29th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. G. G. D. Scholes) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned 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 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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and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 pray. by Mr Bryant, Mr Anthony, Mr Gorton, Mr McMahon, Mr Bonnett, Mr Bourchier, Mr Kevin Cairns, Mr Donald Cameron, Mrs Child, Mr Chipp, Mr Corbett, Mr Drury, Mr Duthie, Mr Erwin, Mr Fisher, Mr Garrick, Mr Graham, Mr Jarman, Br Jenkins, Mr Keogh, Mr Kerin, Mr Mathews, Mr Oldmeadow, Mr Peacock, Mr Staley and Mr Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Crean, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Drury, Dr Forbes, Mr Hodges, Mr Jarman, and Mr Killen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Sinclair.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Oldmeadow and Mr Peacock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMcLeay.
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 Uren and Dr Forbes.
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 1973, 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.
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:
In view of the appalling need of millions of people in Vietnam that immediate aid in much larger proportions than has been given to date by the Australian Government be sent as quickly as possible.
For humanitarian reasons, the innocent victims and also defenceless, have a right to be fed, receive medical aid and villages rebuilt. We, a land of plenty, should not deny help of this kind to another in need.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will act on this matter without delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Whereas the use of nuclear fission for power generation presents unacceptable hazards to life, and
Whereas plentiful supplies of energy are essential if there is not to be severe social and industrial dislocation in this period of intensifying population pressure on rapidly disappearing and quite irreplacable geological resources.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to initiate international action against the use of nuclear power and for a crash programme of research and development into safe and replacable sources of energy.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDr Jenkins.
-I take it that the Treasurer is aware of the iniquitous burden placed upon all Australian taxpayers in this inflationary period under the progressive tax scale system, particularly with the average weekly earner paying a marginal tax rate of nearly 40 per cent. I take it he is also aware of the tremendous liquidity problems companies have in an inflationary period in financing their ordinary business, let alone having any possibility for growth. Can the Treasurer tell me when he will be able to give us the final Asprey Committee report? Is the Matthews Committee report to be available to him next week? Will he let the Parliament and the public know the contents of that report as soon as possible so that we will have the most informed debate as we move towards a critical Budget in August?
-I assure the honourable member that as soon as the final Asprey Committee report and the Matthews Committee report are available to us they will be made available to the House and to every member for their information. He correctly sees the situation as most significant. I would be glad to facilitate in every way the participation of every honourable member of the House in arriving at the decisions which will have to be made by the Government in the Budget in August. I want to have the most informed debate and the most constructive debate. I know that criticism is the role of the Opposition but the economic situation of the nation at the moment, especially in respect of the profitability of the private sector upon which the overwhelming percentage of employment depends, is so serious that I believe we have to look at this from a national point of view. We have to do everything possible on the one hand to encourage investment and production during the course of the next 12 months yet, at the same time contribute the least possible amount to inflationary factors. These 2 things are not consistent. It may be possible to encourage production and enterprise investment, yet it may have some inflationary consequences. These things have to be weighed up very carefully. The information provided in the 2 reports which the honourable member mentioned should be very useful and I want to see them made available as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for Housing and Construction say what action the Government has taken and is likely to take to improve access for disabled people to government buildings?
-Last April the Government took a firm policy about the need to provide adequate access for disabled persons to government buildings. A revised technical instruction entitled ‘Access for the Disabled in Government Buildings’ has been issued by my Department. This has been drawn up by the Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled and the Standards Association of Australia. The effect of this instruction is that all client departments are now required to comply with this code in the preparation of their designs for public buildings. The code has particular application to such matters as access doors, handrails, ramps and toilets. I might say that steps are now being taken to apply the code to existing buildings. In addition to that, efforts are being made to encourage the co-operation of State governments adequately to upgrade buildings along the lines I have mentioned.
– Does the Minister for the Environment have any confidence that the Government’s environmental policies will be implemented? Does he have any confidence that the Prime Minister will give him support on some future occasion when he finds himself opposed by the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Does he welcome the support that Senator Gietzelt is seeking to marshal for him from the Australian Council of Trade Unions?
– I have every confidence that the Australian Labor Party will stick to its policy on the environment. I wish people would understand the issue which has recently blown up. There has not been a conflict in the implementation of the Government’s policy. The question is: How does the Government implement its policy in this difficult transitional period when it does not have any legal backing?
– Get the Prime Minister on side.
– That is irrelevant to the point of whether we have legislation or not.
-Order! The Minister will not answer interjections. Honourable members will not ask supplementary questions by way of interjection to a Minister.
– At the time when this decision was made, which is causing such a stir and which was clearly quite legal and legitimate when it was taken, there was no legislaton relating to environmental impact statements. True, we had a policy but there was no legislaton. Since the time that the Government first indicated that it would require impact statements wherever possiblethat was in February 1973- we have been getting environmental impact statements. We have been assessing them. I think we have received more than 500 such separate proposals directly from departments. We have received many more than that about a range of programs. My Department has been assessing these environmental impact statements. That situation has been brought about simply through the co-operation of departments and even State governments. We even had public inquiries before we had any legislation on which to base those public inquiries. For example, we had an inquiry into the proposal to establish the Redcliffs on refinery complex in South Australia. That public hearing was supported by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I also wish people would drop the idea or the illusion they have that Rex Connor and I are somehow on a collision course. That just is not true.
Opposition members- Oh!
– Honourable members opposite may laugh as much as they like, but the reality of the situation is, as I tried to explain yesterday and as has been confirmed by what the Prime Minister also said in reply to a question, that in the situation in which we had to make a decision about the sand mining we did not have a legal basis for requiring an environmental impact statement. That is a fact of life. In other words, whether we could require one or not was a matter that had to be judged on the circumstances at the time. I am not going to quibble about that. If honourable members opposite are trying to say that somehow or other on their superficial assessment of the situation I was done in that is their judgment.
The fact still remains that we have been able to conduct public inquiries and assess environmental impact statements from State governments before legislating because we have been able to get the co-operation of the State authorities and because, in the circumstances, there have not been commercial interests at stake that could make a claim of prior commitment in the way in which the sand miners were able to do. That was one of the complicating factors in this situation. Therefore it is not true to say that the
Australian Government is not adhering to its policy on environmental impact statements. We now have the legislation. Once the procedures and the regulations have been gazetted, and they are in the process of being prepared for that purpose, we will have all the legal backing that we need, which has been the problem for the Minister for Minerals and Energy as well as for myself. So, with all due respect to the doubts of honourable members opposite, I have every confidence that we will adhere to our policies on the environment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. Are the Minister and the Government aware of the desperate financial position facing beef producers in Australia today? If so, why is the Government so adamant about retaining the beef export tax, which is increasing the heavy losses being experienced in the production of beef at the present time, and why is the Government not making funds available to the industry under conditions that will enable all beef producers in need of funds to participate and so help them to survive the severe depression that the industry is now experiencing and that has been aggravated by rising costs and inflation largely brought about as a result of the Government’s policies?
– I do not know whether the honourable member for Maranoa can read, but if he can he will have seen that in recent weeks a lot of publicity has been given to the very good deal that the Australian Government has given to the beef producers of Australia. Immediately after question time I will introduce a Bill making provision for almost $20m to be made available to the beef industry at very low rates of interest. In fact, in Queensland the interest rate will be 3lA per cent. What other section of the community gets money today at an interest rate of 3V4 per cent? In all other States - (Honourable members interjecting)-
-Order! If honourable members insist upon interjecting during question time and if the members of the Country Party do not want the questions they ask to be answered they ought to say so when they ask their question, and we will not take the time of the House in inviting the Minister to answer.
– In all other States the interest rate will be 4 per cent. In the first 12 months or so there will be no repayments of interest or principal; it will be capitalised. In the
Northern Territory the Australian Government will make funds available to cattle producers in exactly the same way as it is doing in the rest of Australia. I suggest to the honourable member that this is a very good deal in terms of assisting the primary producers in the beef industry. There is no ceiling on the loan to be granted to Queensland; this is still to be negotiated. I can assure the honourable member that the Federal Government is fully conscious of the problems in the beef producing areas.
-Can the Treasurer inform the House whether he has received representations from the National Country Party of Australia in regard to cuts in government spending?
– I assure the honourable member that I have received no representations from the National Country Party, or even from its several predecessors, or from sections of the Country Party in the different States- none whateverin respect of cutting government expenditure in the very extensive area of assistance that has been given to primary industry. For the information of the House I mention that this year $950m has been provided in assistance to industry and $670m of that $950m has been provided to primary industry. I think some of the details could be mentioned for the information of members of the National Country Party and the several other Country Parties who seem to have missed the point. The wool marketing assistance amounts to $380m, of which the Australian Wool Corporation has received $3 50m; the rural reconstruction program has received $30m; the fertiliser bounty $46m; the advance to the Commonwealth Bank for rural lending $20m; and, as the Minister for Northern Development has just mentioned, he will be introducing a Bill into the House today that will provide more than that again. An amount of $ 18m will be allocated for irrigation; $ 12m in respect of dairy farm reconstruction -
Opposition members- Loans!
-Order! If honourable members opposite continue to try to prevent questions being answered, I will cease question time without a request from the Prime Minister. I warn honourable members opposite that if they keep disrupting question time it will not continue.
– I have never received a submission from any member of the Opposition, either in the National Country Party or in the Liberal Party, for any reduction in that most extensive grant of assistance that has been provided both to secondary industry and primary industry by the Government in the last 12 months. As a matter of fact, Mr Speaker, as the interjections have been showing, we continuously are under pressure to increase that assistance, irrespective of the deficit. When it is a question of assistance to primary and secondary industry, which amounts now to $950m in a year, there is never any suggestion from any member of the Opposition that any of that assistance should be cut, but rather that it should be vastly increased.
One other point I would like to make in respect of this matter is that when one looks at the increase in the Budget deficit, which apparently is disapproved of by the Opposition, it is seen that the total increase in the deficit for this year is $ 1,394m. Of that increase, $2 10m was for social security and welfare. Does any member of the Opposition say that should not have been provided? Is there any member of the Opposition who says we should not have provided $2 10m in the field of social security and welfare? The next item in the increase in the deficit this year was $234m for housing, both to encourage the housing industry to get going and to provide housing for the people. Does any member of the Opposition say that that $234m should not have been provided? I have already mentioned industry assistance and development, most of it in primary industry. The increase there during the year has been $3 77m. Does any member of the Opposition say that should not have been provided? So where would members of the Opposition reduce the deficit if they happened to be the Government?
– In other areas.
– Ah! In other areas. I would think that perhaps a suitable area is allowances to former Prime Ministers. Perhaps we could reduce that.
-Order! I suggest that the Treasurer not answer interjections, otherwise I will ask him to sit down.
– And I think I have seen a motor car around Mascot too that is running -
-Order! I suggest that the Treasurer might confine himself to matters of policy.
-I am sorry, Mr Speaker. I would welcome a suggestion from the right honourable member for Lowe as to anywhere he thinks we ought to reduce expenditure, specifically and in detail.
-Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. He is answering a question which was not asked.
– My question to the Minister for Environment is supplementary to that recently asked of him by the Leader of the Opposition. In view of the reply which he gave to the Leader of the Opposition, I ask the honourable gentleman: Does he reject the criticism of him in an attack by the Prime Minister yesterday? Is he supporting and organising Senator Gietzelt ‘s approach to the Australian Council of Trade Unions to undermine the Caucus decision?
– I am sorry. I have neither seen nor heard the criticism the honourable member talked about. I have not read the newspapers or listened to any news broadcasts today. I do not know what the comments are. I do not know what Senator Gietzelt might or might not be doing. I am sorry.
-My question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy is a follow-up on the question I asked of him yesterday regarding the honouring of uranium contracts. Will the Minister inform the House how it is possible for the development of the Northern Territory uranium deposits to take place within 2 years in order to enable Queensland Mines Ltd and Peko-EZ to meet their 5 contracts for the supply of yellowcake to 4 different Japanese power companies? Does the Minister claim that the mines can be opened and mills constructed before 1977 when these contracts must be met?
-The Leader of the Country Party ought well to know the answer, having held high office in a former Government. We happen to have in stock about 2¼ thousand tons of uranium oxide. That will be loaned, if necessary, to the respective companies to see that they honour their contracts. I stress and repeat, Labor honours its contracts and will always be in a position to do so.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Labor and Immigration been drawn to a letter issued by an insurance company in which that company threatens employees with loss of employment if they fail to sign petitions opposing the Australian Government Insurance Corporation? Has the attention of the Minister also been drawn to a recent statement by the chairman of the Life Offices Association, Mr
Renton, that insurance employees who are even lukewarm in their opposition to the Corporation may face discrimination in the form of nonpromotion?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is giving a lot of information. What is his question?
– Will the Minister tell the House whether actions of this kind infringe antidiscrimination arrangements enforced by his Department? Will he refer the instances to the AntiDiscrimination Committee that his Department maintains?
– I was listening with great interest to the question and wondering who was going to answer it. I did not hear the first few words. Yes, I have heard of all of these things. I have no doubt at all that the insurance companies are carrying on a campaign of intimidation against their officers. They are making it clear to the officers that unless they come out and develop a synthetic campaign of opposition to the Government’s proposal they will be dismissed, or certainly they will not be promoted. The charge is a very serious one. It could constitute a breach of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 111. I will be asking the chairman of the Anti-Discrimination Committee, Mr McGarvie, Q.C., to look into this matter. If it is found that there is a breach of the ILO convention by the companies concerned, I will ask him to give me a report which I will table.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House of when he proposes to announce the permanent methods to be adopted for adjusting defence force retirement benefits pensions and defence force retirement death benefits pensions? What will be the effective date of any adjustments that may be made?
– I appreciate the interest of the honourable member for Herbert in this matter. He will be aware of the undertakings that I have given in this House to introduce a firm basis for updating DFRB and DFRDB pensions. The matter has been actively pursued. I can say now that the Government will be considering a firm proposal in the very near future. I expect then to be able to make a firm statement about the conditions, the way in which they will be updated and, incidentally, whether the adjustments will be retrospective.
-Has the Minister for Social Security noted criticism of the Government’s interest in a national superannuation scheme coming from such disinterested, self-denying organisations as the wealthy insurance companies, especially the Australian Mutual Provident Society? What evidence is there that private insurance companies adequately cater for the retirement needs of the community and that the interest of the Australian Government in national superannuation should be peripheral, unimportant and, in fact, can be discarded?
-The claims of the private insurance companies are rather selfish and selfinterested. In fact a survey of the work force in February 1974 indicated just how defective private insurance is in providing adequate benefits for retirement. That survey showed that of the 5.7 million people in the Australian work force at that time, seven out of ten were not covered for superannuation. When one breaks down the statistics, one finds that 2 out of 3 males are not covered and 4 out of 5 females are not covered for superannuation. So this discrimination is obviously sexist based. The survey showed that 9 out of 10 employers who were self-employed were not covered, so this also discriminates against the capitalists in society. The survey showed that 7 out of 10 wage and salary earners were not covered for superannuation. When one breaks it down on a work class basis, one finds that 4 out of 5 manual workers are not covered by any form of superannuation and that more than 9 out of 10 females employed in manual work are not covered- further evidence of the sexist basis of discrimination in superannuation. The best off are the male non-manual employees in the Government work force, 4 out of 5 of whom are covered by superannuation. The worst off are the female manual workers in the private sector, only 6 out of every 100 of whom are covered by superannuation.
This is clear evidence of the long standing defectiveness of private insurance organisations and Government organisations covered under that general description, in providing adequate superannuation benefits for people in retirement. In fact, many of those people who do have cover- honourable members will note that they are in a minority- only have a small degree of cover. Private insurance organisations cannot guarantee inflation proofing of retirement benefits. They cannot guarantee portability and the vesting of one’s entitlement in superannuation schemes. They cannot give adequate coverage for those in temporary employment, casual employment or, as the figures have shown, the self-employed and of course the seasonal workers. There is a clear and pressing case for a national superannuation scheme in this country. I repeat what I said earlier in this House in the course of this session: I sincerely hope that the emotional and selfish interests of the lobby groups which have been set up by the private insurance companies will not cut private insurance off from effective influential discussion with me on the issue of national superannuation.
-Does the Prime Minister believe that matters of the environment have been handled expeditiously and effectively by his Minister for Environment and by that Minister’s Department? If so, is it true that the Minister for Environment is about to be treated in the same ignominious fashion as the previous Speaker and the previous Treasurer?
– I have nothing to add to the facts and the dates which came out during question time yesterday. I do not respond to speculation such as that in which the honourable gentleman wallows. It would be very interesting to know exactly what the attitude of the honourable gentleman and his Leader, and their counterparts in the Liberal Party, is on the real issue here. Do any of them believe that an export authorisation should have been refused in respect to the Fraser Island mineral sands? I would recall that when this Government came into office, there was no law requiring authorisation by any Federal Minister for the exportation of any minerals other than uranium and iron ore. There were no requirements that the exportation of uranium and iron ore should depend upon environmental factors. That is, at the time this Government came to office, there had been no legislation, and no practice in any way to investigate or deter the export of minerals. I armed myself with the Liberal platform, as re cent as last October, and I noticed that the only undertaking-
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am wondering about the relevance of the answer to the question.
– The answer is quite relevant to the question.
– I noticed that the Liberal platform requires that a Liberal Government should ensure that environmental impact studies are completed and publicised before major Commonwealth development projects are undertaken. The Liberal platform, as recently as October last, did not mention State or private development projects which might lead to exports. Do any of the leaders of the Liberal Party or the National Country Party say that the responsible Minister in this case should have refused to authorise export from Fraser Island? The fact is that the companies concerned- it was half Australian and half overseas capital- had complied completely with all the laws in operation up till that time. They had got the requisite leases from the State Government concerned. They had been submitted to a public inquiry into the environment, as required by the State law. Conditions were imposed. They were undertaking to comply with those conditions. My colleague the Minister for Minerals and Energy referred to this inquiry yesterday. He is investigating the possibility of obtaining a copy of the transcript and the findings and tabling them in the Parliament. The whole of the legal requirements had been complied with throughout the period. Instead of resorting to headlines and personalities the Opposition would serve the country very much better if it were to say what it would do in these circumstances. Does anybody in the Opposition say that he would refuse the authorisation for exports in respect to which every current law had been meticulously observed? I notice that there is a current campaign about uranium exports. I believe that there are some demonstrators circling around Parliament House today. -
-Order! The Prime Minister will be out of order if he refers to that matter.
-Mr Speaker, I know that it is disorderly on their part and I will not refer to it. The only question of the Leader of the National Country Party today was in furtherance of uranium exports. Where do the National Country Party and Liberal Party leadership and the rest stand on Fraser Island? Do they believe that there was any legal right for a Federal Minister to refuse authorisation in respect to this project? I need to persuade no one that I believe that this Parliament should exercise its constitutional powers to the full but I certainly do not believe that we should invite a challenge to our constitutional powers in respect to trade and commerce with other countries, and in particular exports, by making something illegal retrospectively. One would be inviting a challenge to a constitutional power on the very weakest grounds and in the most perilous circumstances.
Where there are Federal powers, as in the Territories and on the sea bed, my Government has exercised powers and has introduced laws of the widest application. Tomorrow my colleague the Minister for Environment will be introducing the Bill, under Federal powers, to make a Great Barrier Reef marine park. We do not have powers within the States. We do have powers in the Territories, and the National Country Party is irked because we are exercising them. Most uranium is to be found in the Northern Territory. We believe that we have power in respect to the sea bed and we are exercising that power. Honourable gentlemen opposite should remember that it was in April 1970 when the Minister for National Development at that time, on behalf of the Foreign Minister at that time in the Gorton Government, introduced a Bill which that Government did not proceed with. We passed it. It is now under challenge in the High Court of Australia. We believe that it will withstand that challenge by all the State governments. Because we believe that, we are introducing a Bill tomorrow to exercise that constitutional power in respect to the seabed. Honourable gentlemen opposite never get beyond headlines and personalities. They will never get down to the precise issues. They made no laws when they were in government. They do not say they would repeal the laws we made. They do not say how they would exercise the laws. They are urging in other respects that we disregard the laws where we had the power to make them.
-Has the Special Minister of State been informed that the Australian Government Statistician is conducting a survey in Queensland described as a survey into unreported crime? Is he aware that the Statistician in Queensland refused to give the Press any details of the questions being asked and is reported by one of the nation’s most respected journalists, Mr Alan Underwood, as saying: ‘The survey documents are confidential. I cannot disclose the questions’. Is he aware that there is considerable nation-wide alarm at the rapid expansion of government surveys and that some questions are asked which are regarded as being a complete invasion of privacy? Will he adopt the attitude that if survey questions are such that they cannot be made public for scrutiny the survey will not be carried out? Will he intervene to put an end to the invasion of privacy which seems to have become an order of the day under the guise of all these surveys?
-I heard a speech in the House by the honourable member last Monday night which he addressed to my colleague, the Treasurer. However, I understand that the survey about which he complains is a normal type of survey. It amazes me to think that any member of this Parliament would not want the Australian Government Statistician to obtain the true facts whether they relate to reported crime or to unreported crime. It is very important in this day and age that we find out the position so that not only the Australian Government but also the State governments can be well advised as to the nature of crime and the extent of crime in society. I am amazed to find that anybody would think that that was an invasion of privacy. In fact all the people participating in this survey are volunteers. As the honourable member would know, in a recent debate in this House he had an opportunity to raise this matter. I felt that all the questions the honourable member raised were answered effectively. In addition to that, there is a Senate Committee that also deals with such matters and cross-examines the Statistician as to the type of survey questions that are asked.
Let us make the position clear: There is nothing unusual about surveys. The incredible part is that not enough of them have been conducted. The outstanding fact is that there is much knowledge that no government, whether it be an Australian government or a State government, has adequate resources to ascertain. To put the position clearly in this case, the honourable member is merely seeking publicity and is trying to stir up some agitation on the basis that there has been an invasion of privacy. There has been no such invasion of privacy. The survey questionnaire is not available during the survey itself because it does stimulate some agitation on the basis that people might feel that their answers will be made public. Under the Statistician Act all answers to the questions are confidential. In this case, if the honourable member wants to know anything about the survey or the forms themselves, now that the questions have been answered and the survey is completed he is fully entitled to have a copy of the form.
– Yesterday the Prime Minister informed the House that the proposed $2,000m loan which was to be raised abroad by the Minister for Minerals and Energy was for matters relating to energy. Does he recall informing the House on 23 April that funds to be expended by the Petroleum and Minerals Authority, the validity of which is still in question, would not include amounts to be borrowed by the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Will he tell the House through what instrumentality the funds to be raised are to be spent and whether they are to finance a uranium enrichment plant?
-The authority has been revoked.
- Mr Speaker, I direct a question to you. Will you give consideration to establishing a boxing gymnasium on the premises as I understand that once you were a leading amateur boxer? Would you consult with the Minister for Tourism and Recreation in regard to conducting a boxing tournament and offering suitable prizes for members?
– If I thought that enough honourable members in the building would be able to pass the very stringent physical and medical checks which would be required, I would give the question serious consideration. Under the circumstances I do not think I could consider the matter seriously.
(Mr Garland proceeding to address a question to the Treasurers)-
-Order! The question is out of order.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker.
– The question is out of order.
– Why is it out of order?
– Questions cannot relate to debates in this current session and 16 April is in the current session. The question is out of order.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report prepared for the Social Welfare Commission by David Griffiths of the Brotherhood of St Lawrence with recommendations by the Commission, entitled Emergency Relief.
– Pursuant to section 1 8( 1 ) of the Dried Fruits Research Act 1971I present the third annual report of the Dried Fruits
Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1974.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report submitted to the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications by its working party on interpreting, dated August 1974.
– Pursuant to subsection 7 (7) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973-1974 I table a determination by the Remuneration Tribunal of remuneration payable, first, to the Chairman of the Australian Defence Force Academy Development Council and, secondly, to the part-time members of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority.
– For the information of honourable members I present an urban paper prepared by Claire Wagner, an officer of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, entitled ‘Rural Retreats’.
Mr ENDERBY (CanberraAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Police and Customs)For the information of honourable members I present the second report of the Australian Legal Aid Review Committee dated March 1975.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I wish to make a personal explanaton to lift a cloud of suspicion that hangs heavily over the head of the Minister for the Environment (Dr Cass), his Department and his office. I was misrepresented yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in response to an interjecton that I made in the course of an answer that he was giving in the House. He alleged that I had copies of correspondence that was exchanged between him and the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), and other official correspondence, before the recipients had even received this correspondence. A similar allegation was made by the Minister for Minerals and Energy in response to my speech in regard to Fraser Island on a private member’s motion dealing with Fraser Island in April. Both allegations are based on assumptions and are untrue. I have never seen copies of” any correspondence and have never sought copies of this correspondence from the Minister, his staff or the Department.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. On the front page of yesterday’s ‘Courier-Mail’ are quotes of statements by different people regarding the Fraser Island issue. In the middle of the third column it says this:
The Country Party Leader (Mr Anthony) said last night the Cabinet decision on approval of export permits from July 1 was ‘monstrous’.
Mr Connor has steamrolled the Cabinet. He will attempt to steamroll caucus, ‘ he said.
It is not a question of whether sand mining should or should not take place on Fraser Island.
It is a question of whether an environmental impact study is made prior to such decision or whether the whole philosophy of environmental impact assessments is to succeed.’
I made no statement regarding Fraser Island or sand mining. The wrong name has been attributed to that statement.
-I call on Government Business.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of procedure. In view of the deliberations in the Parliament over the last few days and the desire of honourable members, I think on both sides, to expedite to conclusion, starting immediately, the Family Law Bill, I would ask that the Family Law Bill, Government Business Notice No. 1 , be called on forthwith.
– It is the desire of the Government to give priority to the Family Law Bill. The decision of the Government was that with the exception of legislation which the Legislation Committee decided should have first priority, the Family Law Bill should take priority over all other business. Two of the items that have been brought forward as priority matters are those dealing with the redistribution of electoral boundaries in
South Australia and the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Tasmania. Consequently those matters will take priority today. The Family Law Bill will be proceeded with immediately after that. I do not expect lengthy debate on the 2 items being given first priority. They should not hold up unduly consideration of the Family Law Bill.
– I call on Government Business.
- Mr Speaker -
– Order! I do not think I can accept any further comment from the honourable member.
– I intend to move the suspension of Standing Orders.
-The honourable member will have to get the call first. I have called on Government Business.
-Mr Speaker, I would have thought that the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) would have given a lot of importance to the Bill which I am introducing now, the States Grants (Beef Industry) Bill, one which he himself -
-Order! The Minister will not start commenting on what is going on in the House. He will start on what he has been called to the table to do.
Dr PATTERSON Mr Speaker, I accept your ruling.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to a decision by the Government to join with the States in the provision of carry-on loan funds for beef producers. The Bill provides for an amount of $ 19.6m to match State allocations for carry-on funds which comprise: Queensland, $10m; New South Wales, $5m; Victoria, $2m; South Australia, $ 1.5m; Western Australia, $0.8m; and Tasmania, $0.3m. The terms and conditions under which these funds are being made available by the Australian Government will be formalised by an exchange of letters between the
Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the respective Premiers. The terms and conditions which have been agreed upon by Ministers are:
No repayments of principal will be due in the first year and during the first 12 months interest will be capitalised and repayable over the term of the loan;
The arrangements between the Australian and State governments will provide for equal sharing of loan administration costs and of any shortfall of either principal or interest repayments by producers. Honourable members will be aware that this is a very difficult time for the beef industry. Despite a slight improvement in the position over the last 2 or 3 months and the significant increase in domestic consumption of beef in Australia the Government believes that such action taken in conjunction with the States is fully justified. It was in recognition of this that the Government proposed to the States a joint lending operation. The proposal was to provide carry-on funds to beef producers who, while viable under more normal market conditions, were unable at present to obtain carry-on funds through normal sources. The result is that the States have made decisions on the amounts which they will provide. The total amount of $ 19.6m mentioned in the Bill equates to the total of the amounts announced by the State governments.
This Bill concerns itself with the States. For the interest of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who will be wondering why the Northern Territory has not been included, I point out that funds also will be provided to the Northern Territory to enable cattle producers there to obtain carry-on finance on the same basis as the States. This money will be appropriated in the normal way to the Department of the Northern Territory. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent order of the day No. 1 , Government Business, further consideraton of the Family Law Bill 1974, being called on forthwith and having precedence until disposed of.
The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has given his explanation that there are a number of matters of urgent Government business which he seeks to take as matters precedent to the Family Law Bill. The reason why I move this motion is that the very nature of the resolution passed by this House a few days ago, at the insistence of the Leader of the House, precludes us on this side of the chamber from canvassing any other matters whatsoever while the Family Law Bill remains unresolved. A second reason why I move the motion is that the debate over the last 2 days has demonstrated a widespread concern in the Parliament that there should be an expeditious consideration and deliberation of each of the several measures contained within the proposals of the Family Law Bill. That expedition should not be frustrated simply because the Government accords a priority to a number of matters and denies priority to others.
The whole substance of the resolution passed recently- if I might advert to the first of the 2 points I made- was that there would be no opportunity for the Opposition parties to raise matters of public importance in the House. There would be no opportunity for private member’s business to be introduced as the Standing Orders provide, until such time as the Family Law Bill is disposed of. We accepted that as being a not unreasonable position, both on Monday and Tuesday of this week. We believe it would have been appropriate for that reason for the debate to have been concluded last night. I was delighted to see that, in spite of Caucus restraints on members on the Government side, they accepted the wisdom of this proposal. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) demonstrated his occasional wisdom in advocating that there should be a continuation of the debate last night. Regrettably he changed his mind on the third occasion and was not prepared to allow the Family Law Bill to continue until such time as it was finalised.
I have moved the motion for the suspension of standing orders so that honourable members on this side of the House and honourable members on the other side of the House can conclude those contributions which we believe need to be made to the Family Law Bill and so that we can canvass other matters of significant public concern. Many matters need to be raised in this House. They cannot be raised until we have disposed of the Family Law Bill. Whilst it would be tempting for us to raise matters which pertain to those outside issues by way of the suspension of standing orders, we do not wish to use this form frivolously. We think it is quite critical that we dispose of the Family Law Bill so that matters of national importance- in addition to the Family Law Bill- can adequately be canvassed in this place. Even at question time this morning the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) found it necessary to give us something like a 10-minute dissertation on the reasons he still believes that his environment policy is intact. We, on this side of the House, want an opportunity to debate that sort of issue. After all, why should matters be canvassed in Caucus, in the Press and in public when we are denied in this place an opportunity to even raise them? It is not sufficient for the Leader of the House to say that later on this day we will get on with the Family Law Bill. He well knows that the selection of Government business that he has made denies us the opportunity to debate adequately many other matters of immediate public concern. If he feels that there are not matters of public concern, I suggest he opens the morning newspapers or listens to the radio. From them he will learn that many people in the community are concerned about what is happening on Fraser Island which involves the Minister for Environment (Dr Cass). If he looks out the windows he will see that there are people concerned with uranium.
– There were 3 demonstrations yesterday.
– There were 3 demonstrations yesterday.
- (Mr Keith Johnson)- Order! I remind the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party that this is a fairly restrictive motion with which we are dealing. We are dealing with the suspension of Standing Orders to enable the Family Law Bill to be brought on. I rather think that your remaks on other matters are out of order.
Mr SINCLAIR I am grateful for your intervention, MrDeputy Speaker.That is the very reason I have moved the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. We want to talk about the Family Law Bill. We cannot talk about the Family Law Bill to the exclusion of all other matters in this chamber. I am moving for the suspension of standing orders so that we can talk about the Family Law Bill and then talk about all these other matters about which the people of Australia are concerned. The three demonstrations which took place outside this House yesterday give an indication of how seriously the people of Australia regard other issues. We, on this side of the House, believe that for that reason it is far preferable to initiate this morning’s business by proceeding immediately with the debate on the Family Law Bill. I think the debate on the Family Law Bill should continue until it is concluded and then we can proceed to the business as listed. We can proceed in the normal manner and debate other matters of significant concern to the Australian community. For those reasons I have moved the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable the debate on the Family Law Bill to proceed.
-Is the motion seconded?
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. The argument which the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) has put to the House is an eminently reasonable one. I submit it is also an incontestable one. I am sorry that it would appear, even at this stage, that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) will not respond to the suggestion made by the honourable member for New England in the fashion I suggest he should. I do not know why it is that this House demeans itself in the way it does. I do not know why, after having commenced a debate which has been described by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and by a number of his Ministers as being critical, as indeed it is, relating to a measure which is important, which indeed it is, we should punctuate the debate in this fashion. I would have thought it would have been the courteous thing to this House for the debate to continue in a quite uninterrupted fashion.
If one turns to the question of priority- I am not being discourteous to my friend, the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley)- I would submit to the House that a Bill relating to the Canberra College of Advanced Education should not claim priority over the conclusion of the debate on the Family Law Bill. But putting that to one side, even if that argument should be regarded as unattractive, what justification is there for a consideration of measures relating to redistribution? What priority should that command over the Family Law Bill? That is one argument. The main argument put to the House by the honourable member for New England this morning was: By dint of the manner in which the Government has contrived to arrange consideration of the Family Law Bill, this House is virtually gagged. It cannot turn to a consideration of any matter of urgency. It cannot deal with a private member’s debate. It cannot deal with an ordinary grievance debate. This is one of the most outrageous mechanisms which has ever been employed- certainly during my 20 years in this Parliament. I invite the House to consider: To what avail is it pretending that this is a Parliament when, by a mere mechanism of this character, this House can gag itself? This is simply not good enough.
I hope that the Leader of the House can identify the problems that exist. Why should this House gag itself? The argument put by the honouable member for New England is eminently reasonable. It is a very sensible argument. To think that matters of grave public importance cannot be discussed until such time as the Family Law Bill is debated in full is absolutely outrageous. The motion moved by the honourable member for New England should be carried.
– Rarely have I heard a more politicalor phoney proposition put forward. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who has just spoken, mentioned the need to speed up the debate on the Family Law Bill. He also went to great lengths to impress on us how it must not be delayed; how he needs it and how the Opposition wants it. Yet, on page 2527 of Hansard of 20 May 1975 at about 10.30 p.m.-this was last night- it states:
Motion ( by Mr Killen ) put:
That progress be reported.
– That is right. I did that in accordance with Standing Orders.
– The honourable member for Moreton was not prepared to conclude the debate on the Family Law Bill last night. But this morning he has a few new arguments, so away we go- first cab off the rank. If the honourable member was fair dinkum last night he would have stayed all night but he wanted to go home at 10.35 p.m. Today, with all that pomposity that can come only from a small debts lawyer, he stands up in this Parliament and tells us that we have to proceed with the Family Law Bill without further delay. I suggest that before he supports motions of this type in the future he will remember what he said about 10.30 p.m. last night. I think that the motion moved by the honourable member for Moreton last night completely destroys the arguments he has put forward this morning. It is true that I moved a motion in this Parliament on 15 May 1975. It set out in some detail the arrangements which would be made to cover the debate on the Family Law Bill. Honourable members are all aware of that motion. Paragraph (1) (b) (ii) states:
Government business shall take precedence over general business on each sitting day.
No suggestion was made of what Government business would be introduced. The text of the resolution that was passed by our Party and which was given effect to in this resolution was that legislation under the heading of Government business considered to be urgent would be dealt with during the course of this debate. I do not know about members of the National Country Party of Australia but we on this side of the House thought that the Bill dealing with grants to the States for the beef industry was legislation for which the beef industry had been clamouring for a long time. It is significant that the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) did not move the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders until after the Government had introduced the States Grants (Beef Industry) Bill 1975. There is apparently one law for the cockies and another for the rest of the community. The continuation of the debate on the Family Law Bill could have waited until doomsday as long as the beef industry Bill was introduced. One can see from that the phoney nature of what has been put before the Parliament this morning. I suggest that the Country Party and the Liberal Party want to hide from the light of day their general disagreement on a fair and equitable redistribution of electoral boundaries, which is another matter that is to be brought forward today. That is an important matter. People want it to be dealt with. It is legislation that is of great importance. The matters that I have mentioned this morning, including the matter concerning the beef industry, are important. The Country Party may not think that they are important but I do. I think that they are matters that must be considered urgently by this Parliament. The fact that we have to defend them against the actions of the Country Party indicates that it is using the debate on the Family Law Bill for political purposes.
The delay in the continuation of the debate on the Family Law Bill will not be very great by reason of the fact that a number of important Bills is to be introduced and that there are also to be debates on electoral redistributions in 2 States. The debate on the Family Law Bill will then proceed. If 25 minutes of the time of the House had not been wasted on this matter another dozen clauses probably could have been dealt with. It is of no use honourable members opposite, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Country Party and the honourable member for Moreton, grandstanding on the Family Law Bill. The Government intends to push it through as speedily as possible. That is why we have allowed plenty of time this week for the debate on it. The debate on it has not been curtailed in any way. There has been a reasonable presentation of the cases for and against it. Five hours were alloted to the debate on clause 48 of the Bill, but I think that only 2½ hours were taken up in debate on it. So adequate time has been set aside.
– We have been restricted to 5 minutes each.
– The honourable member for Moreton said that he has been restricted to speaking for 5 minutes on each clause. I think that once or twice last night he could not go the distance; yet he is now saying that he has been restricted. The fact of the matter is that the Family Law Bill is not supposed to be a lawyers’ paradise for argument in the Parliament. I do not know whether the honourable member for Moreton would want to talk five or ten times on every clause in respect of legal matters, but the fact of the matter is that no parliament could cope with that type of debate. I believe that the motion that has been moved this morning is phoney. It just seeks to give the impression that the Labor Government is holding up the passage of the Family Law Bill, which is not the case. In addition, the insincerity of honourable members opposite has been proved by the fact that the honourable member who seconded the motion wanted to curtail the debate on the Family Law Bill at about 10.35 last night. I repeat that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party evidently thinks this morning that the beef industry is more important, as I do, than other legislation and that priority should be given to the introduction and debating of legislation this day. Therefore I suggest to honourable members opposite that they should accept the explanation that I have given and allow the Parliament to get on with all speed to the continuation of the debate on the Family Law Bill and to the consideration and finalisation of other business and not hold up the time of this Parliament unnecessarily for about 25 minutes on a motion on which they know that they have not much support. I noticed that when the Attorney-General^ Mr Enderby) moved at about 10.50 last night that progress be reported 3 very prominent members of the Country Party voted for the motion. So everybody is not unanimous that all other business should be put off. Those 3 members of the Country Party were the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock).
– Where were you on that occasion?
-I voted that the debate should proceed.
– You abstained.
– If the honourable member for Moreton checks Hansard he will find that my name is listed with the 59 honourable members who voted for the continuation of the debate last night. The point I make is that half the members of the Country Party did not want to go on with the debate last night. I am not being critical of them for that. They knew that they would have ample time to continue the debate today. But it is of no use the Deputy Leader of the Country Party coming into this chamber today and saying that the Government is trying to hold up the debate. Those 3 members of his Party thought that the time at which that proposition was put last night was a reasonable time to go home, and good luck to them. Other honourable members, including myself, thought that the debate ought to have gone on a little longer and voted accordingly. Honourable members opposite should not forget that the debate on the Family Law Bill may well go on until this time next week. Would the members of the Country Party be prepared to put off consideration of the beef industry Bill until that time? Some priority must be given to important legislation and the Government has adopted that pattern in respect of this matter.
I suggest to honourable members opposite that they have made their futile protest and that what they should do now is accept the program as it has been put down and proceed with the debates. With due respect to the huge shadow Cabinet opposite, the new Leader of the Opposition and the half-dozen different Country Parties throughout the country, this Government still controls the business of this House and we are not prepared to allow it to be taken out of our hands. When a legislative program is laid down the business of the Parliament will be continued along those lines. Consequently the program as outlined will proceed. I suggest to honourable members opposite that they should accept as such the importance of the legislation to which we have given priority, debate what is before them and then get on with the Family Law Bill.
That the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Mr Clyde Cameron and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill proposes increases in the statutory maximum rate of charge that may be prescribed in respect of 3 classes of waterside workers as defined in the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act. The actual rates are fixed by regulation within the limits of the maximum rates established in the Act and are based on the hours worked by a waterside worker. The Act provides that differenct rates are payable in respect of the three separate classes of waterside workers. Class A waterside workers are registered regular waterside workers employed at weekly hire at permanent or continuous ports. Class B waterside workers are employed at continuous non-permanent ports. Class C waterside workers are irregular waterside workers who, because of age or some special reason, are not obliged to attend regularly or make themselves available for employment.
Moneys collected by means of the stevedoring industry charge are paid to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to enable it to discharge its responsibilities under the various Stevedoring Industry Acts. It should be appreciated that the charge comprises only one element in the total cost of employing a waterside worker, which also includes such factors as award rates of pay, private levies and other private employer costs. The present maximum rates provided for by the Act are $1.50, $1.75 and $1.20 per man hour for A, B and C classes of waterside workers respectively. The respective actual charges of $ 1 .40, $ 1 .75 and $ 1 . 1 5, currently levied are at or near the statutory maximum permitted under the stevedoring industry charge, cannot be increased sufficiently by regulation to meet any significant future increases in industry costs.
It is anticipated that movements in wages, combined with a low level of stevedoring activity, will adversely affect the financial position of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority during the latter part of 1975 and that it will be unable to meet its financial commitments from the revenue currently derived from the charge. The Bill proposes that the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947-1973 be amended to provide for the maximum rates of charge of $2.50, $3.50 and $2.50 for Classes A, B and C waterside workers respectively. The proposed amendment will not in itself vary the current rate of charge. The actual rate of charge is fixed by regulation after consideration of detailed recommendations by the Stevedoring Industry Authority-
– What is the actual charge at the moment?
