that I believe it necessary that we progressively accept that there has been a change since this Constitution was adopted and that, today, there is justification in the High Court being the ultimate body to determine all matters pertaining to the legal system within this country and the interpretation of laws which might be passed by any government within Australia. For that reason, I am concerned at the degree to which the Constitution itself is being avoided and the Statute of Westminister pursued in order to seek that constitutional change. In other words, accepting that the right of appeal to the Privy Council should no longer be preserved, I am concerned at the manner in which this Government seeks to change that principle. I believe that it is true that, within the Constitution, we should take cognisance of placitum (xxxvii) of section 51, being the reference of powers placitum, and section 128, that being the other manner within which there can be constitutional change within the Constitution, and determine the degree to which we see that as the fundamental basis by which the Constitution should be changed. Section 128 contains provisions for altering the Constitution by referendum. Earlier this evening the House considered a proposal for a referendum similar to the one which was thrown out nearly 7 months ago in the early days of the Labor Government. So section 128 and section 51 (xxxvii) provide the basic forms for alteration of the Constitution laid down by our forebears- those who agreed to this Federal Constitution. The Constitutional Convention did not suggest that those forms were unexceptional even to the present Government.
Yet we find tonight that through this piece of legislation the Government seeks to avoid those 2 prescribed and acceptable forms for changing the Constitution by reference back to section 4 of the Statute of Westminster of 1931. That section is the form by which there can be an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, designed with the request and consent of the Australian Parliament to enact legislation, which can specifically change the provisions which are now the ultimate sanctuary of the rights of the individual in this country- the sanctuary provided by the Australian Constitution. Honourable members on this side of the House are concerned that the Federal Government is exercising in this piece of legislation a device, which we regard as totally repugnant, in order to achieve a fact which we do not see as unacceptable. In other words, having said that we believe the time has come when there should be an ultimate acceptance of the High Court by all the governments and parliaments of this country, we do not believe it appropriate for this Government to act, as it has acted in so many other areas, in complete disregard of the rights and privileges of the States. Rather we believe it should act in cooperation with them.
If this Government wished to introduce the High Court as being the ultimate court of appeal it was open for it to achieve that end through consultation and co-operation within that Constitutional Convention. It is not open to it to pursue the exceptions to changing the Constitution which the Statute of Westminster provides.
Therefore we regard it as totally repugnant that this piece of legislation should have a schedule attached to it and a section 7 included in it which in typically menial colonial terms consents to and requests the Parliament of the United Kingdom to pass an Act in accordance with terms set out in that schedule.
It seems to me quite paradoxial indeed that the Prime Minister and members of the Governmentwho have asserted their independence of the United Kingdom, who have suggested that in some way we on this side of the House were acting against the best interests of the Australian community in maintaining defence ties and close and meaningful ties in so many other forms with the United Kingdom and with other countries of the Western world, and who have denied the right and the meaningfulness of those associationsshould introduce into this Parliament and seek our approval of a piece of legislation which is so reminiscent of the days of the complete colonial subservience of this country to the Government of Westminster. It seems to me quite strange that in such an anomalous fashion we should tonight be considering such an anachronistic form for changing the Constitution. The opposition believes that if there is to be any change it should be within the terms provided in the Constitution itself. I would like to add my support to the request made of the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) by the honourable member for Moreton that, if he is genuine in his belief that the Constitution should be the ultimate sanctuary for laws within this Parliament, perhaps it is the time, if there is to be any request of the Parliament of Westminster, to ask for the repeal of that section to which I have just referred.
I had not intended to speak for as long as I have done. I make the final point that it is also rather strange that only last Tuesday in this Parliament the Prime Minister, in his statement to the House, made a comment pertaining to the International Court of Justice. He said:
Honourable members should know that I took advantage of my visit to The Hague- the city in which the International Court of Justice is based- to refer our warm support for the principles and objectives of the International Court and to give greater attention to the Court as an instrument for world peace and harmony. I urged that the Court’s jurisdiction should be made compulsory and universal. Honourable members will know that it has been the practice of most countries, including Australia, to accept the Court’s jurisdiction only with reservations or with the exclusion of certain categories of dispute. I take this opportunity to inform the House that, as an earnest of our respect for the Court, Australia proposes to forgo her existing reservations and, in any dispute which we litigate before the Court, to accept its judgment unreservedly.
So much for the independence which he seeks from courts outside Australia; so much for his severing of the old ties of the Commonwealth; and so much for his assertion that really he is not severing his connections with the United Kingdom but is re-establishing them. Indeed what he is doing in this legislation- by a subterfuge which avoids the Constitution- is severing the tie which the States preserve in order that they may retain some residual “sovereignty. Yet in his statement the other day he asserted our subservience to an international court which, regrettably, is not in a position to require that its judgments and decisions be enforced around the world- an international court the status of which we must respect; an international court whose decisions we would all hope would be followed. Yet how little it seems to fit with the assertion of independence which the Prime Minister has stated is necessary in his reference to us of this Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill.
I find it rather strange, indeed irreconcilable, that we should on the one hand accept the jurisdiction of the International Court and on the other hand say to the States which are fighting hard to preserve their independence: ‘You cannot have the ultimate right Of appeal to the Privy Council.’ That just does ‘not gel. For those 3 reasons- the fact that the States have a right and responsibility to maintain their independence to the maximum; the degree to which this Bill seeks through reference to the Statute of Westminster and not by the forms provided in the Constitution to change the Constitution itself; and the fact that the Prime Minister only the other day stated that Australia accepts without reservation the judgments of the International Court- this Bill should be totally rejected. On behalf of honourable members on this’ side of the House I will certainly follow that ourse of action.
– This debate, began with the suggestion by the Government that 2 Bills be dealt with in a cognate debate. I remind honourable members that we are now discussing the first of them, notwithstanding the amusing incident which occurred when the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) delivered his speech believing that he was speaking to the second one. An innocent error has now introduced a cognate debate in spirit if not in fact, although I appreciate that the Opposition did not want to have a cognate debate, It is impossible now to separate the Bills. For the purposes of this speech I will deal with them on that basis.
The facts are pretty simple. The first BDI seeks to make the High Court of Australia the final place of appeal from courts other than the High Court In other words, within the hierarchy of courts in Australia- whether they be State or Federal courts-the Bill seeks to say that it is time Australia grew up or, rather, it having grown up, it is time we put the seal of approval of formality on its having grown up. Appeals which normally would go to a State supreme court and then perhaps to the Privy Council will now go to our own High Court which is universally recognised as one of the finest High Courts in the common law world. I understand that there is opposition to that proposition from the Liberal and Country Parties. The proposal contained in the second Bill, which appears to be supported by the Liberal and Country Party spokesmen, is that appeals that go to our High Court from the State Supreme courts should not go beyond the High Court; they should stop there. Surely there is an incredible inconsistency in these 2 points of view. The point of view is put that litigants who go through the State system of courts to our own High Court cannot then go to the Privy Council. That having been said, the argument is then put that those litigants who go to the State supreme courts should then be able to bypass our own High Court and go straight to the Privy Council. I suggest that such an argument is absurd and anachronistic and works to the great disadvantage of Australians generally in their march to future adulthood in the international community.
The honourable member for Moreton who led the debate for the Liberal Party is respected by everyone in this House. No one respects him more than I do. He put forward, in the speech he gave in error, some magnificent sentiments- sentiments that we all applaud. He regretted the passing, the severance- the cutting of the nexus, if one likes to put it that way in an historical sense, with the British source of our common law. Indeed, the honourable member, notwithstanding that he sits on the Opposition benches, does have a strong sense of history, a strong sense of the way historical ties have been formulated. He is honest and frank enough to admit that the legislation before us is the way of the future; this is where we are going. As a matter of fact, some small steps were taken in this direction by Mr Justice Bowen in 1968 when he was the Attorney-General.
But everything the honourable member for Moreton said applauding the High Court everything he said applauding the genius of the common law, everything he said applauding the innate genius of the parliamentary system is equally applicable to the Privy Council Appeals
Abolition Bill- the one that he now opposes only on the ground of the way that this Government has chosen to go about what the legislation proposes. Even there I detect a slight sense of: ‘Well, I am being put up to this’ or ‘I will do it but my heart is not really in it.’ Looking at the honourable member as a man whom all honourable members respect, I say that I believe he is being used in this regard. I believe that his talents and his oratorial powers are being used, because behind him we heard the real force of the Opposition’s stand on this matter by the speaker from his side of the House who followed him.
When the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Sinclair) stood up we saw the real mailed fist of the Opposition’s argument. We heard a few passing words that the Opposition applauded the idea that the High Court should be the final court of appeal for Australian litigants. But not much time was spent on this aspect of the legislation. Most of the time was taken up in giving reasons why the legislation should not be passed. Where have we heard this before? The Whitlam Labor Government tries as hard as it knows how to bring the Constitution into line with modern conditions. More often than not our motives are applauded by members of the Opposition but they give one reason or another to confuse the issue and say: ‘Ah, it should not be done that way; do it another way’. We heard beautiful examples of this given by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party. The honourable member said: ‘Try the reference powers; ask the States to give it up’. Let the honourable member try asking the States to give up this power that they have in the interests of Australians generally and see how far he will get. It has been tried. We write letters to the States and we do not even get an answer. We sit down with the Premiers. But the honourable member knows how far one can get with the leaders of some of the States.
Reference has also been made to the referendum power. Here in confidence some leaders and some spokesmen from the Liberal and Country Parties on the Opposition benches will say: ‘Of course, the Constitution needs to be changed by referendum’. But they are speaking only of matters relating to their own power base, whatever they might be. Let this Labor. Government seek to put up a proposition to the people and see how vigorously the Opposition opposes the right of the Government even to let the people vote on it. Was this not the tenor of the opposition of honourable members opposite before the suspension of the sitting for tea? Was this not the tenor of their opposition back in April and May when we tried to put a number of propositions through this Parliament on which we wanted to seek the guidance and the opinion of the Australian people? Did honourable members opposite oppose those propositions for one reason after another until their ingenuity ran out on them? But then honourable members opposite sit down and say: ‘Oh, do not use the request and consent power; do not use that. Oh no, that might mean changing the Constitution in some way. Do it in some other way. ‘ Of course the list is running out all the time. That is why I interjected during the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party to say that he spoke with 2 voices. The honourable member says- and no one can really argue otherwise if he is honestthat the High Court today must be the final court of appeal. But everything that the honourable member says after that is a sabotage, a design intended to confuse people and frighten people. He uses cliches, extravagance and exaggeration.
Finally he talked about the Constitutional Convention. We are trying that, too. But just how much success are we having with this avenue at the moment? Notwithstanding what has happened in this regard, we will keep on trying. To those honourable members like the honourable member for Moreton who did bring honesty to this debate, let me say this: If honourable members have legal reservations- and all lawyers do have legal reservations about any way of achieving reform- no doubt the honourable member and I would not present a case to a court in the same way without disagreeing as to how it should be presented- let the court decide. If honourable members approve of what we are trying to do and are honest enough to say that there is a better legal way of doing it, even if what we are proposing is invalid, this legislation should be passed because there will be an opportunity for it to be challenged. We know that the States will challenge it Then it will go to our High Court for determination. Is not that a proper way? Is not that what the High Court is for. Let us resolve this matter in that way.
I come back to the main theme, namely, that there is a genius in the common law; there is a genius in the Westminster parliamentary system. Let us examine what honourable members opposite want to do. If they want to maintain the common law in Australia there has to be a court laying it down and adjudicating on disputes that are brought before it, using the flexibility and the traditions of common law just as has happened in Britain with the House of Lords and all the superior courts of that country. That is how the common law grew up. The British common law that we inherited did not grow up by means of a system whereby a superior c court, a court of final appeal, existed in, say, Eskimo land or somewhere like that by which British litigants could bypass their own High Court of appeal and go to Eskimo land. How do honourable members opposite think the common law would have developed if that had been the historical experience of the British people. That is what they continually insist should be the position in Australia. If we take this matter a little further, it is a -
– That is an incorrect argument and you know it.
– It is a perfect analogy. If the High Court is the High Court as we know it to be, and it is universally applauded as possessing some of the finest legal minds in the common law world -
– It was.
– Well, it is. If that is accepted, how can it determine and develop a comprehensive and cohesive body of common law in Australia if litigants for their own personal selfish reasons are able to bypass it and go off to another court which sits in England and which increasingly becomes more exposed to the influences that now exist in that part of the world.
We aU know- at least the honourable member for Moreton and the other lawyers present know- that as England moves closer and closer to Europe and the European Economic Community it becomes more and more subject to European styles of law and European ways of legal thinking. I am not criticising the systems of France, Germany, Sweden or Italy in saying that. But there can be little doubt that the British law and its superior courts are undergoing great periods of change as they accommodate themselves to other systems of law in their part of the world. That is where their immediate future lies.
The terrible weakness of the Opposition’s argument is its advocacy of the practice that all litigants who have a cause in an Australian State court may then, if they think it best, or if the counsel wants a free trip to London paid for by the client- we know that plays a part in the thing too- bypass the High Court and go over to this other court in England which is increasingly interested not in what is happening in Australia but rather in what is happening in Europe. One will never get a flowering of the common law in Australia if we syphon off perhaps one-half or perhaps two-thirds- I do not know what the figures suggest- of the cases that go to appellate courts here from our own High Court to a court overseas that is increasingly not interested. Reality tells us that it i? not interested. Those of us who have looked at the constitutional situationit does not really become relevant hereknow that when the Privy Council used to consider section 92 cases it openly confessed: ‘What do we know about section 92. The High Court of Australia knows all about that. It virtually wrote the textbooks on section 92. What do we know about it’.
The statutes which are enacted here on matters of hire purchase, company law, criminal law, custody law and family law, if the Bill goes through in its present form, are legislative trends miles apart in many ways from the legislative trends in the United Kingdom. The degree of expertise, the degree of judicial competence surely cannot be stretched so far as to say to British judges, no matter how good they might be and they are good: ‘Look, in addition to your own tasks in the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom you have to look after a significant number of appeals from Australia too’. They do not want it. We know they do not want it. Anyone who talks to them in private knows they do not want it and even in public the record is clear, but my point is that if the common law is to maintain its genius, its flexibility and its ability to cope with change it has to be in the hands of a court that sits in the country in which the people subject to that law live. You cannot have another court increasingly remote trying to lay down a single set of common law principles for a country on the other side of the world. This would fragment the whole thing.
I could go on in this vein, but the main point is that behind every proposal that the Opposition speakers have put up there is sophistry. No one seeks to oppose the principle in the legislation. No one says: ‘Look, the High Court should not do this sort of tiling’. All that honourable members opposite say is that we should try to find another way of doing it, but behind their argument, as I have suggested, is some kind of innate conservatism that says State governments have State courts. That is true but the twist comes when, as the honourable member for Moreton, I think it was, said that the States are still in one sense colonies of the British Crown. If State politics require some State politicians to go over to the United Kingdom and say, ‘Look, I want to preserve some link with you even if it means degrading me in the eyes of Australians generally by relying on some colonial link, some link that is based on subservience, some link that puts me in the position of colonial as against metropolitan power’ there is and there must be a wider social interest involved otherwise this country can never advance and put the seal of adulthood on its affairs. All honourable members opposite pay lip service to this principle but basically they all sabotage it by finding one reason or another why it cannot or should not be done.
Experience over the last 25 years has by and large been that when honourable members opposite were in office they did not even pay lip service to the ideals. For 23 years they did not even speak these words. When we came into office and we began to say these are the things to be done, honourable members opposite then said of course’ but really they did not want them to be done. The proof of the pudding is in the eating because they never did these things themselves in 23 years. Basically they feel that the people want these things to be done but whatever it is in their own position as politicians or whoever they represent, they do not want to do it and they come out with these specious legal argumentsand very specious legal arguments- for it not being done.
The honourable member for Moreton shrugs and he feels hurt. I do not blame him for being hurt. He looks hurt; he should be hurt because I repeat to him that he is being used. He is a person with an obvious sense of history. He spoke about the nostalgia, the great common law, the future, the proper role of the High Court but then he allowed himself to put up arguments once again, as so often has happened in this House over the last two or so years, why something should not be done, why this is not the time or why this is not the way. When an alternative way is put up the honourable member shifts his ground and makes a different suggestion, but in the less sophisticated argument of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), we saw the true position, the true reasons for the opposition and it is, as I have tried to suggest, that there are priveleges to be gained still in certain areas of Australian politics, privileges that in part are furthered and advanced by retaining this colonial link in the way I have tried to describe. That link should be broken because we are one nation. It does not have to be called centralism; it can be called federalism in 1975 because in that sense I am a federalist.
If the Opposition succeeds in defeating the legislation it will defeat the very thing which the honourable member for Moreton talks about with such praise and that is the flowering and the further advancement of the common law and the parliamentary system because they will be fragmented and they will be denied the opportunity to be determined here in Australia by our own High Court which is universally acclaimed as perhaps the finest common law court in the world.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion ( by Mr James ) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. J. F. Cope)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 1 February on motion by Mr Whitlam:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-During the debate on the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill, which has just concluded, a considerable amount of time was devoted to a historical consideration of the circumstances which brought the Government to the decision it made to introduce that Bill and also the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Bill that we are now debating. Notwithstanding the force of the arguments the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) used when he closed the debate on the last Billthat there were very strong legal reasons as to why all appeals to the Privy Council, either from the High Court or from other courts within Australia should be abolished- the plain fact of the matter is that the considerations which have brought the Government to the decision it made in respect to both Bills and which, in respect of this Bill we are presently debating, produce total support from the Opposition, are considerations of a political nature.
The view is now taken by the great majority of Australian citizens that it is no longer consonant with the independent status of Australia as a nation that there should be any resort to courts outside Australia in adjudicating on legal disputes that arise within Australia. That, in crystal clear terms, is the proposition that the House is considering. It is for that reason that we give our support to the proposal of the government to complete the final step in the process that was initiated in 1968 by the then Liberal-Country Party Government to end appeals to the Privy Council from the High Court of Australia.