– I have already given the actual rates at the moment; they are $1.40, $1.75, and $1.15 respectively for the A, B and C classes of waterside workers. I repeat that the proposed amendment will not, in itself, vary the current rate of charge. As I have already said, the actual rate of charge is fixed by regulation after consideration of detailed recommendations by the Stevedoring Industry Authority and in consultation with other Ministers affected. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Beazley, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
The major purpose of this Bill is to provide for the abolition of certain types of fees payable by undergraduate students at the Australian National University. Soon after it came to office, the Government established a policy of further assisting students at tertiary institutions throughout Australia by removing the need to pay fees for tuition and matters related to tuition. While it has been the responsibility of the Universities Commission to effect this policy with respect to the majority of Australian universities, the Australian National University is, in contrast to the various State universities, constituted under an Act of the Australian Parliament and a special amendment to that Act is required to abolish tuition and tuition-type fees.
In addition to this- the major purpose of the Bill - it is also intended to increase slightly the membership of the Council of the University, in order to provide for additional representation of staff and students on the University’s governing body and, further, to amend certain terminology used in the principal Act so as to accord with modern usage. The Bill provides the Council of the University with a power to make statutes regarding only those kinds of fees which it is intended should remain payable by students. These are specified in section 4 of the Bill and include such fees as subscriptions to student organisations, sports unions, accommodation and other non-academic charges. Since it is intended that this policy should have effect from the commencement of the 1974 academic year, the Minister is empowered under section 5 of the Bill to direct that specified fees otherwise payable for the years 1974 and 1975 shall be deemed not to have been payable.
The Council of the University last year approved, and I was pleased to confirm, the extension of its membership to include representation of the non-academic staff of the University, so that all groups within the University may now be represented in the governing of their institution. The second representative of the undergraduate student body provided in section 3 of the Bill brings to three the number of such representatives and is in keeping with the general increase in student numbers in the School of General Studies. Section 4 of the Bill provides for a clarification of the term ‘matriculation’ occurring in the principal Act, in order to allow for the increasing opportunities for entry to university and college study which enable intending tertiary students to apply to institutions on the basis of studies or experience not directly related to traditional matriculation qualifications gained at the end of formal secondary education. I wish the Bill a speedy passage through the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Beazley, and read a first time.
– I move:
The major purpose of this Bill is to provide for the abolition of certain types of fees payable by undergraduate students at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, and it parallels amendments to be made to the Austraiian National University Act. Soon after it came to office, the Government established a policy of further assisting students at tertiary institutions throughout Australia by removing the need to pay fees for tuition and matters relating to tuition. While it has been the responsibility of the Commission on Advanced Education to effect this policy with respect to the majority of colleges of advanced education, the Canberra College is, unlike other colleges, constituted under an Act of the Australian Parliament and a special amendment to that Act is required to abolish tuition and tuition type fees.
The Bill provides the Council of the College with a power to make statutes regarding only those kinds of fees which it is intended should remain payable by students. These are specified in clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill, and include such fees as subscriptions to student organisations, sports unions, accommodation and other nonacademic charges. Since it is intended that this policy should have effect from the commencement of the 1974 academic year, the Minister is empowered under clause 4 of the Bill to direct that specified fees otherwise payable for the years 1 974 and 1 975 shall be deemed not to have been payable. I wish the Bill a speedy passage through the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Enderby, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill gives effect to the Government’s measures providing financial assistance to the Australian shipbuilding industry. The measures were announced by the Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply on 18 December 1973. It is the Government’s objective to provide assistance which will assure the continuing development of a rationalised and efficient shipbuilding industry in Australia. The assistance will alleviate local shipbuilders’ disabilities against prospective import competition while providing intending purchasers with the opportunity to source their requirements overseas.
Honourable members will be aware that financial assistance has been provided to the shipbuilding industry since 1947. The assistance is currently provided under section 47 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956, as amended, under which Australia agrees to purchase a vessel from the shipowner on completion of construction and the shipowner agrees to re-purchase the vessel from Australia at the same price less the amount of the subsidy to be provided. The level and mode of assistance to the industry was reviewed by the Tariff Board from time to time, the latest review being the Tariff Board report on shipbuilding signed on 25 June 1971. The annual payments of subsidy have risen from about $2m in 1947 to about $30m in 1974.
The legislation now being introduced sets out the assistance that will be available to shipbuilders and the procedures by which that assistance will be made available. The Bill is similar to other bounty legislation and brings the method of providing assistance to shipbuilders into line with other bounty assistance accorded to manufacturers. The Bill provides that bounty will be payable on the production in Australia, in registered shipyards, of vessels of 150 gross construction tons or more and fishing vessels 2 1 metres or more in length, where these vessels are for use in Australian waters or for use by Australian flag operators in international trade. Bounty is also payable on the modification in Australia of existing vessels where the cost of the shipbuilding type activity involved in the modification exceeds $500,000. There is provision for pro-rata recapture of bounty if the vessel is disposed of for use outside Australian waters by other than an Australian flag operator within 10 years of completion of the construction or the modification.
The amount of bounty payable is as follows: Vessels of less than 1000 gross construction tons, 25 per cent of the bounty price; vessels of 92 000 deadweight tonnes or more, 25 per cent; oil exploration vessels, 25 per cent; modifications of existing vessels, 25 per cent; other vessels up to 31 December 1980, 25 per cent to 40 per cent -according to gross construction tonnage and date of keel laying specified in the building contract; and other vessels on or after 1 January 1981,25 percent.
In determining the bounty price the cost of certain items such as purchase of designs overseas, miscellaneous stores, fees and specialised functional equipment not being part of shipbuilding activity may be excluded. The Bill also includes provisions for the registration of premises for the construction or modification of vessels generally or vessels of a particular kind. The provisions are similar to those provided in the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Act 1972 and the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act 1973. The Minister for Transport will be responsible for the administration of the bounty legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nixon) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Cass, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill before the House contains provisions relating to the furnishing of information to the Department of Health by manufacturers or distributors of pharmaceutical benefits and is consistent with a recommendation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices, which inquired into the effect of the December 1972 revaluation of the Australian Dollar. In its first report of November 1973 the Committee recommended among other things, that: the National Health Act be amended to allow the Department of Health to obtain cost and financial information in respect of products in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
More than 80 per cent of all dispensed medicines are supplied under the provisions of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. At present there is no power under the National Health Act requiring manufacturers or distributors of pharmaceutical benefits to supply information about costs to the Government and consequently the Department of Health depends on negotiations to try and achieve fair and reasonable prices for pharmaceutical benefit items. Such negotiations depend for their effectiveness upon the cooperation of the parties. If a satisfactory price cannot be achieved an item may be removed from the list of pharmaceutical benefits. Such de-listing may not, however, always be in the public interest because of the therapeutic value of the particular drug. For this reason compromise and offsetting savings, rather than the analysis of cost information, currently play the more significant part in establishing prices of benefit items.
The Government recognises the need to have information about costs at its disposal when considering the reasonableness of prices for pharmaceutical benefits. Attempts to obtain information on costs from manufacturers and distributors on a voluntary basis have not always been successful, particularly in respect of patented drugs. Under the provisions of the Bill, drug manufacturers and distributors may be required by notice to furnish financial information, including information on prices and costs, about pharmaceutical benefits. The information will be required to be furnished within the time and in a manner specified in the notice. The Bill imposes penalties for failure to comply with the terms of the notice, without reasonable excuse, and for the supply of false or misleading information. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Edwards) adjourned.
– I move:
I have moved in that way, Mr Speaker, because it is not possible for this House to have a proper understanding of the matters that will need to be determined by this House if the proposals for the States and the new maps are to be taken separately, as is plainly the intention of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is in charge of these matters. It is necessary for these proposals to be debated together so that we can examine the purpose underlying the intentions of the Government and so that we can examine the fairness of the proposals. The purpose is plain. It is to shore up a weakening, decaying and incompetent Government. For example, yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that a $2,000m loan was to be raised for the purposes of energy. Today he said that the authority for that loan had been revoked. How was it revoked? By whom was it revoked? Was it revoked by the Governor-General in Executive Council, by a change in the Cabinet’s view, or was it found that the authority was illegal and -
-Order! I would suggest that the Leader of the Opposition might debate his motion seeking to suspend the Standing Orders.
– I seek the suspension of the Standing Orders, and I am indicating also that the purpose of these measures which I wish the House to debate together is to shore up a weakening and decaying Government. Let me put that aspect aside. There is an attitude of the Liberal Party to these matters. My colleague -
– It is a National Country Party attitude too.
-That attitude is virtually a unanimous one in the whole Opposition. The Liberal Party organisations in the States are opposed to these maps. Members of the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives and in the Senate -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the substantive question and not the question which he has before the House, which is the suspension of the Standing Orders. The matter of whether the proposed electoral boundaries will be adopted is a subject that will arise for discussion as a consequence of the passage of the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Unless this motion is passed, the redistribution proposals will be debated separately. I have been advised that, if they are debated separately, when the maps in relation to Tasmania are before the House we will be able to speak only on Tasmanian matters. It would not be possible therefore to speak of the totality of the situation. The Opposition has moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders so that the totality of the situation can be debated. With respect, Mr Speaker, I suggest that this is proper and that it is proper for us to be able to say why we want the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– That is quite correct. But it is not in order to debate the question in respect of which the honourable gentleman is seeking the suspension of Standing Orders.
-The Government will oppose the suspension of the Standing Orders because it does not want the possibility of a complete and open debate on these matters to become reality. It does not want the totality of its proposals understood and that members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in the House of Representatives and the Senate are opposed overwhelmingly to these measures in total. The Government does not want those measures understood. Unless we can debate those measures together, the purpose of the measures before the House taken totally and together will not be understood as being to manipulate the electoral boundaries of Australia. There is a number of reasons why we want to debate these matters together. There is the legal challenge that concerns them all, not singly. There is the timing of the measures in relation to the census soon to be taken. A redistribution ought to occur after and not before that census. After the census, another redistribution will need to take place. It is likely that New South Wales will lose one seat, as a consequence, and that Queensland and possibly even Western Australia would gain further seats. It is time now to manipulate and the Government believes that it would be less obvious -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is again debating the substantive motion. I do not think I can allow him to continue if he goes back to that aspect again.
– It is necessary to give the reasons why we need the suspension of the Standing Orders to debate this matter.
-The honourable gentleman is entitled to give the reasons for the suspension of the Standing Orders. But he is not entitled to canvass the substantive debating points which he would raise if the Standing Orders were suspended.
-The reasons for seeking the suspension of the Standing Orders are plain. But it is plain also that we need to give the reasons that the Government wants hidden. Those are the reasons that the Government is seeking to prevent being debated in this House by having the measures in relation to each State taken separately and apart. For those reasons, it is not possible to debate merely the suspension of the Standing Orders without giving an indication of why it is important that the motion to suspend the Standing Orders ought to be carried.
Mr Speaker, with great respect, I suggest that it is important that this House understands the purpose behind the action of the Government. That cannot happen unless the motion to suspend the Standing Orders is carried. It cannot happen unless it can be stated and made plain that the purpose in having these measures brought forward now before a census as opposed to after a census is to make less obvious that there is a manipulation of the electoral boundaries, taken in total. That fact cannot be adequately demonstrated if the proposals in respect of each State are taken separately. It is the Government’s purpose to see that it is not possible to take the proposals in respect of all of the States together so that we may clearly and plainly understand the extent of what the Government is doing. The main fact which the passing of the motion to suspend the Standing Orders would enable to be brought to the fore is the unfairness of the measures. This can be revealed only if they are debated in total. In effect, with no increase in votes, these measures would increase a Labor majority of five to a Labor majority of eleven to fifteen. They would strengthen weak Labor Party seats and weaken Liberal Party seats and -
– I rise to take a point of order. I submit that the honourable member is debating the matter which the suspension of Standing Orders, if carried, would permit to be discussed. I suggest that he might come back to the reasons why he wants the Standing Orders to be suspended.
-I have already ruled that way. I have already warned the Leader of the Opposition that, if he does not debate the question which is before the House and not the question which would arise if his motion was carried, I will not be able to allow him to continue.
– I understand your ruling, Mr Speaker, and I adhere to it. But it is necessary again to indicate the purpose for which the motion to suspend the Standing Orders would need to be carried and the purpose for which the Government seeks to prevent that happening and seeks also to prevent adequate and proper debate on these measures. The Government knows full well that it will oppose this motion seeking the suspension of the Standing Orders because it wishes to introduce a manipulated redistribution designed to perpetuate the Labor Party in government. It will oppose the motion to suspend the Standing Orders because it knows that a manipulation of this kind is the only way that it would have of improving its chances at the next electionchances which are nil in the present circumstances and in the present mismanagement of Australia.
Unless these measures are debated together, it will not be possible to demonstrate the fairness of the totality of the present redistribution. The present Government with a majority of the votes gets a majority of the seats. But by this redistribution it is seeking with the same number of votes over the whole of Australia to increase its total majority. In those circumstances, there is a plain unfairness and unreasonableness in what the Government is seeking to do. Let us take the situation in one State to demonstrate that point. We really need to be able to demonstrate the matters all together. That is why we have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders. But in New South Wales, the Labor Party has 55 per cent of the seats with 52 per cent of the votes.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition is now debating the issues contained in the redistribution proposals and not the issues with regard to the suspension of Standing Orders.
-I think the Leader of the Opposition is reasonably close to the terms of the motion at the moment and within the limits that are normally allowed in the House.
– Only if these matters are taken together can it be demonstrated for example, that the proposed redistribution would increase in New South Wales the percentage of Labor Party seats to 60 per cent with the same percentage of the votes. That, I think, indicates quite plainly the unfairness and unreasonableness that could be demonstrated on a number of different points with regard to a number of different seats throughout each of the States. Again, if we take the position with regard to the seats throughout the whole of Australiathis needs to be done and can only be done in detail if there is a suspension of Standing Orders- we find that with the new seat of Toongabbie, the present seats of Macarthur and Phillip are to be greatly strengthened for the Labor Party. The Liberal or National Country Party seats of Parramatta, Paterson and Hume are either to be weakened or to become safe Labor Party seats. This situation is to prevail throughout the whole of Australia- in every State whether it be Tasmania, South Australia or Victoria. Unless the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is carried, that cannot be properly and adequately demonstrated to the people of Australia. I can understand the Government’s determination to try to prevent that happening. It should be noted in particular that Liberal Party seats which we just hold or which have been lost by a small margin in the metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney have been manipulated to make them safe or safer Labor Party seats. This is a pattern throughout the whole legislation.
Another matter in the legislation which can be explained only if the proposals are debated together, is that the largest seats in Australia in terms of geography, have the largest number of voters. The electorate of Mallee consists of 23 000 square miles and has 66 000 voters, compared with the electorate of DoncasterTemplestowe which consists of 139 square miles and 59 000 voters.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition is completely canvassing the debate which is to come and is, I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, entirely out of order. I ask you to order the Leader of the Opposition to sit down.
-I will sit the Leader of the Opposition down, but not on the basis of the point of order. The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I second this motion, because we believe that this is the only fair way of handling the redistribution proposals which are to take place with regard to the various States. We believe that there should be a cognate debate so that the overall principles and the overall implication of the redistribution which will affect the various States of Australia should be considered. Mr Speaker, if we had a ruling from you that you would not be too limiting in what an honourable member could say on this matter, there would be no need to move for the suspension of Standing Orders. But there is concern and some disquiet that there will be undue limitation on what an honourable member can talk about. It is quite obvious that the Government is using this as a device for cunningly getting through the legislation without the maximum of debate or understanding of what is going on. It is very unusual for a number of Bills on the same subject not to be taken cognately. In fact I cannot remember an occasion when there has been a unanimous point of view on associated Bills on the Opposition side and a similar point of view on the Government side, that the Bills have not been debated cognately although separate votes have been taken on each Bill. But, no, the Government is not taking these proposals cognately. Therefore, immediately one must be suspicious. Of course we have every reason to be suspicious of the Government which is prepared to use every electoral device known in order to manipulate the electoral boundaries to its own advantage so as to entrench itself in office. This has been so characteristic of this Government since it has been in office.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will come back to the motion.
-Mr Speaker, the reason for our wanting a cognate debate is that some of the overall issues can be discussed. I ask you this question, Mr Speaker: Are we allowed to talk about the litigation which is before the High Court and which makes it quite improper for a government to force through- to steamroll- this legislation when 3 States of Australia have appealed to the High Court to declare that this is invalid legislation? Are we allowed to talk on that? Are we allowed to talk on the proposal that there has to be a census in 1976 to re-determine the allocation of divisions between States? That is a major issue relating to this whole matter. Are we believing in the principle that there should be regular redistributions in this country to create uncertainty amongst members of Parliament as to where their electoral boundaries he? We do not know the answer. The only way we can get any assurance that we will have a debate of such a nature is if permission is given by this Parliament to have a cognate debate. If the Government refuses, it is hiding something. It is trying to be sneaky and get through its electoral reforms and redistributions which in its own conscience it obviously knows are unfair, bad and unreasonable. That is what we say about this legislation. It is a device to try to maximise Labor Party votes in city areas at the expense of country people.
The redistributions are doubly bad, because when the Government talks about the idea of one vote one value- high sounding remarks- it means that the electorates biggest in size also have the biggest enrolments. How can that be fair? These are the sorts of things which ought to be considered as a whole, not just in regard to one State. The Government does not want the issues highlighted. It does not want the total picture presented to the Australian people. It wants to try to sneak this legislation through State by State. The Government is not going to sneak it through because we are going to highlight it. The fact of the matter is that a redistribution is being carried out which will require an abnormal percentage of the votes to put the present Government out of office. It is a device to try to hold the Government in office because it knows that its political appeal is dwindling and that this is the only way it has of surviving. The Opposition will not support these sorts of tactics. Therefore we are opposing in toto the redistribution in all States.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman knows that those remarks are out of order. If he makes such remarks again, I shall ask him to sit down.
-With due respect, Mr Speaker, the point I was making was that -
-The right honourable gentleman was debating the questions which are to come and which he is seeking to have debated in a specific order. I suggest that the right honourable member stick to the motion.
-As my time is limited, I want to emphasise that the only fair and reasonable way of handling this matter and of convincing the Australian people that there is nothing devious in what the Government is doing, is by having a cognate debate.
-Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) have very short memories. First of all, neither the Leader of the National Country Party nor the Leader of the Opposition is on the list of speakers to take part in this debate. So they put these phony propositions and half baked arguments in support of a proposal which they know is contrary to the practice followed for years by their own Government when they were in office. What should be known is that distribution commissioners are appointed for each State. Each State must be voted upon separately. In any one vote, the legislation with regard to a State may be rejected.
The practice in this Parliament has always been that the proposals are presented and debated separately. I remind the Leader of the National Country Party that in 1968 the present honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) brought redistribution proposals to this Parliament in precisely the same way as we are introducing them today. If we go back further to 1964-1 think it was- when Mr Freeth was the responsible Minister, redistribution proposals were brought in in the same fashion. The Leader of the Opposition has not done his homework. I will tell honourable members why. The Leader of the Opposition has to do what the National Country Party tells him on this matter. I say to the lame duck Liberal member from Petrie (Mr Hodges) who is trying to interject that the Liberal Party in Queensland accepted the proposals but the National Country Party knocked them back. The situation is that there has been no attempt to hide anything in regard to the proposals. The legislation is being debated precisely as laid down by the practices of this Parliament. The Bills will be introduced separately and they will be debated separately. I would have thought that honourable members opposite would have appreciated an extra day to look at the redistribution proposals for New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Had we brought them in today they would have said possibly that we did not give them adequate time.
Let it be clear- the records of the Parliament are there for all to see- that the practice being followed in regard to presentation of these reports is the one that the Leader of the National Country Party adopted when in government, the one that the honourable member for Gippsland adopted when he was in government and the one that the Leader of the Opposition supported as a member of this Parliament. So why do they not stand up in the debate and put their arguments about what has been done. Honourable members opposite have criticised the proposals. I do not intend to take advantage of the situation but charges were made. It was said that these were gerrymanders and that kind of thing. I cite Mr Malcolm Mackerras, the well known supporter of the Liberal Party and consultant to the Liberal Party on electoral affairs. He said that in overall political terms -
- Mr Speaker, I suggest that the Minister is debating the substantive issue.
-I think that the Minister has deviated about as far I allowed the Leader of the Opposition to deviate but not as far as the Leader of the National Country Party deviated.
- Mr Speaker -
– Will the honourable member wait until I have finished speaking and sit down while I am speaking? The Leader of the House may not debate the substantive motions which are to come before the House; he may only give reasons why the Standing Orders should not be suspended.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was saying that the Leader of the Opposition made a charge that these were gerrymanders. Mr Malcolm Mackerras said that they are the fairest set of boundaries ever brought to an Australian Parliament. The honourable member says that there must be a redistribution after the census. The Liberal-Country Party Government did not worry about that. It did not even give Western Australia the seat to which it was entitled. The census does not mean that there has to be a redistribution. It is only necessary in those States where there is an increase or decrease in the number of seats. But even that did not worry the Liberal-Country Party Government because it did not give Western Australia -
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, the Minister is ranging wide of the mark once again.
-My attention has been drawn by points of order to the range of the debate. In strict interpretation of the Standing Orders I cannot allow the Minister to answer the points which were raised by the Opposition and allowed to be raised by the Opposition. I must rule against the Minister. He must deal only with the matters concerned in the motion.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr Speaker, but with due respect I think that honourable members opposite made almost second reading speeches on the electoral Bills. The question of a census was raised. I just point out the legal position in regard to these matters. A redistribution does not necessarily follow -
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is again getting off the subject.
-If the honourable gentleman lets me run the House I think we will all be better off.
– Then why did you not pull him up?
-I warn the honourable member for Wimmera that if he does that again I will name him. He makes a habit of challenging the Speaker when the Speaker is addressing the House, and I will not put up with it. I suggest to honourable members on the Opposition side that they were allowed a fairly wide ranging debate. I pulled them up when they got considerably away from the motion. I also ruled in favour of the Leader of the Opposition when he was speaking and said that I was allowing what was generally allowed in this type of debate without too much departure. I will allow the same latitude to the Leader of the House but I will not allow him to go beyond those things which were raised without interruption by honourable members on the Opposition side.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I just mention, in view of the charges that have been made, that the practice that I followed here has been followed since 1903 in regard to the production of reports of distribution commissioners. It has been followed this time in accordance with the practice of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. The Leader of the National Country Party cannot deny it, neither can the honourable member for Gippsland and others, because it is recorded in the records of the Parliament for all to see. In addition, I repeat that these matters must be deliberated upon separately. Without pre-judging what you might say, Mr Speaker, I would think that on redistribution proposals for a certain State it would be impossible to make a speech without making passing reference at least to what is taking place in the overall position. Consequently, to say that this would restrict debate is completely false.
I suggest to the Leader of the National Country Party and the Leader of the Opposition that instead of hiding their disunity on this issue they should put their names on the list of speakers and let us hear what they have to say instead of raising this side issue and then evading the question. They do not want to speak on it because it is obvious that there are differences. This is just a cover up by honourable members opposite to hide the discontent and disunity behind the scenes on this issue. For that reason they have sought to transgress the Standing Orders. I ask honourable members opposite to tell me how the Parliament could reject or accept the various motions if they cannot be debated independently for the various States. As every honourable member knows, it is possible for debate to take place on any one State. It is of no use saying, for instance, that certain things have happened in Tasmania and South Australia and the National Country Party is affected, because that Party does not have a member from either State. The half baked National Country Party now in this resolution is protesting about boundaries in Tasmania and South Australia. I can understand the Liberal Leader being concerned there, but the National Country Party does not have an interest because it holds no seats there. I can understand why the Leader of the National Country Party does not want to speak on this measure later. He is too busy in Western Australia trying to sort out his Party in the Parliament, let alone in the electorates.
– I was just making passing reference, Mr Speaker. I know that you did not do it purposely but you saved the Leader of the National Country Party from hurt when I mentioned Western Australia. Let me reiterate this phoney proposition. The Leader of the Opposition said that the motion will not be carried. He had no chance of carrying it at any stage because he does not have the numbers to suspend Standing Orders at any time. Whenever the Opposition moves the suspension of Standing Orders on any issue, particularly electoral boundaries, one knows that it is a phoney proposition designed to hide something in their parties. They want to hide nothing more from the light of day than the fact that the Liberals are a tame cat party on this issue. That is why they seek to suspend Standing Orders now, to try to hide this discontent. Liberal members are saying to me in the passages- they are almost crying to me- ‘Do you think you can do something? These boundaries are so good for the Liberal Party but the National Country Party will not let us accept them’. The honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) has cried his eyes out ever since he heard this decision in Queensland.
I mention these matters in order to show that there is nothing sinister about this. Honourable members may discuss them, one after the other. One of the honourable members who will support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders asked us to suspend everything half an hour ago to bring on the debate on the Family Law Bill. Now where does he stand on the matter?
-Order! The time for debate has expired.
That the Standing Orders be suspended.
The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Before the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) proceeds to deal with this motion, I would like to inform the House that while this is a restricted debate it is not my intention to restrict to any extent this debate and the debates to follow on similar matters. I think that the subject is of consequence nationally and honourable members would normally in debating it refer to other matters. I would think that it would be normally acceptable that these are redistribution proposals for the national Parliament. I call the Minister for Services and Property.
– I move:
That the House of Representatives approves of the redistribution of the State of South Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs A. J. Walsh, G. H. CampbellKennedy and F. W. Summers, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on IS April 197S, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
The Government, having considered the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of South Australia, as tabled in this House on 15 April 1975 pursuant to Section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners, now recommends approval of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals. In the following remarks, I shall be placing in their proper context not only the redistribution proposals for South Australia, but also those relating to the other States concerned, since the Government intends also to move very shortly for approval of the proposals relating to Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, which have also been tabled in this House.
Prior to the amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act last year, Distribution Commissioners were permitted to draw divisional boundaries that could result in enrolments for divisions being up to 20 per cent above or below the quota applying to the State. Since the 1968 redistribution, which observed the previous guidelines, the consequent inequalities m enrolments have progressively worsened as a result of trends in population growth within each of the four most heavily populated States. We now have a clearly unjust and indefensible situation in each of these States, with some electorates having current enrolments which are approximately double those of other electorates. For example, as at 25 April 1 975, enrolments for divisions in New South Wales varied from 83 941 in Mitchell to 46 975 in Darling; in Victoria, from 87 522, Diamond Valley, to 49 200, Wimmera; in Queensland from 94 024, McPherson to 46 456, Maranoa; in South Australia, from 83 388, Bonython to 49 561, Wakefield. In no less than 52 of the 109 electorates in these States the enrolments vary from the quota by over 10 per cent- a situation which is clearly unjust and which must be righted as soon as possible.
The Government does not agree with all proposals of the Distribution Commissioners, but it believes the Commissioners to be men of competence and integrity who have performed their difficult duties with complete impartiality. In the Government’s view, there is no reason why the Liberal Party should not support a speedy adjustment of the inequitable situation which I have just outlined, since the existing boundaries discriminate against the party in most States. This point is worth stressing, given the frequent assertions which have been made by Country Party spokesmen to the effect that the percentage of seats won by the Government and Opposition in recent elections has accurately reflected the number of votes polled. Such assertions obscure the degree to which present disparities as between divisional enrolments within each State have assisted the Country Party.
For example, at the 1972 House of Representatives elections the Country Party polled 9.44 per cent of the votes, yet was able to win 16 per cent of the seats. Again, to express the anomaly in another way, at the 1974 House of Representatives elections the average enrolment of the 66 electorates won by the Australian Labor Party was 63 458, while for the 40 electorates won by the Liberal Party the average enrolment was 64 045. Yet for the 21 electorates won by the Country Party the average enrolment was only 54 708. It is therefore understandable that the Country Party should regard this situation as highly satisfactory, but there is no reason for any Government committed to the elimination of electoral inequalities and anomalies to share this satisfaction with the ‘status quo ‘.
While taking this opportunity to reiterate the Government’s determination to uphold the principle of one vote one value, I also remind honourable members that under the Act as amended it remains possible for the Distribution Commissioners to fix the boundaries for divisions in a way which would result in enrolments varying from the State quota by up to 10 per cent, that is to say, an overall variation of up to 20 per cent. The degree to which the Distribution Commissioners choose to exercise this discretionary power is left entirely to their independent judgment. The Government believes that, in the case of the Distribution Commissioners for South Australia- and, indeed, for the other States also- that judgment was exercised with the utmost competence.
Let me now indicate some major features of the South Australian redistribution proposals in particular, in order to demonstrate that these proposals are unquestionably fair and reasonable. Under the proposals presented by the Distribution Commissioners for South Australia, all 12 existing divisions have been retained in name, although boundary alterations are proposed in every case. It is proposed that 2 of the existing divisions, Adelaide and Hindmarsh, should retain all their existing electors but should also take in additional electors from other divisions. Each of the other 10 proposed divisions takes in a substantial majority of the electors currently enrolled in those divisions. The proposals make a significant reduction to the overall range of percentage variations from the quota. Thus, taking enrolments as at December 1974 on which the proposals were based, percentage variations from the quota for existing divisions range from 21.88 per cent below quota for the Wakefield division to 29.65 per cent above quota for the Bonython division. Furthermore, 2 other existing divisions, Angas and Kingston, also currently vary from the quota by over 10 per cent.
Under the proposals now before the House, the size of variations from the quota would be substantially reduced. The maximum enrolment proposed is 68 372, or 8.74 per cent above quota, for the division of Adelaide, while the minimum proposed enrolment is 57 015, or 9.32 per cent below quota, for the division of Kingston. Apart from the divisions of Adelaide and Kingston, proposed variations from the quota for the remaining 10 divisions range from 6.66 per cent above for the division of Hawker to 9.02 per cent below for the division of Bonython. The need for a redistribution is exemplified by the projected enrolments as at May 1977, the approximate date of the next Federal elections, which show that compared with the enrolments as at 25 April 1974 the following changes will take place: Bonython, 83 388, will increase to 90 000; Kingston, 72 830, will increase to 78 000; and Sturt, 69 0 1 1, will increase to 72 000.
To sum up, the Government is quite satisfied that the proposed boundaries for South Australia demonstrably promote the objective of electoral equality to a far greater degree than do the existing boundaries in that State.
Criticism was made earlier today about boundaries. I want to quote from a document entitled ‘A Fair Redistribution’ issued by Malcolm Mackerras who I would say has been a consultant to the Liberal Party in days gone by. He said, in part:
In overall political terms the 197S redistribution is the fairest set of proposed boundaries ever to be presented to any Australian Parliament in my lifetime.
I see that he nods approval from the back of the House. He continued:
The commissioners have bent over backwards to avoid any suggestion of gerrymander.
My impression is that they have set out to draw boundaries so patently fair that rejection by the Senate would reflect discredit on the Senate, not the Commissioners.
Later on in the document he dealt with South Australia. After referring to the seat of Angas, he said:
All other seats would stay at the same political strength.
The really interesting point is that the commissioners have left the marginal Liberal seat of Stun at the same strength. It would have been very easy to turn it into a Labor seat.
There is a summary from a person who I suppose would not be committed to the Labor Party. That summary places on record the true situation. In these circumstances I have moved that this House approve the report of the Distribution Commissioners for South Australia dated 7 April 1975.1 seek leave of the House to incorporate the latest enrolment figures available for all divisions in South Australia as at 25 April 1975 as provided to me by Mr Frank Ley, the Chief Australian Electoral Officer.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House.
-The Liberal Party and the National Country Party of Australia which form the joint Opposition in this Parliament will oppose the motion contained in notice No. 6 standing in the name of the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I think it is appropriate in addressing some arguments to the speech just made by the Minister to recall that this is the first redistribution of electoral boundaries that has been carried out under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as amended at the Joint Sitting of this House and the Senate in July of last year. The last Australia-wide redistribution of electoral boundaries was carried out in 1968. Since then there have been a number of significant changes to the criteria under which redistribution has been carried out. I think all members of this House will recall the very extensive debate and argument which occurred at the Joint Sitting regarding the indicia to be applied by the Distribution Commissioners in each of the States in carrying out a redistribution. Members of the House will also recall the attitude taken by the joint Opposition Parties on the occasion when these changes were put through by the Government at the Joint Sitting.
Since the 1968 redistribution was carried out 1 8 year old voters have also been included on the rolls and there has been a significant change so far as migrant enrolment is concerned with respect to the reduction from 5 years to 3 years of the necessary period for which a migrant must be resident before qualifying for enrolment. The broad approach of the Opposition to all the redistribution proposals has already been indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony). For reasons which will be developed during the debate on the proposals for the States we will be opposing the resolutions standing in the name of the Minister in respect of the 5 separate redistribution proposals.
The redistribution has been carried out in each State under the same Act and has been carried out in each of the States at the same time. The proposals, generally speaking, are being presented for approval to this Parliament at the same time. Therefore the only proper approach that either the Opposition side or the Government side can take to the redistribution proposals is a general approach. With the exception of Western Australia, the redistribution represents a national redistribution. As the Leader of the House indicated in his speech there have been some very substantial changes in various electorates. The Leader of the House and other honourable members will be aware that section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act contains the criteria under which the redistribution must be carried out. The Distribution Commissioners are required to give due consideration to community of interests, to means of communication and travel, to trend of population changes, to physical features of each division and- and 1 stress this- to existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions. I think the argument can be specifically developed in respect of notice No. 7 that perhaps greater weight could have been given to paragraph (e) of section 19 than has been given in respect of the proposals for the State of Tasmania. So the Distribution Commissioners must consider the various matters in section 19.
Of course, it is within the knowledge of all honourable members that it would be an extremely difficult task for anybody charged with the responsibility of redistribution to be terribly dogmatic, particularly in metropolitan areas, and more particularly in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, as to where community of interest stops and starts. We all know that the broad community of interest of the capital cities of Australia is a whole. It is extremely difficult to say with any degree of certainty that a boundary should be drawn in one area rather than in another. Therefore it is not an easy task for a redistribution commission to carry out a redistribution of electorates.
I think it is an entirely responsible attitude for an Opposition, after having examined the proposals in detail, to form the view that they are unacceptable. The Minister himself said in his speech on the motion that there were certain proposals with which the Government did not agree. Naturally, he reserves the right to have an opinion on the redistribution that was carried out. Nobody is a total, infallible expert on the subject of redistribution. It is a highly arguable subject. It goes to the very essence of political debate in Australia. Therefore I would suggest that in considering whether a set of redistribution proposals ought to be accepted this House ought to address its mind to the essential electoral justice of the redistribution proposals. In doing that it ought to concentrate its attention on the marginal seats. The Minister knows better than anybody else in this House that it does not really matter whether the Labor majority for the seat of Grayndler is reduced by 5 per cent or 10 per cent or whether the Liberal majority in Bradfield is changed by 5 per cent or 10 per cent. What really matters and what really goes to the essence of the electoral justice of these proposals is the impact of the proposals on the marginal seats, because it is the marginal seats, and the marginal seats alone, which determine which party holds government.
It is absolute humbug to tie yourself completely to an overall examination of percentages. If you want to determine whether there is essential electoral justice in these proposals, you concentrate your attention on the marginal seats. The Minister has been quick to quote the authority of Mr Malcolm Mackerras, who is acknowledged as a person of some expertise in this area. Honourable members will be aware of the various electoral pendulums that have been produced by that gentleman. Two pendulums which I think are extremely interesting- and I will seek leave at the conclusion of my remarks to have them incorporated in Hansard- appeared in the ‘Bulletin’ on 12 April after the initial proposals had been put out by the various redistribution commissions. The first shows the situation as it is at the present time. If there is a swing of 3 per cent against the Government, 12 seats will be lost by the Government to the Opposition. In other words the Government would be decisively put out of office. The second shows that under the new proposals, if there were a swing of 3 per cent, only 7 seats would be lost by the Government- a significant change of 5 seats.
The marginal seats are the seats that really matter when you are talking about government. They are the seats which will determine whether or not government changes. It is no use spending a lot of time talking about the variations in the majorities in safe seats on either side of the pendulum. What all of us know to be’ a reality is that seats such as Isaacs, Diamond Valley, Denison and Sturt are the seats that really matter. They are the seats that determine whether the Government is to change.
– Tell us about Parramatta and Bennelong.
-The honourable member asks about Parramatta. That will be converted into an automatic Labor seat. There is a very distinct bias in these proposals, as they affect the marginal seats, towards the Government. Generally speaking, marginal Labor seats have been made safer. Generally speaking, it has been made more difficult for marginal Labor seat holders to be dislodged. Whereas on the present boundaries a swing of 3 per cent against the Government would give the Opposition 12 extra seats, under these proposals a 3 per cent swing would give the Opposition only 7 extra seats. If you realise, as I think you have to in an argument such as this, that the only things that really matter are the marginal seats, however sensitive the holders of safe seats on both sides of this House may be, you see that there is a very distinct bias in favour of the Government all over Australia. This is a national redistribution. It has to be looked at nationally and no Opposition would be responsible unless it took a national approach to it. It is for that reason that the Opposition has decided to oppose the proposals in respect of 5 States.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia have already referred in their arguments to the well known fact that a census will be earned out in 1976, and in all probability it will be necessary for a further redistribution to be carried out in some, if not all, States. The Leader of the National Country Party also advanced the argument that the very changes to the electoral legislation under which this redistribution has been carried out are under challenge at the present time in the High Court of Australia. I know that it is occasionally the habit of the Government to ignore the fact that something is under legal challenge and to go ahead irrespective of whether its constitutionality in doing so is beyond all doubt. We on the Opposition side of the House would submit that something as fundamental as redistribution, something going so much to the essence of electoral justice and something which will directly and literally determine which Party governs after the next election ought not go ahead if there is any shred of legal doubt regarding the constitutionality of those proposals. Taking a broad national view, I submit there are very substantial reasons of electoral justice why these proposals should all be rejected by this House.
– It is fairly obvious that the honourable member for
Bennelong (Mr Howard), who led for the Opposition in the debate, has never been to South Australia. I understood that we were talking about giving approval to the report on the redistribution of electoral boundaries in South Australia. The honourable member never mentioned South Australia. I am also reminded by his contribution of a story I heard once about a member of the Liberal Party who was talking to a journalist. The journalist said: ‘The trouble with the Liberal Party is that it is full of halfsmart lawyers and would-be academics’. The member of the Liberal Party said: ‘Where do I stand?’ The journalist said: ‘You get the quinella’.
Objection was raised to the reports of the various redistribution commissions being discussed individually, but of course they are being debated by this Parliament in the order in which they were sent to us. The report on South Australia, being the first presented, is the first to be debated. Some general observation should be made before we get on to South Australia. This is probably the first redistribution in the history of Australia when we knew the attitude of the Opposition prior to the commissioners even being appointed. On most occasions commissioners are appointed by this Parliament to carry out a task which eventually would be carried out by the Parliament, and the redistribution is put into effect. On this occasion- this has been substantiated by speeches that have been made around the country- as was evidenced in the speech made by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) some time ago, it has never been the intention of the Opposition to accept the redistribution that was to be brought down by the commissioners. The commissioners are not members of the parliamentary Australian Labor Party or the Australian Labor Party at large. They are appointed to look at a matter in accordance with the terms of reference given to them and to bring about an equitable redistribution. But the boundaries which have been recommended by the commissioners for every State were never going to be accepted by the Opposition.
A couple of other general points ought to be made about the redistributions and about electoral reforms. We are in some ways plagued on electoral redistributions by the federal system of government. Each State sets its values and each State, accordingly, tries to influence those of us who come to the Austraiian Parliament to serve our States. I feel sorry for those who come from Queensland and for the attitude which they may adopt to electoral reform, because the Premier of that State sits on 19 per cent of the vote and still becomes the Premier. Unfortunately these things also affect the thinking of people who serve in the Australian Parliament. I say unfortunately because this Parliament, above all others, should stand above interference in reports which are brought down by Commissioners. Also, in some ways, we are plagued by the single electorate system. It has been very difficult, even striking the 10 per cent discrepancy which we have given in the terms of reference to the Commissioners, for them to bring about a system which would be acceptable to all.
People can yell and scream about the way in which the system is being manipulated but there can be no doubt that the report which has been brought down by the Commissioners is fair and equitable. The final observation I make about what happens in this Parliament- we see this in relation to electoral redistribution- is the complete domination of the Opposition by the National Country Party of Australia. For as long as I live I will never understand why the Liberal Party puts up with the National Country Party standing over it, not only in relation to electoral reform but also in the despicable performance prior to the 1972 election in respect of revaluation and, quite recently, the National Country Party domination in the coalition attitude to the establishment of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. But above all else, now when the Liberal Party could stand up and show it has hair on its chest again it capitulates to the National Country Party on this important matter.
If we look at South Australia, I defy anybody in the Liberal Party to say that the South Australian redistribution is not fair. Unfortunately, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) even prior to the Commissioners being appointed said in his family newspaper the Advertiser’ that the Labor Party would try to win Sturt by hook or by crook. If one were to look back at the 1972 election campaign when Norm Foster lost the seat to the honourable member, one could have applied the term crook’ to a number of things which were carried out in that electorate, including a lot of propaganda which was placed around doctors’ surgeries about people losing the right to have the choice of their own doctor. Obviously the Commissioners, had they wanted to, could have made Sturt very safe for the Labor Party. If I were appointed a commissioner I would show how to make Sturt safe for Labor. Unfortunately I was not appointed. The Commissioners have carried out a redistribution in South Australia which undoubtedly is acceptable to all. If there were to be any complaints we could have as many as the Liberal Party. As the National Country Party does not exist by name in South Australia, one can only try to guess at the amount of influence it may have. But if the redistribution is not acceptedas has been suggested by the Oppositionlet us look at what will happen. At the 1977 election Wakefield will have 45 000 electors. Bonython will have well over 90 000 electors. I think the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) underestimated the growth in the number of electors in Bonython when he said 90 000. 1 think it will have well over 90 000. I think the ability of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) is far above looking after half an electorate which is what he will be asked to do from 1977 onwards.