This measure, which is extremely short has our full support. As distinct from the steps which have been employed to bring about- so that the Government hopes- the abolition of appeals from State courts to the Privy Council, the process which the Government has employed on this occasion is correct and constitutional. It is wholly consonant with the compact that was made between the Australian States when Federation occurred in 1901. When that Federation occurred a balance- at times we have seen historically an extremely delicate balance- of power was established between the new Federal Government and the various State governments of the Australian Commonwealth. Implicit in that compact that was made between the Australian Colonies, as they then were when they federated to form Australia, was the surrender for all time by the 6 colonies of Australia of any claim that they might have to sovereign rights in the world community. In return there was an implicit understanding, written as far as possible into the Constitution of Australia, that in no circumstances would that delicate balance of power between the Federal government and the State governments be disturbed except by the consent not only of the majority of the Australian people but also by the consent of the majority of the States which formed that Federation and entered into that compact. Whereas the Government in introducing the Bill that we are now debating has observed not only the letter but also the spirit of that compact that was entered into in 1901, it has with equal force disregarded the spirit and letter of that compact in respect of the method it employed in trying to abolish Privy Council appeals in the Bill that we have just debated.
Included in the constitutional history of Australia is not only the Act of the Imperial Parliament which became our Constitution but also the document known as the Statute of Westminster. I think it is relevant to a consideration of the Bill that we are now debating to recall the circumstances that led up to the enactment of the Statute of Westminster. I do not accept the proposition advanced by the Attorney-General in the earlier debate, that the Statute of Westminsterhis speech implied it- conferred some new method of altering the Australian Constitution on the Imperial Parliament. At no stage during the Federation debates was it ever intended that the Constitution of Australia should be altered in any way other than by the referendum procedure laid down in the Constitution and which we all understand so very wen. So far from section 4 of the Statute of Westminster delineating a new method of altering the Constitution of Australia the purpose of that section was to put to rest the fears that the then dominion governments had that the British Parliament might not have surrendered for aU time the right it had hitherto asserted to pass laws which had application to Australia and the other constituent parts of the then British Commonwealth.
It has been argued in aid of the Government’s moves in respect of abolition of appeals from State courts that this section historically was put in to provide another device for altering the Constitution. I suggest that it does violence to our constitutional history and to our understanding of the circumstances which produced the Statute of Westminster and, most importantly of aU, it does violence to the very thing that the Government has so often tried to assert since it came to government- to try to alter the Australian Constitution by any method other than that described in that document.
I fully share the sentiments- some of them of nostalgia- which were expressed by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) in his speech on the second reading debate of the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill earlier this evening. I cannot understand the proposition that was advanced by the Attorney-General in his remarks when he argued that it was necessary for the flowering of the common law in Australia to end for aU time appeals to the Privy Council. I do not think the flowering of the common law in Australia has in any way been hampered or hindered by resort to appeal to the Privy Council. I think by common consent most people would argue that the common law in Australia is in an extremely healthy state. We have heard speakers from both sides of the House argue with tremendous force just how good is the High Court of Australia and just what a contribution to the common law world the High Court of Australia has made. Therefore I find it rather strange for the Attorney-General to suggest that in order to make the common law of Australia flower properly it is necessary to abolish appeals to the Privy Council.
I do not believe that the health of the legal system in Australia will be tremendously improved or, for that matter, tremendously restricted or hampered by the final abolition of appeals to the Privy Council. So let us have an honest confrontation of the issues that are involved in this debate. It is not a legal debate; it is a debate about the states of Australia in the world of 1975. For that reason the Opposition supports the abolition of appeals from the High Court of Australia to the Privy Council by the method chosen by the Government. For the very same reason, because of the method the Government chose to effect the abolition, we strongly opposed the measure which was just given a third reading because the manner which was employed on that occasion was not consonant with the status of an independent nation in 1975. It was a method that disregarded the historical antecedents of the relationship between the Australian courts and the Privy Council. For those reasons I, too, lend my strong support to the passage of this measure.
-I rise to speak on this Bill having been denied the opportunity of speaking on the Bill which has just passed its third reading. That first Bill which has been passed, the Privy Council Appeals Abolition Bill, is intended to abolish appeals to the Privy Council from State courts in wholly State matters by means of a request from this Parliament to the Parliament of the United Kingdom to act in accordance with the Statute of Westminster. However, the Bm that we are now debating is of a different kind, because in respect of this Bill the Parliament is seeking to exercise the power that it has under section 74 of the Constitution to make laws limiting the matters in which leave to appeal to the Privy Council may be sought. I say that, because in his speech the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) sought to roll up into one speech the justification of the Government for limiting matters in which leave to appeal to the Privy Council may be sought, that is, by abolishing altogether appeals to the Privy Council either from the High Court of Australia or from State Supreme Courts. He used the same argument in respect of the abolition of appeals from both those jurisdictions, speaking, as the honourable member for Bennolong (Mr Howard) has mentioned, about the flowering of the Common Law, how its growth may be stunted in Australia if these appeals to the Privy Council are maintained, speaking in high terms of the eminence of the High Court of Justice in the Common Law jurisdictions of the world. These are things which I and my fellow lawyers would wholeheartedly agree with, and eminent judicial persons in all Common Law jurisdictions of the world would also testify to them. The High Court truly has a proud tradition in the Common Law world and it is a tradition which has been in no way detracted from by the fact that appeals may be taken to the Privy Council.
The important thing to which I would draw attention m this debate is the fact that the legal authority which this Government seeks to rely on in the present Bill, namely, section 74 of the Constitution, is not available to it in respect of the Bill to abolish appeals to the Privy Council from the State Supreme Courts. That is interesting because of the penchant which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has for asserting the supremacy of the Australian Parliament. Yet we have the Constitution of Australia, which again he is so fond of using as authority for his stand on the constitutional proposition that he so often propounds before this Parliament, giving to this Parliament supremacy in respect of appeals to the Privy Council from the High Court; but it deliberately does not give that same supremacy in respect of appeals to the Privy Council from the State Supreme Courts. The importance of the distinction is this: Whilst the Government can simply and quickly turn to the authority of section 74 of the Constitution and the supremacy of Parliament in respect of appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council, it must seek some other legal authority in order to give effect to its view that there should not be such a thing as an appeal from a State Supreme Court directly to the Privy Council.
The Attorney-General has referred in this debate to legalisms expressed by members of the Opposition, as if that were some criticism of them. But in making that criticism he completely misconceives the point of argument of the Opposition, because legality not a legalism. Legality is the source of constitutional authority, and whilst the Government can find a source of constitutional authority for the Bill that we are now debating it is on dubious ground indeed to find a source of constitutional authority in seeking to abolish appeals from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council. In the latter case the Prime Minister is seeking to resort to legality to override the wishes of the State and thereby to give effect to his own opinion that appeals should not lie from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council.
The Prime Munster cannot bring himself to recognise the subtlety of the Australian Constitution in this field. Particularly he cannot bring himself to recognise that, at the same time as all States are bound by the Constitution into one indissoluble union, that is, into the Australian nation, they also draw legal authority in significant ways directly from the Parliament of the United Kingdom. By the measures that he introduced into this House in the Bill that has already been passed he seeks to cut across that direct stream of legal authority from the States to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The mistake that the Prime Minister makes is that abolition of appeals from State courts to the Privy Council in wholly State matters is not a legal question but a political question and, being a political question, it can derive authority and it can derive expression of the will of the people only from the people of the State concerned. In the same way as whether or not each State joined in the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1900 was a political question decided by a referendum of the people in those States, so also the question of whether or not appeals from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council should be abolished can be decided only by the people of those States. Whatever legal subtlety the Attorney-General tries to embark upon, whatever legal nicety the Prime Minister seeks to embark upon, they cannot in the end move away from the undoubted fact. That is why we in the Opposition who believe that in the end the High Court of Australia should be at the pinnacle of the judicial systems of Australia will support the Bill now before the House. It derives its legal authority from section 74 of the Constitution, but we see a distortion brought upon the Constitution, a violence upon the Constitution if you like, by the methods that the Prime Minister has sought to use in respect of his proposal to abolish appeals from the State courts to the Privy Council.
So there is nothing inconsistent in the approach of the Opposition to these 2 Bills. We have a singular purpose, as the Government has. We see that each purpose must be achieved by moving along a different path, and if the Government would move along the correct path in respect of the Bill to abolish appeals from the State courts to the Privy Council then the Bill would have a much better chance of acceptance by this Opposition, in the same way as the Government is receiving acceptance for its proposal to limit appeals from the High Court to the
Privy Council, acting in accordance with the authority of section 74 of the Constitution. So it is a pity in a matter of this kind, which is important because of the impact that the proposals will have upon the Constitution of Australia, that the Government should gag the debate on the first Bill and no doubt, after I have spoken, gag the debate on this Bill. I often wonder why on matters of such importance it is so anxious to gag the debate, but that is what happens. Many things are done by the Government which puzzle not only the Opposition but also many other people.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby) read a third time.
Consideration of Senate ‘s amendments.
The object of this Pan is to make provision for the establishment and management of parks and reserves-
Senate ‘s amendment No. 1 -
At end of clause 6 add the following new sub-clause:
Land shall not be acquired by Australia for the purposes of this Pan if it is land that is dedicated or reserved under the law of a State, without consent of the State, for purposes related to nature conservation or the protection or areas of historical, archaelogical or geological importance or of areas having special significance in relation to Aboriginals.
Senate’s amendment No. 2-
In clause 10, sub-clause (2), leave out Minister of State for Minerals and Energy, by or on behalf of or in co-operation with Australia or on authority of Australia and insert Governor-General.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 3-
In clause 19, after sub-clause (2), insert the following new sub-clause: (2a) This section is not intended to exclude or limit the concurrent operation of any law of a State. ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 4-
Leave out clause 69.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 5-
In clause 71, sub-clause (2), paragraph (c), after wildlife ‘, insert ‘in a Territory*.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 6-
In clause 71, sub-clause (2), at end of paragraph (d), add in parks, reserves or wilderness areas ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 7-
In clause 71, sub-clause (4), paragraph (e), leave out the paragraph.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 8-
In clause 71, sub-clause (4), paragraph (f), leave out ‘and among the States,’.
Motion (by Dr Cass) agreed to.
That Senate’s amendments Nos 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 be agreed to.
– I move:
That Senate’s amendment No. 4 be disagreed to, but that in place thereof the following amendment be made: Omit clause 69, insert the following new clause- 69 ( 1 ) The Governor-General may make regulations for and in relation to giving effect to an agreement specified in the Schedule.
Regulations made under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to an agreement that has not entered into force for Australia shall not come into operation on a date earlier than the date on which the agreement enters into force for Australia.
Sub-sections 71 (5), (7) and (8) apply in relation to regulations made under this section in like manner as they apply in relation to regulations made under section 71.
That all sounds a bit complicated, but during the initial debate on this Bill it was pointed out that this proposed section in essence purports to allow us to make regulations in relation to international conventions that we may enter into from time to time- they may relate to wildlife, wet lands or what you will- in order to enable us to achieve whatever the international conventions were seeking to achieve. There are a number of these conventions to which we have agreed to become a party. Perhaps I should mention them briefly. We are proposing that they should be listed in the Schedule to the Bill. Just before I list the conventions perhaps I should go on with the general argument. We suggested that the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Bill should permit the formulation of regulations to cover any conventions we might enter into from time to time. The objection was raised by the Opposition that this was a bit far reaching, that it was perhaps giving us power for conventions as yet not considered. In the course of discussion the suggestion was made that if we were prepared to amend the Bill- this came out more forcefully in the Senate- in order to provide this power to make regulations for conventions to which we had agreed to become a party up to this stage and perhaps to specify those conventions in a Schedule to the Bill the Opposition might be interested in the proposition, but it insisted upon future conventions being put to the House for agreement before we proceeded to make regulations relating to those conventions. That is the reason why we are now proposing the amendment I have just moved. It would in essence allow us to make regulations for conventions which, subsequent to this motion being agreed to, I will move for inclusion in the Bill in the form of a Schedule. Perhaps we should deal with this proposed section first and then discuss the schedule of conventions after I have moved a motion concerning the inclusion of such a Schedule in the Bill.
– I wish to say on behalf of the Opposition that it is not often that members of this Parliament throw a bouquet from one side of the House to the other, unless it is thought that a thorn or two might catch and draw some blood. However, I am going to throw a bouquet at the Minister ibr the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), with whom I have had numerous discussions on this Bill and other Bills under his administration. I hope that my compliment to him is not a kiss of death. I thank him and his Department for the courtesy and cooperation they have shown and for their genuine attempts to respond to my bipartisan- I say that sincerely- approach to matters relating to environment and conservation. I feel that no particular party has any monopoly in this area and nor should it because this is an area that involves each and every one of us.
I venture to say that no Bill has been subject to more discussion, compromise and endeavours to reach a consensus than the Bill now before the House- and that has not been one-sided. Both the Minister and I are indebted to the legal advice and opinion of our colleague the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott). We have been through the legislation with a finetooth comb, but unfortunately there remains the one area of difference between the Government and the Opposition. That relates to clause 69. The Opposition cannot agree to it, for reasons that I hope are intelligent and understandable. The Opposition cannot accept the Government’s amendment notwithstanding the Government’s agreement to incorporate in the Bill a Schedule naming the international agreements. It is true that the honourable member for Wentworth thought that this may have been a way of overcoming the problem. I think that five or six international conventions are involved.
– I think that there are five.
– Yes, there are five. No doubt there will be many more. The reasons the Opposition gives for objecting to this clause are these: The adoption by Australia of international conventions and the carrying into effect in Australia of these provisions or of the provisions contained therein should be by Act of Parliament. We take that position notwithstanding the fact that we recognise that this principle could in fact make it difficult for us should we go back into government. The second reason is that the effect may be to implement provisions by regulation that could well affect vested rights, such as State interests and so on. There is a principle that needs to be understood, that is, that regulations that could arise having far-reaching consequences affecting foreign policy and human rights as they might relate to Australia and to the international scene can only be disallowed; they cannot be amended. It is felt that to open the field of regulation making powers to such far-reaching consequences to some effect destroys the institution of the national Parliament which of course has its time well taken up in dealing with a whole range of issues, from domestic issues to matters relating to foreign affairs, international codes, international agreements and so on.
The use of regulations in the way proposed would deny effective opportunity for parliamen.tary debate. When it is all said and done, how many of us in the Parliament have time to go through the volume of regulations that come to our desks day by day and week by week? If we were to allow this amendment to go through, what is to stop the Government from sending the present Minister- I make no reflection on him- or future Ministers overseas to international conferences and becoming a signatory to multi-agreements and bi-lateral agreements with other countries? The result of this could well be that there could be introduced into this House and into the Senate regulations which would have far-reaching consequences on the state of this nation and its relationship with other nations. We could find ourselves involved in an agreement, which we do not like, with the United States of America, the Soviet Union or a number of countries. A regulation flowing from that agreement could be tabled in this House and in the Senate, and unless somebody does his homework very closely, that regulation, within a given time, would become law.
The national Parliament surely should be concerning itself with matters of international concern. If this Parliament is not prepared to give its time to debating Acts of Parliament that may flow from international agreements, it is not Uving up to its responsibility. It is for that principal reason that the Opposition feels that it cannot accept this amendment. We aU have had experience with a range of regulations which have flowed from existing legislation. The legislation relating to the Australian Schools Commission is an example. The regulations that flow from that legislation do not have the sort of far-reaching national and international consequences of regulations that might flow from an agreement that we could enter into with Japan, Russia, China or other countries which could not only involve the preservation of flora or fauna, but could also have a far-reaching effect upon the environment of man. In a weak moment, Australia could find itself, in the euphoria of a conference, involved in some international agreement that could well limit the freedom and the rights of an individual within a community or society, for the sole purpose of trying to preserve the environment as such. As a consequence, we could find ourselves with regulations flowing into the Parliament and many of them might go unnoticed and become law. We are not opposed to the agreements that have been drawn up, but we feel that as consequential requirements arise from agreements that have previously been entered into with other countries, we all should be prepared to debate a Bill for an Act to make it a proper law and a matter for proper debate in this Parliament. It is a principle which we have spelt out in Opposition and to which we will certainly have to adhere. For these reasons the Opposition cannot support the amendment moved by the Minister.
– I wish to draw to the attention of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) a matter that I have mentioned to him privately, and that is my disappointment that in relation to clause 65 no amendment has been forthcoming to deal with the matter of averment clauses. I hope that in future consideration of this Bill some attention Will be given to this matter with a view to reading down the terms of the Bill. I am prepared to keep my remarks short in order to facilitate the debate. I hope that the nodding of the Minister’s head is a form of undertaking that this matter will be looked into and that some suitable amendments wil be brought forward when the legislation is dealt with at a future date.
– It may well be that when we finalise this matter, the Bill will need a little tidying up. We are aware of this fact. We wanted to accept the amendments that were put by the Senate and try to get the Bill back there with this amendment. Despite the view that was expressed by honourable members opposite, we feel that the usual procedure of moving to disallow regulations does in fact allow for debate. We must agree to differ on this; obviously honourable members opposite do not hold that view. I certainly concede the point that we had agreed to look into the matter raised by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), but at this stage we are not amending what the Senate has put forward. We are dealing only with the amendments that the Senate has put up. It would not be the appropriate time now to consider the matter raised by the honourable member. When we look at the whole matter again, I assure him that we will consider the matter that he has raised because there are a lot of people on this side of the House who agree with him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
At the end of the Bill, add the following Schedule:
Briefly, the amendment deals with the conventions that at this stage we have agreed to or to which we have said we will be a party. For this reason, again following logic of the reason for proposing the first part of this amendment- we are now proposing the Schedule. In view of the time I shall not debate it any further.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Appointment to High Court -Proportional Representation in the Senate- Parachuting: Safety Standards
Motion (by Dr Cass) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In this adjournment debate I should like to raise the matter of the propriety of the appointment of the Honourable Mr Justice Murphy, as he now is, to the High Court of Australia, and also the matter of the propriety of the decision by the Government of New South Wales in respect of the appointment of a person to fill the casual vacancy created by the elevation of His Honour Mr Justice Murphy. I do that in this House because I consider that matters of the Constitution should not be abdicated by this House. We are an integral part of this Parliament- that goes without saying- and as such we are an integral part of the political framework of this country. Too often this House leaves constitutional matters to be debated by the other House of this Parliament and in other places outside this Parliament. I think that does a disservice to this House.