Let us have a look at each of the seats in turn. The Liberal Party is advantaged in South Australia by a swing of 1.5 per cent by the redistribution. Taking the seats separately, in an all percentage vote in that State the Liberal Country League is advantaged by 1.5 per cent of the total State vote. But here, by virtue of the attitude of the National Country Party, this redistribution is being rejected. I have no doubt, although I have no knowledge that this is correct, that if the State Liberal Party had made a decision on this matter it would have accepted the redistribution in South Australia. Let us have a look at the seat of Grey. It has almost doubled in area. We hear complaints from the National Country Party about the vast areas which their members have to look after. My friend the honourable member for Grey, Mr Laurie Wallis, will not only have twice the area- almost half the State- to look after but also he is 0.5 per cent worse off in the final washup at any future elections. So we should be able to complain to the Commissioners about the redistribution as far as Grey is concerned.
Let us have a look at what happened to Sturt. Sturt could quite easily have been taken into the areas into which Angas has been taken. It is now 0.3 per cent better for the sitting member and for the Party he represents. And you tell me that the Liberal Country League of South Australia is complaining about the finalisation of these reports? The only seat which has had a substantial reduction in the advantage which was given to the Party is Angas. Of course, Angas was well under the quota which was established for all the electorates in that State, but the redistribution still gives the Liberal Country League a substantial majority of 7 per cent at the next election.
Are we to allow seats like Wakefield, Barker and Angas to have members representing 30 000 or 40 000 voters? Is this the intention of honourable members who sit in the Opposition parties, never to have an equitable redistribution? If we continue to listen to the rhetoric with which the National Country Party carries on, and to its electoral redistribution reasoning, we will have a 30 per cent or 40 per cent discrepancy in the number of voters in electorates. The Liberal Party will suffer equally with those of us who sit here serving the Australian Labor Party because no redistribution which the National Country Party wants will benefit 75 per cent of the voters of this country. The Liberal Party is mad to put up with that.
In relation to charges about previous elections reflecting accurately the vote which was given to the various parties, it is suggested that because in 1974 the Labor Party received as a second preferred vote 51.7 per cent of the votes, that it is fair and equitable that we receive 52 per cent of the seats.
– What is wrong with that?
– I suggest to the honourable member that he put on his hearing aid. The Liberal Party and the National Country Party which received 48.3 per cent of the votes received 48 per cent of the seats. Of course the Opposition will claim that that election result demonstrates the perfect fairness of the present boundaries. It will be claimed that, if anything, the boundaries slightly favour Labor. It follows that any redistribution which increases the level of Labor representation must be a Labor gerrymander. The error in this reasoning is that it fails to note the fact that single member constituencies normally give winning parties a winner’s bonus. In 1974 Labor’s winner’s bonus just outweighed the advantage of the boundaries. The 1974 election was the third election contested on the present boundaries. I have here a comparative table which shows the result of the first election held with these boundaries. The Liberal-Country Party received 49.8 per cent of the vote and 66 seats or 52.8 per cent of the seats. The Australian Labor Party received 50.2 per cent of the vote and 59 seats or 47.2 per cent of the seats. Therefore in 1969 the result should have been 63 Labor Party seats and 62 Liberal-Country Party seats. In 1969 Labor was under-represented by 4 seats.
Let us go back to 1963, look at the result and compare it with 1972 when we first came to office. In 1963 the present Opposition which was then led by Sir Robert Menzies on a second preferred vote received 52.6 per cent of the votes and had a majority of 22 seats. In 1972 on a second preferred vote we received 52.7 per cent of the votes and had a majority of 9 seats. Of course the argument which the Opposition continues to use changes from year to year or from election to election. The National Country Party is terrified that something will happen to the electoral boundaries and that the people of- this country may be given a fair and equitable system. I invite honourable members to look at the articles which are written in ‘Muster’. The editor of Muster’ would be a world authority on electoral reform, would he not? He keeps telling the National Country Party what actions it has to take. The Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) was running around the country all the time before the Commissioners were appointed and while they were doing their work saying what a terrible redistribution it would be because the discrepancy between city and country would be only 10 per cent.
If we look at what has happened in South Australia the Labor Party has as much to complain about as the people who sit opposite. But the Liberal Party is again capitulating to the National Country Party in trying to get a cognate debate. Members of the Liberal Party are saying: We do not want to discuss them State by State. We do not want to have our sins exposed. We do not want to tell the Executive of the LiberalCountry League in South Australia why we had to make these decisions’.
My friend the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls) after 1977 will have to represent 95 000 or 100 000 people while the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) services 45 000 people. That is the sort of system the Opposition continues to uphold. Members of the Liberal Party ought to listen to the rantings and ravings of those in ‘Possum Corner’. They are the ones who are dictating to the Liberal Party how it should carry out its policies. What a joke it is when people read the coloured booklet headed ‘Liberal Policy’. Members of the Liberal Party have to read what might be in the minds of those in ‘Possum Corner’ because they tell members of the Liberal Party almost everything they should do. It is an absolute national scandal that this once great party- the Liberal Party- is dictated to on every major issue by the rump, the National Country Party of Australia. Why does the Liberal Party continue to put up with it? Sir Charles Court told the Country Party to go to blazes and what has happened to him? They are now trying to find a compromise in Western
Australia. The Country Party has said: ‘We do not want one of our members to be Deputy Premier, just let us back into the ball game’. The Liberal Party should make a decision on the electoral distribution. No question could be more important to it than that of electoral redistribution.
The Liberal Party services the metropolitan areas as much as we do. Members of the Liberal Party should be representing the points of view of the people who elected them instead of forgetting about them in favour of the rural electorates. The situation in relation to the electorates of Bonython and Wakefield will apply to Victoria. After 1977 the Labor member for Diamond Valley, Mr David McKenzie, will represent 1 10 000 electors. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) will represent 45 000 electors. I can understand it in terms of ability but I cannot understand it in terms of equality. I reject it and I think it is about time members of the Liberal Party stood up and faced this question.
– We have been treated to another one of those exercises by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who is constantly trying to make the case that the National Country Party of Australia is out to dominate and stand over the Liberal Party on matters of redistribution. There has been no such exercise. The Country Party has not been adopting Tammany Hall tactics which are so characteristic of the Government’s own councils. The decision was taken to oppose this redistribution on the grounds of justice and equity by the Liberal Party in its own right. Let us kill the idea that the Country Party is holding a pistol at the head of the Liberal Party on this issue or on any other issue. We have a very good working relationship with the Liberal Party which we have enjoyed for 23 years. During that time we gave the country the best run of government it has ever had. Many people who were persuaded, for environmental reasons and for a host of other reasons, to vote for the Australian Labor Party at the last election have regretted doing so.
Honourable members interjecting;
-Order! The cheer leaders and interjectors will do the debate a service if they remain silent.
– They have all come from the Government side.
-Order! If the honourable member for Wimmera persists in interjecting I will warn him.
– Let us put paid to these malicious and mischievous accusations and statements. Another point needs to be made, although I suppose it has been said before. When the Country Party, or for that matter when the. Labor Party, puts a case surely it is not putting it for the sake of its own party organisation, for the position of its own party office bearers or the members of its own Parliament. Surely it is putting its case on behalf of the people it has a responsibility to represent. In putting a case for country people and those living in remote areas, the Country Party has never resiled from trying to ensure that there is some equity in the manner in which they are represented in the Parliament. I want to refer to that later to show how unfair this redistribution is and to show how unfair is the basis upon which it is done. I refer, for example, to the electorate of Gwydir. I will compare it with other situations which exist in electorates in Tasmania.
– We are speaking about South Australia.
-Can I talk about Tasmania?
– I should imagine you would want to.
– Good. Let us look at the situation in Tasmania. The proposed division of Wilmot will have 46 148 electors, which is 6.2 per cent below the quota. How big is the electorate of Wilmot in size? I ask honourable members to compare that with the situation which will exist in my electorate of Gwydir, according to this proposed redistribution. The electorate of Gwydir will occupy no less than one-third of New South Wales- probably close to half of New South Wales- and will in fact have an electoral population of 64 882, which is 3.37 per cent above the quota.
– Why do you not give up?
– I will not give up as easily as that. I will stand here as long as the people send me here to fight for justice and their rights. The people in my area will be disadvantaged to an extraordinary extent if this is carried. Do honourable members opposite think that the poor people who live at Milparinka or the poor people who live at Bourke will be better off than the poor people who live at Bondi? Do they think they are closer to services and closer to their members of Parliament? The honourable member who represents the electorate of Phillip (Mr Riordan) will speak later in this debate. He is looking very smug. He represents a very small pocket handerkerchief electorate of 4 or 5 square miles. Yet the honourable member for Gwydir, whoever he might be, will be asked to represent an electorate of more than 100 000 square miles in size. Do honourable members opposite think there is any community of interests between the people of Moree and Milparinka? Do they think there is any community of interest between the people of Bingara and North Broken Hill? Of course there is not. The whole thing is just a farce. It is a farce that makes a mockery of what the Electoral Act was originally designed to do.
The Opposition solidly opposes the redistribution as a whole because it is unnecessary in terms of the Constitution. It is unnecessary also because a census will be taken in 1976. Then, of course, there will be a need- according to the Constitutionfor a redistribution. Clearly after the census some States will be entitled to additional seats and other States will lose seats. Why is the Government going through this pointless exercise now?
– Because the law has changed.
– It is not because the law has changed. The constitutional power is still the same. In spite of efforts by the Government to change the Constitution the people do not trust it because it has tried to change the Constitution in other areas. Try to change this section of the Constitution and see what will result. Ever since the Whitlam Government came to power it has been clear that it has been obsessed with electoral matters. Much of the time of this Parliament has been taken up debating Electoral Bills and other electoral matters. The reason for this obsession, of course, is that the Labor Government is intent on manipulating and rigging the system to entrench itself in office so that it can go on pressing its disastrous socialist objectives, whether the majority of the people like it or not.
The Whitiam Government is trying to achieve an electoral system that will keep it in office, similar to the situation that now exists in the United Kingdom where the Labor Party is holding office with 39.5 per cent of the votes, with 6 1 per cent of the votes against it. The Australian Labor Party is trying to emulate the situation which exists in Sweden. Many members of the Government and Ministers of the Governmentfrom the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) downhave taken trips to Sweden to try to learn from the Swedish system and indeed, to try to refine its own Tammany Hall thinking in regard to electoral redistribution. Let us look at the Swedish situation.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was making the point that if this proposed redistribution is meant to achieve the Government’s elusive concept of one vote one value it has made a laughing stock of the Government’s professed policy. The proposed electorate of Gwydir, for example, would have approximately 65 000 electors whereas the city electorates of Phillip- I mentioned that electorate earlier- and Prospect would have about 61 000 and 60 000 electors respectively. It does seem ludicrous to me- in fact it is most unfair to electors- to have such a margin above the quota in such huge area electorates. The proposed electorate of Gwydir, for example, would have an area of 100 000 square miles and an elector population of 3.37 per cent above the quota. What would happen to the small area electorates of under 10 square miles, such as the electorate that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) represents? The electorate of Grayndler would have an elector population of 1.18 per cent below the quota. The electorate of Phillip would have an elector population of 3 per cent below the quota and the electorate of Prospect would have an elector population of 4. 1 per cent below the quota.
– There are people in them.
– There are people in the electorate of Gwydir. The Minister for Services and Property talks about trees and haystacks. The best people in Australia live in the electorate of Gwydir; there is not the slightest doubt about that. They are good people. They are also people who are deserving of a better deal than the proposed redistribution offers to them.
– They could do with a better member.
– They will have an opportunity to try to find a better fellow at the next election. Earlier we were dealing with the electorate of Wilmot in Tasmania. I notice that the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) is present in the chamber. He is not nodding his head in approval yet but I am sure that he will be doing so when I have finished. The proposed electorate of Wilmot is to have 46 000 voters. I suppose the honourable member for Wilmot thinks that he has the best people in Tasmania, if not Australia, to represent. I am not going to launch into an argument with him on that aspect. But the point is that he will be representing an electorate with an elector population of 6.2 per cent below the quota. In area his electorate could be put into one subdivision of the proposed electorate of Gwydir. I heard an honourable member say rubbish’. There is no rubbish about it; that is a fact. We talk about the principle of one vote one value. Just where is the one vote one value in this sort of exercise? The electorate of Wilmot will have 46 148 electors. Compare that with the proposed electorate of Gwydir, which will have 64 882 electors or 3.37 per cent above the quota. The whole exercise smells; it really does. It is crook. To use an Australian colloquialism, it stinks. I am sad at having to use such a word, but it does.
What are we talking about? We are talking about something that has been contrived in the mind of the Minister for Services and Propertythe keeper of the Labor kingdom. To give the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) credit, he could not have chosen a more expert person than the Minister for Services and Property to ensure that the Australian Labor Party is entrenched in power through amending the electoral legislation and bringing in redistribution proposals. He is a beauty at it. I suppose that nobody could do the job with more superb skill than the Minister. There is no one better than the Minister to help to devise the means to keep the Government in power in spite of the fact that the greatest inflation in the history of this country is occurring and we have one of the highest levels of unemployment. We have seen the Government’s policy on the environment and so forth -
-Order! I have said that the debate may be a wide ranging debate, but it should be a wide ranging debate on electoral proposals and not the economy.
– Could you ask him to mention South Australia once or twice, Mr Speaker?
-Yes, I will mention South Australia in passing. The honourable member for Port Adelaide had a lot to say about the electoral situation but I do not think that he mentioned South Australia once. Needless to say he did not want to get down to the facts and the detail of the whole dreadful exercise. The present redistribution is unnecessary. Arguments will arise about the need for a census in 1976. There will certainly be a need for a redistribution after that census. Why are we having a redistribution now, on the eve of a census, when there will be a constitutional need for a redistribution after that census? In any event the legislation under which this redistribution was carried out is being challenged in the High Court of Australia. To have a redistribution that is based on legislation that could be declared invalid is to waste funds and to waste time.
The purpose, of holding an election surely must be to try to ensure that the result of it reflects the will of the electorate. In 1972 the Australian Labor Party received 49.6 per cent of the first preference vote and 52.8 per cent of the seats. In 1974 it received 49.3 per cent of the first preference vote and 52 per cent of the seats. But that clearly is not good enough. The Australian Labor Party is now trying to bring about a system that exists perhaps in the United Kingdom whereby the Labour Party is polling a little over 30 per cent of the vote and is in power with a very substantial majority. The proper conclusion to draw from the election results of 1972 and 1974 is that the previous Parliament reflected and this Parliament reflects the will of the electorate. So what is all the fuss about? Who says that the present situation is unfair? The ultimate result of the present proposals on a national basis would be that the Australian Labor Party would have a majority of five after attaining 45 per cent of the vote instead of a majority of five after attaining 49.3 per cent of the vote. That is the truth of the situation. I am sure that other speakers from the Opposition will give further proof of that argument.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is hard to believe that in the history of this Parliament a shallower and more irresponsible speech has ever been heard on an important subject than the one to which we have been obliged to listen from the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). It was ham acting. It was also, as I have already said, totally irresponsible. The House is debating an electoral redistribution in South Australia. If there had not been an interjection from the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) the honourable member for Gwydir would not have even mentioned South Australia in passing. It is interesting to note that although we have heard about 5 speakers from the Opposition on the subject of electoral redistributions- admittedly only three in this debate- we have not yet heard from a South Australian. I hope that we will shortly.
There are good reasons why the South Australians on the Opposition benches have been reluctant to enter into this debate. One of the good reasons is that they know that it is a good, fair redistribution that has been carried out by men of integrity and independence. They also know that acceptance of the proposed redistribution will help the Liberal Party of Australia in South Australia. I do not pretend that I like the details of this redistribution. Although I will be helped personally in my seat, overall my Partythe Australian Labor Party- will not be helped by this redistribution. If ever there has been an example of the spinelessness of the members of the Liberal Party in this House we have it here. If ever there has been an example of a lack of principle when it comes to electoral matters on the part of the National Country Party of Australia we have it here. If ever there has been an example of the tail wagging the dog- of the Country Party once more having complete authority over an important area of policy- we have it here. We have brought the South Australian redistribution into this Parliament first, only because it was the redistribution that was given to the Minister for Services and Property and to this Parliament first. But it is fortuitous that we have done so as it enables us to highlight this lack of principles and spinelessness which is such a feature of what we are learning from the Opposition today.
Let us look at history to see why this comes about. A redistribution of the electorates of this Australian Parliament is due on any set of criteria that we have looked at in the past. The last redistribution was in 1968. It is true that there was a difference of opinion between the Labor Party and the Opposition Parties on the principles of this redistribution. But the fact is that those principles have been argued out in debate after debate in this Parliament to such an extent that eventually we had to hold a Joint Sitting in order to determine this matter. That Joint Sitting, based on the votes of members of both Houses of this Parliament who were elected by the people of this country, said that a 10 per cent difference was all that was justified. Indeed, a 10 per cent margin either side of the mean can give a 20 per cent difference in size between one electorate and another. Previously there was a 20 per cent margin which could give a 40 per cent difference between the size of electorates. After a proper look at the principles governing electorates, 10 per cent is all that should be tolerated and the people have already, through the Parliament- through the Joint Sitting- made a decision on that.
For the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) and, before him, even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Fraser) to come into this place and talk about manipulation is a discredit to them and a reflection on men of integrity- the Commissioners- who have followed these principles that have properly been given to them by this Parliament. The fact is that in South Australia 3 men drew up this proposal for redistribution. One Commissioner was Mr A. J. Walsh, who is the Australian Electoral Officer for South Australia. Does anybody reflect in any way on his integrity? Another was Mr G. H.
Campbell-Kennedy, who is the SurveyorGeneral for the State of South Australia, somebody completely apolitical and outside any political party and a man of integrity and independence. The third Commissioner was Mr F. W. Summers, a retired Australian Electoral Officer, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, as he then was, for the State of South Australia. There were no political affiliations whatsoever. The Commissioners brought down a completely independent report to this Parliament and that is what we are debating now. Yet we hear words like manipulation’ thrown into this debate irresponsibly by the honourable member for Gwydir and the Leader of the Opposition. As I have said already, I do not pretend that I like every detail of this proposed distribution; I guess none of us ever would. But I would like to quote some of the reactions of people in South Australia. There have been some extraordinary reactions.
On 4 February, before the redistribution proposals were published- indeed, while they were still under bond- reporters went to certain well known political personalities in South Australia and sought their reactions. The Director of the Liberal Party in South Australia, Mr Viall, commented that he thought it was an unfair distribution just on Press reports. The next day, 5 February, Dr Eastick, a more responsible Liberal leader in my State- the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian State Parliamentsaid that the Liberal Party would win 7 seats to the Australian Labor Party’s 5 seats after the redistribution. I point out to the Parliament that at the moment the Labor Party has 7 seats and the Liberal Party 5 seats. Dr Eastick went on to say that, indeed, the Commissioners had followed the recommendations of the Liberal Party.
I suppose that we will now have the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) and, if he has the guts to come into this chamber, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) standing up and showing their loyalty to their Party by opposing this redistribution. We have the independent judgment of the Leader of the Liberal Party in the South Australian Parliament on this redistribution. Indeed, we have, as I said earlier, an indication of the reaction of Mr Viall before he saw the Commissioners’ report in his opposition to the first proposals of the Commissioners. But, from any angle that one can look at it, this is a fair distribution and Liberal Party spokesmen have said just that.
While talking about reactions, I take this opportunity to condemn a reaction of a spokesman for the Australia Party, Mr C. Van Reenen. On 5 February he said that the redistribution was a classic gerrymander for the Australian Labor Party and went on to say that the Labor Party stood to gain the seats of Angas and Sturt. I do not believe that even the honourable member for Angas would concede in any way that the Labor Party had any chance whatsoever of gaining his seat. I speak up for the Commissioners in bringing this matter to the attention of the Parliament because they cannot speak for themselves. But irresponsible statements like this, like the one from the Leader of the Opposition and the one from the honourable member for Gwydir, should not be allowed to go unchallenged. Even this Australia Party spokesman talked about a classic gerrymander when referring to this redistribution. There is absolutely no justification for such a charge.
Before resuming my seat, I should like to comment on the methods used by the Commissioners. I think there is great merit in the way that suggestions are put up by political parties and other interested people; how others then can comment on those suggestions; and how, after the Commissioners have presented their first report, there is room for objections to be made to those suggestions of the Commissioners. This system has been well traversed in the case of the South Australian redistribution and it is interesting to note the unity that has existed on the part of the various people who made suggestions. For instance, the electorate of Hawker was extended to the coast under all of these suggestions. Angas became a Hills electorate and lost parts of the Murray. I know the honourable member for Angas is not pleased about this but it was the effect of every suggestion to the Commissioners other than that of the honourable member.
Of course, all the suggestions made to the Commissioners were that Grey remain unaltered. Because the Redcliffs petro-chemical project is now in mothballs, it is true that the Commissioners later had to increase the size of the electorate of Grey. This disappoints members of the Australian Labor Party because the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) already has a large area to cover. But he is a man of principle as well and supports the 10 per cent tolerance rather than a 20 per cent tolerance and he understands that, with a seat like his, that is one of the disadvantages with which he has to contend.
Finally, because the name of Mr Malcolm Mackerras has been mentioned in this Parliament, I mention another independent observer of these matters, Mr Dean Jaensch, a member of the Politics Department of the Flinders University of South Australia. He has gone on public record as saying how very fair this proposed South Australian redistribution is. I believe that his opinions are held by everybody who is objective about this redistribution. I repeat what I said at the beginning of my remarks: I am sure this is a classic case of the spinelessness of the Liberal Party in following the unprincipled attitudes of the Country Party in this matter. This is a fair distribution of the electorates of South Australia. If anything, it favours the Liberal Party. I do not appreciate that to any great extent but it has been done by men of independence, by men of integrity, and the umpires’ rulings should be followed.
-The redistribution of the South Australian divisions has been carried out, as has been pointed out to the House already, under changed conditions. There is no way in which I would criticise the Distribution Commissioners in that State above all the State Commissioners who have brought down changed boundaries. I think it goes without saying. In fact it is the very reason the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has brought on the redistribution proposals in South Australia first. By a lot of criteria the new boundaries are an improvement. One of the improvements is that they provide some seats that can swing. Under this distribution made according to the requirement of not more than a 10 per cent variation the number of seats that can swing to and fro is greater than previously. I applaud this. This is perfectly valid. But I hasten to add that the Commissioners, as has already been said to the House, are operating under changed conditions. Anomalies have occurred because of these changed conditions and we will consider them. Members of my Party through the length and breadth of Australia have been strongly criticised in a rather blustering speech by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), which I felt was far less convincing than usual.
Let us look at some of the problems. I think at one stage the honourable member for Adelaide used the word ‘dishonour’ in relation to the Liberal Party. He used a lot more extravagant expressions. During his speech he said that he had read my submission but I wonder whether he has. Let us forget once and for all the suggestion that the National Country Party of Australia has intended to sway the political judgment of my Party. My electorate is as much a rural electorate as any other electorate. Rural electorates are held by all 3 parties in this Parliament. I do not know what notice the Australian Labor Party took of the views of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) or of the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis). By the look of it, none. The people of those electorates must become disenchanted and dishonoured by the fact that the Government refuses to look at those aspects of the question.
It is of no use in this House or anywhere else for the honourable member for Adelaide to attempt to drive in his little wedge by saying that our Party is going to water because of Country Party influence, domination or anything else. My own submission should be proof of that. In fact, if we want to look at submissions, let us look at the worst submission of the lot in South Australia, which was the Australian Labor Party submission: It favoured the seat of Angas marvellously well. I do not complain on those grounds, but one has to complain on every other ground. It took no account of growth in the hills areas, in Monarto and in growth districts like Kingston. It was a second-rate document produced off the top of somebody’s head. I have my suspicions, but I hope it was not produced by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) because it would not do him any credit. On the evidence of its own submission the Labor Party does not understand the political attitudes of the community or the norms on which the Commissioners were operating on this occasion. So enough of this nonsense.
The honourable member for Adelaide tried to use as evidence the statement of the Leader of the State Parliamentary Liberal Party, Dr Eastick. It was a very moderate statement but the honourable member for Adelaide used it as though it was a reflection of the political alignment of the parties on redistribution. Of course it was not. All Dr Eastick said was that under the redistribution the Liberal Party would win 7 seats as against five, where the current position is the opposite. I can tell the honourable member for Adelaide now that given the political situation that applies it will not be 7 to 5; it will be 8 to 4 to the Liberal Party because we will quite certainly take Kingston and Grey, with the disadvantages under which the latter seat suffers- I do not refer to the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis)- as well as the seat of Adelaide and maybe even the seat of Hawker. So let us not confuse a political statement by the Leader of the Liberal Party in South Australia- it is a very conservative statement; the future will have to prove this- with the fact that although the redistribution in South Australia has been termed in many areas as the fairest of the State’s redistributions, on my figuring it will still take 53 per cent of the vote for the Liberal Party to get 50 per cent of the seats- of course we will exceed that by far- and it will still take only 47 per cent of the vote, on my reckoning, for the Labor Party to get 50 per cent of the seats.
I accept what the honourable member for Adelaide said in the more rational moments of his speech. There are elements of fairness, one of which I mentioned before. There will be a much more interesting situation that will give more vitality to political arguments in South Australia. I am quite sure that is so. Mr Speaker, if I may take advantage momentarily of the terms you laid down earlier for the debate I shall digress slightly, but I shall refer back all the time to the State of South Australia. The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) made a very interesting point. Everything depends on from what view one looks at a redistribution. One can produce facts and figures to show that a national vote one way will equate with a number of seats for one party; that a national percentage of votes one way will equate conversely with the other party in terms of seats. But of course the element that is not dealt with under this quite fair method of looking at the problem is the element of the seats that can swing.
We all know the constitutional limitations of Tasmania. But it so happens that at this time, the Constitution notwithstanding, all the seats in Tasmania are held by the Government. It is perfectly valid to argue that there was not any real need for redistribution in that State. The redistribution does not alter the situation much. All that it does, under the changed conditions set down under this Government’s method of redistributing boundaries, is to produce a situation in which nearly every seat in Tasmania is firmed up for the Labor Party. One could say this is fair. I do not blame honourable members on the Government side arguing this way. But one could ask whether a redistribution was even necessary. In all fairness too, we must comment on the fact that all the swinging seats in Tasmania are now by some magical stroke shored up to make it harder for the non-Labor parties to win them. This is a valid observation in relation to the parameters on which the Commissioners have had to operate. I think it pays this House to take into account the fact that the same principle applies- one can understand the Commissioners’ difficulties- in South Australia in terms of Kingston. This is just another example of how under those parameters the Labor Party seat of Kingston is shored up considerably. The distribution has made it much harder for the Liberal Party to win it.
If this redistribution in South Australia and elsewhere is so totally fair, as I have heard argued, I think, by the honourable member for
Port Adelaide, the Government should look at the seat of Lilley in Queensland over the past 15 years. When we were in government the seat of Lilley was almost impossibly concocted, to make it as hard for the Liberal Party to win as it was possible to make it. I do not think the House can be blamed for thinking of a seat like Lilley which chronically at every redistribution during the 1960s, became progressively harder for the Liberal Party to win.
– The Liberal Party won that seat all the same.
-That is a different matter, when compared with the situation that applies now where every swinging seat held by the Labor Party throughout Australia happens by some fluke or other to be shored up and made more difficult for the Labor Party to lose. You would excuse that observation, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that citing the example of one seat such as Lilley does not prove my argument. But you must see, and the House must see, that it looks bad.
– What about Henty?
– I cannot comment about Henty. I do not know whether it is better or worse. But I can give the examples of Isaacs and the Tasmanian seats where constitutional problems are involved. Macarthur is one of those seats.
– Also Phillip and Cook.
-Order! The honourable member for Bennelong will remain silent. I could recite a list of seats which would also apply to this proposition. We would both be out of order.
– Kingston in South Australia is another example of this situation in which the same picture is presented. Be it by fluke or concoction as a result of the new parameters drawn- and I certainly excuse the distribution commissioners- the fact of the matter is that it appears now that these swinging seats will be held more readily by the Government than they were before. Looking through the generalities of the redistribution proposals throughout Australia, the Government asks us in those circumstances to vote for these proposals. Of course, we do not intend to vote for the proposals.
As a South Australian I go one stage further to say that there is still a possibility that after the 1976 census South Australia will get another seat. The massive alteration to the seat of Angas proposed in this redistribution may then prove to be redundant as certainly any new seat in South Australia would go into the metropolitan area.
The honourable member for Adelaide has read my submission; he said so during his speech. He knows very well of the anger of the people in the wine growing areas and the citrus growing areas from the Barossa Valley to the Mypolonga area. The community of interest in that area of South Australia in which specialist industries are followed has been disbanded and rended. Those engaged in these industries feel that separation greatly. Let us use those areas as an example. If in the terms of the 1976 census South Australia were to get another seat, all of these boundary changes would be redundant. The view of these people who feel the proposed changes keenly is that if these proposals are passed by the Parliament they are being disenfranchised. But let us not use extravagant language. Let us say that the base of the operations of these industries and of the expertise of those in these industries in dealing with their member of Parliament will be thwarted. The situation that will result will be remedied if South Australia is given a new seat after the next census.
I say to the Leader of the House, who is busy writing his memoirs, that the way out of this difficulty- I think that he should take this into account- is that once the number of Senate seats becomes greater the nexus between the 2 Houses, which has been regarded pretty laxly over the years, varies also. The way out of his difficulty and out of the difficulties of the honourable member for Grey, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and those other honourable members who have an impossibly large job to do is, frankly, to create more seats and to take advantage of the nexus provisions in this respect. I would like to hear from the Minister in relation to that proposition, if he gets around to answering the case put forward by honourable members on this side of the House.
I finalise my remarks in this way: Let us not have too much of the blustering ballyhoo with which the honourable member for Adelaide carried on at the start and finish of his speech. There are valid reasons within the parameters as I have described them to consider that the redistribution for the State of South Australia is redundant in the present circumstances and may well react strongly to the disadvantage of those people who may have to put up with their boundaries being altered to cope with one new situation shortly and another new situation within 2 years.
-I rise to support the measures before the House. I appreciate the concern of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who pointed out that if these redistribution proposals are agreed to the effect in respect of my electorate will be to increase it from 195 000 square miles to 325 000 square miles in area. But there are only an extra 2400 people in that additional area. It may be of interest to the honourable member for Angas that on the basis of the figures that I have been able to take out the majority of those people are Liberal Party supporters. The honourable member for Angas has been arguing about how Labor-held seats have been propped up. The proposed redistribution will certainly make the electorate of Grey a slightly more marginal seat.
It is interesting to point out at this stage that the only 2 seats the rural area component of which is to be increased by these measures are those seats held by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and me. The electorate of Port Adelaide receives an extra 2 square miles, which incorporates the Gepps Cross abattoirs in Adelaide. I can appreciate the concern that the honourable member for Angas has stated about the difficulty of servicing a large electorate. I can certainly verify that there are difficulties. Those difficulties have existed for quite some time but I can say that as a result of the actions of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is sympathetic to our needs, the position of country members with large electorates has been made a great deal easier. It is hard to see how the present problems posed by the distances which must be travelled in those electorates can be solved but the Minister has certainly made provisions which make it much easier to service these large electorates. I refer to the provision of charter aircraft which make travel for members with large electorates a little easier. Sometimes a member can use up on one trip the funds allocated for charter flight purposes. It is our hope that at a later stage the Minister will look again at the matter of charter aircraft for members representing large electorates and will make it easier for those members to service those electorates.
I do not think that we should say .hat because these electorates are large we should move completely away from the concept of one vote one value. Slight variations with respect to the number of electors in country electorates can be made. The previous Government provided for a 20 per cent variation above or below the quota. The Labor Government had reduced that variation to 10 per cent, which I think is a pretty fair margin. If that provision is coupled with the extra assistance provided to the member with the large electorate, I think that a member can service the needs of his electorate while, at the same time, the principle of one vote one value is adhered to as closely as possible.
In the contribution of the honourable member for Angas he mentioned the affinity between the Barossa Valley and River Murray areas. I suppose that there is an affinity between those areas. I point out that in the terms of this redistribution the size of the electorate of Grey will be increased by some 130 000 square miles and that it is a fact, as anyone who knows the area will appreciate, that the 2400 additional electors who will be added to my electorate all live within possibly 50 miles of the eastern boundary of that electorate. Although 130 000 square miles will be added to my electorate, the problem of servicing these additional electors is not as great as it might appear to be.
The question of affinity comes into this aspect. The north-west railway line is in the electorate of Wakefield. The Leigh Creek coal fields are in the electorate of Wakefield. The headquarters of the Commonwealth Railways is in Port Augusta, in the electorate of Grey. The employees of the Commonwealth Railways on the east-west line are, under the existing boundaries, in the electorate of Grey. The employees of the Commonwealth Railways on the north-south line are in the electorate of Wakefield. The business and operational headquarters of the Commonwealth Railways are in Port Augusta. An affinity exists between the railway employees already in the electorate of Grey and those railway employees who will, if these proposals are agreed to, come into that electorate.
The Leigh Creek coal fields, under these proposals, will also come into my electorate. Those coal fields feed the powerhouse at Port Augusta. The railway line is used to transport the coal. Those working on the coal fields are employed by the Electricity Trust of South Australia, the operations of which are controlled from Port Augusta. So honourable members can see that most of those people who will be transferred into my electorate are people who already have close ties with Port Augusta. They are on a regular air route which can be serviced. They are on a regular railway service. Although a large additional area will be added to the electorate of Grey, the problems which will arise will not be as great as would appear from looking at the relevant map.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) did say that as a result of the redistribution proposals I will have more than 50 per cent of South Australia in my electorate. I must take him lo task on this point. Under the old boundaries, I have 5 1 per cent of the area of South Australia. Under the new proposals, that will increase to 85 per cent of the area of South Australia. But I do feel that with the problem not being as great as would appear on a map and the fact that we have a sympathetic Minister who is trying to assist those honourable members in country areas to give proper service to their electorates, this problem will not be as large as people think. As far as I am concerned, I certainly do not want another 130 000 square miles added to my electorate. But I am not daunted by the fact that if the redistribution proposal goes through the problems will increase slightly. I am prepared, as a Federal member, to accept that extra responsibility. I am sure that I could give the service that I try to give the electorate of Grey now.
Getting away from my own electorate, we have heard quite a lot of wild and irrational statements made in this House today about gerrymandering. I agree with the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who mentioned the over use of the word ‘manipulation’. I think that that word is an insult to the distribution commissioners who have been appointed by the Government to carry out the redistributions. They have brought down what they consider to be fair proposals. I verify what has been said by other honourable members in that everybody who can be said to look at these proposals with an unbiased mind has come to the conclusion that they are the fairest electoral redistribution proposals that have ever been introduced. I did see an article which said that if the Liberal Party did not take the chance to accept these redistribution proposals, then it will probably be the end of the century before it will get a similar opportunity to that which is being offered now.
Of course the Liberal Party is opposed to the redistribution proposals because it is a fair redistribution. Let us look at the Liberal Party’s sorry record, because its record is sorry, particularly in South Australia. We are dealing with South Australian redistribution proposals just now. The record of the Liberal Party on electoral redistribution in South Australia is a sorry one. We know that in South Australia the Liberal Party had Sir Thomas Playford who was probably the king of gerrymandering. Sir Thomas Playford did hold that crown but I am afraid he has been uncrowned now by the Premier of Queensland. We saw for many years the very unbalanced electoral distribution in South Australia where, despite the fact that the Labor Party could obtain 54 per cent or 55 per cent of the vote, it was nowhere near able to govern. It reached the stage where even under the bad proposals that applied, it looked as if, with the gradual increase of the Labor Party vote, the Labor Party would be able to govern under the existing scheme, gerrymandered as it was. There were 3 provincial city seats which were held by the Labor Party. The Liberal Party in South Australia, to make sure that the Labor Party did not win at the elections attempted to do away with one of those seats. This move was defeated by the Speaker in the South Australian Parliament and a petition which I had a fair bit to do with organising. The move went right through the electorate; it was supported not only by people of Labor persuasion, but also by people of Liberal persuasion who could see that this was a pretty crook attitude.
There was an occasion in the latter 1960s when the then Liberal Premier of South Australia Steele Hall, realised that the Liberal Party could not go on as it had been holding power by a pretty unbalanced distribution of seats. Of course Steele Hall did bring about a redistribution. Although it had many imperfections it was still an advance on the distribution which had applied previously. We know that he implemented his measures. We know that since then he has been out with the Liberal Party. I think that probably the greatest thing which the Liberal Party has held against him is the fact that he carried out a redistribution in South Australia which was a little fair. Because of that, he has been out of favour with the Liberal Party ever since.
Perhaps I could refer to some of the remarks made by members of the National Country Party. It always amazes me to hear some of the remarks of members of the National Country Party from the leader down. They have been experts in gerrymandering. If we go through every State Parliament in Australia where the National Country Party operates, we will find that it has been the supporter of a small population for country seats and a large population for city seats. It has a pretty bad record as may be seen in Queensland today. Like other honourable members on the Government side, I just cannot understand why the Liberal Party is not prepared to support these proposals. Nobody could say that the proposals are unfair. With regard to South Australia, I think that the proposals might marginally favour someone in one seat or another. It was very interesting to hear the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) mention the Liberal Party submissions in South
Australia that the existing boundaries of Grey should not be altered. The Liberal Party also added a rider about the Division of Grey with regard to the Redcliff site. The relevant portion of the Liberal Party submission reads:
The point is that, if the project goes ahead -
The Liberal Party is referring to the Redcliff project which has been withheld for probably 1 8 months to 2 years- we are not talking in terms of minor increases in population, but rather, quite substantial increases in population. Thus the Grey Division should be below the quota. We have put it at -7.6 per cent. We believe this may be a fraction low and it could be raised by a ‘trade-off’ with the Wakefield Division by moving the boundary between them eastwards until the required numbers are gained.
That is what the redistribution commissioners have done. Although the Liberal Party, in its submission states that Grey should remain unchanged, there is a qualification that, in order to bring the numbers up to date if the Redcliff project did not go ahead, the boundary could be moved eastwards. That is what took place. The distribution commissioners have followed the Liberal Party submission. In conclusion, I again condemn the attitude which both the Liberal Party and the National Country Party have taken. I particularly condemn the attitude of the National Country Party which, as I said earlier, has been the great protagonist of the gerrymander in the past.
The attitude, of course, which we cannot understand is the Liberal Party attitude which is bolstering up this love for the gerrymander which the National Country Party so earnestly desires. Perhaps I could conclude by referring to an article in a Melbourne newspaper written by a prominent journalist relating to the National Country Party attitude towards redistribution. I paraphrase the article slightly but in effect it said that the National Country Party talking about electoral redistribution is like a backyard abortionist talking about extolling the virtues of motherhood. I fully support these proposals. I feel that the Liberal Party should support them. Anyone who took a fair look at the proposals would support them. I hope that the whole Parliament will support them.
– I certainly congratulate Government supporters on the excellent case they have put for a fairer electoral redistribution in Australia. The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), leading for the Opposition, made a remarkable speech. He hardly mentioned the State we are dealing with- South Australia. But commencing with his remarks and those of other honourable members on the Opposition side, there was always a veiled attack on the integrity of the distribution commissioners. Yet no one has personally questioned their appointment, even to this stage. The insinuation and the statements that these boundaries were to be rigged for the Labor Party is not an attack on me; it is an attack on the distribution commissioners.
The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) was one who made such a statement. He said that we were here to rig the electorates. He is a former Minister in charge of electoral affairs. He knows full well that the Act prohibits a Minister from giving instructions to distribution commissioners in any way. The commissioners are completely independent. Whilst allowing for the fact that some of those opposite are not so well informed, statements coming like that from a former Minister for the Interior, knowing the integrity of commissioners who have been appointed from time to time and on this occasion, do little credit to him or to the parties concerned. I might say that it is no good begging the question. Before the commissioners were appointed, the National Country Party announced that it would not support the new boundaries at all. We can take if from that that if every electorate had been drawn to give the National Country Party a majority, it still would not accept the redistribution. Now we see this timid, tame cat Liberal Party. The Liberal Party has not the courage of Sir Charles Court in Western Australia. The Liberal Party capitulate here. No wonder the Liberal Party is in opposition. It believes in standing up for the rigged boundaries which are the only ones on which the National Country Party can exist. Therefore there has been no sound reasoning by the Opposition on these proposals.
Whatever might be said about whether or not the overall electoral redistribution suits certain States, the fact is that not one criticism has been levelled against the fairness and impartiality of the electoral redistribution in South Australia which we are discussing. The Leader of the Liberal Party in that State told his people that under these proposals the Liberals would win 7 out of 12 seats, and today in this Parliament we see the Liberal Party and the National Country Party lined up and opposing boundaries which their own leader says would give them rather than the Labor Party a majority in South Australia. None of the National Country Party members ever talks about the gerrymanders of Mr BjelkePetersen, the Premier of Queensland, who wins with 1 9 per cent or 20 per cent of the vote. I never hear the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) criticise him. I suppose that every one of us in this Parliament would be happy if we could rig the boundaries of electorates like the National Country Party Premier of Queensland does. They have a tame cat Liberal Party up there. They take it on the chin and they have been put completely out of office by rigged boundaries, even in the centre of metropolitan districts up there.