I also enter this debate because I feel that, having regard to what has been written in the Press, what has been said privately and what has been said in another place, much has been left to be desired with regard to the constitutional perspective with which this whole question must be approached. I also wish to say something tonight having regard to the ‘Address to the Nation’ by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) last Sunday, 16 February. I refer to that ‘Address to the Nation’ particularly because the Prime Minister called in aid his concept of democracy and his concept of what the Constitution of Australia required in the filling of this casual vacancy created by the elevation of Mr Justice Murphy.
It is so very easy for a person to use fancy words and to call in aid democracy to justify whatever he does or whatever attitude he takes. But, behind those fancy words, I think it is a salutary lesson to have a look at the written word, what the written word authorises, and what the implications of the written word are. Let us take first the appointment of His Honour Mr Justice Murphy to the High Court. Appointments of justices to the High Court are by the GovernorGeneral of Australia in Council. That is the
Executive Council of Australia constituted under and by virtue of the Constitution of Australia. It is not simply the constitutional practice, because that does not pay due regard to the principle; but the constitutional requirement is that the GovernorGeneral, being the delegate of the Queen, Will act on the advice of the executive government of the country. That executive government, of course, is the Government led by the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam.
So, it was on the Government’s advice that the Governor-General appointed Mr Justice Murphy. That was done with strict legal authority and propriety. I cast no opinion as to the propriety of the appointment of His Honour to the High Court. Whatever I think of that is a private opinion; whatever any member of this House or the other place thinks about that appointment is a private opinion; and so I say nothing about that private opinion because I do not think it is appropriate to the vital constitutional question which we must aU ask ourselves.
-I think the Standing Orders prevent that, if it is a hostile criticism.
– I did not even intend to imply that I was going to make a hostile criticism. I merely sought to make the point that whatever opinion any of us holds is a private opinion. It might be motivated by political attitudes equally as the elevation of His Honour was motivated by political attitudes.
In respect of the filling of the casual vacancy, again I do not express any personal opinion, because I do not think that is relevant to the constitutional propriety of what the Government of New South Wales proposes to do. Section 15 of the Constitution provides that where there is a casual vacancy, when the Houses of the Parliament of the State for which the senator was chosen are sitting those Houses of Parliament shall sitting and voting together, choose a person to fill that vacancy. If the Houses of Parliament of that State are not sitting, the Governor of the State chooses that person, and that choice is required to be put before and ratified by the Houses of Parliament of that State within 14 days after the beginning of the next session of that Parliament immediately after the choice.
The important aspect about this provision is that, by the Constitution of Australia, the will of the people, if we wish to put it in those terms, is expressed in this vacuum of a casual vacancy by the Houses of the Parliament of the State constituted by the individuals elected to those Houses by the constitutional processes of that State, and those Houses of the Parliament then have entrusted to them in aU the acts that they perform the expression of the Will of the people. The Constitutional assumption is that in the decision of those Houses the will of the people is expressed and thereby the trust of the people is put into effect.
The next constitutional process is that that decision imposed upon the Houses of the Parliament in trust for the people of the State must be put before a general election of members of the House of Representatives or at the next election of senators for the State. In that way democracy is at work as fully and amply as one could expect under the Constitution of Australia. Again- and I use this phrase which is one which the Prime Minister is so fond of using- the will of the people is expressed by the votes that they cast at that election at which the person chosen to fill the casual vacancy is put forward. People can accept or reject the person who has been chosen by the Houses of the Parliament of the particular State.
I would have thought that it goes without saying that elections, in our concept of democracy, are the way in which people express their opinion. So democracy, by virtue of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia works in 2 ways in this process. Firstly, the people at the next election at which that person must be put forward can accept or reject the person chosen by the Houses of the Parliament of the State and, further than that, the people may, at the next election of the members of Parliament of that State, cast their opinion as to the constitutional propriety or, if we Uke to put it in rather baser terms the political propriety of what the Houses of the Parliament of that State did. The decision in this case is the decision of the Government of the State. The people may put out that Government or they may re-elect it.
I cannot think of any better way in which democracy in this country can work than by processes which are written expressly into the Constitution of this country. So, whatever the private or political opinions of members of the Opposition or the people of Australia as to the elevation of His Honour Mr Justice Murphy to the High Court, whatever might be the private or political opinions as to what the Government of New South Wales proposes to do, no criticism can be made of either of those acts in terms of the Constitution of Australia. It is an empty accusation for the Prime Minister to say that what is proposed to be done by the Government of New South Wales does violence to democracy. It is an empty threat because it is a worthless opinion.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have just listened to one of the most apologetic speeches delivered in this House to justify a bushranger act. The facts are that a procedure has been adopted and accepted by the State parliaments of Australia and by the Australian Parliament whereby when a vacancy occurs in the Senate it is filled by a member of the Party to which the deceased or retiring senator belonged. It does not matter how the Opposition twists that procedure around, it cannot come up with any answer other than that the proposal is a bushranger act.
– Labor did it twice.
-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will remain silent.
– I will, but he ought to get his facts straight.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Gippsland.
-I did not rise tonight to take part in a discussion on the matter raised by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner). I have prepared for the Parliament a statement on the matter raised by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) in the Grievance Day debate last Thursday. One of the things that concerns me is the fact that the honourable member did not bother to consult anyone in my Department before he came in here, using all sorts of information without checking his facts and using some pretty strong language about the condition of the people concerned. He showed little regard for the feelings of the relatives of the deceased men. He is a new member of this Parliament. In future he should check his facts before he speaks. At any time he considers that there may be some irregularities in the Department of Transport he is at liberty to come and talk to me privately or, if he wishes, to talk to members of my Department and check out his facts.
I refer to his statement concerning the deaths of 2 parachutists during the Australian parachute championships at Rylstone on 29 December 1974.
The 2 parachutists were killed while conducting a night parachuting operation at the site of the 1974-1975 Austraiian parachute championships. Three parachutists jumped from a Piper Navajo aircraft at approximately 0145 hours on the morning of 29 December. It is believed they planned to link up during the initial part of the descent before opening their parachutes at 2 000 feet above the ground. They jumped within 3 seconds of each other. It has been established that the first 2 parachutists did link up and were still jinked up when they hit the ground and were killed instantly. Neither parachutist made any attempt to activate his parachute. The third made no attempt to join the others and activated his parachute shortly after leaving the aircraft. He descended to the ground safely. Investigation has revealed that the 3 parachutists involved had decided to make the jump on the night of the accident. All 3 parachutists had consumed alcohol shortly before boarding the aircraft to make the descent. They did not consult at any time with any officials of the Australian Parachute Federationthe APF. They made a private arrangement with the pilot who was himself an experienced parachutist. The operation was conducted with reference to only a few other individuals who assisted by providing car headlights to illuminate the aircraft’s takeoff and landing path.
Air Navigation Regulation 128 makes provision for the Director-General of Civil Aviation to specifiy the conditions under which parachute descents may be made. These conditions are specified in Air Navigation Order 29.1. For the information on honourable members I table those Air Navigation Orders. The APF has compiled its own regulations- for the information of honourable members I also table the regulations -in addition to those contained in the ANO, and all members of that Federation are required to comply. The facts indicate that the night operation in question was conducted in contravention of both the Air Navigation Regulations and the Air Navigation Orders as well as the APF regulations.
The honourable member questioned the failure of the departmental officer to ensure the regulations were observed. He stated further that, despite the Department’s responsibility in this matter, a situation developed in which, at the biggest parachuting competition in Australia, these operational regulations were breached in the presence of an officer from the Department of Transport. The Department’s approach to supervision of parachuting operations recognises that parachuting is normally undertaken as a sport. For this reason the direct supervision of day to day activities of parachutists has been undertaken largely by the APF whose members make up approximately 95 per cent of all parachutists in Australia. The Department has always found the Federation to be a responsible body, and this is borne out by its actions following this accident.
Nevertheless, the Department has employed an Inspector (Parachutists) since June 1974 and he is responsible for the development of regulations regarding conduct of parachute descents and also periodically observes the conduct of field parachuting operations. This officer was on duty at the championships on 26, 27 and 28 December. He was present either at the drop zone or within the immediate area at all times on those days when scheduled parachute operations were being conducted. He stated quite categorically that he observed no contravention of regulations during this time. He left the vicinity of the dropping zone at the completion of parachute operations on the afternoon of 28 December and retired for the night between 10.30 and 11p.m.
The unauthorised night jump took place more than 5Vi hours after the championship parachute operations had ceased. The circumstances in which this jump took place were such as to preclude any possibility of the departmental officer preventing it from taking place. He was first made aware of this operation when woken at approximately 3 o’clock in the morning. At approximately 4 a.m., shortly after the bodies were found, he took action immediately to alert the Air Safety Investigation Branch of the Department which had an investigating officer on his way to Rylestone by 9.30 that morning.
The honourable member refers to other examples of parachutists consuming alcohol and also to the Victorian parachute championships held some weeks previously. The APF regulations specify that a parachutist shall not have consumed alcohol within the 12 hours prior to conducting a parachute descent. It is known that at the Victorian championships APF officials observed one parachutist consuming alcohol prior to a planned descent. This parachutist was subsequently suspended from all parachute operations for 28 days and had his parachute instructor rating suspended for 6 months by the Federation.
The honourable member is correct in stating that the organisers at the Australian championships reduced the time limit for consumption of alcohol prior to making a parachute descent to 8 hours. This decision was made after consultation with the departmental officer present and was based on the knowledge that the current regulation with relation to the consumption of alcohol by flight crew members is now eight hours and that a decision had been taken to reflect this figure in a revised issue of ANO 29.1 currently being processed.
It is not correct that regulations were varied to permit a lower opening height than that specified in ANO 29.1. The method by which dropping zone safety officers determine the opening height of a parachutist is by timing his descent under the parachute. The altitude of the championship site above sea level required that the time be reduced to compensate for the increased rate of descent. Competitors were still required to activate their parachutes by 2000 above ground level. This action was taken by officers of the Federation after consultation with the departmental officer.
The honourable member referred to the suspension of the Australian championships on the day following the accident. The circumstances leading to this suspension were that the Department’s inspector observed 4 people he knew to be competitors consuming alcohol in a nearby township during the lunch hour. (Extension of time granted). As no breach of regulations could technically occur until these competitors displayed obvious intentions of undertaking a parachute descent he was unable to take direct action against them. However, he drew the matter to the attention of officials of the APF and suggested that they take steps to make it clear this type of behaviour would not be tolerated. The APF thereupon suspended all parachute operations for the remainder of the day and ensured that competitors were made aware of the reason for this action.
The honourable member also referred to alleged breaches on the night before the fatalities by the same pilot from whose plane the deceased jumped. He claimed that no action appeared to have been taken by the Department. Apart from the allegation by the honourable member, the Department has received no evidence of any flight being conducted on the night prior to the accident. However, on 3 February 1975 the Department received a hearsay report of a flight which was alleged to have taken place at about 2 a.m. on 27 December 1974, that is, approximately 48 hours before the fatal flight. This allegation is being pursued by the Department with persons who may have witnessed such a flight, if indeed it took place. The Department of Transport commenced an investigation on the morning of the accident. The APF at the same time started its own investigation. It became evident very early in the departmental investigation that the pilot had probably contravened regulations and it was decided to consult the Deputy Crown Solicitor with a view to prosecution action. As soon as sufficient evidence and reports were available they were forwarded to the Deputy Crown Solicitor by the Regional Director, New South Wales region. This was done on 17 January 1974.
Action against the surviving parachutist was also considered but was deferred until it was known what action would be taken by the APF. On 20 January the APF recommended to the Department of Transport that this parachutist’s approval as the person responsible for supervision of parachute operations by the Canberra skydivers, granted in accordance with ANO 29. 1 , be revoked. The Department took such action on 14 February. The APF, as a result of its investigation, has taken action against the surviving parachutist, the pilot and a passenger who accompanied the flight. It grounded the surviving parachutist with effect from the day of the accident. Later a meeting of the New South Wales disciplinary board of the APF further grounded him for a period of 18 weeks with effect 1 February 1975. His senior instructor’s rating was also suspended for period of 6 months. The APF also took action against the pilot, who is an experienced parachutist and a member of the Federation. He too had his senior instructor’s rating suspended for 6 months and it has been recommended to the Federation board of directors that it be cancelled.
Because of his limited part, the final action against the passenger was a severe reprimand. In view of the action taken by the Federation against members contravening its regulations the statement by the honourable member that the Federation has failed to enforce its own regulations is incorrect. It is evident that the Federation does in fact exercise strict control over parachuting operations conducted under its auspices. In this respect, on 20 January 1975, the Federation’s Director of Safety sent a hard hitting letter to all safety officers of the Federation. The object of this letter was to stress the need for continued supervision and control over any problems associated with alcohol or drugs. I seek leave to incorporate the letter in Hansard.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The letter read as follows)-
Ermington2115N.S.W. 20 January 1975
To Safety Officers
Alcohol has surfaced as a real problem on the D.Z.
The situation occurred at the Nationals where people were quite prepared to have a few cans when jumping had only been stopped for a few hours. They were quite prepared to jump again had the conditions settled enough for competition jumps to continue.
Drinking and jumping is not a new occurrence, but the scale of drinking and the number of people taking part at this Nationals is. Also the number of supposedly responsible people who took to the can this time gives cause for concern.
I intend to tackle this problem this year along with the one of ‘smoking’ and jumping. Heavy penalties will be envoked on persons violating the regulations on mixing drinking and smoking with jumping.
If I found a case where individual involved could not be determined, I will impose the stopping of operations for the day and take disciplinary action against the DZSO. This may appear harsh but indications are that the sport is in for a hard time in the near future from the press and DOT.
If we look at the past years statistics in their worst form, as the press and DOT would, this is what we come up with:
If we say we have 700 active parachutists jumping each year- experienced only. We had nine deaths in 1974. That makes it around 1 jumper in 70 will ‘go in’ if we have another year like 1974. Even if we make the active number 1 000 it comes out at 1 - 1 1 1 , still no good is it?
I hope people can see that we have a good set of regulations which need to be enforced before we are pinned down by a set of regulations from outside the sport. There are a lot of areas for improvement without going to extremes of having committees etc. for approval of most activities which some countries have.
Due to the work relating to the fatalities, I haven’t spent enough time on the incident reports to give out any information next month I let you know whats going on in that area.
On the smoking subject a word of caution. Police in N.S.W. and Queensland believe smoking is established amongst the jumpers. I was surprised we didn’t have a visit from the N.S.W. Police drug squad.
As a result of the Rylestone fatalities, the following people are under suspension of rating and will be ruled on by a N.S.W. Discipline Board on 1 February 1975.
Bruce Towers- Senior Instructor
Graham Windsor- Senior Instructor, ASO- A.C.T.
Steve Davies- Instructor
Bill Kenney is currently suspended and will go before a Discipline Board in Victoria on charges of drinking and jumpmg. (Signed) Grahame Hill
-I thank the House. Apart from the consideration by the Deputy Crown Solicitor of the grounds for prosecuting the pilot involved in this accident, the Department is also considering the need for action against his licence. The events alleged to have taken place on the night 48 hours prior to the accident which came to the Department’s notice on 3 February are possibly very relevant to that question and as soon as those allegations have been resolved, a decision in respect of the pilot’s licence will be made. The position meanwhile is safeguarded since the pilot’s licence is now also suspended in respect of other failures to comply with the air navigation regulations alleged to have taken place in Queensland earlier in 1 974.
– The Opposition extended courtesy to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) believing that he had only another line to read. I remind the Minister of the forms of the House. On this side of the House we are always willing to give Ministers permission to make statements during the day so that they do not use up private members’ time for political reasons. I want to refer to the humbug of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) last Sunday evening when he went on television. I support my friend the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) in his comments and criticisms of the Prime Minister’s plea for the continuation of convention. Last Sunday evening the Prime Minister concluded his address by asking the people of New South Wales to telephone their members of Parliament. My telephone at home in Brisbane ran hot with Brisbane people telephoning me and asking me to tell Whitlam what to do when I saw him this week. I am too much of a gentleman to tell him in this House but when I get an opportunity I shall do so. I want to refer to a speech made by the Prime Minister in 1955.
-Who was that?
– It was made by our Prime Minister. If ever there were a reason for our State governments to have absolutely no trust in the Labor Government’s appointment to the High Court, that is conveyed in the message which the Prime Minister made loud and clear in that year. The Prime Minister gave a speech to the Australian Institute of Political Science. Because of certain criticisms in this chamber the Prime Minister repeated the text of that speech in this House 20 years ago on 1 June during the debate on the Judges’ Remuneration Bill. His speech to the Australian Institute of Political Science was made in response to a speech delivered by the then member for Warringah, Mr Bland, who had delivered a paper entitled ‘Parliamentary Government and Liberty’. I want all honourable members to sit while I read this extract from Mr Whitlam ‘s speech. I want them to consider his words of advice at that time in the light of what has happened today. The Prime Minister stated:
Mr Bland believes that the High Court provides some safeguards for our liberties; I doubt it. The Court is less representative of the Australian people than are their elected parliamentary representatives. Judges are irresponsible in that they hold office for life, which is sometimes a very long life. Some have used that asset for a political purpose. I recall 2 flagrant examples where resignations were withheld until there was a change of government. Early in 1 950 one judge retired in the last month of his 80th year and another retired on his 87th birthday; and neither was as active or as liberal minded as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Junior.
We are constrained by our present Federal Constitution to leave the final disposition of many matters in the hands of lawyers. We are forbidden to do not so much what the Constitution forbids us to do but what the judges forbid us to do.
If Counsel has to advise if a certain action is constitutional he is less concerned with the Constitution than with the composition of the Court.
– He must have been drunk.
-No, he was not drunk because in 1973 in this Parliament I made a speech in which I used some of those quotations. On 12 September I asked the Prime Minister what he thought of the speech I had made. He described it as being splendid and I can understand that. It is contained in the Hansard report of question time of 12 September. In the limited time left I say that Mr Tom Lewis has every reason to be frightened at the appointment to the High Court of ex-Senator Murphy, now Mr Justice Murphy. I am not casting aspersions on him, Mr Speaker. But from the Prime Minister’s mouth has come the condemnation of our system. At a time when our States are so threatened by a government which is bent on the destruction of the States can we blame them for being concerned and for taking measures to protect themselves in the current climate?