The honourable member for Gwydir hardly mentioned South Australia at all. He said: ‘I want to talk about the electorate of Gwydir’. I said: ‘Why not mention South Australia?’ He said: ‘Do not tell me that I cannot talk about Tasmania’. He, the former Minister, had not read the reports. He talked about having an entrenched Labor Government and all those kinds of things. He knows full well that the conditions are laid down in the Act and, with the exception of the 10 per cent variation in quota, they were put there by his Party mainly in 1965. His statements are hardly worthy of consideration because, although he was a former Minister, he showed an abysmal lack of knowledge of the electoral system and how it works.
I come now to the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). I always listen to South Australian Opposition members speaking on this subject because we have all heard of the playmander under Sir Thomas Playford. I understand that the honourable member for Angas was a member of the Upper House in South Australia when Sir Thomas Playford was in his prime. At that time 32 per cent of the people lived in the country and 68 per cent in the city. He rigged the boundaries accordingly and his Party was in government all the time despite the fact that it had a majority only once in 9 elections. So when South Australian Opposition members talk about rigging boundaries honourable members want to prick up their ears and listen because I think that they could give BjelkePetersen a few ideas.
The honourable member said that every borderline seat had been strengthened for the Labor Party. That is a completely and utterly false and misleading statement. In Queensland Dawson, Capricornia and Leichhardt are all better for the Opposition. Even up there we find the Liberals skiting that they can win them all from the Labor Party. We also find that in Victoria Henty has been accepted as one seat that the Labor Party could not hold under these proposals. In New South Wales the seat of Evans, which will be named Concord, is also one that has been weakened immeasurably and made more difficult for the Labor Party to win. In Eden-Monaro the National Country Party are skiting even now that they could win it under these boundaries. So that gives the lie to what the honourable member said. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) knows that he will double his majority. It is only about 700 but he will double it. That is a good kick along for him because he was lucky to win in the first fight. Yet the National Country Party members intend to vote against all these proposals. Even if everything that was said in respect of these other areas was right, what does it have to do with South Australia? That is what we are discussing. The fairest electoral redistribution ever introduced into an Australian Par.liament is to be rejected because the National Country Party has told the Liberal Party what to do.
Mention was made of the problem of huge electorates. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), who represents magnificently 325 000 square miles of territory, told honourable members how they can represent huge country districts. I will give honourable members the secret to it. First of all the people in those big districts want to elect a Labor member because he is the one who can do these things. Take my distinguished friend the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). He represents ah area about one and a half times the size of Queensland, and does it magnificently without complaint. Yet people up there in the Flynn area say that it is too big when it is a quarter the size. Honourable members should have a look at these 2 men. They stand supreme in their electorates as outstanding representatives of huge areas. They are returned again and again with overwhelming majorities. So what is aU this talk about not being able to represent big districts?
The second solution is, as the honourable member for Grey mentioned, that country members, and all honourable members for that matter, are entitled to increased travelling facilities to get around their electorates and see people. This Government is endeavouring to provide those increased facilities. No one can tell me that the answer to these problems is t o load the electorates. That is undemocratic, it is unjust and would not stand up to constitutional challenge. The answer to these problems in South Australia has been provided by the Distribution Commissioners. Insinuations have been made about their integrity, and made on false premises. The Opposition says that it will oppose the boundaries in South Australia. Not one reason has been given as to why they should not be supported except that we know that behind the scenes the
National Country Party has stuck a gun at the head of the Liberal Party and said: ‘We will blow out what brains you have if you accept them’. That is the situation.
Let me summarise the matter briefly. The debate from this side of the House showed a great knowledge of the problem. I doubt whether some honourable members on the other side have even read the submissions. Certainly not one speaker on that side said one thing to justify voting against the South Australian redistribution proposals at this time. The public should know that every electoral reform brought down by this Government, even for drawing for positions on the ballot paper, is looked upon as a sinister attack on the democratic voting system. Not one reform can get through this Parliament because the Liberal Party kowtows to the National Country Party on everything from a draw from the ballot box to reasonable and fair electoral boundaries. In the next day or so other legislation will be brought in here and we will see again how no reform can be passed because the National Country Party will not let the Liberal Party do so. At least the deposed leader over there gave:*things a go occasionally, but the present leader is a tame cat in the grip of the National Country Party on these issues.
However, I congratulate the commissioners in South Australia for bringing down recommendations that have won the support of even the Liberal Party opponents in that State. I reiterate that the boundaries are the fairest that can be presented and they have not been presented for any particular reason. These boundary proposals are being introduced into this Parliament in the order in which they were presented to me and in which I believe they should be debated. The South Australian redistribution is a fair and just one for the Parties. I would not say that I was exceedingly happy with everything in the proposals, but we have appointed the referees and we accept their verdict. If these proposals are rejected in this Parliament at any stage it will be because of the attitude of the Liberal Party. From memory I doubt whether the Labor Party has ever rejected any redistribution proposals put by the other side. The Liberal Party, at the behest of the National Country Party, is determined to have a gerrymandered system whereby some honourable members will represent twice the number that others represent. Ere much time has passed by in Queensland there will be over 100 000 people in the McPherson electorate alone, and National Country Party members will be running around with about half that number to represent. I know that there is reason to give the present National Country Party members fewer voters to represent: They cannot look after it any more. They are flat out dealing with the numbers they have. But that is no reason to wreck the electoral system. We cannot cater for individuals on that basis.
I know full well that the motion will be carried here because the majority of members of this House are exceedingly intelligent and they will support it and vote for it. I am not hopeful about the other place because they know only from hour to hour what they will do. As I mentioned earlier, these boundaries are satisfactory in the view of the Commissioners. I submit them to the Parliament and I hope that they will be accepted.
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That the House of Representatives approves of the redistribution of the State of Tasmania into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs J. R. Lennard, C. C. A. Butler and P. W. Fletcher, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on 17 April 1975, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
The Government, having considered the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Tasmania, as tabled in this House on 1 7 April 1975, pursuant to section 23A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners, now recommends approval of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals. As at December 1974, enrolments for divisions in Tasmania varied from 45 846 in the division of Bass- 6.8 1 per cent below quota- to 52 206 in the division of Braddon 6. 1 1 per cent above quota. The quota was ascertained to be 49 198. These variations have been reduced in the Distribution Commmissioners’ proposals, with the maximum proposed enrolment being 51 394-4.46 per cent above quota- for the division of Braddon and the minimum 46 148-6.20 per cent below quota- for the division of Wilmot.
Although the reduction in the degree of variation from the quota is not large, it is worth noting that the Distribution Commissioners have nevertheless proposed variations less sizeable than those proposed for South Australia and Queensland, as one might expect, when dealing with a State like Tasmania, where population movements do not fluctuate so dramatically as in other States. It is also worth remarking that the Distribution Commissioners’ comments contained in paragraphs 9 to 12 on page 7 of thenreport, indicate that they have approached their task with commendable care and objectivity. Twenty-one suggestions, comments and objections relating to the proposed redistribution were lodged with the Commissioners all of which received full consideration. In this regard paragraph 10 states:
Several objections were received to the proposed amendment to boundaries between Denison and Franklin. Following careful analysis of the situation, your Distribution Commissioners could find no reason to amend their original proposals in this area, which made use of natural boundaries such as rivers and streams, and are in full accord with all the criteria outlined in Section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Accordingly I have moved that this House approve the report of the Distribution Commissioners for Tasmania, dated 15 April 1975. 1 ask leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the latest enrolment figures available for all divisions as at 24 April 1975 in Tasmania as provided by the Chief Austraiian Eelectoral Officer.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House.
-The first question that one is forced to ask about the electoral redistribution proposals for Tasmania is why on earth was it ever necessary to carry out an electoral redistribution in Tasmania? I know that very strong arguments could be advanced as to why some change in boundaries in other States was necessary. But when one looks at the enrolments in Tasmania as at December 1974- the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) had referred to these in his speechone sees that the variations are only 6.8 1 per cent below quota and 6.1 1 per cent above the quota.
We have a situation in which none of the 5 seats in Tasmania in any way approaches the maximum variation from the quota set under the new Act. One might ask why it was necessary at all to carry out a redistribution in Tasmania. One might also ask why a double standard was applied in respect of Tasmania and Western Australia because Western Australia, where no redistribution has been carried out, has one seat- the seat of Kalgoorlie- which is 15.9 per cent below quota. I ask the question: Why on earth was it necessary to carry out a redistribution in Tasmania when the fact that a seat in Western Australia has been 15.9 per cent below quota has been totally ignored and a redistribution has not been carried out.
– Kalgoorlie has the largest population in Western Australia.
– Those criteria were taken out of the Act at the Joint Sitting. The fact remains that the quota for Kalgoorlie has fallen short by 15.9 per cent. Yet it has been found necessary to carry out a redistribution in Tasmania, a State in which these sort of variations have not occurred. The variations in all electorates in Tasmania are within the quota.
In examining the proposals for Tasmania we might first ask why it is necessary that a redistribution be carried out. If there is one thing that promotes a considerable contempt of parliamentary representation it is confusion amongst voters. I think all honourable members would agree that as far as possible there should be huie disturbance in electoral boundaries. That is why one of the criteria in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act is that the Distribution Commissioners must adhere to existing boundaries of electorates. Tasmania is a State which has an extremely static population. I do not think any honourable member opposite would argue that there will be a substantial explosion of population in Tasmania over the next few years. The increase in population in the electorates of Denison and Franklin, the 2 seats in which there has been an increase in population, has been constant and the population is stable.
I once again get back to the question why on earth it was necessary to carry out a redistribution in Tasmania. There is no compulsion under the Act to set boundaries which are any different from the existing boundaries. It would have been quite competent for the Distribution Commissioners, having been asked to draw boundaries, to have set boundaries which were exactly the same as the existing ones. There would have been no reason why they could not have done that. It would have been in accordance with the criteria laid down under the Act. In fact, such a result would have been met with the approval of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) because in a submission to the Distribution Commissioners the honourable member argued very strongly against any alteration in the boundaries of Franklin and Denison. He was very trenchant on this point. He said:
Essentially I submit that upon the evidence available there is no justification for any alteration to the present boundaries of the electorate of Franklin at this stage.
He went on to recapitulate the arguments that I have just used. He pointed out how static the population was. He stressed the need to preserve as far as possible the existing boundaries and as far as possible to eliminate voter confusion.
So I once again ask the question which has been asked by the Government’s own member in Franklin: Why was it necessary to carry out a redistribution? I am at a total loss to know why it was necessary to carry out a redistribution in Tasmania. Surely the Government is satisfied with the electoral result in Tasmania where it holds 100 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives. Surely it did not want an increase on that result. So, as I have said, I cannot understand why it was necessary to carry out a redistribution.
I merely recapitulate the argument that I advanced at the commencement of the debate on the South Australian proposals. The Opposition looks at this matter from a national point of view. What we really have to look at in determining whether an electoral distribution is fair is the test of essential electoral justice; how easily can marginal seats change hands. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) made reference during his remarks on the South Australian proposal to attacks on the Distribution Commissioners. I do not impugn the integrity of any Distribution Commissioner. I never have done this and I do not think that I will have any reason to do so in this debate. But I reserve the right to disagree with them. This Parliament reserves the right to disagree with their conclusions. That is why it is necessary for the resolutions to be approved by both Houses of this Parliament. Just because the Opposition is opposing the redistribution does not mean that we are making any attacks on the individual integrity of Distribution Commissioners. Members of the Opposition have the right to disagree with their proposals and that is precisely what we are doing.
Consistent with the approach that we have taken in respect of the South Australian proposals and consistent with the approach that we will take in respect of the other proposals, the Opposition will oppose the Tasmanian proposals. There is no manifest reason why a redistribution should have been carried out. I notice that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) is listed to speak in this debate. I will be interested to know his views on the views expressed by the honourable member for Franklin. It is a fact that the position of the honourable member for Denison has been strengthened somewhat by this redistribution from something like a majority of 2.9 per cent to a majority of 4.7 per cent. Of course, it would not have escaped the notice of all honourable members that Denison is one of that critical group of marginal seats which determine whether a Government will change. Naturally the Government will be anxious to see the acceptance of proposals which will strengthen its position in Denison. Having regard to the nature of existing divisions in Tasmania, I cannot see why it was necessary to cause confusion among the voters in that State. None of the electorates was out of kilter. None was more than 10 per cent above or below quota. Therefore neither I nor the Opposition can find any reason why it was necessary to change the boundaries in Tasmania. I will be interested to hear some reasons advanced by Government speakers.
– I was interested to note that the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), who is leading for the Opposition in this debate, did not really go into the details of the boundaries of the Tasmanian seats. I too will not go into great detail except in regard to my own area. Firstly, I would like to correct a couple of things that were said. The honourable member maintained that there was an equivalent increase in the number of electors in Denison and Franklin.
– No, I did not.
-That is what you said. You said that it was a static situation.
– I said, the rate.
– The honourable member said that the rate of increase was similar in both electorates. That was a once only occurrence. The population of Denison, particularly in the middle of the electorate, is gradually decreasing. The reason for the increase in the period referred to by the honourable member- he should have looked at other periods as well- was because of the once only introduction of the 18-year-old vote. The University of Tasmania and the College of Advanced Education are situated in the Denison electorate and hence the electorate has a very much higher proportion of 18-year-old voters than does the electorate of Franklin. The net population of the University of Tasmania and the College of Advanced Education is relatively static. As I have said, the increase in population due to the 18-year-old vote is a once only change. The electorate of Franklin will continue to increase at a faster rate than will Denison.
The honourable member asked why it was necessary to have a redistribution. Why was it necessary for the Liberal-Country Party Government to carry out a redistribution in Tasmania in 1968? The same argument applies. But there are additional arguments now because the Commonwealth Electoral Act has been changed. The whole problem is that the Opposition cannot accept that the Commonwealth Electoral Act was altered at the Joint Sitting to provide for different margins from the mean in each State and some slight changes in the criteria to be applied by the Distribution Commissioners. Hence it was reasonable to ask the Commissioners to undertake a redistribution. They did so. The honourable member broke down his own argument as soon as he set it up by saying that the Distribution Commissioners having examined the situation could have set the same boundaries. They could have, but they did not. There were anomalies in the boundaries. The commissioners had different criteria to examine, particularly the use of natural boundaries, which they have done. The simplification of the boundaries is one of the beautiful things about this redistribution. On the argument of the honourable member for Bennelong there would probably never be any redistribution in Tasmania. He says he has never attacked the commissioners. Perhaps he has not done so directly, but in the way in which the Opposition is disagreeing it is, at least by implication, making an attack on the integrity of the distribution commissioners.
One other point that the honourable member for Bennelong made was that Denison is a critical seat. That is rather interesting, because the latest statement that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made about the Opposition’s chances of gaining seats in Tasmania mentioned only seats of Bass, Braddon and Wilmot. I was taking some heart from that. I thought honourable members opposite had conceded that the Opposition is not worried about Denison and Franklin.
A tremendous amount of hypocrisy is being exhibited by the Liberal Party in particular and by the National Country Party as well in opposing the current series of redistributions. As I said, the main reason for opposing them is that the
Opposition does not accept the fact that the Joint Sitting of this Parliament passed changes in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. That Joint Sitting followed an election in 1974 during which the people were able to consider certain Bills which were the cause of a double dissolution. Hence the Government had a perfect right, because it had the mandate of the people, to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act at the Joint Sitting. The situation we could get ourselves into by not accepting what is the law is quite ridiculous. You could say that the law has been changed by the Joint Sitting but then never accept any of the redistributions based on it preferring to carry out redistributions on a completely different basis.
The other point of hypocrisy of the Opposition in opposing the redistribution in Tasmania is that it is opposing exactly what it proposed in 1968. In 1968 the General Secretary of the Liberal Party in Tasmania, Mr D. H. Tribolet, signed a submission to the then distribution commissioners proposing boundaries which would include Fern Tree and Taroona to the south in Denison and extend the northern boundary of Denison into Franklin. This is exactly what this redistribution proposes. The other changes in the boundaries are relatively minor, involving the swapping around of small areas in order to have more logical and rational boundaries instead of the ancient boundaries of properties, the middle of roads and so on. Most of the boundaries are simple and straightforward. They are watercourses and other things such as electricity transmission lines and mountains which actually divide communities and thus comply with the requirement relating to community of interest. Under the old boundaries the description of Denison took 40 lines of type, but it now takes only 6 lines. It is a simplified description using natural boundaries which divide communities. I congratulate the commissioners on simplifying the descriptions, because it is important for people to know in which electorate they live. Boundaries which go down the middle of the streets- I realise this is unavoidable in the very large cities- are confusing to people. Natural river boundaries are the most logical boundaries.
The changes, of course, mean changes in the people I represent. I will regret not continuing as the representative of the Kingston-Kingston Beach-Blackman’s Bay area if this redistribution is passed by both Houses, because I have particularly good relations with many of the electors in that area. However I accept the report of the commissioners, the report of the referees. It is certainly a logical one on the rationalisation of the boundaries. The situation at the southern end of Denison was becoming unsatisfactory because housing developments were going over the boundary. The boundary had to be shifted either south or north. The commissioners decided to recommend that it be moved slightly north to a river, retaining within Denison the strictly urban part of Hoban and excluding an area that is not. The northern boundary has also been moved to a watercourse which can be quite clearly defined. Although Denison ‘s northern boundary with Franklin might not be quite satisfactory at least not both the northern and southern boundaries will be untidy.
The commissioners have been attacked not only in this House but also outside it. Of course they cannot answer for themselves. Their independence and integrity have been attacked by the Opposition and also by people commenting on the first draft of the redistribution. One individual wrote to the commissioners telling them that their proposal was ‘patently a political motivated move’. That is a shocking statement to make. Senator Wright, a Tasmanian member of this Parliament, wrote a letter to the commissioners. His third ground of objection states:
That 6 years ago Kingston-Blackman’s Bay was taken out of the Franklin Electorate and transferred to Denison when the member for Franklin - then a Liberal- resided in the Kingston-Blackman’s Bay area, and now, when the candidate -
This is the Liberal candidate- announced for Denison resides in the area, it seems unfortunate and inappropriate to switch the area away to another electorate.
Senator Wright has an absolute cheek to suggest such a factor as where the Liberal candidate for Denison lives even entered the minds of the commissioners or was something that was taken into account. Such a suggestion is despicable, because the commissioners are independent. They comprise the Australian Electoral Officer for Tasmania, the Surveyor-General in the Tasmanian Government, the appointment of those 2 people being obligatory, and a former Tasmanian Commissioner of Police.
I turn once again to the report. As I have said in the past, Tasmania is a difficult State to divide up into 5 divisions because of the configuration of its population. Denison is completely surrounded by the division of Franklin. That is not the most satisfactory situation, but it has been like that for a long time and it would require a totally radical change to alter it. In fact, the community of interest of the Kingston-Blackman’s Bay area and the hinterland down to the Huon is similar to the community of interest on the eastern shore, which is also in Franklin?
The Opposition has no reason to oppose the redistribution in Tasmania. If honourable members opposite are basing their opposition on the judgment that any seat in Tasmania will be harder for the Opposition to win, which is not altogether a proper judgment, it can only follow that it will be easier for the Opposition to win other seats, because the Government holds all 5 seats. So honourable members opposite have no reason to oppose the redistribution. It is a very fair redistribution done by independent commissioners in accordance with the law as approved by the people, and deserves the support of the House. If anything, overall the redistribution favours the Liberal Party but, as I said, we accept the referees’ decision and support the changing of the boundaries to a relatively slight degree and in a rational way to provide much improved descriptions of boundaries. That is why the Government is supporting the redistribution recommended.
-I rise to speak to this debate because one cannot let the opportunity pass without drawing to the attention of everybody concerned the actions of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in carefully arranging what will ultimately be a nice little gerrymander for the Austraiian Labor Party. He is not known as a crafty old fox for nothing. He would be one of the most cunning organisers of figures that ever existed. He is now having a good old laugh because he knows that it is true. It is no strange coincidence that he took his annual holidays and visited each State just at the time when the commissioners were working on the redistributions. I understand that he had cups of tea and long talks with them. I am sure he told them what a magnificent job they were doing in making this a fair and proper redistribution. It is fair and proper. It is a fair trick and it is a proper miss.
Honourable members from Tasmania have been noticeably wan and very quiet for the last few months. They could see the writing on the wall because this Government has done nothing positive, as a government, for their State. When all the problems were arising in Tasmania the honourable members could not even stand up and speak on those issues. They had to sit back and shiver in their boots. But now they are starting to smile. They have a little colour back in their faces. They are starting to show that this is a very fair distribution because they believe that this is the only chance they will have of staying in office. Not only will seats which were marginal at the last election be safe but also safe seats will be gilt edged. Under this redistribution the Opposition will have no hope of winning back any seats.
The same policy has been applied to other States in such a way that we will be blessed with a socialist government for ever. Do not let us fool ourselves. This is not a redistribution on a fair basis to try to provide this country with some sort of basic political organisation and a means of election which is equitable to all. This is equitable to the Labor Party, to the socialist party. The whole idea of the situation is quite a simple thing and it involves simple mathematics. The Leader of the House will stand up looking his absolute Sunday best when he gets back with an increased majority and will state: ‘What a pity it is that we do not have a strong Opposition’. I can see him saying that. He will be able to say: ‘What a shame that the people cannot support this Party ‘.
The truth of the matter is that he will not be happy until it is a one party Parliament. He will juggle his figures until that situation is finally achieved. We do not want to make an error about this situation. This is really a matter of life and death for democracy in Australia. I joke not about it. We are heading towards a situation where it will be impossible for people who are non-socialist ever to be able to get back into government. It does not matter what some honourable members on the other side might say. I include the 3 honourable members, besides the Minister for Services and Property who is at the table, who are in the House in my assessment of those few honourable members on that side who do not belong to the extreme left wing and who are not so socialist minded that they follow a Marx line or a Peking line. One gets muddled as to which Une honourable members opposite follow.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! I ask the honourable member to resume bis seat.
– About time.
-That is enough backchat. I think the honourable member for Bendigo should, every now and then, try to get back to the subject of the debate which is the redistribution in Tasmania. I go further. Although I am aware of Mr Speaker’s indications a while ago governing this debate, I expect that as the debate proceeds and as we get to the larger States more emphasis will be given to the individual divisions than has- I think quite properly- initially been given to divisions during this debate.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I accept your ruling and advice. I also mention that the Leader of the House stated this morning, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) moved a motion to suspend Standing Orders in order to have a cognate debate, that there would be opportunity to bring in the whole area of electoral redistribution even though the several matters mentioned in the motion related to one State. However, Mr Deputy Speaker, I accept your ruling on the point. I was merely going to say that the 3 honourable members presently sitting on the Government side, and who come from Tasmania, are not quite as left as others who are backing this motion. Honourable members will rue the day that this proposal ever becomes law. I merely draw to the attention of the House- if it is possible to sink this through the heads of those honourable members who are not quite as left as some others on the Government side- the fact that honourable members might realise that this motion is designed simply to make Australia a socialist country and to set it on a path from which it can never return.
-That was the most incredible utterance made among so many incredible utterances. How the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) ever became Opposition Whip I do not know. They must have elected him in the dark when they were very much -
– No, he voted for Fraser.
-Order! I think the honourable member also might start off by mentioning the subject of the motion.
– Yes. The subject of the debate is the redistribution of Tasmania into electoral divisions. All the poppycock talked by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Bendigo, had no reference to this matter. Most of it was completely untrue. The inferences were wild and woolly. If the honourable member talks that sort of material in his electorate he will not be here next time. He must have a few fairminded people left in Bendigo. The reflections which he passed on the Commissioners and on the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) were outrageous. If he made them outside the Parliament there would be a definite case for libel. He suggested that the Minister had gerrymandered seats throughout Australia. That is an outrageous lie in any circumstances. The Commissioners are all neutral men. To suggest that a Minister should go around telling the Commissioners what they should do in each electorate and what boundary changes they should make is the depth of ignorance.
– I raise a point of order. I claim to have been personally misrepresented.
– What was the point of the misrepresentation?
– I was accused of having made a statement that the Minister did something. I merely said that he went on holidays at a very convenient time.
-I am sorry, but I did not hear what the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said. The honourable member can have recourse after the speech of the honourable member for Wilmot by making a personal explanation then.
– The honourable member should get his facts right.
-I have my facts right. I shall remember what the honourable member has said, whatever he tries to explain afterwards. If he said outside what he has said here about the Commissioners’ involvement, they could have him up for libel. There is too much loose talk in the Parliament about a gerrymander of federal electorates. Honourable members may talk about it in State parliaments if they like, but not in the Federal Parliament. I have been here a lot longer than the honourable member and through many redistributions. To my knowledge there has been no gerrymander in the years that I have been here, and that includes the time of Liberal governments as well. What utter humbug the honourable member talks.
The Australian constitutional fathers were very kind to Tasmania. In section 26 of the Constitution dated 1901 we read:
Provided that if Western Australia is an Original State -
Western Australia finally came inthe number shall be as follows - This is for the House of RepresentativesNew South Wales, 26; Victoria, 23; Queensland, 9; South Australia, 7; Western Australia, 3; Tasmania, S.
On all considerations at that time Tasmania should not have had 5 electorates. It would have been entitled to three at the most at that time. But the constitutional fathers, looking into the future, decided that Tasmania should have 5 electorates. This is something for which we have been criticised time and time again through the years by Opposition spokesmen. It is not our fault that we have 5 seats for Tasmania or that we had five at the beginning in 1901. That was a decision of the constitutional fathers. They dealt with Tasmania generously.
At that time the population of Tasmania would have been about 140 000 with an average elector enrolment of 16 000. Of course, there was a much higher average at the time in the mainland electorates. The number of electors enrolled in Tasmania in 1903 were: Bass, 17 571; Franklin, 16 261; Denison, 16 607; Darwin, as it was then known but now Braddon, 16 111; Wilmot, 15 718. That is a total of 82 268 electors enrolled in Tasmania in 1903 when the population was about 140 000. To criticise the Tasmanian situation in this debate and in any other debate on electoral matters is to criticise the constitutional fathers. Why, 74 years later, we still have 5 electorates! I repeat that in 1903 the 5 electorates had 82 268 electors and Tasmania had a population of approximately 140 000. Today Tasmania still has 5 electorates. They will have an enrolment of 245 991 after this redistribution and the population of the State will be about 400 000. It has taken 72 years for Tasmanian enrolments to grow from 82 268 in 1903 to 245 991 at this time. My prophecy is that the population of Tasmania will have to reach 550 000 before Tasmania is entitled to a sixth electorate. It will be at least 2020 AD before this population level is reached in Tasmania. That will be at least another 45 years. This means that Tasmania, starting with 5 electorates in 1901, still has 5 electorates now and will have 5 electorates 120 years later. They are the facts of the situation.
I do not think that the proposed redistribution is really justified in Tasmania on this occasion. I must be quite honest about that. In December 1974, 45 846 electors were enrolled in the electorate of Bass, which had the lowest enrolment, and 52 206 in the electorate of Braddon, which had the highest enrolment. This is a difference of 6360. That is only a marginal difference between 5 electorates. The proposed redistribution changes will mean that 3392 electors will be taken out of Wilmot and put into Bass. This will reduce Wilmot to the seat with the smallest number of electors, namely, 46 148 electors. That is one point which could justify the redistribution of electors between Wilmot and Bass. Bass had the lowest number of electors in the previous set-up. The only sensible way Bass can be increased- a very remarkable method which I will mention in a minute was knocked overboardis at the expense of Wilmot. The Bass electorate has been jammed into the north-east corner of Tasmania and includes Flinders Island. It has been ably represented by the Minister for
Defence (Mr Barnard) since 1954. The electorate of Braddon has been ably represented by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) since 1958.
The Commissioners felt that the increase in population in Bass was fairly marginal and they had to take electors out of Wilmot. They took nearly 3500 electors from around the city of Launceston to build up the numbers. The population in the electorate of Bass is increasing at a much faster rate than the population of Wilmot is. What staggers me about the redistribution proposals in respect of Bass and Wilmot is that there is little scope for expansion in the electorate of Wilmot. The only expansion that will take place will be at Bridgewater, where there is a new housing division, and East Devonport which is connected with the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. They are the only 2 areas in which it is likely that the population in Wilmot will increase in the future. The numbers are decreasing in country districts. My electorate is a rural electorate, with 20 different types of agriculture. The number of people in the country part of my electorate is declining slowly, as is happening in other country areas, with people moving into the cities. The flow of people to the cities will counter any increases in population which may arise from the new housing developments that I have mentioned at Bridgewater and East Devonport. I think it will be years before the Wilmot electorate will have 50 000 electors.
I express my grave doubts here about the redistribution. The Distribution Commissioners have tried to remedy some loss to Bass by giving Wilmot more than 800 electors from the electorate of the honourable member for Braddon in the north-western corner of this scrambling electorate which takes in half of Tasmania and occupies more than 13 000 square miles.
The other way the Distribution Commissioners tried to help the electorate of Bass was to take King Island off the honourable member for Braddon. I will not mention the reaction of the honourable member for Braddon to this proposal. It was quite ridiculous because it would have meant that the honourable member for Bass would have had to fly to the north-west of Bass Strait and visit King Island from Launceston, which is in his electorate. It was geographically an outrageous suggestion. That proposition was finally rejected after representations were made to the Distribution Commissioners. King Island remains in the electorate of Braddon, where it should be, and Flinders Island remains in the electorate of Bass, where it should be. The
Liberal Party wrote to the Commissioners about the electorate of Wilmot and said:
We cannot see that such a low enrolment can be justified for Wilmot in view of the relatively slow growth rate of that electorate, especially having regard to the new provision in the Act which does not now take into account any disabilities for distance, remoteness or other associated problems of representation.
I agree with that assessment. I do not know where we will get increased numbers from in the future. However, I feel that the Commissioners did have to do something about the electorate of Bass. They had to take numbers out of the Wilmot electorate and put them into the Bass electorate because Bass cannot get electors from any other electorate. Big housing estates will be set up in the electorate of Bass. Many people from the electorate of Wilmot go to live in Launceston. I help them from time to time to obtain houses in my colleague’s electorate after they have spent years in my electorate. The electorate of Bass will definitely increase in numbers much faster than the electorate of Wilmot.
The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) made a personal attack on the redistribution proposal for Tasmania earlier today. He criticised the smallness of the electorate of Wilmot. He quoted the number of electors in that electorate. The honourable member for Gwydir has 60 000 people in his electorate. That is his bad luck; it happened because he was born in New South Wales. If he had been born somewhere else he might have a smaller electorate. He has to take what the Distributions Commissioners have given him. That is the rule that was passed through the House at the Joint Sitting. The honourable member for Gwydir screams, but what about the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) who has the largest electorate in the world? His electorate covers 980 000 square miles.
– Why did your Party alter the Act last year by taking that criterion out of the Act? The honourable member for Kalgoorlie has only his own Party to blame for that.
– Yes, but to build up the electorate of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie to 10 per cent of the quota, one electorate in Western Australia would have to be wiped out. In his criticism, the honourable member for Gwydir forgets that Tasmania, which is a small area, has a compact population. The honourable member for Gwydir can go 50 miles in his electorate without meeting anybody. If he goes 50 miles in my electorate he would travel through 5 towns. That is the difference. This is my answer to the criticisms made by the honourable member for Gwydir. My electorate, in area, is only 13 000 square miles. The honourable member for Gwydir has many thousands of square miles in his electorate. But what about the number of people in the electorate? Fencing posts do not vote, trees do not vote, bridges do not vote and roads do not vote.
– Are you sure they do not vote?
– They do not vote down our way. In the electorate of Wilmot there are 40 towns with a population of more than 500 people and there are 70 towns with a population of less than 500 people. Until recently there were 176 polling boths in the electorate of Wilmot- the fourth largest number of booths in the 127 electorates. The electorate of Wilmot and the electorate of Braddon are closely populated electorates. The situation in the electorate of Braddon is the same as in Wilmot. I do not care how large an electorate is; I am concerned about the number of people in the electorate and where they are situated. Though there are only 46 000 electors in my electorate they are evenly distributed and I have fewer miles to cover between the towns. On the mainland, of course, there are big distances between each town.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– in reply- I wish briefly to reply to what has been said. Firstly, let me say again that no matter what the Opposition thinks of the redistribution proposals no substantial reason has been given why those proposals applying to Tasmania should not be adopted. It is all very well to say that a redistribution should not take place in Tasmania but, as the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) said, if we were to work on that basis a redistribution never would take place in Tasmania and no anomaly ever would be corrected. The adoption of the argument put forward by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) would mean that for all time there would be no change whatever in the boundaries of the Tasmanian electorates; It is as well for the people of Tasmania to know that.
The situation is that anomalies existed in relation to the Tasmanian electorates and, as other redistributions were being done, it was thought that this was an appropriate time to adjust those anomalies. Honourable members have said that the composition of the electorates and the voting pattern of the electorates, judged on the latest available figures, are much the same. So it cannot be said that there will be any Party advantage appertaining to the Tasmanian proposals or, for that matter, any of the proposals. The members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party are always comparing the divisions in Tasmania with those in other areas of the Commonwealth. That is not even a fair comparison because, as the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) has said, the Constitution lays down that Tasmania must have at least 5 seats. So the areas of the Tasmanian seats matter little in any comparison with those of other larger electorates throughout the Commonwealth.
The honourable member for Bennelong, in an amazing way, cited the case of the electorate of Kalgoorlie having the smallest enrolment. He has forgotten to take into consideration that, amongst other things, I think the largest Aboriginal population in Australia resides in the electorate of Kalgoorlie and that those people are not compelled to enrol. In addition, Kalgoorlie has the largest population of all the electorates. Kalgoorlie may have the smallest enrolment, as the honourable member has said- I do not know whether that is factual- but it also has the largest population. Consequently to make such a comparison completely destroys the argument put forward.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier). I will give him the good oil: I am not in the habit of spending my annual holidays running round electoral offices. I do not fish and I do not play bowls but I certainly do not visit electoral offices as a pastime. I cannot remember when I met any of the Surveyors-General last and I cannot recollect having run all round Australia. I do not know who has fed him that information, but I suggest to him that it is very inaccurate. Perhaps he might adjust the position next time. To say that a Minister is able to tell redistribution commissioners what to do is an extremely serious and grave charge. It is an allegation that I would have to take as a politician. But it is certainly a grave reflection upon the integrity of every redistribution commissioner to say that that could occur.
No one would know better than the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) and others who have occupied my portfolio that no influence whatsoever can be exerted. No commissioner would take any notice of advice or instructions from a Minister in regard to electoral boundaries. I certainly would be able to give the redistribution commissioners much better advice than they receive on these matters but I am certain they would not take it. Surely the honourable member did not mean to say that if he were the Minister the boundaries would be as they are now. The very way in which boundaries are drawn indicates the impartiality of the commissioners. The honourable member’s statement about my having morning tea with them and travelling throughout the States to talk to them is one of those fantasies that I think has come from the honourable member’s own mind because he is terrified by the Country Party’s desire to get its own ideas on electoral boundaries through. I think he has pressed the panic button. He is afraid and frightened of what might happen. I think that his own seat in Victoria has been improved and I think that he will want it to be that way to survive.
The charges that have been made today against the Commissioners and their integrity are charges that I think it is somewhat degrading for members of Parliament to make because the Commissioners cannot reply. It is of no use the honourable member for Bennelong shaking his head. Every time that he says that boundaries are rigged or gerrymandered he is not attacking me; he is attacking the people who drew the boundaries. If he thinks that the Distribution Commissioners are doing that, he should go outside and say they are men who have no integrity and honesty. I say that not one challenge has been made against the Commissioners who have been appointed. Up to this stage of the debate not one of them has been attacked personally for his integrity. No objection was made when their appointments were announced. I do know that in relation to Western Australia at least one if not two of the Commissioners we appointed were people who had been appointed by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and who were still under attack when the boundaries were announced there. No charge has been levelled against those men. I repeat that honourable members opposite are not attacking me when they talk about gerrymanders and that kind of thing; they are questioning the integrity of the Distribution Commissioners and it is well to bear that in mind.
An honourable member opposite said that the Australian Labor Party wants a one-party system of government. We would not go to the Distribution Commissioners to find out about that; we would go to Bjelke-Petersen and find out how he draws the boundaries in his State. He has a guided democracy- vote how you like but Bjelke-Petersen cannot lose. That is the situation in Queensland.
– Do they not have commissioners there?
-He has a totally different system of redistributing boundaries. Under our legislation, as the honourable member for Maranoa knows, one of the distribution commissioners must be from memory the electoral officer in the State in which the redistribution is to take place or a person with similar qualifications, one must be the Surveyor-General if his services are available and there also must be one other person. The Queensland Government appoints whom it likes, where it likes and how it likes. It picks the names of the commissioners out of a hat. That is totally different from the federal electoral system, which provides by statute for the appointment of certain people and that cannot be changed. In that way we have a safeguard that some of the States do not have. Therefore to attack the integrity of the people concerned does little service to the Parliament.
Not one good reason has been given during the debate on the 2 redistributions that have been dealt with today as to why the 2 redistributions should be opposed. Not one good reason has been given to substantiate the claim that unjust boundaries have been drawn. Not one vestige of support has been given to the claims that they have been drawn up in favour of a particular Party. I repeat that the Leader of the Liberal-Country League in South Australia has said that the Liberals will win a majority of the seats in South Australia. The position in relation to Tasmania has been unchanged and there has been very little criticism of the proposals. All the talk about gerrymanders and the rigging of boundaries is just a false approach. I repeat that only the Country Party could force the Liberal Party to capitulate on these matters. The Labor Government stands for electoral justice and electoral reform. We will continue along that course. Ere this day or tomorrow is out this chamber will have an electoral Bill sent back to it from the Senate in relation to which honourable members opposite will be asked to put up or shut up or risk the calling of another double dissolution. The amendments to the electoral legislation that the Opposition would not pass relating to a draw for positions on ballot papers are all part of the pattern of the Opposition not to pass any electoral reform measures. Those proposals are before the Parliament at present and they will be debated. Honourable members opposite can take their chance on them. We will see what will be the position in that respect. In regard to the proposals dealing with Tasmanian boundaries, I say again that there is no substance to the Opposition’s case.
That the motion (Mr Daly’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it does not insist upon the amendments made by the Senate, and disagreed to by the House of Representatives, to this Bill.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1975-76.
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1975-76.
Customs Tariff proposal No. 1 5 ( 1 975 ).
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff 1966-1974 to give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on mushrooms. The effect of the decision is that a rate of 25 per cent will apply to fresh or processed mushrooms, including dried, dehydrated, chilled, frozen and freeze-dried mushrooms. The rate of duty applying to mushrooms packed in liquid or in airtight containers is bound by international commitments and will be fixed at 17.5 cents per litre pending negotiations to permit implementation of a rate of 25 per cent. The new duties will operate from tomorrow.
The Proposals also contain several minor changes of an administrative nature which do not involve changes in rates of duty. A comprehensive summary of the changes and the duty rates is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 20 May.
Proposed new clause 8 1 A.
-Proposed new clause 8lA is before the Committee. The question is that the new clause proposed to be inserted be so inserted.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Clause 82 agreed to.
1 ) Proceedings with respect to the maintenance of a party to a marriage or of a child of a marriage, if there is in force an order (whether made before or after the commencement of this Act) with respect to the maintenance of that party or child by the other party to the marriage-
Circulated Amendments. (122) (Mr Wentworth)- In sub-clause (1), paragraph (b), omit ‘registered’, substitute ‘registrable’. (123) (Mr Wentworth)-In sub-clause (7) after ‘shall’, insert ‘ , in relation to orders made under this Act, ‘.
-I want to draw the Committee’s attention to subclause (7) because I do not know whether the implications of this sub-clause have been realised fully by the Committee. Clause 83 deals with the revision of orders already made and sub-clause (7) states:
For the purposes of this section, the court shall have regard to the provisions of sections 72,75 and 76.
I do not know whether it is realised by the Committee that this sub-clause may affect not only orders to be made under this new Act but also existing orders which may also have been made under the previous Matrimonial Causes Act. I do not know whether the Committee realises that what it is doing may have a possible retrospective effect on these other agreements. It seems to me that it would be preferable to insert the words , in relation to orders made under this Act, ‘ after the word ‘shall’. The sub-clause would then read:
For the purposes of this section, the court shall, in relation to orders made under this Act, have regard to the provisions of sections 72, 75 and 76.
It does seem to me that it has not been realised, either by the Committee or by persons outside the House, that what we are doing here may have a considerable retrospective effect and I do not believe that this has been drawn to the attention of either the Committee or of people outside this House who might be interested in the matter. I believe that the amendment I have suggested, in point of fact, only does what the Bill means to do. If it is the wish of the Committee that the Bill should have retrospective effect upon agreements already entered into or orders already made under the Matrimonial Causes Act, I think we should make this explicit. I move this amendment in order to test the feelings of the Committee in regard to this and to make clear one way or the other that we mean this to have retrospect effect or we do not.
– I suggest to honourable members that no element of retrospectivity is involved at all. All that the clause in its present form would permit is a power to the court to modify orders in accordance with the new principles after the new law has come into operation. There is nothing retrospective in that. Indeed, an order that might be in existence now under the existing legislation can be modified at any stage because of a change of circumstances, according to certain well understood principles at the moment, if a party can bring himself within the ambit of the existing law. With the change in the law, it is surely proper that the parties have the same right, but to be exercised in accordance with the new principles. And of course the principles set out in clauses 72, 75 and, I think, 76 are new. So I suggest to the honourable gentleman that there is nothing retrospective in it; it is just applying the new principles to a continuing situation.