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
The following paper was deemed to have been presented on 18 February 1975, by command of His Excellency the Governor-General:
Protocol for the continuation in force of the International Coffee Agreement 1 968 as extended.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Many of the staff in my Department and in Authorities under my control are engaged from time to time on work which might be classified generally as ‘research and development’. This work can relate to scientific programs as in the Australian Radiation Laboratory, National Acoustic Laboratories, Australian Dental Standards Laboratory, National Biological Standards Laboratory, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Institute of Child Health and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission or to overall departmental policy formulation in relation to, for example, health delivery systems. Those officers who have a designation specifying research, i.e. Research Officer or Research Medical Officer, are to a very large degree engaged in research pursuits. Others, though having other designations, are also engaged to a more or less degree in research. Where the designations ‘Research Officer’ and ‘Research Medical Officer’ are used the following information can be provided:
School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the Institute of Child Health
Research Medical Officer ‘
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission
asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1). (2), (3) and (4) As a preliminary to the introduction of regular exercises within the Central Office of my Department, senior administrative officers have been engaged in a series of discussions with representatives of other Departments located within the MLC Tower.
The final stage of these discussions has now been reached, and procedures for catering with emergencies are currently being prepared. These procedures will become operative early in 1975.
In all areas where specific exercises have not been conducted, regular safety checks are carried out by fire authorities. Instructions on procedures for handling emergencies either exist or are in the course of preparation.
Details of exercises undertaken at regional offices are as follows:
Queensland Regional Office
Tasmanian Regional Office
Victorian Regional Office
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1, 2, 3 and 4) Following the amendment to the Lands Acquisition Act in December 1973 the acquisition and disposal of all leases by the Australian Government became the responsibility of the Department of Services and Property. I have delegated some of that responsibility to statutory bodies where I have considered it desirable to do so.
The information on all buildings which are unused ata particular time is not assembled normally because of its transient nature.
As has been explained to the House many times, spaceis unused for a variety of reasons. For example, newly leased space requires to be partitioned before use and this may take several months where large areas are involved. In recent times the Department of Services and Property has been successful in avoiding much of the dead rent which normally arises from partitioning by seeking lay outs and commissioning partitioning before practical completion of new buildings.
Another reason for unused space arises from the need to consolidate fragmented departments to achieve greater economics. Some areas become vacant pending preparation for alternative use, termination of the lease, and allocation of space to particular departments.
Prior to December 1972 much of the leased space in capital cities and elsewhere, including electoral offices for Members of the House, was very unsatisfactory and sub-standard and had to be vacated whilst the lease negotiated by the previous government was still in operation.
The honourable member will know that the AuditorGeneral and the Public Accounts Committee have been very much alive to the question of payment of ‘dead rent’ for unused buildings, which is a feature of all leasing enterprises, private or public. Details of the major unused premises as at 30 June were referred to by the Auditor-General in his Report and much of the relevant information has already been supplied to the House and therefore is available in Hansard.
For the reasons given I am not prepared to authorise the time and expense involved in compiling all the information sought. If the honourable member would indicate his interest in any particular building, I will be happy to provide him with the information which he requires.
Anti-smoking Campaign (Question No. 1207)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In 1972-73, the first year of the campaign, advertisements were placed with all commercial radio and television stations throughout Australia, over an initial period of six weeks. This cover was supplemented by a press and public transport cover. In a second phase, in this first year, particular attention was given to rural areas and ethnic groups. No detailed breakdown by media was readily available. However, I have asked for this information to be extracted from the various agencies’ accounts and I will convey this detailed information to the member when it becomes available.
In 1973-74, advertising was restricted to the print media with an extensive, Australia-wide cover in weeklies, monthlies and Sunday newspapers.
However, in Phase Two of the first year approximately $ 124,000 was spent on advertising. Of this, $35,000 was to be used in provincial and rural press and $3,575 for radio advertising in rural-based outlets. Advertisements were placed also in non-capital Sunday newspapers and a proportion of the expenditure on television advertising was for country-based channels. It is estimated that, during this stage, approximately one-half of the advertising expenditure was in rural and provincial regions, and, from readership research data it has been estimated that the anti-smoking advertising that appeared in the country circulations of the media that were used, reached country dwellings in the States to extents varying between 71.6 and 85.6 per cent
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Nuclear Medicine,
Prince of Wales Hospital,
Department of Nuclear Medicine,
Department of Medicine,
Department of Nuclear Medicine,
Royal North Shore Hospital,
St Leonards, N.S.W.
Diabetic and Metabolic Unit,
Department of Nuclear Medicine,
Royal Brisbane Hospital,
Department of Biochemistry,
Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science,
Garvan Institute for Medical Research,
St Vincent’s Hospital,
Department of Pathology,
Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital,
Dr P. Hodge, 1 99 Sturt Street,
North Adelaide, S.A.
Shepherd Foundation, 6 Bowen Street,
Dr T.Davis, 518 High Street,
Department of Biochemistry,
Queen Elizabeth Hospital,
Dr P. Hendry, 32 1 Parkway Avenue,
Department of Pathology,
Mater Misericordiae Hospital,
North Sydney, N.S.W.
Department of Haematology,
Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science,
Department of Haematology,
St Vincent ‘s Hospital,
Department of Biochemistry,
Royal Women’s Hospital,
Department of Medicine,
Royal Melbourne Hospital,
Infectious Diseases Hospital,
Dr F.D.White, 135 Macquarie Street,
Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research,
Department of Clinical Pathology,
Royal Melbourne Hospital,
Department of Medicine,
Queen Elizabeth Hospital,
Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service,
Department of Haematology,
Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service,
Brisbane (3-5) Evaluation of in vitro diagnostic radioisotopic kits is made, prior to release, by medical laboratories selected for their expertise in the particular field. The evaluations are aimed at determining the reliability of the kits in a clinical situation and at assessing the advantages that the test offers over any alternative test (e.g. radioactive T4 test versus chemical protein bound iodine test, radioactive vitamin B12 test versus microbiological B12 test). In addition, published information is taken into consideration in determining the suitability of a particular test kit. This includes the results of Quality Evaluation Programs conducted by the American College of Pathologists, by the Center for Diseases Control, U.S.A. Department of Health Education and Welfare and by the Burroughs Wellcome Group, U.K. The Quality Evaluation Program conducted by the Australian Radiation Laboratory is, in part, an ongoing assessment of the diagnostic accuracy, precision and reproductibility of kits issued in Australia for in vitro thyroid tests. This program will be extended in 1975 to tests other than in vitro thyroid tests. From time to time, information on the performance of radioisotopic kits that are issued by the Australian Radiation Laboratory is requested from the users of the kits. Limited testing of kits is also carried out at the Australian Radiation Laboratory and it is planned to carry out more of such testing as additional staff and laboratory space become available. The proposed new premises for the AustralianRadiation Laboratory at Yallambie, Victoria should help greatly in this regard.
Much information is available on the performance of kits and it is difficult to present this information in a concise form. The largest amount of information is available on in vitro thyroid kits as these are currently the most extensively used of the radioisotopic kits supplied. Examples of reports, published in the medical literature, on evaluations carried out at the request of the AustralianRadiation Laboratory are as follows:
Oldfield, R. K. and Pain, R. W., ‘A Thyro-binding Index Kit Test of Thyroid Function: An Evaluation and Modification’ Amer. J. Clin. Path. 52, 118, 1969.
Pain, R. W. and Oldfield, R. K., ‘Survey of T3 Methods of Thyroid Function’ Amer. J. Clin. Path. 52, 123, 1969.
Murray, I. P. C, Joasoo, A. and Parkin, J., ‘The Assessment of Thyroid Function by In- Vitro Techniques: A Comparison of Commercial Kits’. Med. J. Aust., 2, 173, 1970.
Murray, I. P. G, Joasoo, A., and Parkin, J., ‘Further Observations on the Use of the Serum Thyroxine Estimation in the In- Vitro Assessment ofThyroid Function’. Med. J. Aust. 1,73, 1971.
Murray, I. P.C., Parkin, J. and Gubanyi, M., ‘Continued Comments on Comments on Commercial Kits for In-Vitro Tests ofThyroid Function ‘.Med. J. Aust. 3, 113, 1972.
Hales, I. B., Stiel, J. N., and Thomas, M., ‘Evaluation of Sephadex Column Methods for Estimation of Total Serum Thyroxine Level and Triiodothyronine Resin Uptake*. Med. J. Aust. 1, 116, 1972.
Murray, I. P.C, Parkin, J. and Gubanyi, M The ‘Effective Thyroxine Ratio’ in The Assessment ofThyroid Function. Med. J. Aust. 1, 1190, 1972.
These reports show that the diagnostic accuracy for the various radioisotopic kits varies but that, in general, the accuracy of the T3 uptake test when used alone is about 70 per cent, the total T4 test alone about 80 per cent, the index obtained from the combination of these two tests about 95 per cent and the normalised T4 test alone about 95 per cent. These tests are not all used on every patient. As the occasion demands, other tests such as the T3 suppression and thyroid “‘I uptake or clearance rate may be performed. Additional in vitro tests such as the T3 RIA and the T.S.H. RIA test have also been developed and appear to offer advantages in improving diagnostic accuracy in certain cases. Kits for these assays have not been approved for release in Australia because the available commercial kits have not been shown to be of sufficient accuracy or reliability.
Determination of interlaboratory variation requires repeat measurements to be made on the same sample by the different laboratories. This is done in the Quality Evaluation Program conducted by the Australian Radiation Laboratory. Comparison of results obtained in this program with those obtained in similar American programs is given in Table 1 .
The results of the three programs are similar and the precision compares favourably with that obtained for other pathology tests and assays as shown in the Reports of Surveys made by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia.
The intralaboratory variation revealed by repeated testing of kits is a major consideration of all assay laboratories. Such laboratories are continually striving to improve the reproductibility of assays and most use one or more control sera with each batch and also make repeat measurements on a proportion of individual patient samples. The measurements reported in the Quality Evaluation Program conducted by the Australian Radiation Laboratory are of assistance to individual laboratories in assessing whether their results are as reproducible as those obtained by other laboratories carrying out the same test.
For the most recent issue of sera samples in the Quality Evaluation Program conducted by the Australian Radiation Laboratory, the mean of the coefficients of variation of results from laboratories reporting three or more measurements are given in Table 2. These values give a measure of the intralaboratory variation of the in vitro thyroid kits.
As would be expected, the intralaboratory variation is as good or better than the interlaboratory variation given in Table 1 for the same kits.
For each issue, the Australian Radiation Laboratory has prepared a report giving the results of the assays with each participating laboratory identified by a code number to maintain its anonymity. In these reports, the results are presented in a way which enables a particular laboratory to compare the results of its assays with those of all other participating laboratories. A copy of each report has been made available to each laboratory which participated in the particular issue of sera samples. These reports are not prepared in a manner suitable for publication in a scientific journal, but they can be supplied to any person or organisation that requests them. The Australian Radiation Laboratory proposes to extend its Quality Evaluation Program in 1975 to cover other assays using in vitro radioisotopic procedures.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The Minister for Agriculture has provided the following answer to the right honourable member’s question:
The following programs of assistance to industry or individuals are administered by the Department of Agriculture:
The meat industry is assisted by various research schemes under which funds are made available to finance research undertakings.
Details of the schemes are provided in annual reports tabled in Parliament on the operation of the Meat Research Act 1960-1973, Pig Industry Research Act 1971-1973 and Chicken Meat Research Act 1969.
The dairy industry is assisted by the dairying research scheme, under which funds are made available to finance research undertakings.
Details of the scheme are provided in annual reports tabled in Parliament on the operation of the Dairying Research Act 1972-1973.
The honey industry is assisted by the honey research scheme, under which funds are made available to finance research undertakings.
Details of the scheme are provided in the annual reports of the Australian Honey Board on the operation of the Honey Industry Act 1962-1973. These reports are tabled in Parliament.
The egg industry is assisted by the poultry research scheme, under which funds are made available to finance research undertakings.
Details of the scheme are provided in the annual reports tabled in Parliament on the operation of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965-1966.
Research into problems in the wheat industry is supported by grants under the wheat research scheme.
Details of the scheme are provided in the annual reports tabled in Parliament on the operation of the Wheat Research Act 1957.
The program of assistance to the fishing industry is covered under two schemes which make grants for development and research, from the Fishing Industry Development Trust Account and the Fishing Industry Research Trust Account. Both of these Trust Accounts are supported by legislation implemented by the Federal Parliament in 19S6 and 1969 respectively.
Details of the legislation and its operations are provided annually in the reports tabled in the Parliament on the operation of the Fishing Industry Act 1956 and the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969.
Under the Wool Industry Act 1 972- 1 974, moneys are provided from the Wool Research Trust Fund for continuing programs of wool production, textile and economic research.
Moneys standing to the credit of the Fund are derived from a levy on growers’ receipts from the sale of wool and pro rata contributions from the Australian Government.
The annual reports of the Australian Wool Corporation, which are tabled in Parliament, provide details of the research programs financed from the Trust Fund and the procedures used to identify priority areas for research.
Australian Extension Services Grant
The Australian Extension Services Grant is a special disbursement to the States through the Departments of Agriculture to assist them in the further development of their agricultural extension services. In 1974-1975 State programs approved by me totalled $7. 725m and include a diverse range of activities. There is also an annual allocation, administered by my Department of $250,000 for national projects. Australian Extension Services Grant is authorised by Cabinet decision and was last renewed for five years from 1 July 1971.
Agricultural Extension Fellowships
Australian Agricultural Council Fellowships in Agricultural Extension are funded under the Australian Extension Services Grant, which is mainly a special disbursement to the State Departments of Agriculture.
The purpose of the Fellowships is to encourage and promote scholarship and leadership in the field of agricultural extension by providing opportunities for a wide range of professionally qualified people working in the field of agricultural extension to undertake extension research or training.
The terms and conditions of the Fellowships Scheme which was inaugurated this year replacing the previous AAC Scholarships Scheme, are based on the CSIRO Studentships Scheme. In July 1974 applications were called by advertisements in the national press. A selection committee appointed by the Australian Agricultural Council made recommendations to me and I announced the first nine awards in November 1974.
Special Research Grant
The Special Research Grant provides matching support for agricultural research in the agricultural industries for which there is no established statutory research scheme. Funds are made available to research institutions such as State departments of agriculture and universities.
Special Research Grant is authorised by Cabinet Decision and was last renewed for5 years from 1 July 1971. Moneys are appropriated annually in the Budget; the amount appropriatedin 1974-1975 is$162,500.
Australian Government Forestry Scholarship
Australian Government Forestry Scholarships (formerly known as Commonwealth Forestry Scholarships) began in 1946 by Ministerial decision. They are awarded for studies leading to the degree of B.Sc. in forestry at the Australian National University. They are advertised in major newspapers in all States and all secondary schools and universities are notified. The scholarships are available for all or part of the four year course. Scholarships worth 28 man years are made available each year together with any residue from the previous year’s failures. Applications are initially examined by State forest services and the most promising applicants are interviewed by representatives of the Australian Government and the States concerned. Scholarship holders are required to notify the Australian Government of their semester results and their intentions on graduation.
Post-graduate Forestry Scholarship
Post-graduate Forestry Scholarships began in 1973 by Ministerial decision. They are awarded to selected inividuals for studies leading to a degree of M.Sc. or Ph.D. at any Australian University. Conditions are similar to those for Australian Government Post-graduate Research Awards. These Scholarships are advertised in newspapers in all States and all universities are notified. Up to three scholarships are available each year. Applications are examined by a SubCommittee of the Standing Committee of the Australian Forestry Council. Scholarship holders are required to notify the Australian Government of their results.
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (4) (a) The following Australian Government offices have been completed since 2 December 1972:
Australian Government Centre Brisbane
Australian Government Centre Hobart
Australian Government Offices Cairns
Australian Government Offices, Wollongong (extensions )
Australian Government Offices, Ballarat (extensions)
Australian Government Offices, Geelong (extensions)
Australian Government Offices, Toowoomba (extensions)
Australian Government Offices, Sale (extensions)
Trade Group Offices (Stage 1 ) A.C.T.
Cameron Offices (Wings 7, 8, 9) A.C.T.
Campbell Park Offices (Stage 1 ), A.C.T.
Russell Offices (Building No. 10), A.C.T.
Total expenditure on construction (excluding partitioning) of these buildings to 30 June 1 974 is $6 1 . 5m.
Trade Group Offices (Stage 2), A.C.T.
Cameron Offices (remainder), A.C.T.
Belconnen West Offices, A.C.T.
Campbell Park (Stage 2), A.C.T.
City Administration Building, A.C.T.
Fishburn House, A.C.T.
Russell Offices (EDP Building), A.C.T.
Tuggeranong Offices (Stage 1 ), A.C.T.
Woden East Offices, A.C.T.
A.C.T. Health Services Building
Dandenong, Victoria (additional floor)
Wangaratta, Victoria (additional floor)
Alice Springs, N.T.
Tennant Creek, NT.
Australian Government Centre, Parramatta
Estimated total expenditure at 30 June 1974 on these projects is $ 120m.
In respect of new buildings the number of Public Servants to occupy them also cannot be accurately estimated because this will vary according to the individual requirements of occupying departments which in many cases have not yet been determined.
Total usable office space in these buildings is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The Minister for Agriculture has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I draw the honourable member’s attention to the answer provided by the Special Minister of State to Question No. 1 862 in Hansard of 5 December 1 974.
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Postmaster-General’s, Services and Property, Social Security
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The Minister for Agriculture has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition to these organisations, I would point out that the National Acoustic Laboratories have for many years provided audiology courses for graduates who will work within the organisation. In fact the National Acoustic Laboratories were, until recently, the only source of training in audiology in this country and still provide the training for the bulk of those working in the field. Most audiologists currently employed outside the National Acoustic Laboratories have received their basic training under the Laboratories’ programme. Persons entering the Laboratories’ training programs have, up until now, had as a minimum entry qualification a university degree with a major in psychology although moves are afoot to broaden the entry qualifications to include graduates in other areas.
Courses in audiometry are offered at Sydney Technical College and at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. These courses in the main have been directed towards persons employed in the hearing aid sales industry, although a number of other people have also attended.
The number of audiometrists coming from the two courses listed cannot be evaluated in terms of requirement as most positions other than those in the National Acoustic Laboratories, and those specifically designated audiologists, do not have specific entry requirements. Persons employed as audiometrists in the National Acoustic Laboratories receive in-service training.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 February 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750218_reps_29_hor93/>.