- Mr Chairman -
– Order! The honourable member is unable to speak.
– I will be only one minute.
– I am afraid you will not be even one minute.
– If I have leave to speak I will.
– You realise we are bound by the decision of the House.
– If I have leave I will be able to speak. I seek leave to speak.
– Is leave granted?
Government supporters- No.
-Leave is not granted.
Amendment ( 123) negatived.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 84 to 86- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 87 agreed to.
Clauses 88 to 93- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 94 agreed to.
Clauses 95 to 97- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clauses 97a, 97b and 97c.
Circulated amendments. ( 1 3 1 ) (Mr Wentworth)- Insert the following new clauses: 97a. (1) Except as provided in this section, it shall be an offence for any person to solicit or accept a fee for representing or appearing for a party in a Family Court or a court discharging the functions of a Family Court under this Act. Penal lty-$10.
Sub-section ( 1 ) does not apply to-
The first duty of an adviser shall be to explore the possibility of reconciliation, failing which he may assist the person to whom he is assigned in his conduct before the court.’.
-I move amendment No. 131 circulated in my name which is framed in such a way as to provide informality in the Family Court. I believe that anybody aggrieved by any decision of the Family Court should have full access, on appeal, to another court and in that other court should have full access to legal opinion and legal advice. But if we are to have a Family Court where there is the minimum of legality it would be a good thing if paid lawyers did not appear in that Family Court. I would think this would be in accordance with the general principles of the Bill.
The Family Court is meant to be a court primarily of reconciliation. Surely there is no place in it for legal representatives who are concerned, in the very nature of things, with contention. I believe that anybody feeling aggrieved should have the opportunity of contention and I would not for one moment take away from any party the right, if that party feels aggrieved, to have the matter heard by a court with full legal representation. But what I am concerned with is the first and preliminary hearing in the Family Court. If the Family Court finds in a way which is satisfactory to both parties and which they would both consider fair- I believe in 95 per cent of the cases it would be like that- there is surely no reason for paid legal representation in that Family Court.
The Family Court or family counselling service or tribunal- call it what you like- primarily should be a body concerned with reconciliation. If it is not successful in reconciliation it should next be concerned with getting the thing cleaned up with the minimum of contention and leaving the minimum of bitterness behind it. I think it would be very good if in that Family Court we did not have paid lawyers representing the parties. Of course I would agree that we have to preserve to the parties the right, if they find themselves aggrieved by this non-legal tribunal as it were, to go to another court with full legal representation. I would not for one moment think of taking that right away from them. But I believe it would be very much in the spirit of this Bill if we were to say that in the Family Court there should not be legal representation and that parties should come forward and try to put their cases in a way which minimises bitternesses and which enables reconciliation to take place if it be at all possible.
If it be found that reconciliation is not possible let the judgment of the Family Court be given with the minimum of bitterness, the minimum of contention. Again I say that if anybody feels aggrieved they have to have- and under our principles of law they should have- the right of appeal to a court where there is full legal representation. I would not for one moment countenance a final judgment without the possibility of appeal to a court where legal representation is complete. I would hope that if a proposal such as is contained in my circulated amendment is provided, in 95 per cent of the cases there would be no appeal and the case would be heard without benefit of lawyers and in a way which would give the maximum opportunity for reconciliation to be urged. Indeed if, as I have said, there could be no reconciliation the proceedings should leave behind them to the parties and to the children the minimum of bitterness. Lawyers are paid for contention, and if lawyers are involved they will necessarily import the concept of bitterness into the case. In some cases this cannot be avoided, but wherever possible let us have the maximum opportunity of reconciliation and the minimum risk of bitterness for the parties and their children.
– I do not disguise my affection or indeed my immense respect for the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). But he has encouraged me to say to him in all frankness and without any bitterness that this is a nonsense proposal. I say that. I do not wish to offend my friend.
– As a lawyer you would say it.
– That is it. The proposition put by the honourable member that lawyers have a vested interest in contention and encouraging it is quite untrue. It is completely untrue. On the contrary, it is not the lawyers who encourage contention; it is the litigants. If persons not versed in the difficulties in the field of the settlement of property, as an example, were to appear in a family court in respect of such a dispute, whatever might be their role, I say with great respect that we would have no end of appeals going to the appellant court, which the honourable member proposes. It would be the lawyers who would then have to come in to the aid of those persons. I hope that my friend will not persist with his amendment but that, with his characteristic capacity to reflect and to be persuaded by argument, he will withdraw his amendment.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clauses 98 and 99- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– I have just one suggestion here. Sub-clause (2) of this clause, as it now stands, contains a measure of ambiguity as to whether parties to a marriage are competent and compellable in all proceedings. With a view to resolving that ambiguity, might I suggest that sub-clause (2) be preceded by the words ‘in proceedings under this Act’ so that the sub-clause would read:
I would hope that the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) would accept that suggestion as an amendment.
-Is the honourable member for Moreton seeking to move to that effect?
-Yes. I so move.
– I ask the honourable member to submit his amendment in writing.
– While the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) is writing out his amendment, I would say that I support his contribution. I had in mind proposing such an amendment myself. It matters not whence it comes.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 101 and 102-by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 103 agreed to.
Circulated amendment. (133) (Mr Enderby)- In sub-clause (10) omit ‘before, on or after the commencing date’, substitute ‘before or after the commencement of this Act’.
– I move amendment No. 133 circulated in my name.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 105 agreed to.
The regulations may make provision for and in relation to the manner in which decrees made under this Act may be enforced including provision for conferring jurisdiction on courts of the Territories or investing State courts with federal jurisdiction.
Circulated amendment. ( 134) (Mr McMahon)-Omit the clause, substitute the following clause: 106. The regulations may make provision for and in relation to the enforcement of decrees made under this Act including-
-Clause 106 is contained in Part XIII of the Bill: That Part relates to the enforcement of decrees. It must be considered against the background of Part VIII which relates to maintenance and property. Both must be considered together. Under clause 72 in Part VIII of the Bill, a liability is imposed on a party to maintain the other party, to provide financial assistance or other kinds of assistance to the extent that the first mentioned party is reasonably able to do so, but if, and only if, the other party is unable to support himself or herself adequately, whether by reason of having the care or control of a child of the marriage or for any other purpose whatsoever- this is the wording of the actual clause. Similarly, in clause 73 of the Bill, the parties to a marriage are liable, according to their respective financial resources, to maintain the children of the marriage who have not attained the age of 1 8 years.
In the provisions of clause 105 of Part XIII of the Bill we read that: all decrees made under this Act may be enforced by any court having jurisdiction under this Act.
This question immediately arises: Who will have the responsibility of enforcing the decree or order of the Family Court? I do not think that it should be left to one or other of the parties to do so. Let me give the Committee the kind of example that is uppermost in my mind and that leads me to ask that the amendment which I will shortly move be agreed to. I instance the case of a mother with children in whose favour a decree for maintenance or property rights has been made; in other words; for example, an order for the payment of alimony or a payment in respect of the upkeep of the children and of their education. If the amounts payable under the order or decree are not made, the wife is in the deplorable position of having to go to the court to ensure that action can be taken against the husband. There can be nothing more unpleasant or more undesirable than to put a wife into the unfortunate position of having to take action against her former husband and of having to appear before a court to substantiate her claim. This is a traumatic experience, I am sure. From my knowledge of people who come to me with their problems, I am certain that it is one kind of experience which every civilised person would wish to have removed.
Therefore, I move amendment No. 134 circulated in my name.
The purpose of the amendment that I have just moved is to give jurisdiction by regulation to an officer of the court, or an authority or a person specified in the regulation to take proceedings to ensure the payment of those moneys on behalf of the person entitled to the moneys payable under the order; in other words, to relieve the person entitled to maintenance, under an order of the Family Court, of the obligation himself or herself to institute and to pursue to finality Family Court orders.
I hope that, when considering the relevant regulations, care will be taken to see that they are drafted in such a way as to ensure that the amount of maintenance is automatically paid to the party entitled, with recourse by the Family Court or its agency to the party actually responsible for payment.
The objective of my amendment, I repeat, is to relieve the person who has had the benefit of the Family Court order of the obligation to take the initiating action before the court or other agency. Divorce, as I said in my second reading speech, is always an unfortunate and unpleasant experience for all parties involved. I want to reduce the tensions, frustrations and bitterness associated with initiating proceedings before a court to ensure a compliance with an order of a court, properly given.
– I briefly indicate my support for the amendment moved by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon).
– Why were you not in this humour yesterday?
-Reason prevails today.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Circulated amendments. (135) (Mr Luchetti)- In sub-clause (1) after ‘person’, insert ‘unless he shall be guilty of wilful disobedience of the court’s order’. (136) (Mr Kevin Cairns)- In sub-clause (1) after ‘person ‘, insert ‘unless he shall be guilty of wilful disobedience of the court’s order’. (137) (Mr Enderby)-In sub-clause (3) omit ‘sub-section 114(3)’, substitute ‘sub-section 1 14 (4)’.
– I move circulated amendment No. 137. It is a purely formal amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
-I have considerable disquiet with this clause as it now stands. I acknowledge the futility of sending people to gaol for the refusal or the inability to pay maintenance orders and to meet their responsibilities. But I invite the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) to consider the case of a person who wilfully refuses to pay. I suggest to him- I do not press it now; he may be persuaded to give an indication- that if he were to insert in sub-clause (1), line 13 after the words ‘matrimonial cause’, words to this effect: unless that person has wilfully and without reasonable cause failed to make such payment.
The position as it now stands affords no protection to the wife whatsoever. A wife may be entitled to a maintenance order, and the man may say, out of sheer obduracy: ‘No, I refuse to pay’. He has assets. But because of the violence of the parting or the bitterness of the disagreement or for one reason or another he says: ‘No. I refuse to pay’. It seems to me to be a very curious attitude to take in our society if people are charged by a court with meeting a responsibility, not to oblige them to meet that responsibility. We cannot escape our responsibilities in other fields. The present measure takes a namby pamby attitude towards society. I do not have in mind people who, for one reason or another, are not acting wilfully or who have a reasonable excuse for not having met their commitments. But I invite the Attorney-General to consider the position of a wife when the only means available to her of bringing a person to his senses would be through the method to which I have referred. It would be a matter for the court to determine whether there was wilfulness or whether there was unreasonableness.
-I wish to speak in relation to the proposal made by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I had an amendment to propose which was very similar to the one proposed by him and, in suggesting it, I realise that there appears to be some contradiction between clauses 106 and 107. The proposal I was going to put forward was that after the word ‘person, in the first Une of subclause ( 1 ), insert the following words:
Unless he shall be guilty of wilfulness disobedience of the court’s order.
That amendment would have the same effect as the one proposed by the honourable member for Moreton. The Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) may have an explanation of the situation. He is nodding his head, so I believe that he has an explanation. But the penalty and the knowledge of the penalty ought not to be removed altogether from those who have an obligation in some circumstances. It is not a sufficient argument to say that only one out of every 100 people who owe money go to gaol. The fact that a penalty exists would have an influence on decisions which are made, payments which are made and the willingness with which they are made. I await the Attorney-General’s response to both these proposals because they are very similar.
– Just briefly in reply to both the honourable member for Moreton and the honourable member for Lilley, I think the answer is to be found in a reading of clause 108.
– Order! The AttorneyGeneral has already spoken. He would have to seek leave to speak again. Is leave granted?
– Yes, certainly.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank my honourable friend, Mr Chairman. I believe that the answer is to be found in a reading of clause 108.
– Yes, but there seems to be a contradiction.
– I would have thought not. Of course one starts off with the principle that people should not be imprisoned for failing to pay debt. I do not think that there would be any dispute about that. One also has regard to the principle that orders, particularly for maintenance, must be enforceable. The element of wilfulness which has been discussed is, I suggest, to be found in clause 108. 1 shall read the clause to honourable gentlemen. It states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a court having jurisdiction under this Act may punish persons for contempt in the face of the court -
We all know what that means- when exercising that jurisdiction or for wilful disobedience of any decree made by the court in the exercise of jurisdiction under this Act.
At first reading, I suggest that the decree might not include the order for maintenance which the honourable gentlemen have in mind. But the definition of ‘decree’ as stated in the definitions section of the Bill is given as:
Decree’ means decree, judgment or order, and includes a decree nisi.
So the provision is covered.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 108 to 113- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 1 14.
If a court having jurisdiction under this Act is satisfied that a person has knowingly and without reasonable cause contravened or failed to comply with an injunction or order under this section, that court may-
Circulated amendments. (138) (Mr Stewart)- In sub-clause (1) omit ‘or for the protection of the marital relationship’. ( 139) (Mr Kevin Cairns)- In sub-clause (1) omit ‘or for the protection of the marital relationship ‘. ( 140) (Mr Enderby)- In sub-clause (4), paragraph (d), omit ‘this’ substitute ‘the’
– I move the amendment circulated in my name. The reason for this amendment initially was to allay the fears of certain honourable members who believed that in the proposed amendment to clause 48, we were seeking to have the blame concept put back into the Bill. The clause as it now stands talks about declarations and injunctions. I shall quote paragraph (e) of the interpretation of ‘matrimonial cause ‘ in clause 4 of the Bill. It uses the words: proceedings for an order or injunction in circumstances arising out of a marital relationship;
Clause 114(1) provides: in sub-section 4(1) the court may make such order or grant such injunction as it thinks proper with respect to the matter to which the proceedings relate, including an injunction for the personal protection of a party to the marriage or of a child of the marriage or for the protection of the marital relationship or in relation to the property of a party to the marriage or relating to the use or occupancy of the matrimonial home.
I merely suggest to the Committee at this stage that that section of the Bill which I have read out allows for all matters of accusations, recriminations and evidence of any sort to be put before this court. I stress the fact, as I have done on numerous occasions and as some of those honourable members who have supported me on this Bill have done, that this Act as it stands still allows for conduct and behaviour to be taken into account by the family court. This clause of the Act undoubtedly leaves it quite open for the conduct of either spouse to be brought into the court and to be aired very thoroughly. I again stress that the accusations that have been made against myself and other honourable members that we wanted to reintroduce into this Bill the fault concept in order that dirty linen may be washed in public, that humiliation and embarrassment may be forced on one or both parties, is completely untrue. I suggest again that under Part XIV of the Bill dealing with declarations and injunctions, either or both parties of the marriage can make accusations.
– I have looked very carefully at clause 1 14 and I support it in its entirety. I regret, because I do not like doing this, that I have to disagree with the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) who has asked that the words ‘or for the protection of the marital relationship’ in line 33 on page 47 be omitted. I do so for a positive reason. The point is that clause 114 is directed and devised in order to protect particular types of people from action which can be embarrassing to them or which can be considered as infringing their rights. There is another clause in the Bill that prevents questions being asked which are of an embarrassing or disconcerting kind. The Court can protect the individual in such case. I believe that the words express clearly the intention of the Government and the way in which its intentions should operate. It can order such injunctions as it thinks proper in respect of the matter to which the proceedings relate, including an injunction for the protection of the marital relationships. As this is of benefit to one or other of the parties involved- it could be of benefit to both- I would not want those words to be omitted from the clause.
-This clause relates to the injunction proceedings. It was in regard to those proceedings that so much argument was made on clause 48 by those who said that this saved the situation for all those who would otherwise want to get rid of their marriage rather quickly for a number of reasons. It was heard over and over again that this was the saviour. When one looks at the proposals in clause 114(1) beside the other proposals which can attract injunctive proceedings, one sees that proceedings can be taken for the protection of the marital relationship. That is repeating paragraph (e) of the interpretation of ‘matrimonial causes’. What kind of events or activities could possibly be excluded from the protection of the marital relationship? There could be proceedings initiated which would be frivolous or vexatious but they might not be frivolous or vexatious in the minds of those initiating the proceedings. It was for that reason that in paragraph (e) of the interpretation of ‘matrimonial causes’ it had been proposed to make it rather more precise and instead to refer to the personal protection of a party to the marriage or of a child of the marriage or the property with respect to the marriage.
But these words are far wider than that and they allow these injunctive proceedings to be used in a pimping, prying and spying manner. Absolutely nothing is excluded from them. For example, take the case of a wife- she may be a little neurotic- who is concerned that her husband is working too late with his secretary. It might be legitimate work. He could be paying too much money to his secretary. The wife could bring proceedings under this clause. They may be vexatious or frivolous but who would say that they were vexatious or frivolous if evidence were produced by a psychiatrist, a medical man or a psychologist to the effect there were medical disorders arising from this situation, and this person insisted that the marital relationship required injunctive proceedings to be taken under clause 114? That kind of situation is not excluded from clause 114 as it is proposed. I believe that, far from protecting the marital relationship, people will be invited into the court for the most frivolous of reasons. It is a well known axiom that once they are invited into the court unnecessarily there is a danger which follows immediately from that situation. This clause invites people in under any circumstances.
There ought to be a more precise definition of what would be involved. ‘Matrimonial causes’ interprets the situations that are involved in matrimonial causes. Paragraph (e), to which this clause applies is a completely new proposition. It certainly has not been explained adequately and it ought to be explained adequately, but above aU there ought to be some situations which exclude the proceedings to be taken under this clause and they ought to be interpreted far more precisely than they are at present, otherwise this could represent an unnecessary danger to a marriage and certainly not a protection to the parties, the property or the children concerned. It could very well be to the disadvantage of the whole marital relationship. There needs to be a more precise spelling out than is contained in the clause, but that precise spelling out involves a reexamination of what is involved in paragraph (e) of the interpretation of ‘ matrimonial causes ‘.
-The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has convinced me as to the soundness of the proposal to remove these words. They seem to me to be unnecessary. The honourable member in bis argument cited the example of a party to a marriage who is psychologically disturbed for one reason or another and who may seek to bring needlessly oppressive proceedings under this clause. They may be oppressive, vexatious or just the malevolent views of a person who is disturbed, or a person who is plainly malevolent. It seems to me that the presence of these words in the clause does not add anything. Accepting the view that injunctive proceedings can protect a person from violence or protect a child of the marriage, that seems to me to be sufficient. However, what is to be gained by an injunctive proceeding for the protection of the marital relationship?
– Anything at all.
– As the honourable member for Lilley says, anything at all. Quite apart from the views pressed upon us by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), I have not approached it in that line dealing with fault, but I am tremendously impressed by the argument which the honourable member for Lilley has put to us, namely, that this provision could be used by a person who is plainly difficult.
– I suggest that there is no reason for the concern that has been expressed. May I begin by drawing the attention of honourable gentlemen to the existing law which may have gone unnoticed. It is to be found in section 124 of the Matrimonial Causes Act which deals with the power to give injunctions as the law stands now. The discretion there is at large. It provides that the court may grant an injunction by interlocutory order or otherwise in any case in which it appears to the court to be just or convenient to do so, and either unconditionally or upon such terms and conditions as the court thinks just. It is at large. The court can make any injunction at the moment. I suggest that that power is not abused.
Let me turn to the situation to which the honourable Member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) adverted. I suppose that courts which do what is traditionally called divorce work have such a wide range of marital behaviour and conduct brought before them that there is virtually no limit to it and indeed injunctions are from time to time sought in all manner of things to protect one relationship or another- certainly to protect property relationships and to protect a person from assault and brutality. I can remember cases in my own experience in which the husband left to go to work in the morning and found that an ex parte injunction was made while he was away, preventing him returning to his home. These are made under the existing law. They arouse controversy from time to time. The resolution of the dispute takes place in accordance with well established legal principles. This clause of the Bill does not extend that practice substantially in any way except that it spells out that one of the matters that the court can take into account is the protection of the marital relationship.
– What does that mean?
– A resolution of the dispute would have to be sought first. I put this hypothetical position to the honourable gentleman who asks: ‘What does that mean?’: Let us suppose that there is a third person living in a house with a husband and wife. Let us suppose that the wife wanted to complain that adultery was being committed between her husband and that third person, whether that person be a girl or perhaps a lodger in the house. It would not matter what the sex of the third person was. In the informality of these envisaged proceedings one might imagine an application being made for an injunction. Under the existing law, there would be the immediate filing of a petition for divorce on the ground of adultery with all the things associated with that which honourable members have tried to reject. In this case, with the informality it might be possible- I am just putting this forward as a possibility- to obtain an order that that third person leave the house. This could be done because it would be in the interests of protecting the matrimonial relationship that that person leave the house. One spouse would have to ask for the granting of the order. The other spouse might consent because there is a heavy conciliatory role to be played under this legislation. If the other spouse did object, of course, conceivably an order of that sort could be made. This is one situation that occurs to my mind.
– What about replying to some of the situations that the honourable member for Moreton gave as examples?
-I thought that there were several. Which one were you thinking of?
– Take the case of a woman who is mischievous and for some physical reason she goes along-
-As I have put to the honourable member, the existing law is far wider than the proposed legislation that is before us today.
– ‘Matrimonial causes’ is defined rather differently in the existing law.
-The existing law gives a discretion to the court which is a discretion at large. The example given by the honourable member conceivably could be brought within the existing law. It is not because no judge would act upon circumstances of that sort and no person would complain of circumstances of that sort and seek injunctive relief. I am suggesting that the same approach would apply under this proposal. This proposed legislation spells out a matrimonial relationship which I would have thought would have had great appeal to my friend, the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. It spells out, along with property rights and the protection of the person, a marital relationship and the family. In other words, the injunction power can be used to protect and preserve the family. I would have thought that that had great appeal. Mr Chairman, I also move circulated Amendment No. 140 standing in my name.
Amendment (138) negatived.
Amendment (140) agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
It is the function of the Council to advise and make recommendations to the Attorney-General, either of its own motion or upon request made to it by the Attorney-General, concerning-
Circulated amendments. (141) (Mr Ellicott)-In sub-clause (2), omit ‘a Judge of the Family Court and such other’, substitute ‘such’. (141a) (Mr Giles)- After sub-clause (5), insert the following sub-clauses: (5a) Subject to sub-section (5b), a member of the Council holds office for such period, not exceeding 3 years, as is specified in the instrument of his appointment, but is eligible for re-appointment. (5b) The appointment of a member of the Council may, at any time, be terminated by the Attorney-General. ‘.
-Mr Chairman, I wish to move an amendment to clause 1 1 5 which concerns the Family Law Council and which is dealt with in this miscellaneous part of the Bill. I will not read through the methods of appointment or what the Family Law Council aims to do, as set out in the Bill. The aim of my amendment is to insert new sub-clauses (5 a) and (5B). I will deal firstly with the first part of the amendment to insert a new sub-clause (5A). This is designed to correct the situation that could emerge with a newly appointed Family Law Council in regard to which there is no limitation as to the period of appointment. In other words, the Council could grow older in perpetuity. This could be a disadvantage when other advice could flow through to the Attorney-General or that otherwise could be motivated from within the Council. I think that there is room for amendment within this clause. My amendment enables the Attorney-General in his wisdom after a specified appointment for a 3-year period to renew that appointment or, if he sees fit, not to renew it. What this amendment does, in effect- I have a hope that the Government will accept it- is to enable the Attorney-General to keep an eye on the Family Law Council with a view to graduating the age group of the Council and not letting the whole Council grow old or set in their ideas as one age group in terms of the time of their appointment. Accordingly, I have moved an amendment for the insertion of a new subclause (5A).
I proceed to the other part of my amendment, to insert a new sub-clause (5B). The proposed new sub-clause will read:
The appointment of a member of the Council may, at any time, be terminated by the Attorney-General.
This enables the Attorney-General purely to take action if he sees fit when a member of the Family Law Council becomes disinterested and does not carry out his work to the general satisfaction of the Government. I think that it is a desirable provision. I am not personally so concerned about the amendment in regard to the new sub-clause (5B) as I am in regard to my proposed new subclause (5A). I hope that the Government will accept this amendment.
– I regret to say that I would argue against the amendment. The clause, in its present form, gives a discretion to the appointor in regard to the appointees to the Family Law Council. One might well opt for a term of 2 years, 3 years or 4 years, but I would say that it is probably a disadvantage to have the term written into the Act. However, I give the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) an assurance to this effect: As we watch the operation of the Act we will keep this aspect under close review.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 116 agreed to.
– I rise very briefly to register my protest against clause 1 17 ( 1 ). I think that it is outrageous that such a proposal should be contained in the Bill. I do not think that a person who is involved in some matrimonial infringement should escape the payment of costs. I think that that represents the view of a substantial section of the community. I want to put on the record of the Committee my protest against the presence of this sub-clause in the Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 1 1 8 to 120- by leave- taken together.
-Mr Chairman, I wish to speak briefly in relation to clause 1 19. 1 express doubt as to the right or the appropriateness of the Parliament to seek to legislate in this fashion. I realise that in the States most of the matters have deteriorated, but it would open for some enterprising litigant at some time in the future who thinks that there is a principle at stake to strike at it.
Clauses agreed to.
1 ) A person shall not print or publish-
The preceding provisions of this section do not apply to or in relation to-
Circulated amendments. (145) (Mr Ellicott)- In sub-clause (1), paragraphs (a) and (b), omit ‘in the Family Court or in another’ (twice occurring), substitute ‘in any’. ( 146) (Mr Beazley)- Omit sub-clause (4). (147) (Mr Wentworth)-After paragraph (5) (b) insert the following paragraph: (ba) the printing or publishing of a judgment of a court; ‘. ( 148) (Mr Enderby)- In sub-clause (6) omit all the words after ‘regulations’.
-My suggestions here are purely ones of form. Apparently there has been omitted from the matters which can be published or printed the publishing or printing of a judgment of a court. I think that that would be implicit and it should be possible. For instance, clause 121 (5) (b) states:
The printing or publishing of a notice or report in pursuance of the direction of a court;
But there is no provision for the printing or publishing of a judgment of a court except insofar as it is intended for the use of members of the legal profession. I do not think this is reasonable. The court’s judgment as such should be published if the court so requires.
The other matter on which I understand the Attorney-General will move an amendment follows from an observation I made during the second reading stage in regard to the drafting of the Bill. Of course, I would support that amendment. But I suggest to the Attorney-General that perhaps he might consent to the inclusion of a new provision relating to the printing or publishing of a judgment of a court. I accordingly move amendment No. 147.
– I merely ask the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) why sub-clause (4) has been inserted in the Bill? Sub-clause (4) states:
Proceedings for an offence against this section shall not be commenced except by, or with the written consent of, the Attorney-General.
This seems to me to give the Attorney-General a great deal of power. It reminds me of a story told by the late Eddie Ward, I think, in connection with the anti-communist Bill. He asked a fellow outside the House: ‘ Would you give this power to Dr Evatt?’ The fellow said: ‘Yes, I might’. He said: ‘Would you give it to the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies?’ The fellow said: ‘Yes, I could’. He then said: ‘Would you give it to me?’ and the fellow said: ‘That is taking it too far’. I might give the Attorney-General this power but I think to leave it open for an Attorney-General either to take action himself or to give written consent to someone else to take action is tying it down so that it might be abused on some future occasion.
– I must confess that on my initial reading of clause 12 1 (4) I did not like it at all. On subsequent readings my dislike grew even worse. Having listened to what has been said by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) I am now convinced that it would be wise to take the sub-clause out of the Bill. Attorneys-General are not all saints. So far we have been extremely lucky and many Attorneys-General have probably been entitled to deification. But I do not think that necessarily applies to every Attorney-General of the future. The sub-clause contains a power that could be exercised capriciously, wilfully or even for political purposes.
We know of actions over the last 3 years taken by former legal people associated with the Commonwealth Parliament which would never have been possible if there had been an ability to restrain the particular kind of activity which was unlawful. For that reason I would like one or two things to be done. I would like either the clause to be removed from the Bill or the AttorneyGeneral to give an assurance that, before producing a Bill to amend the Family Law Act- I believe that will be in the not too distant future- he will have a good look at this clause in order to ensure that some restraint is placed upon the capacity of the Attorney-General and that in all reasonable cases proceedings shall not be commenced without the approval of the Attorney-General himself.
– I oppose the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), the principal reason being that there is a need to protect the right of privacy. That is a right that is increasingly being talked about these days. As I think Prime Minister Trudeau in Canada once said, the State has no interest in the affairs or the bedrooms of its citizens. It could equally well be said that other citizens have little or no interest in what goes on in a particular matrimonial home or matrimonial relationship.
– They want to know whether they are married or not.
– If the honourable member wants to encourage the commercial publication of judgments with all the prurience, all the voyeurism, that goes with it he is by all means entitled to his point of view. May I suggest that in the interests of the whole approach of this legislation that is undesirable.
Judgments are published. The clause makes it perfectly clear that judgments can be published for the purposes of law reports. One can read the judgments in the law reports. This is made perfectly clear in sub-clause ( 5 ), which states:
The preceding provisions -
That is, where the prohibition is to be found- . . do not apply to or in relation to- ‘
One can get the pleadings if one wants to publish them. The sub-clause sets out details of the other material that can be acquired. It states:
a separate volume or part of a series of law reports; or
I would suggest to the honourable gentleman that that accords with present practice in which not every judgment of every divorce court is published.
A judgment is made in 95 per cent of undefended divorce actions. Is the honourable member going to the extent of saying that commercial pedlars or people who want to satisfy a prurient interest in some members of the community should have access to these judgments to publish them as the scandal sheet of the week or something of that sort? That is what would follow from the honourable member’s amendment. If a point of law or a medical issue is involved the judgments will find a place in the recognised standard works.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)-I have been misrepresented and I want to make my position clear. I am not suggesting for one moment that any of these matters which the AttorneyGeneral was good enough to describe as voyeurism should be published at all. Under the Bill as it stands one could not even publish the fact that Mr and Mrs A had been divorced. It is surely quite outrageous that no public record could be published and printed as to whether anyone is married or divorced. It is perfectly ridiculous.
– The decree nisi is registered.
– Order! I think that is the extent to which the personal explanation can be taken. The question is: That the amendment proposed by the honourable member for MacKellar to clause 12 1 be agreed to.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral wish to seek leave to move his circulated amendment No. 148?
– Yes, I do.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr ENDERBY (CanberraAttorneyGeneral) I move circulated amendment No. 148.
Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 122 agreed to. - Clause 123 agreed to. Title.
– During the course of the debate on the Family Law Bill a document, circulated not only within my electorate but in other areas, was put out by the Divorce Law Reform Association and was authorised by Mr W. Thompson. The document is headed: ‘Family Law Bill in Grave Danger’. It is written in 4 languages and is made up of parts A, B and C. The English language section of the document states:
There is grave danger that the Family Law Bill at present before Parliament will fail or be rendered ineffective by a small but powerful section of Church hierarchy aided by vested legal interests. This group with little or no experience in the heartbreak of divorce under present methods is using its influence on Parliamentarians to frustrate reform of our archaic divorce laws to maintain the religious dogma of only remarrying non guilty spouses. The person leading the campaign to destroy the Bill is Mr Francis Eugene Stewart, Federal Member for Lang, your local Member and a Catholic educated at St Mary’s Cathedral School, Sydney. Mr Stewart has introduced an amendment containing trick phraseology, the first six clauses of which contain high ideals of marriage everyone should support, however the seventh clause ensures that a marriage will only be able to be dissolved on fault grounds (adultery, cruelty, etc.) or after two years separation, thus retaining the status quo.
I pass over a couple of paragraphs. The document continues:
Mr Stewart is a man of high moral principles who is ignorant of the way the present divorce laws are administered. The Church are using him as a puppet, but by putting their views ahead of the people who elected him, he has disfranchised the electors of Lang. This and the fact that Mr Stewart is rarely available to electors except at election time should be taken into account when voting at the next election.
Only one part of that would I not deny, and I say it myself. I believe that I have some principles. The rest of that document I deny emphatically. Any accusation or imputation contained in that document is completely scurrilous. I defy any member of the Parliament to show that during the course of the debate I have acted in any way which would indicate that I was a puppet of any church.
Title agreed to.
Reconsideration of clause 50.
– I seek leave of the Committee for the reconsideration of a clause. I do so at the request of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). It was his intention to move an amendment but with all the difficulties which surrounded the debate yesterday it seems to have been omitted. It is clause 50. If leave is granted I think the Committee will agree with the amendment.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The amendment which I propose is No. 92 on the sheet which is available to honourable members. It applies to clause 50. The proposal is to omit the words ‘up to the date of the commencement of the hearing of the application’ and to substitute in their stead the words ‘up to the date of the filing of the application’. The purpose of the amendment is to make sense out of the proposal for the 12-month period which qualifies a marriage for a divorce or dissolution and to put the matter on all fours with clause 48. I have explained this previously. It makes common sense out of what would be an unfortunate discrepancy. I formally move the amendment which reads:
In sub-clause (1) omit ‘up to the date of the commencement of the hearing of the application’, substitute ‘up to the date of the filing of the application ‘.
– I accept the amendment and the reasons given for it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Mr Enderby)- by leaveproposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-I rise on this occasion to do what I believe was done when the Divorce Bill was first introduced in this House some years ago. I think the Family Law Bill - which has just been agreed to by the Committee and in the second reading stages in this House- is a memorable Bill. It is path-breaking in the sense that it introduces liberal principles into family law. My intention is to compliment and to thank those people who have been associated with the inspiration, the initiation and the draftsmanship of the Bill and those who gave assistance to honourable members to ensure that the Bill was understood and effectively piloted through the House. I refer to the paternal great-grandfather of the Bill who is one of the 3 authors of the recognised Australian Divorce Law and Practice manual. Not only is he one of the 3 authors. I believe he was the main author. Certainly he did most of the work associated with the production of the book. I call him the paternal greatgrandfather because I know he was the one who took the initiative part in persuading the former Attorney-General to have a Bill put into draft form.
I also express my thanks to Mr Gordon Yuill, First Assistant-Secretary of the Family Law Division of the Attorney-General’s Department. He has been a consistent advise and aid to members of the Parliament who have sought his help in drafting amendments. He has ensured that they have understood what the provisions of the Bill were about and the way in which proposed amendments could best be handled. I thank Professor Finlay, the Assistant Professor of Family Law at Monash University too, for the help he has given.
I think it is right that I should thank the grandfather, the former Attorney-General, who was then Senator Murphy, and the father, the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) who is sitting in the House today, because of the careful, understanding and tolerant way in which they have handled and explained the various clauses of the Bill.
Mr Speaker, I thank you and the Chairman of Committees (Mr Berinson) for your patience, efficiency and the way in which you have handled all stages of the Bill. It is an achievement of which you should both be proud.
I have been reminded- I should have known this-that when I talked about the author of the book ‘The Australian Divorce Law and Practice’ I did not mention his name. I thought everyone would know. Perhaps everyone does not so I should say that it is Ray Watson, Q.C., who is with us in the House today. Finally, I think it proper that I should say something about the members of the House. This must have been a trying occasion for many honourable members because they had philosophical, professional and party approaches as well as religious commitments. Except for one or two occasions which should be quickly forgotten and which ought to be forgiven because of what in an overall sense we have been able to achieve. I should express, not on behalf of the House, but on my own my approval of the liberal and sensible way in which very nearly all members have conducted the debate. The devotion which they have paid to the effectiveness of the representative parliamentary government is obvious. They have ensured that there has been a relevant and effective system of debate. They should go home tonight pleased with what they have done and the achievements of this House of the Parliament as a whole in getting this memorable Bill through the House. My only wish is that when such momentous and liberal social changes are before the House again we will be able to act in a similarly liberal and bipartisan way.
– We would be lacking in generosity and graciousness if we did not acknowledge the tremendous work of the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) as Chairman. His tact has been formidable, his patience inexhaustible and, where appropriate, he has been quite firm. I vouch for that. It has been largely through his help that there has been a rninimum of fuss. Having said that, I observe that I hope the House will never again proceed to discuss a large measure of this nature in this fashion. I think it is completely wrong that we proceed on the basis that every person in the
House, including the person in charge of the Bill- in this case it was the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby)- is tied and fettered in the fashion that we are. I know the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) takes the view that this is the only way he can get legislation through. I do not agree with him. I venture to suggest that many questions which are raised can be answered in the Committee stage in a conversational style. It tends to block the free flow of ideas. We did that this afternoon. I think honourable members would have noticed the difference. There was not the tumult and the shouting of yesterday. The last observation I make is this: This House will lose its own authority if it proceeds to discuss or consider matters on the basis that the Senate has discussed it, it has had a lengthy inquiry, ergo we should not do anything about it. The authority of this House should not be diminished in any shape or form by acknowledging the work that has been done in any other place.
– Now that the Family Law Bill is about to pass through this House I should like to pay my respects to the Chairman of Committees (Mr Berinson) who did a remarkable job, and the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) who had to sit through the whole debate. I should also like to pay tribute to a number of people who took an active interest in the Bill itself otherwise this House would not have given the consideration it has to the Bill. I am putting forward my personal opinion at the moment. I trust that all those people who have had some association with me during the past few months on this Bill will agree with the course of action I am taking, and that is, that I do not intend to call for a division on the motion for the third reading of the Bill. I hope that those supporters will agree with that course of action. I would like to place on record in Hansard the fact that the test of strength was such that the Bill passed through this House by 60 votes to 59.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 15 May 1975.
Clauses 3 to 7.
– I am anxious to speak in particular to clause 7 of the Bill which states:
The function of the Office is, subject to and in accordance with this Act, to carry on, in Austrafia and elsewhere, the business of insurance.
Normally I would have spoken during the debate on the motion for the second reading. I was listed to speak for my Party early in that debate but because of the way in which debate has been curtailed on this most momentous Bill, it was not possible for me to do so. I take the only other opportunity available to me to speak to this Bill. My speech, however, will be relatively short because of the curtailment of time on this clause.
This is a momentous Bill which could change the whole pattern of Australian life. I ask the Government: Why has this legislation been introduced? Is it necessary? Is there any demand for it? Is this the correct time to introduce? The Government’s attitude is that we have a Commonwealth Bank, why not have a Commonwealth Insurance Corporation? The Bill is to establish the Australian Insurance Corporation. Of course, when the Bill was introduced at the beginning of the week it was designed to establish the Australian Government Insurance Office. The legislation was rushed into this place to such an extent that the Government had not realised that its name would be mixed up with State Government insurance offices. Should not we have more time to consider this legislation? Will the Australian Government Insurance Corporation provide unfair competition for the 300 or more private insurance offices?
The first thing that I want to say is this: For goodness sake, let us have more time so that we and the public can examine this legislation. I am glad to see that the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) is in the chamber now. It is most extraordinary that he did not introduce this Bill. It was introduced by, of all people, the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart). The Special Minister of State was, I think, in Machu Picchu in the Andes or somewhere else in that area on government business at the time this extremely important Bill was brought into the House. What has been the demand for this Bill? I am unable to find any pressure of any sort for the introduction of this legislation except some vague allusion to the need for a national disaster fund which was spoken about after both the Darwin and the Brisbane disasters. We know, of course, that the industry took the initiative after the Brisbane floods and, with the agreement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), said that it would examine the need for a national disaster fund. It has now concluded its examination. It has made a submission to the Treasury. I have not seen the submission, of course, but I understand that provided there is some discussion and agreement this could be implemented. So, the first and major reason given by the Government for implementing this legislation falls to the ground.
Two other reasons were given by the Government for the introduction of this legislation. One was that it would help to reduce the flow of funds out of Australia referring, in particular, to some reinsurers. But we know that this is completely inaccurate. The situation is that there are 12 local reinsurers who are, in the main, subsidiaries of overseas companies. The oldest was established in Australia 16 years ago. Since that time the local reinsurers, far from exporting money as implied by the Special Minister of State, have lost more money on the claims than has been made on the premiums. In fact, many of them would not be still in operation were it not for the backing of their parent companies overseas and the spread of protection that they receive from a world-wide organisation. Most of the funds received by the reinsurers in Australia are not being repatriated but they are being invested in assets in Australia. So this second allegation is just a red herring.
Thirdly, the reason given for the establishment of this Corporation is that there should be more competition and that this competition should be fair; it was necessary somehow to ginger up the private insurance companies and that the Corporation would do this. If it is done by cutting premiums, it will be done at the taxpayer’s expense. The Government says it can invest the funds in a better way. No doubt the Government would invest the funds in socialist industries. Does anyone believe that the competition will be fair? People would be extremely naive to believe for a moment that there would be fair competition between the Australian Government Insurance Corporation and the private organisations. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the other day gave a long list of the ways in which competition will be completely unfair. As he mentioned, there will be no charge for fire brigade services which now run at about $66m a year of which the private insurers pay about four-fifths.
There will undoubtedly be pressure by the Government for government business to go to this Corporation, particularly for public servants and the armed Services to insure with the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. Trade unions, of course, will put pressure on employers to use the Australian Government Insurance Corporation and not the private insurance companies. Will the 1973 Act be complied with? At the present moment even though this Act was passed by the present Government, one of its agencies, the Defence Service Homes Insurance Corporation, is now $1.3m in the red. It is insolvent. As I have said, it was set up by legislation introduced by this Government. The extraordinary point is that the Prime Minister told us only a few days ago what a great organisation it was. Yet, as I have said, it does not comply even with the present Government’s Act.
The Opposition wants to know whether the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will have to abide by the same margin as demanded by law of the private industry. What will happen with respect to preferential rates? Will there be unlimited government guarantees? We believe that there will be and that this will not make it necessary for the AGIC to have the backing that private companies are required to have.
Those are the overt reasons, of course. It is the covert reasons that I believe are important because if the Corporation is being established only for the reasons that I have given and the Government has given there would be no need for such a Bill- it would not be necessary. The covert reasons are the ones that carry weight with the Australian Labor Party and in particular with the Caucus. This is the ritual way of implementing Labor’s nationalisation policies. This is always hidden, of course, at election time. The Labor Party says: ‘This has been in our platform since 1921, but do not worry about that. We have put it there, but it does not mean anything’. People have only just discovered that the gun was loaded. The second point, of course, is that it is the desire of the Government to destroy private enterprise as a means towards the socialisation of industry. Labor’s first move was to set out to weaken the insurance industry, which has been one of the great bulwarks of private enterprise. It has done that by withdrawing the tax concessions that the Liberal-Country Party Government had given to the industry. We did not give those concessions to the industry because we liked the insurance companies; we gave them because we wanted to encourage saving and to encourage people to make provision for their own cover and for their own protection in order to relieve the Government of the need to make available some of the welfare provisions it would otherwise have to make available and to assist in the raising of loan funds for government, commerce and industry. Of course the present Government wants to control those funds; so it has set about weakening the insurance companies by withdrawing many of the tax concessions that had been given.
The Corporation will undoubtedly increase the competition because any share of the market it gets will mean that there will be a smaller market left for the 300 private companies. That must mean more competition and that must mean, of course, that the private companies will have to employ fewer people. There will be some unemployment. Smaller bonuses already have been made available by the industry. In addition, of course, the Government is planning to introduce a national superannuation scheme and a national compensation scheme. When one adds to all of that the fact that increased inflation and increased costs are making it more and more difficult for the companies one sees the situation in which these companies find themselves. Even granted that the idea is a sound one- I do not for one moment believe that it is necessary; there is no reason for us to expect the reforms that will be brought in by the Corporation- is this the time to introduce legislation of this sort? Vast costs will be incurred in the setting up of an Australian Insurance Corporation. If ever there was a time when restraint was needed it is now. The Prime Minister has already acknowledged that. He has asked every Minister to show ways in which he could reduce the expenditure of his department by 5 per cent, 10 per cent and 15 per cent. There has been a call for wage restraint. Yet we have at this very time a situation arising in which vast sums are to be expended on the proposal which is now before us.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition’s principal contribution to the Committee stage of the debate will be confined to pointing out those areas in which the Bill does not conform with the principal aims outlined by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) in his second reading speech. The second reading speech indicated that the principal aim of the Bill was to establish an Australian Government Insurance Corporation to compete fairly with private insurance companies. There is a number of areas in which, by virtue of clause 7, the Government could amend the Bill to make it quite clear that the AGIC will be subject to all of those laws to which private insurance companies are subject. That does not mean merely the trade practices legislation, which has been referred to several times in previous discussion on this matter. It also means all other matters, which would include the question of the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill, which is particularly important in respect of the responsibilities of fund managers, also any future prices justification legislation and, of course, the national compensation legislation. So it would be appropriate in the Opposition’s view for clause 7 to contain within its terms a reference to the liability or the responsibility of the AGIC to comply with the laws of the Commonwealth and the States.
I know that the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) will be seeking to amend clause 15 in relation to the Insurance Acts specifically, but we do believe that other laws of the States and the Territories should be taken into account. Senator Wheeldon has said that he is under the impression or is of the belief that the Trade Practices Act does cover the AGIC. There are differing legal opinions about that. I have seen a fairly eminent legal opinion to the effect that that is not necessarily the case. There is considerable legal uncertainty about whether the Bill currently does make the AGIC liable to the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. Of course if it were not liable the AGIC would be exempt from the monopolisation provisions in relation to the acquisition of other companies and it would be exempt from the consumer protection and advertising provisions, the exclusive dealing arrangements and the other exclusive tying arrangements that are expressly covered by the Trade Practices Act and are prohibited to the insurance companies. It is important to make quite clear on the face of it that the AGIC is liable in that respect. If the matter ever went to the High Court of Australia it most certainly would not have regard to the transcripts of television interviews of Senator Wheeldon or to the utterances recorded in Hansard. It will certainly look at the Bill and that does not appear to be clear on the face of the Bill. Moreover the State and Territory uniform Companies Acts and companies ordinances involve very stringent accounting obligations which are quite costly to comply with as far as the private insurers are concerned. It would be appropriate for the Companies Acts to apply also to the AGIC.
-Like the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), I was not given the opportunity to speak during the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill. Therefore I wish to make some general observations on, in particular, clause 6, which relates to the establishment of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. As has been pointed out already by numerous speakers on this side of the House the Government has not succeeded in putting forward a substantial case as to why it is necessary at this stage of Australia’s economic development to establish federal government involvement in the insurance industry. Various speakers have shown that the insurance industry in Australia today is already over-supplied with companies. Furthermore, that fact was emphasised by the then Treasurer of the present Government, Mr Crean, when he said on 1 3 December 1 973:
There are already operating in Australia a large number of insurance companies which appear to be adequately meeting the country’s insurance requirements. In these circumstances and given the important role played by these companies in the social and economic life of Australia there is a need for an assessment of the costs and benefits which might flow from the establishment of new companies.
As has been pointed out already by the honourable member for Farrer and other honourable members for many years the Australian Labor Party has had in its policy the statement that it intends to nationalise the insurance industry. In fact paragraph 5 of the section about economic planning in the Australian Labor Party’s platform specifically states:
With the object of achieving Labor’s objectives, establish or extend public enterprise where appropriate by nationalism-
Whatever that happens to meanparticularly in the fields of banking, consumer finance, insurance, marketing, housing, stevedoring, transport and areas of other anti-social private monopoly.
The point that speakers on the Government side of the chamber have failed to appreciate in this debate is that the vast majority of insurance, especially that carried out in the life assurance field, is in the hands of mutual companies. They are not companies which have as shareholders people who are not policy holders. They are one and the same thing. Therefore to refer to them as monopolistic in any shape or form is a travesty of the facts. A mutual company is precisely what it states, namely, a group of people who have put their funds into a common fund for an agreed objective, that is, to purchase insurance policies. The bonuses that are issued to those people are the cumulative result of the investment policies carried out by the companies in which they care to invest. There is no other outside holding whatsoever. This specifically refers to companies like the Australian Mutual Provident Society and the National Mutual Life Association and others which hold the very largest share of the life insurance and assurance market.
The point is worth making also that in this legislation it is proposed that the new insurance office is to have a mere $1,800,000 with which to establish itself. I think honourable members should be aware of the fact that the last major overseas company to establish itself in the Australian insurance industry was the Legal and General Assurance Society Ltd. It established itself some 18 years ago and provided no less than $1 lm in support of that operation. It has only been in the financial year 1974-75 that that company has managed to reach the break even point. Yet we have been told by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, Senator Wheeldon, and other speakers on the Government side that, for an incredible sum of $ 1 ,800,000, they are going to be able to establish a corporation which, in the words of the Minister, in his second reading speech: . . will encourage fair- and I stress ‘fair’-competition and development of a superior service to the ordinary householder and homeowner in Australia.
I seriously question whether this is a realistic objective. Therefore there is good reason why the industry should doubt the veracity of the Government’s statement that it does expect that this corporation, in its early stages, will be a viable competitor against the existing industry. The Australian economy today is going through an extraordinarily difficult period- due essentially to the maladministration of the present Government- and the thousands of people who are employed in the insurance industry have seen no indication from the Government that its intentions are soundly formulated.
The Government wishes to pursue its policy of social myopia and establish, in its own words, monuments to socialism. The insurance industry and the Australian electorate have every reason to doubt that the creation of this corporation, this monument to socialism at this time in particular, is necessary especially as it is being built on the ruins of our economy. If the Government wishes to act like a lemming and commit political suicide over the cliffs of its own making, there is no reason why it should not do so; we are delighted to help give it a push. But there is no reason why the Government should take the Australian people, their economy and their future, with them.
– in reply- A number of speakers have complained that they did not have an opportunity to speak during the second reading debate to this Bill. I think we gave an opportunity to 6 members of the Opposition to talk on the Bill and they fully utilised their time. As honourable members would know, it is not possible to give every member an opportunity to talk during the second reading stage of any legislation which comes before this House. But honourable members should bear in mind that 6 Opposition members were given that opportunity in respect of this legislation and I think they fully canvassed all the views that could have been put forward by an Opposition.
I refer to the specific matters mentioned. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) complained about a number of issues. Let us make it clear that this piece of legislation has been introduced in accordance with the policy of the Government, as mentioned. One must ask: why is it that the Australian Government should be unable to enter the insurance field when so many State governments have done so and are doing quite well and operating quite profitably? Is it to be thought that because the State governments are doing it and are doing it well the Australian Government should be denied that opportunity? A number of members of the Opposition hold the reigns of power in State governments which operate State Government Insurance offices and I do not see any of those members ever going to the people in those States and suggesting they will do away with the State Government insurance office. In particular, in New South Wales the honourable member for Farrer would be the last to suggest, if he were standing for election in the State seat of Murray, that he would abolish the New South Wales Government Insurance Office. He would be annihilated at the polls if he did so.
Whether the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will be a viable proposition or not will depend upon the Australian people and the business the Corporation attracts. Honourable members should bear in mind that the policy holders of this Corporation will be Australians, the same way as in any insurance company. The one difference will be that the entire profits will be given to the Australian policy holders and not syphoned off, as happens now with insurance companies which are, in the main, foreign dominated and foreign controlled. The latest figures released by the Bureau of Sta.tistics disclose that 46 per cent of general insurance premiums paid in 1972-73 went to foreign organisations. The 1975 report of the Bureau of Statistics on foreign ownership and control of life insurance businesses indicates that in 1973 37 per cent of life insurance businesses were foreign owned. Where is the national pride of Opposition members. Why are they so worried about Australians participating in this business? They say: ‘Of course the Corporation might be a very effective competitor’. So it might be, for the very good reason that it might offer better bonuses or better security.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 3 to 7- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 1 3- by leave- taken together.
-Clause 10 concerns the tenure of office of members of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Board. The tenure of appointment in this clause compares unfavourably with the maximum term of 3 years which is permitted under the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges listing requirements for private companies. I think it is important, if we are to have comparability between the Corporation and the insurance companies, that this provision be amended to provide for a maximum term of 3 years. The other point worth noting is that the people appointed under clause 10 are hot subject to the usual provisions for the removal of directors by the shareholders in a general meeting.
Clause 12 is one of the more important clauses of the Bill. I wish to make a general comment which expresses some of the fears that the industry now feels. I have been informed that the state insurance office in New Zealand has decided to give Government subsidised discounted premiums to pensioners. The problems of pensioners and other low income earners must be dealt with by other means. If the Government intends in this case- I am not suggesting that it does but the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) might enlighten the Committee on this matter- that the AGIC would be the means whereby pensioners and other low income groups could get discounted premiums, it ought to say so because it could not be done on a basis of fair competition with insurance companies. It is important that the Minister comment on that matter. The Minister might also answer the following question: Will the Government permit the AGIC to enter into commission arrangements with Commonwealth public servants? Will it allow the AGIC to sell insurance to Commonwealth public servants at such discounted rates as to make it uneconomic for companies to seek the business of Commonwealth public servants?
I would like to refer in particular to sub-clause 12(l)(c)- a very important sub-clause- which enables the AGIC to act as an insurance broker. The Lloyd’s Diary, which is a very common document, contains a definition of an insurance broker, as follows: to represent the assured; to discover his needs; to put his risks before the underwriter in as favourable a light as possible; to obtain the best terms for him when the insurance is placed; and (if there should be a claim) to arrange the settlement, collect the money from the underwriters and pay it out in the right quarter. He must know the market; be able to select the most suitable underwriter for each risk; be sufficiently acquainted with the law to secure the contract of insurance in its right form; prepare the policy and get it signed on behalf of the underwriters; give his help and guidance in the preparation and handling of claims; and generally to act as philosopher and friend to the clients who entrust him with their business.
The importance of that definition is that, as it stands, sub-clause 12(1 )(c) expects the insurer, the AGIC, to be the representative of those persons seeking insurance. The broker’s essential duty is to advise on insurance matters someone other than an insurer. It is therefore incongruous for the AGIC to advise anyone because it is the insurer. It would be extremely difficult for the Corporation to give impartial advice on insurance matters when it is in fact the insurer. As I understand it, the Government has foreshadowed legislation affecting insurance brokers. Surely that legislation would have regard to the probable conflict which arises when the insurer is also a broker. It would be very surprising if the Government did not consider that the function of acting as an insurance broker is incompatible with the impartiality required of an insurance broker in recommending different insurance covers and different insurers. In view of the Government’s policy of broker directors in the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill it is also strange that the AGIC should be empowered to be both an insurer and a broker.
If one looks at sub-clause 12 (2) one notices that if it were not for the amendment which the Minister proposes to clause 15 we would have a grave inequality between the Corporation and private companies because sections 39 and 73 of the Life Insurance Act require High Court approval for the acquisition of a life office by another life office. But as originally drawn, and prior to the amendment to clause 1 5 which has yet to be moved, the AGIC would have been obliged merely to inform the. Minister that it proposed to acquire a substantial interest in another company; and nowhere do we see a definition of ‘substantial interest’. The result would have been to have lessened competition substantially in the insurance industry. It is desirable that directors of any corporation agree to the AGIC acquiring an interest in share capital before approval for acquisition is given. I do not wish to belabour this point, but if the Trade Practices Act does not expressly apply, exclusive agency agreements with the Commonwealth Savings Bank or with the Australian Post Office could give an unfair advantage to the AGIC over other companies. I have referred to that matter before and I shall not extend the point.
With regard to clause 13 I would observe that by giving the Minister power to direct the Corporation to enter into a particular class of contracts of insurance the Government proposes to undermine the much-vaunted autonomy of the AGIC. The Board of the Corporation has a right to resist the Minister, but that right is rendered nugatory when one considers the effect of clause 14, to which we shall come shortly. If autonomy means anything then the Board ‘s right to resist direction by the Minister ought to extend to declining to enter into such a class of contract of insurance, notwithstanding the Minister’s direction, if to follow the Minister’s direction would mean that the Board is in breach of its obligations under clause 7 of the Bill or is in breach of the obligations that one would expect it to have under clause 34 of the Bill, which is to make a reasonable profit as measured by sound commercial principles.
– I wish to raise a number of points in relation to clauses 1 1 to 13 inclusive. Clause 11(1) states:
The Board may, by resolution, delegate to any person, either generally or as otherwise provided by the resolution, any of its powers under this Act, other than this power of delegation.
It has been rightly pointed out by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) that in clause 13 we see another example of quite substantial ministerial authority in relation to the actual powers of what we have been told will be an autonomous and yet government-controlled organisation, if one can imagine such a combination. However, in clause 1 1 the Board is given very substantial power if one takes into account that those powers which are enumerated in Part III, clause 12, can be given to any person merely by resolution of the Board without reference to the Minister. I would have thought that if the Minister is to have the powers that are enumerated in clause 13 there would also be a case for him to have similar powers in relation to clause 1 1.
I turn now to clause 12(1) (e) concerning reinsurance. It is important to point out that the existing re-insurance arrangements made by Australian insurance companies are part of a major international financial network including Lloyds of London. The whole purpose of reinsurance, in case some Government members are not aware of it- on the basis of what we have heard there is great doubt that they are aware of it- is this: Re-insurance is simply spreading the risk.
Let us consider the situation that many Australians faced last year in the Brisbane floods and in the disaster in Darwin. The fact is that a number of Australian insurance companies and those with overseas affiliations had to pay out very substantial sums of money to recompense their policyholders who suffered grievous physical and property damage as a result of those unfortunate calamities. Requiring them to make enormous payouts would have been impossible due to their liquidity position had it not been for their substantial international reinsurance arrangements.
It has been stated- the point has been made by the Government but not proved to my satisfactionthat re-insurance is supposed to be a means by which Australia’s balance of payments suffers; as funds go out of Australia. As I pointed out, there can be no question that last year alone funds flowed into Australia to enable insurance companies to meet their obligations.
I turn now to clause 12 of the Bill, which provides in part:
It is clauses of this type which has caused the insurance industry considerable problems. Essentially, the danger is this: When there is an economic environment such as we sadly see at the moment, there are companies- we are aware that in the last few years there have been failures-with considerable assets, termed ‘book assets’ in particular, as well as assets related to their actual policies, which could be bought up by an Australian Government Insurance Corporation at very low cost indeed. Surely the industry has every reason to fear the long term impact of the AGIC on its activities in this regard.
Finally, with respect to clause 13, I merely wish to reiterate the point made by the honourable member for Balaclava. This clause provides in part:
We were told in the second reading speech and in the speeches of Government members, that the Corporation is supposed to be an autonomous financial body. In fact, it is quite clear that the Minister is to have overriding authority.
– Let rae say at the outset that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation should not be under any limitations as to acting in a normal commercial manner. Let me deal specifically with some of the matters raised by honourable members opposite. The honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) raised one issue by way of question: Should the AGIC have agents? Should it pay commission? Yes, it should have agents and it should pay commission in the same way as other insurance companIes do. This is a normal practice. I do not see any problems there.
He also asked: Should it act as an insurance broker? Yes, it should. To be more specific, I point out that Qantas Airways Ltd and TransAustralia Airlines are obliged to obtain very substantial insurance cover which they cannot always find in this country. It may well be that they might avail themselves of the expertise and services of AGIC method. The point is- I say this to those honourable members who are trying to interject- to give the Australian Government Insurance Corporation the same capacity as any other insurance company has. Honourable members opposite do not want that to happen. They wish to change the legislation so that the Corporation cannot do that. All the AGIC wants to be is a fair competitor on a commercial basis.
The Committee should bear in mind that the Minister responsible for the AGIC is subject to the surveillance of this Parliament. All honourable members opposite would be most anxious to highlight any matter that they did not think was proper. We do not see that happening readily in the private insurance field. All we are saying here is that this Corporation is to be a normal commercial venture. This insurance office is to have the same powers as any viable insurance office has. We have yet to deal with clause 14, which is the nub of what honourable members opposite are complaining about. We will deal with that aspect effectively when we get to it.
One of the other matters raised was the appointment of members of the Board for 5 years. It is normal for Government appointments to statutory corporations to be for that period. There is nothing unreasonable about that. If we are to acquire an interest in the business of insurance, of course it would be on a businesslike basis. If there is a delegation of authority, I point out that it is normal for a board to delegate authority. Surely honourable members opposite would not have a situation in which this Corporation could not acquire an interest in another business when such acquisition was a reasonable commercial proposition? Do honourable members opposite say that the Corporation should not be able to delegate its authority when it is normal for it so to do?
Let us go to the real issue with which the Committee has yet to deal. I refer to clause 14 in which we are talking about that which the AGIC can do which other insurance companies do not do. Let us put it on the basis that all these provisions are normal. They are statutory provisions. The conduct of the whole of the operations of this Corporation will be subject to surveillance at all times. It is to operate in a proper viable financial arrangement. There is nothing unusual in clauses 10, 1 1, 12 or 13; nor do those provisions give any unfair preference.
Honourable members must bear in mind that the AGIC will offer insurance cover comparable to that provided by other insurance companies. It is expected to make profits. It is expected to provide to policy holders a normal return. I am fortified by this fact: When I look at the operations of the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales, I find that it is making profits in all fields. Looking at how it is dealing with its claims, I find that it is paying them to the full. It has the undoubted disadvantage of being obliged to take up compulsory third party insurance which no other insurer will take up. Therefore, it is carrying 95 per cent of a loss business because the other insurance companies will not take on that business. It is doing that, and it is still making a profit. Also, it has more than 3 million life policy holders.
Do honourable members opposite mean to say that the average Australian regards that office as a socialistic enterprise when 3 million people take out policies with the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales? Why should it not be that the proposed office that this Government is seeking to establish could not have the same number of policy holders and get the mutual benefits? The AGIC will be a normal insurance company; it will be competitive; and it will be Australian. For those reasons we reject the propositions of the Opposition.
Clauses, as amended, agreed to.
– I wish to raise 2 points. Firstly, I wish to put a constructive proposal to the Government and, secondly, to refer to the clause as it relates in particular to the national insurance interest. In the course of my speech at the second reading stage I raised the necessity and importance in this area of insurance of public accountability and public scrutiny. The Australian Government Insurance Corporation will be answerable to this Parliament for its activities, whereas a private insurance company is answerable only to its shareholders. A classic case is the needless hardship, anxiety and concern that have been inflicted on the elderly victims of the Cooma bus tragedy which occurred in New South Wales in September 1973. 1 believe that, if the activities of the Corporation as set out in this clause were applied in respect of this tragedy and to other similar tragedies, much of this needless suffering and hardship could and would be eliminated
However, before I go into detail, honourable members on both sides of the Committee will be aware that there is a number of international treaties, to which Australia is a signatory, which impose strict liability on, for instance, international air carriers where death or injury is caused as a result of, say, an aircraft mishap. Injured persons and the dependants of those who die or are injured can in such instances receive monetary compensation without proof of fault on the part of the carrier. Unfortunately no such no-fault scheme extends to internal carriers such as bus operators, public transport bodies, etc., in this country with perhaps the exception of Victoria. If the national compensation scheme had been in operation at the time of the Cooma bus disaster, the victims would now have been fully and adequately compensated. In the absence of the benefits of a national compensation scheme, there is an obvious gap. That gap can be constructively closed by the use of this clause of the Bill should such national tragedies occur.
Honourable members will recall that the bus tragedy at Cooma involved some 38 pensioners from my State of South Australia who had arranged for a holiday in New South Wales. The bus in which these elderly folk were travelling plunged into the Tumut Ponds Dam. I wish to pay tribute to the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) who has tried ever since that day to get the companies to reach a settlement. In that accident 18 people died and 22 pensioners were injured, 10 of them critically.
AU of the accident victims suffered extensive injuries. As I understand it, not a single survivor paid less than $1,000 in either hospital or medical fees. In addition, some survivors were either husbands or wives of those who died. The victims suffered not only physical injury, but the emotional backlash of the loss of either a wife or a husband with whom they had been partners for over 30 years. The emotional damage is obviously beyond calculation. A protracted coroner’s inquest was held in Cooma, but regrettably no specific verdict was returned. I cannot find any trace in the Press of any follow-up since that tragedy. So much for private accountability. Human suffering and anxiety is still being perpetrated on these elderly people who suffered a tremendously traumatic experience. They are still receiving medical bills. They are being hit with ‘please pay forthwith’ notices. Some of them have paid, others have not. Others do not know what to do. They received letters from solicitors which they cannot comprehend. Since the accident, a further 4 victims have died.
Quite obviously further delay of settlement of claims will simply mean that whoever is liable will have to pay out less. Brutally stated, the longer those liable delay, the more economic the strategy. I am informed that there is a tripartite defendant structure, that is, there are a number of insurance companies, the bus company and a State Government involved. This obviously creates litigious problems and delays in financial terms. This is a clear example of the kind of delay and dalliance which the insurance companies offer- the kind of protection they seek to inflict upon those aged people and, in fact, the unwary public.
Those people placed their faith in an insurance company and in Government legislation. They found that whilst there is protection, or alleged protection, in fact they are the victims of a protracted litigation. In this case I am informed that the batting order will be possibly from the Supreme Court to the Full Court to the High Court, and in the case of the insurance companies, to the Privy Council. Can anyone say with any assurance that this will be achieved within 3 years? I repeat, it is sheer blatant economic strategy on the part of the insurance companies. Because of the traditional delay in settling the claims in the court many of the elderly victims of the Cooma bus disaster will be unable to recover their just compensation in their lifetime.
The Cooma bus disaster is only one of similar disasters in recent years in this country. Where people suffer an injury at the hands of a public utility or a utility approved by public authorities, their only recourse for compensation is through litigation. I recommend to the Government that serious consideration be given to permitting the Corporation to underwrite, on a national interest basis, risks involving public utilities or utilities approved by public authorities for the transport of people or other similar situations. In such circumstances, the Corporation would be required, because of its public accountability, to settle claims as expeditiously as possible and would be required to see that such cases as required litigation would be settled as expeditiously as possible. I commend that proposal to the Minister and to the Government.
As I analyse this clause, it seems to me that if the Minister considers that a particular class of business insurance cannot be made available on a commercial basis in the national interest, before any activity of the Corporation is classified as national interest insurance, this will have to be preceded by 3 courses of action. One is that the matter should be considered by the board of the Corporation. Secondly, the matter should be subject to an actuarial and economic analysis. Thirdly, it should then be sent to the Minister and if the Minister or the Government approves that that particular class of insurance ought to be underwritten, it should then come back to this Parliament embodied in a regulation. It would then be subject to debate and the concurrence of the Parliament. I think that ought to be made clear.
Insurance companies undoubtedly are concerned that there is no clear line of demarcation between what will be considered as normal operations and what we call ‘national interest’ insurance. This misgiving undoubtedly is well placed. In these circumstances what needs to be explained to the representatives of the industry is that the national interest insurance activities of the proposed Corporation will not come into effect until such time as departmental legislation and inquiry have been instituted.
At no time as I understand it, has the Government envisaged that the private sector insurance companies would be automatically excluded from participation in the Corporation’s national interest activities. As I understand it, the Minister would welcome any constructive or considered opinions in this area. Let me conclude by making the point that a fortnight ago the general insurance company representatives at least met the Minister. Representatives of the life offices flatly refused to do so. I understand that the conference with the Minister was most satisfactory. The other avenue I suggest that the insurance industry ought to examine relates to an issue which I raised in July last year of getting the Government to agree to the setting up of 2 consultative committees. Such committees are a valuable acquisition. I believe this is an area in which much of the contention in this clause can be resolved to everyone ‘s satisfaction.
-There are several matters raised by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) to which I should like to reply. Firstly, I agree that the consultative insurance committees are terribly important. What a shame that the Government did not consult the industry through those committees about this Bill. Having made that point I should like to pass on to some other matters. Another point raised by the honourable member for Hawker was that the insurance industry was happy about its Sunday afternoon consultation with the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon). Insurance industry representatives were happy insofar as they were able to register their implacable opposition to the Bill. Nevertheless, they got the Minister to accede to the amendment to be moved to clause 15. That, at least, was making a better job of a bad job so far as the industry was concerned.
I share the honourable member’s view about the Cooma bus tragedy. What a tragedy it was. But the Minister owes it to the House and to those affected by this Bill to tell us whether it is contemplated that situations such as that will be cured by clause 14, because it is not necessarily so. I would have thought- and I think the honourable member for Hawker would agree with me- that the situation complained of, that is a situation of fault, actions for negligence and arguments between litigants, one of whom is an insurance company, will not be cured by this Bill. lt is one of the things to be cured by the National Compensation Bill and it raises one of those aspects of the National Compensation Bill with which I most strongly agree. Having said that, I should like to return to something which the Minister said earlier about the government insurance offices. In my experience in the legal profession in New South Wales- I think the Minister would have the same experience- the worst offender at settling on the doorstep of the court was the State Government Insurance Office of New South Wales. But I shall pass on from that point.
– But it was the only defendant.
-Why was it the only defendant? Why did the Government Insurance Office have a monopoly of compulsory third party insurance? It is because of the uneconomic premiums that are being charged. A decision has been made by the New South Wales Government and other governments that they will subsidise the premiums. That is the point. Non-car owners are paying to enable lower premiums for car owners. The premiums were so uneconomic that they could not support insurance according to sound commercial principles- the very principles concerned in this Bill. That is the only reason why the Government Insurance Office has a monopoly with respect to this rather unwanted and irrelevant legislation. We should get to a situation of no fault. The State which I now represent has got to that stage with regard to motor car accidents. This is to the credit of the Government of that State. I am bound to say that it is not a Labor government.
I should like now to deal with clause 14. At pages 2365 and 2366 of Hansard of 15 May, I made fairly detailed reference to clause 14 during my speech in the second reading debate. The Minister would not wish me to repeat my remarks. I believe that it raised important questions and when this matter reaches the Senate the Minister responsible, Senator Wheeldon, should be obliged to make some comment.
Clause 14 clearly covers natural disaster situations. There is no argument about that. We have made it clear that we favour a form of compensation for natural disasters. All that is at issue is the form of administration of it. That is what we want to look at and that is why we sought deferral of this matter. The second problem that arises under clause 14 is that, on a literal reading of clause 14, the Minister may direct the Board to undertake certain classes of insurance on particular conditions. This is the disturbing thing because in sub-clause (5) it is quite clear, and the Minister knows this, that ‘conditions’ covers the premium to be charged or the percentage of the amount of the loss to which the insurance is to extend. If ‘conditions’ related only to some future contingency it would conform with the Minister’s second reading speech, but it does not. It covers as broad a range of conditions as one could imagine. This means that the Minister of the day may deliberately direct the Board to undertake an absurdly low, uneconomic premium or uneconomic conditions to insure a particular class of contracts and that would be such as to freeze out the commercial companies from that type of insurance. The important point is that it could be set so absurdly as to paralyse the insurance industry and to be constantly underwritten and subsidised. The honourable member for Hawker shakes his head. I hope it does not mean what it says, but at the moment that is what it says and it is not what the second reading speech says.
Looking at it again, the second reading speech is concerned with the wellbeing of the industry. It is concerned for whether the industry can undertake a certain class of insurance. One would have thought that that would narrow it down to the natural disaster situation. The Bill uses the term
Office’; presumably it now means ‘Corporation’. It is concerned for whether the Corporation could undertake it according to the Minister’s directions on the types of conditions to be complied with. Even if we are to ignore that literal reading we may be faced with the situation that for quite a long time the establishment costs of the AGIC will be such that it could not undertake certain classes of insurance. It would not be commercially viable to do so. And so the Board could legitimately say that the AGIC cannot undertake a certain class of insurance according to sound commercial principles because it does not have the infrastructure to do it. This is an important point and I believe it needs to be cleared up. If we have a situation in which the AGIC alone can offer certain classes of subsidised premiums then we certainly do not have any fair competition but a most serious advantage in favour of the AGIC.
Another problem on which the Minister may care to comment is whether it is possible- it does seem possible- for the AGIC to combine natural disaster policies, for earthquakes, floods and cyclones, with commercial policies in the one package. It can make the commercial policy part of the package comparable with private industry but by the householder getting the package deal he can be encouraged to place the entire package with the AGIC and that alone would give it an advantage. If the AGIC can offer comparable rates on commercial policies but make the package look more attractive it has an advantage over other companies which simply cannot offer the natural disaster fund because it is not in accordance with sensible commercial provisions. The Bill does not specify whether the policies that are issued as a directive of the Minister pursuant to this clause shall be an addition to or an extension of other policies which the AGIC might offer or whether a separate policy will be issued to cover that class of risk which is to be classified as national interest insurance. In conclusion, it is worth observing that national interest insurance is nowhere defined in the Bill. Is it any wonder, on a literal reading of clause 14 as it now stands, that the industry is very concerned and that the Opposition wants further time to consider this matter?
-As the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) has so eloquently pointed out, both the industry and in particular the Opposition find some difficulty in relation to the contents of clause 14 when compared with the substance of the second reading speech of the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart). I reiterate what I said earlier in relation to the second paragraph which reads:
The Australian Government Insurance Corporation in the field of commercial insurance will encourage fair . . . competition and development of a superior service to the ordinary householder-
In clause 14 we have 2 major problems. The first is the concept of sound commercial principles. Most, if not all, companies which expect to survive in any economic environment, and in particular the present one, would interpret sound commercial principles as based on the premise that they must return a profit, and that their costs of operation therefore must be maintained at a sufficiently low level to achieve a profit at the end of their trading period. Here that concept is related to that of national interest, which the honourable member for Balaclava so rightly pointed out is not defined anywhere in this legislation. Accordingly, we have good reason to suspect the veracity of the Minister’s statement. It is simply impossible to talk about sound commercial principles and then to relate that to a concept of national interest which by definition under many circumstances, especially in relation to natural disasters, is not an economic proposition. Therefore I would wish the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) to explain to us in some detail the Government’s intentions in this respect.
As has been pointed out by numerous speakers, in particular the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser), we appreciate that there is a need for a new organisation- a new arrangement- for national disasters. My understanding is that the insurance industry put proposals to the Government last October or November. Yet we have not heard one honourable member on the Government side give credit to the industry for having done this or more specifically advise us of the contents of the proposals. Instead of that they have offered us an extraordinary package deal, trying to relate the need for national interest concepts within the concept of an Austraiian Government Insurance Corporation. We are not convinced of the need for this Corporation at the present time and under these conditions. As the honourable member for Balaclava has pointed out, we need more time to see what was the substance of the proposals put to the Government by the insurance industry. We would like to hear the Minister’s comments on that in particular. Sub-clause (3) of clause 14 says: . . the Board shall, notwithstanding anything contained in section 13, adopt a policy that the Office enter into that class of contracts of insurance in accordance with the regulations.
Again we have a specific case here where the Minister can dictate commercial policy to the Board and yet we have been told that the Board shall have autonomy of decision making in accordance with ‘sound commercial principles’.
– It is a pity that the spokesmen for the insurance industry and the Opposition are taking the same course with this legislation as the Australian Medical Association took with the universal health insurance program. Without understanding the provisions of the Government’s scheme, without taking the trouble to consult in a constructive fashion with the Government, they proceed to create a screen of confusion and a feeling of bitterness between the industry concerned and the Government. The Opposition should be putting forward the principles of free enterprise and championing its cause and it is very hard to understand its reaction when there is the slightest suggestion of one more competitor. Quite ironically the leader in the campaign against the Government’s proposals- the Australian Mutual Provident Society Ltd- is really based on socialistic principles. It is fact of life to say, after reading the reports of the statements by the secretary of the National Policyholders Association, Mr Cassidy, that obviously that Society is governed by managerial capitalists rather than by people who have a mutual association with the company.
It is said that the Government has not given the industry an opportunity to participate in discussion. No more need be said after what happened last Sunday week when the life officers refused to attend a meeting. To constantly refer to clause 14- in particular to sub-clause (5)- as the Opposition does as being a blanket clause for the Australian Government Insurance Corporation to write any premium rate or to write any conditions of insurance it wishes is quite untrue. At least the regulations must go before each of the Houses of the Parliament and they must receive the approval of both this House and the other place. I think that it is quite clear in clause 14(5) that reference to conditions in relation to contracts of insurance includes reference with respect to the amount of the premium to be charged or the percentage of the amount of the loss to which the insurance is to extend.
It is all very well for the Opposition and for the industry to talk about national interest insurance and national disaster insurance. It is true that there have been consultations and discussions about national disaster insurance. After the discussions that have taken place, the position really amounts to this: The industry wants the Government to sort out the situation. It knows what the problems are but it cannot, because of the proliferation of companies, take the kind of action that is needed. It wants the Government to take action and the Government to participate if there is to be a loss. Some speakers for the Opposition asked why, seeing the taxpayers are paying for insurance, they should not continue to pay for the loss. I think the point that is being missed is that those who participate in the benefit ought to be sharing in the cost of providing the cover that is needed or of providing the benefit that is to be derived in the unfortunate occurrence of a natural disaster. I could move on from there to apply the same remarks to the area of national interest.
The interdepartmental committee report examined the other alternatives available in the insurance field. Investigation has been carried out into livestock and crop insurance cover. As I said, the insurance industry has submitted to the Government its proposals on property damage resulting from natural disaster. I repeat that the industry wants the Government to put its house in order, but when the Government does act to involve itself in any way we have this outcry about nationalisation and socialism which serves only to create a smokescreen to conceal the real problem.
There is a public demand for the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. Obviously, when the AGIC is established it will fulfil that demand. The information available to the Government does provide the expertise and the experience to act in the field of insurance. Again the industry is assuming, without consulting and without investigating, that the board of the AGIC would not be inviting the industry to participate in national disaster insurance. It is quite conceivable that the AGIC, once established in the light of experience and in the light of the expertise gained in the field of national interest insurance, would be inviting the private sector to become involved.
I conclude on this note: It is a pity that the industry is not looking at the areas of activity in which it is competitive and in which it will have the competitive advantage over any kind of government insurance office. It ought to be concentrating on that area of activity and pointing out where it has an advantage, and should be looking to the constructive development of the industry and to a crystalisation of a number of companies involved in the industry, and to areas in which inefficiency can be removed. In the present situation, life assurance in particular is sold not with any relation to the achievement of maximum efficiency within the industry, not with the idea of achieving the maximum benefit for the policy holder but rather, because of the structure of the industry’s commissions, the business is written on the basis of what will provide the greatest amount of commission for the salesman selling the policy.
-I rise to speak in the debate because in truth I have had a longer association with the national disaster clauses of any Bill or related administrative procedures than any other member in the House. I do not like to use the words ‘a longer experience’ because they identify and at this stage of my parliamentary life I have no wish to be specifically identified. Nonetheless, I do remember the history of procedures and policies associated with natural disasters. I well remember when we came into office as a Liberal government and took over from the then somewhat discredited Labor Government. I speak now in a very kind way about our predecessors. When we came into office, so far as natural disasters were concerned our predecessors had done nothing. We started off with a policy first of all of giving assistance on the ground of personal hardship and distress. Later on, we decided to take the full responsibility for any acts of God- storm, tempest, floods, droughts or whatever else it might have been- so far as governments were concerned.
I believe that I had one of the more important responsibilities when, as the then Treasurer, I had to consider first of all in about April 1 957 the devastating fires that had occurred in Tasmania. We took over nearly the whole of the responsibility in regard to the considerable damage that had been caused in Tasmania. It did not matter whether the property damage was government owned or privately owned; it did not matter whether it was business damage, commercial damage or whatever else it might have been. We provided a sum of the order of $ 14m and left the balance of the responsibility to the State Government. I am surprised to read what I said then. I must have been liberal even in those days, despite what might have been said by Mr Maximillian Walsh in this morning’s ‘Australian Financial Review’. We provided financial relief in respect of government losses and also housing, business and industries, primary producers, public assets and other emergency expenditure. I could go on in this way but it would become a little boring if I were to state every way in which we assisted.
Later, on 27 November 1968 in the days of my glory as the Treasurer I brought forward a totally new policy relating to assistance when problems arose due to factors outside the control of the individuals themselves, we then adopted the policy, on my personal initiative, that if we were able to get people back into employment we should provide the funds to enable that to be done. In other words, we were to give them the opportunity to get back into production. We believed that we would be able to earn more productivity in the future than it would cost to put those people back into production at the time of the drought, fire or other devastation that might occur. I made a speech in the Parliament on this subject on 27 November 1968. On that occasion, I pointed to the fact that not only was this something totally novel and comprehensive covering every single section of the community but also that we believed this to be a positive government responsibility.
I do not know whether there are any Treasury officials present in the chamber tonight. I hope there are, and I hope they recognise what happened in November 1968 when they were advising me. At that time it was Mr Steele Craik who I thought might have been a suitable person to become the permanent head of the Department of the Treasury. I thought that either that gentleman or Mr John Garrett could fill the position, but neither of them liked the idea. I do not know whether the Treasury people are here and, if they are, whether they care to remember, whether they thought that the kind of disaster could only be handled on an ad hoc basis. Consequently I do not try to understand why they want to introduce a Bill of this kind. At that time, we of the previous Government who were conscientious and those in the Treasury who had the capacity to think were of the belief that it was imprudent to introduce any kind of provision which meant that we institutionalised such aid. We believed that circumstances- geographical, climatic and personal- were so varied and so different that we had to handle the matter on an ad hoc basis and with enormous sympathy and care for those to whom damage had been done, and those whose livelihoods and families might have been affected in a traumatic and difficult way.
We decided then- I cannot understand why the Treasury officials would be giving advice in an entirely different way today- that when the disaster occurred we would handle it in that way: We should let the House know and, through the House, the public know what we were doing and that the Liberal Party then and now would take the major share of responsibility in natural disasters. We drew up guidelines to do that.
Sometimes we would say that the State should take responsibility to a limited extent which was minimal but nonetheless essential in the interests of trying to have a better form of accountancy and a stronger sense of responsibility. But we took the absolute responsibility for the balance. I say this in the presence of the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) who has special responsibilities. The Minister is a man for whom I have considerable respect not only because of his common sense and ability but also because of his desire to ensure that Parliament operates in an effective way.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member need not say ‘hear, hear’, because the Committee does not take any notice of him. If he had any common sense he would let those who believe in what they say put their point.
Let me go a stage further. I put to the Minister that clause 14 cannot be implemented. There is no way in which one can institutionalise the kind of disasters envisaged in the clause. Action taken in such disasters has to be left to the judgment of the department but more importantly of the Minister responsible. If we have the right sort of Minister, and we have such a person in the Special Minister of State, he will do- forgive me for saying this- exactly as I did when I had the good fortune to be the Treasurer. I would rather leave the decision to him or myself than to the responsibility of the Government or any agency of the Government with all the bureaucratic controls ideas and restrictions involved and imposed by law. Those who saw the television program This Day Tonight’ this evening will know what Darwin has suffered because of the bureaucratic restrictions and controls which have been imposed on the people who want to return and make a happy life there.
I do not like the provision. I hope that I have made my position clear. I have done this as a result- I cannot remember precisely how many years- of some 20 years experience in Government. If the Special Minister of State, who is in charge of this legislation, wants my advice I suggest that he have another look at the clause under debate. If I were in his position I would cut it out and adopt the procedures of this Government’s predecessors who took the kind of action I have outlined and who were remarkably successful. I cannot understand why we on this side of the chamber have not proclaimed our virtues and successes whilst in Government. They were path breaking and successful. I am also arguing that the Government’s position is untenable and ineffective and will lead to disastrous results.
-The wording of clause 14 is so wide that all the accusations that have made from this side of the House could well be a true diagnosis of the whole situation. At a time when the Australian Government lobbies its intention to enter the insurance field the thoughts of Professor Friedman, who visited Australia, could be very pertinent, because Professor Friedman as a known advocate of the sentiment that governments are solely responsible for inflation, accuses them of getting involved in fields in which they have no business. Professor Friedman, of course, argues on the basis that governments have no business in business enterprises. I think that it has been well demonstrated over the years that the initiative of private enterprise is the only factor which gives benefit to the community. Australia is sponsored by private enterprise and yet the Government continues its business bashing by penalising thrift and reducing incentive.
As I have said, clause 14 is so wide that it involves all the opportunities for governments to do those things which we do not want them to do. Perhaps I could say, to use a phrase, that they are adopting or attempting to adopt the role of Father Christmas. The Government is responsible for public funds. By contrast, all mutual life assurance societies are answerable to their policy holders. There are 3 million pOliCY holders throughout Australia today and they are the life assurance industry. The Government should not be attacking life assurance companies by unfairly competing with them. Honourable members opposite should not compare our attitude with the airy-fairy propaganda they put out trying to show how well their other socialist measures are going to work. They talk about those measures that are going to work. But the Government has not yet produced anything that is working with any great benefit to this community. If this Government put its mind to protecting the Australian people from the disasters which are mentioned in the legislation and let the Australian people manage their business affairs it would be doing a good job for the private enterprise of this country. It is no good the Government trying to protect the community by inflicting upon it a scheme that it does not want. If the Government wants to be Father Christmas, one field in which it can play this role is that of disasters.
We can overcome the difficulties in the disaster field. This matter was well canvassed in this Par.liament prior to the introduction of the legislation now before us. Surveys that have been taken have laid the framework within the insurance industry itself for the establishment of a proper disaster fund without encroaching into the field of private enterprise or into the field of mutual life assurance societies which are run by pOliCy holders and not the directors or anyone else. I submit that the reasons given by the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) in introducing the Bill contain little of substance to justify the creation of the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. This is so because highly competitive general insurance services already exist. Natural disaster needs could be effectively and more economically made available through the existing insurance framework. Existing Australian Government insurance services are largely unrelated to the new activities envisaged; and the Australian Government revenue seems likely to decrease rather than increase as the result of the formation of the Corporation.
There are 3 main reasons why this measure is ill timed. Firstly, it will conflict violently with the Government’s announced desire to create more confidence in the private sector generally; secondly, it will aggravate, even if only for a limited period, the already high level of unemployment; and thirdly, it represents, as the former Treasurer has already indirectly admitted, an unwarranted and therefore wasteful diversion of resources especially at a time when the Government is faced with a Budget deficit of $3,000m.
I think that this measure should be deferred at least until after the Budget session. We need to give further consideration to the amount of money that is required to put this scheme into operation. Also the officers who will provide the expertise will have to be carefully drawn from the ranks of the existing companies. It will be only by a method of squeeze that the Government will be able to get these people and in the process it will do away with the life assurance companies.
– I thank the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in his absence for his kind remarks. I am grateful that the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) is not here. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) talked about Santa Claus and what a beneficent institution the proposed Australian Government Insurance Corporation would be. Let me make this point: Anyone who makes a claim will have suffered a major loss. I think it is unfair to suggest that people in disaster areas are going to be the recipients of what he terms as Santa Claus benefits.
– I only canvassed the idea.
-The honourable member should not try now to explain the situation because they were his words. Just because an Australian family suffers a loss he says: ‘Let them bear it’. Those are his words. He does not want a Santa Claus proposition. What I want to make clear is this: Naturally we are anxious to see people adequately and properly insured. But people cannot always get the insurance that they require. I would like to draw the attention of honourable members to a report of the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales.
– It is a totally different thing.
-Not at all. It states:
The standard form of policy covering homes now provides cover against storm and tempest damage but does not provide insurance against flood. In this instance, however -
They are talking about a flood that took place last year- the circumstances were so unusual that the Office decided to accept claims which might properly have been held to be outside the cover -
This involved an expenditure of $50,000-
That is a statement showing that the insurance companies even last year had to do something exceptional in the flood situation. The report continues:
Earlier the insurance industry had come under strong criticism following the record floods in Brisbane. Flood insurance is not readily available and in normal circumstances is sought mainly by those with property located in definite flood areas. Because of this the cost is high and in some cases because of location the property is uninsurable. The whole question of flood insurance is at present under consideration . . .
The Brisbane floods cost the Australian Government $71m of the taxpayers money. I give credit to the right honourable member for Lowe. He gave the Tasmanian people $ 11.2m. But those amounts did not cover the total loss. This chamber has before it the Darwin Cyclone Damage Compensation Bill. We agreed to pick up at least 50 per cent of the uninsured loss and that is running into millions of dollars. If one is in a flood situation on the Murray and one suffers a minor flood might one not be covered because it might be said that that was not a national disaster? That could be the situation. If one is on the Clarence River, the Burdekin River or any river one cares to name, or suffers damage when these disasters occur- insurance may be obtained. In fairness to the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) I point out that subject to proper investigation, subject to a report and subject to regulations which are tabled in this Parliament which honourable members can disallow- that is the keynote of this clause- we will offer this national interest insurance.
– It is shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.
-The old time insurance broker from McMillan is still complaining about the fact that he will suffer a loss. Will he please understand that we will pay money to people who have suffered a major loss. This is the point we need to consider. The honourable member for Balaclava makes a fair case on the basis of what was submitted by the industry. I am told that the industry made its normal submission that it would act as an agent for the Government but it would not share any of the losses and it wanted a percentage of the commissions. I do not think that is a fair proposition. I think the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) whom I represent is a reasonable man. I think he would be interested in any proposition whereby the losses could be shared.
We will not leave the Australian people in the situation in which they are now in Darwin and in which they have been in all the floods- whether they have been in Tasmania, Brisbane or anywhere else- suffering major loss and not being compensated. What we are saying is this: There are areas of Australia where, because of its large land mass and because of its diversity of settlement, disasters can occur. People can suffer a minor bushfire even in McMillan. Ought we not be able to insure the farmer and not have the situation in which, unless the Government according to their local member is Santa Claus, people will not be covered? We want to be able to offer that cover because of the loss factor, not because of the profit which we would make. There would be very little profit in that sort of business. But at least people are entitled to get that sort of cover. It is not available in the industry now because the industry is profit oriented.
– It is.
-It is not, for the reasons which I have just stated. The Government Insurance Office of New South Wales stated:
The whole question of flood insurance is at present under consideration by an Industry Committee on which this Office is represented.
In the normal course of events the industry cannot cover major disasters. Even governments are offering only a substantial section of compensation. But people are entitled to seek full cover. We are talking about crop damage and everything else whether it be caused by flood or by anything else. We can look at this situation from a national point of view. In fact, one might well say that the problems of Darwin have clearly highlighted how people are suffering traumatic damage. Honourable members can imagine how little cover one would get in a third party insurance motor vehicle claim if it were left to the private insurance companies. They would not be in it because the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales has to take 95 per cent of the liability. It is too high a risk.
It is normal and understandable that people who are in business for profit, not to cover claims, have to make that profit. They have to make a profit out of the premiums. We are in business to that extent but we want to guarantee a cover which is reasonable and appropriate. If the honourable member for Balaclava has any proposition to put on behalf of the insurance industry that he can give to my ministerial colleague which would clearly show that it would bear a part of the burden, there is no reason it could not figure in the action. Nobody wants to suggest that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will take everybody’s insurance cover simply on this issue. We want to be fair about the situation. We have to accept that at the moment there are enormous gaps and vacuums. I notice that in the last 4 years the taxpayers have picked up a tab of $ 1 50m, and this is without the Darwin situation. So there are a lot of problems in the insurance situation.
I hope, in fact I know, that there will not be the delays in settlement as the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) has pointed out. We will not have the problem of State insurance companies fighting each other over who is liable because an interstate vehicle is involved. If the appropriate cover is under the Australian Government Insurance Corporation there will be no question of State boundaries. People will not be held up for years for compensation. Of course, it is true that if we get our national compensation legislation through the Parliament we will not have that problem either. But honourable members opposite opposed that legislation, ostensibly on the basis that they wanted to have a closer look at it. They will look at it so closely that it will be covered in moss because it will be there for years, before a Senate committee, as far as they are concerned. The problem we face in this day and age in a modern society is that people should not suffer handicap, whether it be physical or financial. The whole idea of this clause is to provide cover to people, particularly in the country, in areas which, on the fact of it, are not deemed to be sound and commercial. I am amazed to think that members of the National Country Party of Australia are opposed to this Bill because of the normal disasters which country people might have to face, particularly with floods. Why would they not welcome this proposition because their constituents could get some cover and have the opportunity to feel some security? Here is an opportunity to do that. Private companies are now saying that they want to get a fair opportunity. I will give them a chance, through my ministerial colleague, to put up a proposition, but not the proposition they have put up that they will merely act as an agent, get the benefit of the commission and not bear any section of the burden. I think the clause is quite reasonable as it stands. I feel more fortified by the fact that my explanation makes it even more reasonable. I am impressed to think that honourable members opposite are not moving any amendments.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– Clause 15 has been the subject of discussion. The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) gave an undertaking that he would alter this clause. The amendment has been circulated. I move:
Omit clause 1 5, substitute the following clause:
- ( 1 ) Subject to this Act, the Insurance Acts 1 973 apply in relation to the Corporation in accordance with this section.
The Corporation shall be deemed to be authorized under the Insurance Acts 1973 to carry on insurance business within the meaning of those Acts.
The Insurance Acts 1973 apply in relation to the general insurance business carried on by the Corporation as if that business were the only business carried on by the Corporation.
Section 46 of the Insurance Acts 1973 does not apply in relation to the Corporation.
In this section, “general insurance business” means business of insurance other than-
a ) life insurance business; and
b ) business in relation to contracts of insurance referred to in section 1 4. ‘.
We now have to explain this in the sense that the Minister said he would put the proposed Australian Government Insurance Corporation on the same basis as other insurance companies. Originally it was not intended that that would be the case, but in order to remove any suggestion that the Government was extending favourable treatment to the Corporation it has now been decided that the Acts relating to the Insurance Acts 1973 and the Life Insurance Act should apply in the normal commercial business. However, this will not extend to the Corporation in relation to national interest insurance. We make that point clear. I add that the State government insurance offices do not have to comply. I ask the Opposition to note that position.
-The Opposition is pleased that this amendment has been moved. I wish to speak for only a minute or two to highlight the haste with which this Bill has been drawn. This is only perhaps the tip of the iceberg. There is no point in saying again that one is not satisfied with the wording of clause 14 as it stands and it is worth saying that clause 1 5 is greatly improved by the amendment moved by the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen). But let us look for a moment at the consequences for the AGIC if clause 15 had not been so amended. The Corporation would have had an extreme advantage over insurance companies because the insurance Acts lay down certain solvency provisions. These solvency provisions require that the ratio of assets to liabilities must be at least 15 per cent of premium income. Currently the Insurance Commissioner is having a lot of administrative difficulties. The interpretation of what are assets, what are liabilities and what is premium income is making it very difficult for the insurance companies. This interpretation problem is coupled with taxation, inflation and natural disasters. The Minister, if I may say so parenthetically, has quoted a number of figures relating to payment by the Australian taxpayers for natural disasters. He did not indicate that, with respect to Darwin, for example, the insurance companies have paid and are paying claims totalling about $260m. Nothing like that amount will be met by the Australian Government. I am not suggesting that it should be but it ought to be remembered that the insurance companies are paying out $260m in respect of the damage caused by cyclone Tracy.
These are the problems facing the insurance industry at the moment. Many insurance companies, faced with over-competition and these other problems are having difficulty in meeting the solvency requirements in the way in which they are being interpreted. That is not to say that they are near the point of liquidation but merely that administratively they have this problem and they also have a liquidity problem. If the AGIC had been exempt from the two insurance Acts it would have been able to take over ailing companies for a song because other insurance companies would have found themselves distorting their statutory requirements, distorting their ratios between assets and liabilities in such a fashion that they would be in even more danger of being in breach of the solvency provisions of the Insurance Acts. They would, therefore, have been unable to take over an ailing company. The AGIC would have been able gradually to take over an increasing number of companies and so extend itself by an unfair advantage.
The Opposition commends the Government and the Minister for having accepted that amendment. Had the Bill in the first place been doing what was claimed in the second reading speech of the Minister this amendment would not have been necessary because the provision would have been in existence. It is worth pointing out again that this Bill was introduced less than a month ago. These are the kinds of problem which we have unearthed. I do believe that when the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) examines other points which we have raised- quite understandably the Special Minister of State has sidestepped quite neatly many of these problems and one does not blame him because they are complex- I would fully expect to find that the Government will make other amendments if it really means what it says when it says that the AGIC will be in fair competition with private industry.
-Ever since this Bill was first introduced into the House on Wednesday 23 April, we have been subject to a fairly constant barrage from Government supporters on the alleged failures of the existing private insurance industry. The very fact, however, that the Government failed earlier to put the insurance Acts requirements into this Bill in the form of the amendments which have now been proposed by the Minister does, in my opinion, give the House very substantial reason to doubt the intentions of the Government with regard to its role in the industry. This matter was emphasised, in particular, on the television program ‘Monday Conference’ recorded at the Wrest Point Hotel Casino at Hobart on 9 May last when the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) made various observations on the legislation and indicated his Government’s intentions and so on. On that occasion he advised the audience present that the Government would be introducing this amendment. The substantial number of insurance people present showed, in their response to the Minister, that it was a case of too huie too late and that the Minister failed to accept that this Corporation was unnecessary in an industry which I have already pointed out is already amply supplied with companies- if anything there are too many and the industry certainly does not need another one. The Minister should have been prepared to include this amendment in the original text of the Bill if he was genuine. Therefore, the point made by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) is valid.
I turn now to sub-clause 5 of the proposed new clause 15a. Here it is stated that life insurance business does not include business in relation to contracts of insurance referred to in clause 14. 1 would respectfully submit that this is a classic example of the bad drafting that is characteristic of this legislation. What should have been said, as the Opposition sees it, is that clause 14 should have contained a specific distinction between life assurance or superannuation and general insurance. The point has not been made. Nor does sub-clause 5 of new clause 15a adequately draw this very important distinction.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new clause 15a.
– I move:
At the end of Pan III, add the following clause:
ISA. (1) Subject to this Act, the Life Insurance Act 1945-1973 applies in relation to the Corporation in accordance with this section.
The Corporation shall be deemed to be registered under the Life Insurance Act 1 945- 1 973.
The Life Insurance Act 1945-1973 applies in relation to the life insurance business carried on by the Corporation as if that business were the only business carried on by the Corporation.
Section 47, and Division 8 of Part III, of the Life Insurance Act 1945-1973 do not apply in relation to the Corporation.
In this section, “life insurance business” does not include business in relation to contract of insurance referred to in section 14.’.
This is a normal corollary to the previous amendment. It is an application of the life insurance Act.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 32-by leave-taken together.
-With respect to clause 18, 1 just wish to observe that the disclosure obligations are quite inadequate. They are certainly not in accordance with those which would apply to a corporation which would be subject to a State Companies Act. One would have thought that if there were to be fair competition this clause would have been redrafted to conform with the Companies Act.
Clauses 29 to 3 1 relate to the appointment of staff. I should like to ask the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) whether the Government intends the Australian Government Insurance Corporation to take actuarial advice from the Life Insurance Commissioner. If so, would the Minister please reconsider this because the Life Insurance Commissioner would have access to a great deal of confidential information. There ought to be a limitation on the appointment of the Life Insurance Commissioner or any of his staff who may be actuaries. The Bill ought to oblige the AGIC to obtain independent actuarial advice in the same manner as insurance companies.
In relation to clause 32, I believe that the AGIC should actually pay to the Australian Government each year the amounts of the contributions, which would be required from the AGIC if it were obliged to provide for benefits to its employees pursuant to the Superannuation Act 1922-1974. The importance of this, again, is to ensure fair competition. Companies are obliged to do this and sometimes pay up to 40 per cent of their annual wages bill. So, unless the AGIC is to have an unfair cost advantage then it should be similarly obliged to pay an amount calculated in that fashion to the Australian Government.
Clauses agreed to.
Omit sub-clause (2) Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 41- by leave- taken together.
-I refer to clause 34, which deals with the financial POliCy of the Corporation. That financial policy would conform more closely to the position in the private insurance companies if clause 34 were amended to ensure that the Board pursues the policy of making a profit that is comparable with sound commercial enterprises, that is, make a reasonable return to the Australian Government on all the funds employed in the operation of the business of insurance of a commercial nature. I am leaving the national disaster area out of it. The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation has an absolute right at the moment to determine the percentage return on capital which may be made and he may make a determination which is absurdly low. That would give an unfair advantage to the Australian Government Insurance Corporation over the private companies. The importance of the term ‘capital’ is that the capital is, as has been pointed out several times by Government spokesmen, a very low figure. So if the return under clause 34 is to be calculated only on capital it would be hardly comparable with what private companies have to comply with. If, however, the return were to be calculated on the funds employed it would include not just the capital but also all future borrowings from the Treasurer. That is a fairer way as far as a comparison is concerned.
Turning to clauses 36 and 37, 1 wish to point out that again to be quite fair and again to be comparable the AGIC should pay interest on all moneys borrowed by it, irrespective of whether it borrows from the Government or otherwise, and that it should pay the interest at rates which are paid for the time being by the insurance companies. In his second reading speech the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) said that the long term bond rate would be the guide. It is worth pointing out that the Bill itself is silent on the rate of interest and it is quite conceivable that no interest need be charged.
– It is to be commensurate with the long term bond rate.
– Even if it were commensurate with the long term bond rate the AGIC would have a big advantage over the private insurance companies because the market rates are almost always substantially higher than the long term bond rate. I am sure that the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) concurs in that. Moreover, as I have mentioned, the Bill is silent and the Treasurer could really have an absolute discretion to waive the payment of interest at all. Equally the terms of repayment are unlimited. The Treasurer has an absolute discretion. The terms of repayment could be made very generous. Again one would have thought that they should have been made in commercial terms. Sub-clause (5) of clause 37 permits the Treasurer to guarantee the payment of moneys borrowed. Not even the Australian Industry Development Corporation has a provision like that in its legislation. Not even the AIDC has a guarantee from the Treasurer in respect of the payment of moneys borrowed. The mere fact that the AGIC is a government body and has the word ‘ Government ‘ in its title gives it a credit status that means that it is impossible really in the strict sense for it to be quite comparable and competitive with private insurance companies, but at least the Government could go so far as to remove the guarantee. One could make the same comments in relation to clause 38, which also provides for a blanket guarantee. It is distinctly unfair as far as competition is concerned.
A lot has been said about re-insurance. Reinsurance is strictly unnecessary for the AGIC while it has a Government guarantee behind it. Re-insurance is a very important commercial discipline in which insurance companies must indulge. It is one way of assessing their risks and making sure that they are operating on sound commercial principles. It would appear as though the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) is sceptical. He must at least concede that with a guarantee behind it the AGIC would not even have to indulge in re-insurance, as it has the whole lot. It is worth observing that clause 42 -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! The Committee has not reached clause 42 yet. The Committee is dealing with clauses 34 to 41.
-I would like to make a few comments on clauses 34 to 4 1 inclusive. I think that the substance of these clauses re-emphasises, if more emphasis is necessary at this stage, the need for the Bill to be examined in specific terms in relation to the second reading speech of the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart). Quite clearly there is a large number of inconsistencies between the two about which the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) should try to advise the House.
With regard to clause 34, which relates to a reasonable return to Australia from the operations of the Corporation, I should be grateful if the Minister would give a definition as to what the Government considers to be a reasonable return. I recall a large company in Melbourne advertising a few months ago in the newspapers for an academic. The subject of his study was what is to be regarded as a reasonable profit. I suggest, therefore, that we have an interesting case here where the Government could advise the Committee as to what it regards as being a reasonable profit or a reasonable return.
Clause 35 provides for $800,000 to be advanced to the Corporation to enable it to establish itself initially. That is a straight-out gift from Consolidated Revenue. If this Corporation is ostensibly to be operating on an equal footing with competing companies in the insurance industry I see no reason why that $800,000 should not be repayable in the shortest time possible or at least linked to the going interest rate at the time. Certainly no private company could enter into a commercial contract on such terms. Sub-clause (2) (a) of clause 35 refers to the amount to be paid to the Corporation by the Treasurer under sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 35 and other clauses. Once again we have the provision of funds from Consolidated Revenue. The relationship that should therefore exist is not only that the Corporation must make a fair return but also that the return should be not only to the policy holders in this case, but specifically to Consolidated Revenue for funds already advanced.
Clause 36 provides that interest is not payable to Australia on the capital of the Corporation. I consider this is quite unacceptable. The Opposition does not regard that as being the sort of basis upon which one can talk about commercial equality in relation to market opportunities. The clause provides that the capital of the Corporation is to be repayable to Australia at such time and in such amounts as the Minister determines. Again the principle should be that the capital must be repaid to Consolidated Revenue as soon as possible and subject to the going market rates. Comments have been made already by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) on section 37 concerning interest rates and the fact that the long term bond rate is below the going interest rates it is therefore not in the Opposition’s opinion a satisfactory basis for fixing a rate of interest for repayments.
I turn now specifically to clause 38. It provides that Austrafia is to be responsible for the payment of all moneys due by the Corporation. But nothing in this clause authorises a creditor or other person claiming against the Corporation to sue Australia in respect of his claim. I regard thai as being a worthless guarantee because under common law a guarantor is also responsible for the debts incurred by the borrower. Therefore in its present form this is not a satisfactory clause.
– All the clauses with which we are now dealing- I take it that we are now dealing with clauses 34 to 38 inclusive- relate to matters that will have an important bearing upon the total economic and financial management of this country. Unless we understand what is involved in these clauses we will not understand what is the likely trend of events in this country. In other words, we will not understand the extent to which, after the March quarter of next year, we are going to have increasing inflation and, I believe, increasing unemployment. I have taken a tremendous amount of notice of what has been said by my colleague the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee), who came to this Parliament with a pretty good reputation and who has more than lived up to it, and also by my colleague the honourable member for Bradfield, Mr David Connolly, who comes from my home State of New South Wales.
Clause 34 relates to the financial policy of the Corporation, clause 35 relates to the capital of the office, clause 36 relates to the repayments of capital, and clause 37 relates to the borrowing by the office. Then we come to a very strange clause, clause 38. 1 doubt whether anyone can sensibly interpret it. It appears to me to be dishonest. After looking at all of those clauses one has then to come to certain very definite conclusions. I wonder whether the Government realised when it was drafting these clauses and when it was drafting the whole of the Bill itself the extent to which it was diverting funds from the private sector of the economy to the public sector and, if so, whether it recognised that that was totally inconsistent with its overall policy. I also wonder whether it now realises that unemployment in the private sector has fallen by 3 per cent but overall employment in the public sector has increased by 6 per cent. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has stated that he wants to divert resources and activity from the public sector to the private sector. Those 2 concepts are totally inconsistent and if we bring down these 5 clauses then, I believe, we do irreparable damage to the Australian economy and to the concept behind the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill.
If there are any members of the Treasury here tonight, particularly, as I said earlier, those who are interested in economic affairs, they would know of the report that was released yesterday by the Australian Institute of Applied Economics and Social Welfare, located in Melbourne. I frequently think that Institute is a little out of touch with world affairs, and Australian affairs in particular. But the Institute has said that, if we are sincere in this Parliament about inflation and unemployment, then for the time being we should suspend any idea of bringing into force the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill, the Superannuation Bill, the Bill relating to the abolition of the means test in respect of pensions and one other Bill, the name of which for the moment escapes me. The Institute said that if we are sincere we should not, for heaven’s sake, introduce clauses 34 to 38 of this Bill. I believe that the Institute is right. If the Government is sincere and understands the causes of inflation and indirectly, therefore, the causes of unemployment, it will not proceed with sections 34 to 38 of this Bill.
I had hoped today that I would have been able to ask the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) how he could explain the inconsistency between the answer the Prime Minister gave to me in answer to a question I asked in the House on Monday and the report today of the Australian Institute of Applied Economics and Social Welfare in Melbourne. Previously- until yesterday at least- this Institute was admired by the Prime Minister and his immediate advisers. But if we look at this legislation against the total concept of the Australian economy, no one could ever support it; and above all, no one could support clauses 34 to 38 inclusive. I hope that what I say tonight will have some influence upon the Government. I am glad to see the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) in the chamber as I know him to be a sincere man who can be impressed by facts and by an argument that, beyond bounds, is not only persuasive but is also conclusive in terms of real proof. I think we should look at these clauses again. It is a damaging Bill. I condemned it before; I do not believe it should be passed and I hope I get the opportunity to vote against it, not only because of the Bill itself but also because of the impact it has on the Australian economy.
Clauses agreed to.
– The amendment to clause 42 is a machinery amendment following the inclusion of the other proposition under clauses 15 and 15A. Accordingly, I move:
Amendment agreed to.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)-
The question is that the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
– I wish to make a brief comment, Mr Deputy Chairman. I believe that clause 42, even as amended, provides a lesser obligation than is imposed upon companies by the uniform companies Acts and I think it ought to be pointed out as another example of unfairness between the 2 bodies.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-With regard to clause 43, we now have the situation where the Australian Government Insurance Corporation is subject to the Insurance Acts and the Life Insurance Act. I would have thoughtand I leave it with the Minister because I have not looked at it very carefully- that there is no need now for the Treasurer to have the power of approval conferred by clause 43. If it remains, it seems to me it would be possible for the Treasurer to veto the requirements which exist under the Acts which we have now adopted by virtue of the amendment to clause 15. If those were negated, the AGIC would still have a great advantage over the insurance companies and there could well be, by way of clause 43 as it now stands, a conflct between that clause and the Life Insurance Act to which it refers. It seems unnecessary, in the interests of fair competition, for the Treasurer to be able to approve of a lesser statutory reserve- a lesser ratio between assets and liabilities- than is set out in the Insurance Acts and it may well be that clause 43, as it now stands, does enable the Treasurer to do that. That would certainly need to be examined when this matter goes to the Senate.
With respect to clause 44, the Opposition believes that the Auditor-General should be required to certify whether all charges are properly made and paid for. This clause should expressly require a detailed audit and should confine the Auditor-General’s discretion to actions which accord with auditing principles generally approved by registered company auditors in Australia. Moreover, the Auditor-General must be empowered to inspect all records regarding all transactions and dealings between the AGIC and any Australian Government entity. It is in the interests of fair competition that this should be so.
In respect of clause 45, again to be sure that competition is fair, in this instance regarding the question of taxation, the Bill ought to make any activities of the AGIC incidental to insurance- I think particularly of investment- liable to taxation in the same way as incidental activities of private companies are liable to taxation. Another matter to which Senator Wheeldon has referred is fire brigade charges. I think he indicated he was happy to have the AGIC liable for those. It is no small figure; I think it is $66m. It is a very high figure at any rate. That is just something that Senator Wheeldon has indicated his support for but it is not clear on the face of the Bill.
Clause 46 is about as vexed as clause 14 but I do not believe we would benefit by having any further discussion on it at this stage. Needless to say, it is a problem for the industry and it will remain a problem as long as clause 14 is as ambiguous as it is. Clause 47 concerns the annual report of the Corporation and, as Government operations are notoriously slow in reporting, one would have thought that the same obligation ought to be placed on the Corporation as is applied to companies; that is, that it should report no later than 5 months after 30 June. We have examples of the slowness of Government bodies. The Commonwealth Brickworks is one that springs to mind. It still has not produced its 1973-74 annual report; it is still not forthcoming. One would have thought that the requirement to report would have been comparable with the obligation on private companies.
Finally, it should be said that something which is not covered by the Bill at all, but which would be appropriate for the Bill to cover, is a provision to ensure that the AGIC is placed in the same position as any insurance company requiring any Reserve Bank or Treasury requirements for overseas borrowings or overseas transactions. That may be the Minister’s intention. It will certainly be interesting to hear his reply. If that is not the case, and the Bill certainly does not provide for it, it leaves the Corporation with a substantial advantage over companies engaged in overseas borrowing or overseas business.
-I should like to join the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) in drawing attention to the speed with which this Bill has been drafted and the subsequent need to introduce the very substantial amendment concerning the application of the Corporation to the Life Insurance Act. As a result, throughout the Bill and particularly in clause 43 and subsequent clauses we find this need to relate the substance of the existing Bill to the new provisions of the amendment. No doubt this will be done by the Government in time for the Senate to examine the matter further.
Regarding the audit provisions in clause 44, 1 re-emphasise that all records need to be given the very deepest examination by the AuditorGeneral and that the reports must be tabled in this House on an annual basis. This should not be seen merely as an appendage to place in legislation of this type, but in fact be regarded as a primary responsibility of this Corporation. It is an instrument of Government and therefore Parliament has every right to receive, on an annual basis, accurate information about the business undertakings, profit and loss account and so forth of the Corporation. But the unfortunate fact is, as I think all honourable members of this chamber would be readily prepared to agree, that many Government instrumentalities are very tardy in their presentation of accurate and timely information to the Parliament. In view of the difficulties involved in this legislation one would not want to see a continuation of that situation.
Regarding clause 45, I am delighted that at least the original drafters of this Bill appreciated the need for the Corporation to be subject to the taxation laws of Australia unlike other corporations set up by this Government. It is worth mentioning in this regard that in the last 2 Budgets of the Government it has gone out of its way to make assurance less attractive to the purchasing public of Australia by changing the previous arrangements concerning taxation allowances to insurance companies. This has had a fundamental effect on the capacity of insurance companies to pay what would be regarded as decent premiums, especially in these very difficult times when returns on capital invested in most companies, are sadly depressed.
I turn now to clause 40 where I see an interesting dichotomy between its contents- namely, that Australia is liable to pay to the Corporation out of moneys lawfully available for the purpose, any amount required to discharge a liability of the Corporation, etc.- and contents of clause 38 to which I referred earlier as being little more than a worthless guarantee. I should appreciate it if the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen), himself a lawyer, could explain this matter more fully. Finally I caution the Government, in particular the Ministry, on the fact that the non-parliamentary leader of the Australian Labor Party, a gentleman by the name of Mr Robert Hawke, in May 1973 announced a cut price insurance scheme. The Australian Council of Trade Unions intended to go into partnership with the General Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd. Sadly, one year later, the Supreme Court of Victoria ordered the winding up of General Mutual because of its insolvency. We hope that the Government, if it finally gets its legislation into law, will not follow the same ways as the ACTU, especially when it is dealing with taxpayers’ money.
-I want to pass a couple of brief comments on the remarks of the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee). I think there is a little misapprehension about the provisions regarding solvency under the Insurance Act 1973 as distinct from those in the Life Insurance Act. The solvency provisions under section 24 of the Insurance Act are indeed ratios between premiums and assets and liabilities. But that does not apply under the Life Insurance Act. It is not solvency in that sense; it is rather that the Life Commissioner is provided with pretty heavy powers of surveillance. I think we get a little mixed up if we try to interpret money ratios in one Act as against the other. They just do not apply.
-I think the point that interested me most was that made in respect to clause 43 by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) when he raised the question in relation to the requirement for the maintenance of profit to the extent approved by the Treasurer. I am assured that the Treasurer would act only in accordance with the normal provisions and would not try to make any decision which would be contrary to the normal provisions. I have that from the departmental officers. I think that would be the normal practice.
Matters were raised in relation to clause 45. Yes, it is intended, and the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) has agreed, that the Corporation will pay normal taxes including, I am told, a fire brigade tax. Also, sub-clause (5) ensures that the revenue raised by the Corporation is not regarded as exempt income for the purposes of paying income tax.
I would agree that reports should be furnished expeditiously. I know that in some cases it is said that this does not happen. But I do know of many cases where it does happen. I know that the Post Office report was always very prompt. I know that honourable members are always interested in the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, but I also notice that it is not subject to the Auditor-General’s investigation. Perhaps we will have a chance to look at that matter. Certainly the Auditor-General’s reports ought to be in accordance with what would be regarded as the appropriate information that should be submitted to any parliament. I am assured that this will be the situation.
Generally, in respect of overseas borrowings, I also have the rather strong impression that the Government Corporation will be subject to the same surveillance as any other company so far as the Reserve Bank or the Commonwealth Bank is concerned. So I see no problems in these matters. However, I think generally that it is rather to be pitied that we will not have 2 policy holders, namely, the honourable member for Balaclava and his colleague the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly). It appears that they will continue to use their private enterprise facilities. That we understand, but they should not try to stop others from using these facilities.
I hope the Corporation does as well as has the New South Wales Government Insurance Office which I noticed in its life field last year had an effective earning rate of 7.38 per cent. As a lawyer I make it clear that I think we could have a protest meeting in a park of a number of people who are very disgruntled with the results of their claims. I well remember people who had fires and who have never been able to get the amount for which they were insured because it was always said: ‘Oh, we did not really intend to cover you for the amount for which you took up the insurance. We intended to cover you only for what we deem to be the replacement cost of” the value as we determine it. If you have any basic objection to that, please read the small print on the back of the policy which says that if you have any argument you have to go to arbitration and perhaps some 2 years later you might get some result out of us’. Honourable members should look at the number of people who are very upset with what is deemed to be the unfair practice of not always paying the amount stated on the policy. We are in the competition field. I give the public the assurance that we will not be adopting that technique.
I know that there is a great publicity campaign that there is something socialistic about this legislation. I am delighted to fiinish by saying that a colleague of mine, Mr Sheahan, a former
Attorney-General in New South Wales, told me that Marx House was bought by the Communist Party with a loan given by the Australian Mutual Provident Society. That just shows that in this day and age we can have this opportunity. But I do not know whether the company asked its policy holders about the loan. It is clear that this is one of the problems we face in this day and age. Here we are as a Government with a mandate to introduce this legislation, running the gauntlet of a campaign of publicity that there is something wrong with the legislation and that it is unfair. Really, what we are trying to say is that we can guarantee to all Australians who suffer damage that they will get full compensation. I commend the Bill.
Remainder of Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and an amended title; report- by leave- adopted.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen)- by leave- read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 14 May.
Clauses 1 to 7- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– I seek leave of the Committee to move amendments 1 and 2 circulated in my name.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
These are relatively simple amendments. The Opposition can see no reason why the restriction which presently exists in sub-clause (4) should be retained. If the Opposition’s amendment to sub-clause (3) to substitute the word ‘prescribed’ for the words ‘Governor-General determines’ is accepted there is all the more reason that the restriction contained in sub-clause (4) should be eliminated. That is the purpose of the amendments.
– The Government cannot accept the amendments put forward by the Opposition. The Government cannot accept the proposition to omit the words ‘GovernorGeneral determines’ and to substitute the word prescribed’ because the provision that the Governor-General determines the terms and conditions of service for statutory office holders is a common one. For example, it is to be found in legislation concerning the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Trade Practices Commission, the Law Reform Commission and the Director of the Institute of Criminology. There are good reasons why that should be so. Additionally, there is no reason to depart from the usual practice in this case. Remuneration allowances and superannuation are specifically provided for elsewhere in the Bill. I also put forward this thought for the honourable gentleman as an additional reason why the Government cannot accept the amendments: For provisions to be prescribed other than by the Governor-General introduces a rigidity that is not desirable. For those reasons the Government cannot accept the proposal.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 1 1- by leave- taken together.
– I draw the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) to clause 9 which states;
A presidential member has the same rank, status and precedence as a judge of the Superior Court of Australia.
There is no such court. It might be a little confusing.
– In responding to the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) I would say that we hope that there will be a Superior Court of Australia.
Clauses agreed to.
A full-time member shall not, except with the approval of the Minister, engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office.
– I move:
It seems to the Opposition that a member of the Tribunal is either a full time member or is not to be a full time member. I think most honourable members would agree that quite adequate remuneration is provided for in the Bill. The Government obviously intends that members of this Tribunal shall attract the rank and status of high judicial office and it seems somewhat odd to the Opposition that such a clause should have been inserted. It seems very strange that a person who is styled a full time member of the Tribunal should under any conceivable circumstances be engaged in paid employment outside the duties of his office. The conditions of the employment are not ungenerous. The work load of the Tribunal, particularly if the later amendments that the Opposition has proposed are accepted, will be very substantial, and we can see no good reason why the exception presently contained in clause 12 should remain. We therefore seek its deletion.
– The Government regrets that it cannot accept the amendment put forward by the Opposition. In this instance a degree of flexibility is thought to be desirable. The clause is drafted. The clause that the honourable gentleman would seek to omit enables the Minister to permit a full time member to engage in other paid employment. There are cases, which will spring to mind readily, in which it would be appropriate for a full time member to engage in other paid employment that would not interfere with his duties. For example, it may be appropriate for a full time member to accept a part time lectureship at an academic institution. Unless there were power to enable him to do so he would not be able to accept such employment without exposing himself to a charge of misbehaviour. That would unduly restrict the options available to the Government in recruiting the best people for the position.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Where the Minister becomes aware that the President is, or is to be, a member of the Tribunal as constituted for the purposes of a proceeding and that the President has in relation to that proceeding such an interest as is mentioned in sub-section ( 1 )-
Where the President becomes aware that a member is, or is to be, a member of the Tribunal as constituted for the purposes of a proceeding and that the member has in relation to that proceeding such an interest as is mentioned in sub-section (3)-
– I move:
Omit sub-clauses ( 1) to (3), inclusive, substitute the following sub-clauses:
1 ) Where a member is , or is to be, a member of the Tribunal as constituted for the purposes of a proceeding and he has or acquires any interest, pecuniary or otherwise, that could conflict with the proper performance of his functions in relation to that proceeding-
he shall disclose the interest to the parties to the proceeding; and
except with the consent of all the parties to the proceeding, he shall not take pan in the proceeding or exercise any powers in relation to the review by the Tribunal of the decision to which the proceeding relates.’
Omit sub-clause (5).
The purpose of these amendments is to alter the provisions of clause 15 which deals with the case where a member of the Tribunal has a pecuniary or other interest in a matter before the Tribunal. As the clause stands if the President has such an interest the responsible Minister may direct him not to sit. On further consideration- certainly on my reaction to seeing the clause for the first time- I thought it inappropriate for such a power to be vested in the Minister. When the member concerned is a member other than the President, the President can direct him not to sit. The effect of the amendments will be that a member who has such an interest in a proceeding may not sit unless he discloses that interest to the parties and all the parties agree to his sitting. It does not affect the power of the President to direct another member not to sit. We would suggest that these amendments are more in accord- I am sure that the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) would agree- with established practice and the established system. I think it actually is consistent with a proposed amendment that he was thinking of putting forward.
-The Opposition is very pleased that the Government has moved the amendment. It is in substantially similar terms to an amendment to this clause which has been already circulated by the Opposition. We are very pleased that the Government has adopted the Opposition’s approach to this clause which is that where conflicts of interest could arise, except with the consent of all parties to the proceeding, the President or such other member shall not take part in the proceedings and shall not exercise any powers relating to the review of the decision in question in the proceedings. Quite clearly, as the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) was kind enough to acknowledge in moving the amendment, the discretion given to the Minister is quite wide. This present Government is extremely concerned about disclosure of interest where possible conflicts of pecuniary interests might arise and it is entirely consistent with its approach in those matters that there be stricter rules regarding disclosure. We are very pleased to support the Attorney-General’s amendment which takes up, in almost precise terms, the amendment already brought down by the Opposition.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 25- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
An enactment may provide that applications may be made to the Tribunal-
– I move: Before sub-clause ( 1 ), insert the following subclauses: (1a) Subject to sub-section (1b) an application may be made to the Tribunal for the review of a decision made by a person in exercise of a power conferred on that person by a provision specified in Parts I to VI of the Schedule to this Act. ( 1 b) The review by the Tribunal of a decision shall be subject to the limitations or extensions (if any) contained in the Schedule and set opposite the provisions by which the power to exercise that decision is conferred. (lc) The right to apply to the Tribunal for the review of a decision made by a person in exercise of a power conferred by a provision specified in Parts I, II, IV and V of the Schedule shall be in substitution for any right of appeal against or review of that decision whether by a court or other body given by that provision or by the enactment of which that provision forms part. (Id) Nothing in sub-sections (1a), (Ib) and (lc) shall affect any right of appeal or review which any person has at the date of commencement of this Act in respect of a decision referred to in sub-section ( 1 a).
This is certainly the most important amendment to be moved by the Opposition to this Bill in its Committee stage. The Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) and honourable members will recall that in the course of the second reading debate on this Bill the Opposition was extremely critical of the fact that, after this issue had been given such exhaustive examination by such capable people over such a long period, a tribunal had been established but no jurisdiction had been given to that tribunal. This fact extremely disappointed the Opposition.
I will read to the Committee the opening words of the final report of the Committee on Administrative Discretion, that is, the final report of the Bland Committee, dated October 1973 and addressed to the precedessor of the present Attorney-General. The opening sentence reads:
Your predecessor -
The report refers there to the Attorney-General in the previous Liberal-Country Party Government: appointed us to examine existing administrative discretions under Commonwealth statutes and regulations and to advise as to those in respect of which a review on the merits should be provided.
In other words, the substance of this report was detailed recommendations as to the areas where administrative review on the merits ought to exist.
It has been a consistent disappointment to the Opposition that, whilst we welcome the establishment of the tribunal and we welcome the first legislative step arising out of the process that was initiated in 1968, jurisdiction has not been given to it. We do not want the tribunal to be an empty shell. A long enough time has elapsed and sufficient examination of this issue has been undertaken by persons of undoubted expertise and competence. I remind the Committee that the need for immediate machinery for the review of administrative decisions and discretions is given added point by the employment figures that were made public today. Those figures indicate that employment in the public sector- in other words, employment in the Public Servicerose by 75 000 in the year to 31 March, while in the private sector employment fell by 1 39 900.
What we have is a situation where the need is for an effective system of review, not just the bones as the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) referred to it in the second reading debate, not just the bare structure, but the flesh and the substance. We need this; and we need it very badly. There has been sufficient time and attention given to the subject. Therefore, the Opposition has seen fit to move in the terms of my amendment to clause 26.
I remind the Committee that clause 26 refers to a number of schedules which are at the back of the document comprising the Opposition’s amendments. These schedules contain the areas where there ought to be appeal from decisions, the areas of review, and in areas where it is appropriate detail the manner in which the tribunal should be constituted to hear the various appeals referred to in the schedules. We think that this amendment will give to the tribunal the substance and the flesh which is so sadly lacking at present.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment, not because it disagrees with the general expression of intent being put forward by the Opposition but because what the amendment proposes just is not practicable at this time. Indeed, if I were tempted to be unkind- and I am trying hard to resist the temptation -
– Far be it!
-Thank you. If one did yield to the temptation one would describe the sense of opportunism in the attitude of the Opposition. One welcomes the fact that the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) is in the chamber, because he was very closely and intimately associated with some of these proposals when he was the Solicitor-General and, at that time, sat I think on the Kerr Committee report. So, one knows, recognises and applauds his longstanding interest in and his dedication to this subject of administrative law reform. But, at the same time, one must draw attention also to the fact that the honourable gentlemen who sit opposite did not begin this legislation. Even though they now try to claim it as their own in one way, it is not. I put forward the view, at the risk of being perhaps slightly abrasive, that if there had not been a change of government in December 1972 this legislation would not be before this Committee.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that the thoughts put forward by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) are basically correct. The Bill is a framework. It has to be a framework at this stage. May I put this to him: The purpose of his amendment is to give the tribunal immediate jurisdiction in respect of the matters which are specified in the schedule to be proposed by a subsequent amendment. We must oppose his amendment for certain reasons. First, perhaps I can put it this way: The schedule as drafted is in our view defective. It would not be effective to confer jurisdiction on the tribunal in many cases because of drafting inadequacies. That remark perhaps takes me to the need that was adverted to in a debate last week- the need to give parliamentary drafting assistance to all back bench members of this Parliament. That is something which the Government has in mind. It is our view that there are deficiencies in the drafting at this stage with respect to references to legislation that has been repealed and alterations of the law since the report of the Bland Committee. This illustrates the difficulty of proceeding except on a case by case basis enacting provisions in each case appropriate to the legislation in question.
Secondly, it was made clear in the second reading speech that the intention of the Government was to proceed in this way: A detailed examination of legislative action necessary to give effect to the recommendations of the Bland Committee commenced perhaps 3 weeks or 4 weeks ago, and is well advanced. It does involve close, detailed discussions with a large number of Government departments. As the Bland Committee report made us aware, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of administrative discretions are involved. As I said, this work is well advanced. Consideration is being given by the Government to proposed amendments which will give effect to the spirit, the intent, that is sought to be achieved at this stage by the Opposition’s amendment. I would hope- indeed, I trust that my departmental officers are listening as I say this-that those negotiations are sufficiently finalised by the time that this Bill is transmitted to the Senate so that we can introduce them there; but they are certainly not in final form at this stage. On that basis, there would be something concrete to include in the law.
Let me give this assurance to the honourable member for Bennelong, as he and I did discuss the situation in the corridor before the sitting was suspended this evening, and I will not repeat much of what I said: A great deal has been done; assurances were given; and I give the honourable member the assurance which is probably implicit in what I have already said.
-Clause 26 is an extraordinary provision to be found in legislation of this kind which is intended to achieve a measure of administrative justice for citizens whose interests are affected by decisions of pubUc servants of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is more so in the context of legislation which was introduced by the Government with a fanfare of publicity, heralding a great move forward in the field of administrative justice by the establishment of this Tribunal. As the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) has pointed out, the Tribunal has no jurisdiction at the present time. The Bill gives the Tribunal no teeth with which to deal with administrative decisions on behalf of citizens, let along anything to bite upon. Can honourable members imagine a court of law with litigants standing, maybe pounding, at the door, and a judge and a tipstaff sitting inside the court but powerless to act? That is what we have here. I put it to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) that really such a proposition is beyond legal credulity. It does not make common sense to the ordinary citizen and those people who wish to challenge the decisions of public servants who are affecting their personal interests.
I consider that the range of administrative decisions capable of review should be expressed in the legislation itself. It should not be left to the whim of a public servant or a Minister to decide which administrative decisions are to be reviewed. It is wrong to leave to the person who makes a decision affecting the interests of a citizen, the determination of whether the decision of the public servant should be subject to reviewshould be subject to challenge. With all the goodwill in the world, the tendency, if not the inclination of the public servant concerned, will be to keep his decision free from challenge. For the benefit of the Committee, I should Uke to quote a passage from a book which I was very interested to read some years ago on this question of administrative justice. The book is written by Professor H. W. R. Wade, an academic who is well known for his study of this whole field of administrative law. The professor said at page 129 of his book:
Administrative justice is the friend, not the enemy, of good administration. No class of people stands to benefit more in the long run from just administration than the administrators themselves, because the state is permeated from top to bottom with the truth that government depends upon the approval of the governed. Fair play in administration will enlist the citizen’s sympathies and will enormously reduce the friction with which the machinery of government works. All good administrators should take care that the machinery is properly tended and that the lubricant of justice is supplied in the right quantity at the right points.
I should like the Attorney-General and those administrators who are responsible to him and who must act upon this legislation to take heed of those words because I feel sure that they will gain great advantage if they were to be open in their administration of Government decisions and allow an open review of all their decisions. Australia. like the United Kingdom and the United States of America, has been brought up with a history of obedience and respect for the rule of the law, and a healthy dislike of arbitrary power. But legislation such as this which seeks to establish a structure for achieving administrative justice by putting a brake on arbitrary power, is itself subject to arbitrary power. As I have said, the person whose decision ought to be reviewed has the uncontrolled power to decide whether or not it shall be reviewed. That, I would have thought, it the ultimate of arbitrary power. I would have thought also that the intention behind this legislation is to put a brake upon the arbitrary power of that kind. Such a situation is the very denial of administrative justice.
I think it really is carping on the part of the Attorney-General to criticise the Opposition when it seeks to give to the Tribunal jurisdiction to act on behalf of citizens, rather than to adopt the mantle of the benevolent Minister or the benevolent public servant. We have all heard that said so often before. We would have expected of the Attorney-General in view of what he has said publicly and in this Parliament a Tribunal created with jurisdiction. For my pan, I would have preferred that this legislation should give to citizens affected by administrative decisions, a general right to have those decisions reviewed by a properly constituted Tribunal. The people would then know with certainty what their legal rights are. One of the hallmarks of good law is certainty in the law. What the Opposition is seeking to achieve by the amendment put forward, is a large step towards administrative justice by achieving certainty, at least at this moment, by giving to the Tribunal a jurisdiction which is clear, which is set out in the schedule and which is not subject to a desision at some later time by the public servants whose decisions ought to be capable of being reviewed.
-The Opposition will accept the assurances given by the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) regarding progress with the erection of a jurisdiction for this legislation. In so doing, I should like the Attorney-General to understand that the Opposition takes a very serious view of this matter. The fact that we will not divide the Committee on our amendment to clause 26 should in no way be construed by the Government as a successful fob off of the subject. We will look very carefully at progress when this legislation reaches another place.
– I move:
Omit sub-clause (2 ).
The amendment seeks to eliminate sub-clause (2) of clause 26. The Opposition is concerned that under this sub-clause, it will be possible to make regulations which are quite inconsistent with the Act or an ordinance under which those regulations are made. I appreciate the reason why this sub-clause may have been inserted, but that does not preclude the Opposition being critical, I think with good reason, of a process whereby regulations under an Act could be inconsistent with the express terms of the Act or an ordinance. I think that in general circumstances the Attorney-General would agree that it is undesirable to have a situation where regulations made under an Act or ordinance can be inconsistent with the express terms of the Act or the ordinance under which those regulations are made.
– Again the Government has to oppose the amendment put forward by the Opposition largely for reasons which I have already given, but also because sub-clause (2) which the Opposition proposes to omit, authorises the making of regulations under other enactments to confer jurisdiction on the Tribunal. This method of proceeding is considered by the Government to be more expeditious than bringing amending legislation before the Parliament. Parliament, through the power of disallowance, retains ultimate control. The omission of sub-clause (2) is opposed.
I wish to take this opportunity to say that the Government puts this overall measure forward as a principal piece of legislation to which it attaches enormous importance. I refer again to the remarks of the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) who said that when this legislation becomes law, together with the ombudsman legislation, Australia can stand proud in the nations of the world as having perhaps the most enlightened, advanced and progressive form of administrative law in the world. We do not intend to sit on it.
– I move:
Omit sub-clause (6), substitute the following sub-clause:
Where an enactment provides for applications to the Tribunal-
that enactment, or another enactment having effect under that enactment, may also include a provision that a non-presidential member shall not exercise, or participate in the exercise of, the powers of the Tribunal m relation to such applications unless he was appointed as a non-presidential member in accordance with a procedure, or has special qualifications, specified in the provision, and sub-section 21(1) has effect subject to any provision so included; and
that enactment, or another enactment having effect under that enactment, may also include provisions adding to, excluding or modifying the operation of any of the provisions of sections 22, 23, 27, 29, 32, 33 and 35 or of sub-section 43(1) or (2) in relation to such applications, and those sections and sub-sections have effect subject to any provisions so included. ‘.
I think that the amendment is self-explanatory but perhaps I should give these facts to the Committee: Following the introduction of the Health Insurance Bill 1975 there became a need to amend clause 26 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill. The Health Insurance Bill establishes an Optometrical Services Review Tribunal- one of the many which operate at the moment and to which it is sought to bring some kind of system. The non-presidential members of that tribunal are to be optometrists, one of them to be appointed after the Minister has consulted with the professional body representing optometrists in Australia.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) said that the question of appeals under the provisions of the Health Insurance Bill being transferred to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal would be taken up when the tribunal commenced to operate. As the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bill is now drafted there could be no legislative basis for consulting a tribunal along the lines of the Optometrical Services Review Tribunal under the present Health Insurance Bill. There may also be other appeal tribunals existing at the present time or to be set up in the future where it is desirable to provide by legislation that professional or other organisations should be consulted in the appointment of the members of the tribunal or that the members of the tribunal should have particular qualifications. To enable the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to be constituted in such a way under particular legislation an amendment to clause 26 of the Bill is thought to be desirable. The present amendment is intended to make provision for such a case.
-The Opposition is not in a position to indicate total support for this amendment. As the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) will be aware, the amendment was circulated and a copy furnished to the Opposition only immediately before the resumption of this Committee debate. The Opposition is, frankly, not entirely sure as to the operation of paragraph (b). We are not very happy with certain aspects of it and for that reason we cannot accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 26, as amended, agreed to.
– I move:
This amendment is consequential on the Opposition’s amendments to clause 26 and, having said that, I need not delay the Committee any longer.
Clause agreed to.
If a Minister certifies, by writing signed by him, that the disclosure of the contents of a statement prepared in accordance with sub-section ( 1 ) would be contrary to the public interest-
– I move:
These amendments relate to procedures under clause 28. The first amendment seeks to delete the words ‘a Minister’ and to substitute the words ‘the Attorney-General’. I think that honourable members would agree that the power conferred by sub-clause (2) of clause 28 is an extremely wide power. The use of this power would enable a Minister and a department to escape the scrutiny of the Tribunal. It would deny access to the Tribunal to a person who is dissatisfied with an administrative decision. Therefore the Opposition takes the view that if by ministerial fiat access to that Tribunal is to be denied, the responsibility for making that decision should reside with the principal law officer of the Crown and the Government’s legal adviser and should not be given to the individual Minister in question. Honourable members can understand that any Minister could be in a situation where for very understandable reasons he may not wish a decision which has been made by him in an extremely sensitive area to be the subject of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It is therefore desirable that the person who gives the authoritative certificate should be the Attorney-General, he being the person who, as far as it is possible to have a completely impartial ministerial mind on the subject, could bring such an impartial mind to bear.
The second amendment seeks to delete paragraph (c) of sub-clause (2). The wording of this paragraph is extremely wide. It says:
What the clause seeks to say is that if a Ministerwe hope the Attorney-General- certifies that disclosure of the contents of a statement should not be made for any reason specified in that certificate then the disclosure will not be made. We think that this is an extraordinarily wide power. We do not object to the criteria laid down in paragraphs (a) and (b) and we may not object to some other criteria that the Government might at this stage or at some future stage like to add. But simply to give a blanket authority to the Minister to certify that a document is not to be disclosed and that is the end of the matter is giving too much discretion to a Minister. After all, this Bill is designed to give to citizens some redress against mistakes in administrative discretions. We think it is an extraordinary contradiction to give a fairly uncontrolled discretion in this area. We therefore seek the deletion of paragraph (c).
-To regularise the proceedings I think leave should be granted to take the 2 amendments together. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– May I just say in reply to the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), who has just moved the 2 amendments, that one cannot help but thank him for the inherent compliment that goes to the objectivity of the mind of an Attorney-General. I wish it were always so. One does one ‘s best. But I suggest to him that it is really something for which all Ministers aim. It is not merely confined to Attorneys-General. There is a need for ministerial responsibility to be brought to bear in subjects of this sort and there is also a need for flexibility. As we all know, from time to time Ministers change portfolios. There are the administrative arrangements orders. Greater flexibility comes from the use of the words ‘a Minister’ than from ‘the Attorney-General’. It is for that reason that clause 28 provides for a Minister to give a certificate that certain information should not be given to a person. The appropriate Minister to give this certificate in this particular case would be the Minister administering the department concerned and not the AttorneyGeneral.
As to the second aspect may I put these thoughts to the honourable member: His amendment would omit a paragraph that would empower a Minister to give a certificate withholding a statement of findings and reasons for a decision on the ground that the disclosure of the statement would be contrary to the public interest for a reason specified by the Minister. It would be proper for such a certificate to be given, for example, where the statement of findings and reasons contains material relating to the personal affairs of some person other than the applicant in question. The Bill does not attempt to set out an exhaustive statement of the circumstances in which such a certificate might be given, for the reason that it is difficult to foresee all the circumstances that may arise. However, the giving of such a certificate does not deny access by the Tribunal to the statement of findings and reasons.
Moreover if one looks at clause 36, sub-clause (3) of the Bill one finds that there is power there for the Tribunal to overrule a decision by a Minister that information should be withheld from an appellant unless the information relates to defence, national security, international relations or Cabinet proceedings. For those reasons the provision seems to us to be consistent with the ordinary law relating to Crown privilege in judicial proceedings.
Clause agreed to.
-Order! It being after 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1974, 1 shall report progress.
Vietnam Refugees -Effects of Mining on Birdlife-Industries Assistance Commission: Superphosphate Inquiry
-I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– The fact that I am raising the question of refugees from Vietnam in the adjournment debate tonight is brought about only by the shallow device introduced by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) which prevented the Opposition bringing forward this matter earlier during this sitting of the House. This device prevented us debating matters like this during the currency of the debate on the Family Law Bill.
Probably for the next 50 years, or even longer, Vietnam will remain as a sad memory in the minds of thousands of Australians. I have no intention of debating the history of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam- that has all been done before- and I have no intention of seeking recriminations or apportioning blame for the tragic events that have taken place there. But I am seriously concerned that the epilogue of events in Indo-China will be as sullied as much of its all too conveniently forgettable past. The point I wish to make, and the feeling the Opposition wishes to convey, is that the present
Government, throughout the whole period prior to and immediately following the fall of Saigon, has acted with shameful indifference to the plight of thousands of South Vietnamese. Many of these people were fearful of losing their lives. Most were looking to Australia, as a nation of long established compassion, to provide the sanctuary it has so often given to other oppressed peoples, regardless of political persuasion. That is what those people thought.
What appears to be happening is that the present Government evaluates the extent of its humanitarian assistance by first determining political alignment. There was no reluctance to accept refugees from Chile on humanitarian grounds. In fact since 1973, over 2000 have entered the country. But what of the thousands of South Vietnamese, many of whom have considerable skills and professional status, who have been confronted with what one correspondent described as ‘the worst kind of bureaucratic insensitivity’? Surely it is not acceptable to the Australian people that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) should attempt to absolve himself from the moral responsibility of assistance to these people by passing the buck onto a United Nations organisation.
I believe the only explanation for the Government’s inordinate mismanagement of this matter is that it is entirely dominated by a fear of upsetting its so-called friends in Hanoi. I am not disputing the value that can be gained from diplomatic and commercial links with North Vietnam or doubting the political reality of the current status quo. But I do question the desirability of such an association if it begins to exert a disproportionate influence over the decision making of the Australian Government. The Prime Minister, by his actions, has shown negligible concern for the people of South Vietnam. He has procrastinated, hedged, skilfully avoided and at other times, blatantly pontificatedbut all towards the same end. If he had been honest he would have admitted that he had no interest or intention of offering assistance to the people of South Vietnam because they were opponents of Hanoi. The extent of Australia ‘s compassion was compromised by what can be seen only as political expediency.
I do not believe mere accusations are sufficient or even necessary in this case. Let the facts speak for themselves, as the Prime Minister so often tells us. Firstly, why was there a gap of almost 3 weeks before the Government announced its criteria of entry for South Vietnamese refugees? Guidelines were submitted by the Department of Foreign Affairs on 7 April. It was 20 April before the Prime Minister announced the categories of persons that would be accepted. The fact that these categories were far more rigid than normal entry requirements speaks for itself. Not only did the decision come too late; when it was announced, it was so cruelly restrictive that it was of negligible impact anyway.
The Government ignored both the recommendations of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the pleas from South Vietnamese already living there. On 24 April, South Vietnamese students petitioned the Government to allow in their immediate families. But again there was no response. The Government was simply playing a deceitful charade. It was patently obvious that it did not want to accept refugees from South Vietnam and yet it persisted with this shallow pretence. For example, on the same day- 24 AprilEmbassy staff in Saigon was scaled down, making thorough processing of applications virtually impossible. Arguments from Government Ministers claiming that other South East Asian countries were not doing anything either must be one of the most feeble excuses ever to come from a singularly unimaginative Administration. It is Australia ‘s reputation and long standing history as a nation of unbiased humanitarianism that is in question. This Government appears bent on irrevocably shattering this tradition to the shame of not only this Parliament, but also of generations yet to live in its ignominious shadow.
Why was it that after only a token load of 90 refugees had been evacuated from Saigon the Australian Embassy closed its doors and left so many others behind, 250 of which were qualified to come? While the Prime Minister was indulging himself over the glories of one lost civilization in the lofty seclusion of Peru, living human beings were being denied the basic right of survival. The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison), announced on 28 April that there would be no more Royal Australian Air Force flights out of Saigon because of, to use his words, ‘unacceptable danger’. I remind the House that at that same time, 3 airlines were still operating commercial flights out of Saigon, and the United States Air Force was continuing its own airlift. In addition, Captain David Gray of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots had said that he was prepared to make another flight, and on 29 April, 30 Qantas pilots made similar offers. Further, it was reported on the same day that the RAAF pilot who had made the last flight out said that there had been, in his words, ‘no danger in flying out of Saigon’
What was the Government doing while all this was going on? Firstly, the Acting Foreign Minister claimed that it was the South Vietnamese Government that was at fault for not issuing exit visas. But this is of no significance at all when one considers that, firstly, out of 5200 sponsored applications only 500 had been approved anyway, and secondly, that the U.S. had been airlifting numbers of people without this exit visa requirement. There are statutory declarations available to say no exit visas were needed. To talk of ‘legality ‘ in this situation is farcical. Whatever semblance of law there is in a nation overrun and terrorised certainly does not stretch to urgent refugee requirements. The object surely should have been to offer those who could realistically justify it, an opportunity to take refuge in Australia- not a massive population transplant, but simply a concerned response to a genuine plea for assistance. These people feared for their lives. One can understand why when one sees the statutory declarations about people hobbling into cities with their hamstrings cut, with their achilles tendons cut and with their fingernails torn out by the advancing communist troops.
On the 7th of this month, in another example of the all too familiar policy acrobatics we have come to expect from the present Government, the Prime Minister announced that Australia would accept an ‘unspecified number of Vietnamese refugees who have found their way out of South Vietnam’. But there was another rider. Other countries had to accept them as well. Surely this is just another unworthy facade. Relying on uncertainty and effectively discharging Australia’s own responsibilities, the Prime Minister has again shown his total disinterest in the plight of these people. No number is given; no quota has been imposed. The response of Prime Minister Lee of Singapore to Australia’s attitude is well known and struck a responsive chord. We can and should do more. In defiance of the Government’s own policies, families are being separated and fiancees are not being allowed to enter Australia.
The question is this: How genuine and how honest have been the Australian Government’s attempts to assist the refugees of South Vietnam? I would say that they have not been honest at all. Press reports last weekend show that even Mr Morrison’s magnanimous offer to ‘give every possible assistance’ to those refugees who reach the Philippines or Thailand has been ignored. Further, what of the report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ of 8 May that the head of the United States Interagency Task Force on Refugees told a United States State Department Press conference that Australia would be taking fewer than 100 refugees. The Prime Minister’s callous disregard for the people of South Vietnam is not hard to substantiate. On 13 May he said that many thousands of South Vietnamese would want to return home- meaning that he would rather they returned home- while only on Monday of this week he claimed that Australians would probably feel resentful towards Vietnamese refugees. What a cheap statement that was. It is also in direct contradiction of the statement of his Special Adviser on Community Relations who said on 10 May that Australians would welcome 1500 South Vietnamese refugees.
In the last few weeks, the indifference of the Austraiian Government to humanitarian need has cost Australia a well respected reputation as a nation of unprejudiced compassion. The Opposition has consistently taken a humanitarian line. We have not sought to ‘fight over the bodies’. We have given the Government every opportunity to demonstrate effective responses to this tragic human situation. We have not sought to play politics about refugees. We believed that human considerations took precedence over mere party political difference. We have said that significant numbers of refugees should be allowed to come to Australia and we supported any moves to bring this situation about. Not only have we been disappointed. Many hundreds of people of Vietnamese origin, within Australia and outside have been cruelly, callously, capriciously cast aside by this Government, most particularly by this Prime Minister. The blame, is his- the shame is Australia’s.
-I wish to raise a matter of considerable concern to myself and many conservationists. I initially had the matter drawn to my attention by reading an official journal of a petroleum company. The article concerned highlighted the problems the industry faced with alkali lakes and cyanide vats which the goldmining industry utilises when mining. The petroleum industry has also apparently a problem with mud pits used in oil and gas drilling operations to contain the muds which are used for cooling, clearing and lubricating the drill. The entrapment of wildlife therein appears to be a problem. Species of waterbirds, herons, coots and ducks are affected. During the drilling of wells the cooling and cutting muds are stored in a pond, a mud pit, which normally has on its surface a thin film of water. At night high flying water birds searching for a new place on which to land and live sight the pond and come in to land. The mud quickly destroys them. The same is alleged to happen with cyanide vats and alkali lakes. Waterbirds landing on soda lakes get fast drying mud stuck on their legs and die agonising deaths from starvation as they are no longer able to walk because of the enormous mud balls on their legs.
In the case of the drilling industry, chemical additives in the drilling mud, depending on the rock type being drilled, are sometimes toxic and thus more dangerous. In fairness to the industry, the mud pit is usually kept as small as possible and is near to the rigs where lights and noise help to keep the birds away. But during shutdown periods the problem becomes acute. The company’s representative has said that the number of animals and reptiles which are killed daily on the roads must amount to thousands. By comparison the number killed by the industry would be minimal. The numbers which perish because of pastoral industry conduct is also used as a defence. It is these comparisons by the industry which alarm me. The attitude taken, ‘That it is good enough for someone else so it is good enough for us’, could be an interpretation put on that attitude. It is not sufficient to say that the industry is aware of the problem and thus no action is required by way of regulation. Industry generally has shown that there is a need for regulation in pollution, noise and safety or any other aspect. Why should not this principle be applied in regard to this particular aspect of conservation where there is obviously a need for general conservation control?
It is no good saying, ‘Leave it to the industry’, because there will always be a firm which will ignore even the most elementary precautions. One needs control for water birds. States insist on duck shooting seasons and so on. Surely other controls in the industry area are necessary. I ask the Minister responsible for this matter to look at the problem with a view to getting agreement with State bodies on the matter.
Another matter in this area which was highlighted by the petroleum industry’s reference to the number of animals killed on the roads, and which has alarmed me, has been the West Australian State authorities’ consistent refusal to install a system of warning signs for kangaroos and other indigenous animals similar to that adopted in South Australia, New South Wales and other States. The argument has been put forward that it is not possible to install them in Western Australia because it is felt that where they are not installed action could be taken against the State authorities for damage caused because the signs did not have universal appUcation; and motorists should beware.
I have personally seen up to 13 cars at one service station on the Nullarbor waiting for repair after hitting kangaroos during the night. I think it is an appalling situation that something which has been established in other States and is working quite well cannot be installed in Western Australia. Warning signs should be adopted on a universal basis so that the motorist is regulated by the same signs in aU States. Perhaps the Minister concerned when talking to the States in relation to the petroleum companies and the regulation of wildlife could raise this matter also.
-I wish to refer to an incident that occurred this week which is something like amateurs going in for a game and then suddenly discovering that they are up against professionals. They then go off screaming to get the rules changed. I refer to the fact that Mrs Rolfe has found it necessary to withdraw from the superphosphate inquiry being conducted by the Industries Assistance Commission. This is the most absurd situation that could have developed. Mrs Rolfe is the one person on the inquiry who has an in-depth knowledge of farming, of the problems associated with agriculture. Now the farmers have forced her off the inquiry because she is fundamentally a very honest woman, and a woman with great respect for the Industries Assistance Commission. She has voluntarily withdrawn from the inquiry in order that the Industries Assistance Commission’s reputation will be protected. The losers in this situation are the farmers, the people whose case is being represented on the Industries Assistance Commission. There can be no question about that because Mrs Rolfe ‘s record is well known to them.
Today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ contains innuendoes which I believe that the Aus.tralian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council needs to answer if it is to protect its reputation. I will read part of the article contained in the ‘Australian Financial Review’. It states:
Within some rural organisations there is considerable resentment of the position Mrs Rolfe has reached both in the IAC and as a member with special qualifications on the Board of the Australian Wool Corporation.
Her appointment to the Board was strongly opposed by the woolgrowers’ parliament- the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
The article went on to say:
The Australian Financial Review was told yesterday by usually reliable sources that the AWGC lobbied at least one other rural organisation pressing for a statement to be issued calling for Mrs Rolfe ‘s removal from the phosphate inquiry.
The article continued:
It is known that a representative of the AWGC, Mr D. Trebeck, discussed Mrs Rolfe ‘s statement with Mr Anthony ‘s office on Monday morning.
Further, the article said that a spokesman for the Australian Farmers Federation said:
The way the matter turned out it could be the best result that under the circumstances could be hoped for . . .
The article suggests that in addition to forcing Mrs Rolfe off the inquiry because of a perfectly sensible statement that she made to the Agricultural Bureau at Bookham there is also a political innuendo. Surely the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council ought to regard it as imperative to dissociate themselves from that innuendo if in fact it is untrue. Mrs Rolfe fundamentally said that it is a peculiar state of affairs that in Australia which has soils that are completely different from those in Europe we have a farming system which is uniquely European and that we are forced, as it were, in our environment to take the species and animal products that have been developed in Europe.
She argued both to the Agricultural Bureau and on the radio: Would it not be more sensible to look for species which are uniquely suitable to the Australian environment? The farming organisations of Australia ganged up against her on that point of view. A letter was written by Mr Don Eckersley of Western Australia to Mr Rattigan suggesting that Mrs Rolfe had been somewhat indiscreet in this episode. The fact is that Mrs Rolfe is an expert and was invited by the Agricultural Bureau to address its members. She put a point of view which can only be regarded as a thought provoker. Surely if the farming organisations were properly equipped they could have answered Mrs Rolfe instead of racing off to have her removed from the IAC. This episode has demonstrated that the farming organisations are not equipped yet to put an objective argument. The people they have employed apparently have been used on this occasion to lobby to avoid the confrontation that the objective argument suggests ought to take place. Before this incident there were discussions and complaints from farm organisations that Mrs Rolfe had been too hard in her questioning on the Industries Assistance Commission. The whole point of the operation is to get to the facts and, on this occasion, it was to provide a fundamentally objective argument in regard to the superphosphate bounty. This is so in any inquiry which the IAC might happen to take up. We find that if the questioning gets too hard for the farm organisations they race off to have the rules changed. The amateurs when confronted with the professionals are not prepared to continue the game. They want the rules to be changed.
The whole situation is of fundamental importance in the political scene in which we live now. Farm organisations must be more objective in the presentation of their cases. They must recognise that the facts which underlie Government policy must be carefully examined. Because this process was apparently being undertaken in the IAC the farm organisations raced off to have the rules changed. This situation will have to be faced up to by the farm organisations. Thenspecial lobbying group in this Parliament, the Australian Country Party, has changed its name. It now calls itself the National Country Party of Australia. It made a great show of the fact that it changed its name to the National Country Party. We ask ourselves why it did that. It did so, as the Party says, because it wanted to broaden its base. It cannot have it both ways. It cannot have a narrow base which is uniquely farm orientated. It cannot speak only for the farmers in this place and, at the same time, change its name to broaden its base and take in the interests of other sections of the community.
The National Country Party cannot have it both ways. In this Parliament it cannot be the unique and specialised spokesman for the farm communities and, at the same time, represent other sectors of the community. The fact is that the National Country Party has recognised in its dying gasps that in order to survive it has to broaden its base. In other words, it has ceased to be the unique and special pleader for agriculture in this place.
– The honourable member has never said a truer word.
– That is a great National Country Party interjector this time. The only way in which this situation can be counteracted is for the farm groups to provide a more rational and objective approach to government than they have been able to do in the past. Here we have a very significant encounter in the Industies Assistance Commission. What do the farm groups do? They take the scalp of the one person on the inquiry who has an in depth knowledge of farming and who on her record might have been expected to be completely sympathetic with the special position of the farmers. In fact, on her record she has pleaded for the farmers from a uniquely special interest position. I know Mrs Rolfe personally. I know her record. She deserves the honours which this Government has bestowed upon her. She is a woman who will discharge those honours with great credit to herself and to the people she represents. It is a tragedy of a major order against the farm community which the farm community, in its ignorance, has brought upon itself. I believe that this House ought to take special note of the situation which has developed.
We have in Mrs Rolfe a person of professional experience in agriculture. Because she is honest, because she puts a point of view and because she has gone to the farm community and said: Think, again; think very carefully; there are arguments you must answer’, the farm community instead of responding to the challenge calls for her scalp. I believe it would have been a grave injustice to Mrs Rolfe, to the farm community and to the whole purpose of finding objectivity in these matters to let this situation go unnoticed.
-In December 1972 and again in May last the Australian people elected an Australian Labor Parry Government which was, in its own words, to be a government of compassion. However, its behaviour over the question of the Vietnamese refugees could only lead even a biased observer such as myself to conclude that the Australian people have been sadly misled in their expectations regarding the policies of this so-called Government of compassion. Furthermore, it is very clear from the written statements of people Uke the present Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) when in Opposition that they are able to polish their haloes and appear to the world as compassionate people who understand the problems of others. But when faced with the so-called problems of State and the real political situations confronting Australia we find a very interesting dichotomy in the approach which they have adopted.
I shall mention in particular a reference which is contained in a book entitled ‘Australia and the Non- White Migrant’ which was edited by Kenneth Rivett. Kenneth Rivett quotes Dr J. F. Cairns who, before the change of government, prepared the following statement for the book:
I endorse the statement by Senator McGovern that America has a responsibility to provide refuge for those in South Vietnam who may suffer if a new government is established in Saigon. By identifying itself with the American occupation and aggression in Vietnam, the Australian government has established for itself a duty to share with the United States the consequences of a withdrawal of this occupation and an end to this aggression.
I do not consider that there will be many people seeking refuge from South Vietnam in the case of the formation of a government without Thieu, Ky and Khiem, the only requirements still to be met for an end to the war unless a campaign to influence people to become refugees is conducted. Australia should plan to avoid any conflicts or frictions arising from racial or national differences and while doing so should be liberal in admission to Australia of people of any race or nationality who desire to come, especially those who are suffering from reprisals or discrimination in some other country.
The principles enunciated by the then member of the Opposition are admirable. It is sad that, when the South Vietnamese nation was literally on its knees and when many people in South Vietnam were asking and expecting Australia, their ex-ally, to adopt a more compassionate approach to their problems there was virtual silence on the part of this man. When he made certain comments it was simply to suggest what a glorious tiling it was that the war was coming to an end and how happy he was. He simply ignored the attitudes he had adopted when in Oppositionthat wars regrettably brought in their aftermath considerable human suffering. Since the fall of Vietnam there has been more or less total silence in relation to what is going on in South Vietnam.
This merely emphasises the situation in North Vietnam after 1954 when there was a complete news blackout for some years. When the truth finally got out it was a very sad picture of man’s inhumanity to man. Many Vietnamese especially, the million-odd who ran away from the North at the time of the Vietminh takeover in 1954, had nothing to expect from the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese allies when they succeeded in capturing the South but a continuation of the same degree of human suffering from which they had tried to escape previously. It was those people in particular, many of whom were Christians and Catholics, who wanted to come to countries such as Australia and the United States of America. We are all well aware of the magnificent effort made by the United States under very difficult circumstances to move from Vietnam at very short notice a considerable number of people. I am told the number was over 120 000.
To say, as the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), then the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated, that Australia had a wonderful record and that we were second only to the United States- at that stage, second being a figure of about 72 people- is merely a travesty of the substance of the British language. Those sorts of figures are not something in which we should take pride. The Minister also stated on many occasions that we could not get people out of Vietnam because of the Vietnam Government’s interference and because of difficulties with the South Vietnamese authorities in granting visas. The fact of the matter is that a substantial number of Vietnamese were removed from
Saigon, including nuns and others, by the simple process of putting them in American Embassy buses or in Austraiian Embassy vehicles and driving them out to the Tan Son Nhut airport where they were immediately taken to the American facility on the other side of the field and flown out of Vietnam without any further trouble whatsoever. To suggest it was the interference of the South Vietnamese authorities which prevented Australia from giving the degree of humanitarian assistance obviously required at such dmes is a travesty of the facts and is not a situation from which the present Government should receive any compassion or satisfaction whatsoever.
The Government did nothing for these people.
At the last minute it has been prepared to help a small number who escaped to Guam. It has made no attempt whatsoever to assist those who escaped to Singapore. It tried to cover up its tracks by saying that no Asian Government was prepared to take Vietnamese refugees. I see no substance in moral arguments to say that just because Peter does not do something Paul should not do it either. The fact of the matter is that Singapore accepted a number of South Vietnamese fishermen. Also Thailand accepted a small number of Vietnamese. At this stage Australia has been able to accept only 90-odd applicants from South Vietnam. That is a disgrace.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circula
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It has not been possible to produce a complete and definitive listing of all the occasions on which Australian representatives have raised the matter of barriers to the export of Australian beef. However, a list of the main formal exchanges is provided below.
On 14 June, 1974 Australia made formal diplomatic representations to the Japanese Government regarding restrictions on imports. This followed a series of exchanges in Tokyo and Canberra on the Japanese measures, dating from February, 1974.
A high-level delegation comprising Australian officials and industry representatives visited Japan from 1 8-20 July to press for re-opening of the market.
Follow up exchanges took place during discussions on agriculture between Japanese and Australian officials in Canberra on 12-13 August, 1974.
The matter was again raised during the visits to Tokyo of the Minister for Northern Development, Dr Patterson (4 September) and the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wreidt (8 October).
The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, discussed the continued Japanese ban on imports with Prime Minister Tanaka, during the latter’s visit to Canberra (1-2 November, 1974).
At Australia’s initiative consultations concerning the Japanese restrictions were held in Geneva under the auspices of the GATT on 17-18 February, 1975.
The Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors made joint representations in Tokyo on 11 April, 1975.
A delegation of senior Australian officials pursued the matter during trade discussions in Tokyo on 14-15 April, 1975.
Australian Ministers pursued the question of restrictions during the Australian-Japan Ministerial Committee meeting in Canberra on 2-3 May, 1 975.
Following a series of representations, the Australian Government presented a formal diplomatic note to the E.E.C. Commission and member States in May, 1 974, concerning the import restrictions imposed on beef.
A high level delegation comprising Australian officials and industry representatives held discussions on 27-28 June in Brussels and 1-2 July, 1974, in London.
Further diplomatic representations were made in Brussels and in the capitals of E.E.C. member States on 1 9 July, 1974.
The matter was raised by both Ministers and senior officials during the visit to Australia of the E.E.C. Commissioner, Sir Christopher Soames, on 6 September 1 974.
As a result of action initiated by Australia on 16 August 1974, GATT consultations with the E.E.C. took place in Geneva on 25 October 1974, 25 November 1974 and 18 April 1975. Australia was joined in this initiative by Argentina, Brazil, Hungary, New Zealand, Poland, Rumania, Uruguay and Yugoslavia.
Australia joined other major countries exporting beef to the E.E.C, including Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Poland, Rumania, Uruguay and Yugoslavia, in drafting a joint resolution which was presented to the E.E.C. Commission and to the Council of Agricultural Ministers on 17 September 1974. This was followed up with further representations in April 1975.
The Prime Minister made representations personally in Brussels and in other capitals in December 1974 concerning the E.E.C. ‘s embargo on beef imports.
On 29 January 1975 the Australian Government presented a diplomatic note to the Greek Government emphasising its concern at the ban imposed against imports of frozen beef.
During 1974, Australia had a series of consultations with United States authorities to seek to avoid the imposition of restraints on beef imports. The consultations included regular quarterly consultations in March, June, September and December 1974, which were attended by other interested governments.
In addition, bilateral consultations were held during the visit to Canberra of Assistant Secretary Richard Bell of the United States Department of Agriculture on 25-26 June 1974.
The Minister for Overseas Trade made representations concerning United States meat restraints in Washington on 15-17 January 1975.
The Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade, Mr D. H. McKay, discussed the question of access into the United States meat market with senior United States Administration officials on 18 March 1975.
Australia made formal diplomatic representations to the Canadian Government on 8 August 1974 concerning restrictions imposed on beef imports.
A delegation comprising senior Australian Government officials and industry representatives held bilateral discussions in Ottawa on 1 0- 1 1 October 1974.
Meetings with other Meat Exporting Countries
In making representations to have import markets reopened, Australia has worked in close co-operation with other meat exporting countries. These exchanges have included :
Meetings to co-ordinate approaches were held in Wellington in February, in Canberra in July and again in Wellington in October 1 974.
Discussions were held in Mexico on 5-6 September 1974.
Discussions were held in Buenos Aires on 9-11 September 1974.
Discussions were held in Montevideo on 11-12 September 1974.
Eastern European Countries
Co-operation has been maintained with Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Rumania through our representatives in Geneva and elsewhere.
In addition to the bilateral exchanges listed above, Australia has actively participated in a number of multilateral meetings on the problems of access into world meat markets generally.
An OECD Agriculture Committee Working Party on Meat (July and December 1 974)
The OECD Joint Working Party on the Trade and Agriculture Committees (July, September and October 1974)
The OECD Executive Committee (April 1 975 )
The Fourth Session of the FAO Inter-Governmental Group on Meat (October 1974)
The OECD Trade Committee (November 1974)
The OECD Agriculture Committee (January 1 975).
Consultative Group on Meat
Australia took the initiative in convening a meeting of the major meat trading countries which was held in Washington on 15-16 October 1974. (Discussions with the Japanese delegation were also held at that time on bilateral beef issues).
In a further initiative, Australia sought the creation of a permanent Consultative Group on Meat within the GATT. Despite strong opposition from certain countries, the GATT Contracting Parties agreed to the establishment of such a Group in February 1975. The initial meeting was held in Geneva on 13-14 March, 1975. Although the Group has been established under the GATT, the membership is open to any interested country.
On 24 April 1975, the EEC relaxed slightly its virtually total import ban and will permit imports of up to 50 000 tonnes between I June and 30 September on certain strict conditions. These conditions require the export of one tonne of beef for every tonne imported. Importers will furthermore be required to pay a levy in accordance with new procedures. This marginal relaxation is doubtless a response to constant representations by exporting countries. The Australian Government has however already expressed its belief that the new scheme will have no appreciable effect as far as Australia is concerned in restoring its market.
The Japanese Government has announced that its market will be re-opened during June, on a date to be determined. As yet the Japanese Government is unable to specify the amount of the first quota allocation. Further imports will be admitted during the remainder of the 1975-76 Japanese fiscal year. The Japanese Government has assured the Australian Government that it sees a continuing need over the next decade for sizeable imports of beef.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
John French……….. 28.10.66
Ethel McGuire……….. 6. 3.67
Eva Hancock……….. 29.10.68
Alan Sutherland………. 23. 3.70
Milton McGhee………. 23. 3.70
Frances Ramsey………. 8. 2.71
Felicity Martin……….. 26. 2.71
Julia Goldstein……….. 9.12.71
Francis Brown……….. 6. 3.72
David Murray……….. 20.11.72
Jennifer Dash……….. 18.12.72
Daphne Kerkin………. 22.12.72
Wendy Walker………. 20. 3.73
Margaret Callaghan……… 28. 5.73
Pamela Kelloway………. 4. 6.73
Ilona Osborne……….. 10. 9.73
Elizabeth Fraser………. 10. 9.73
Marjory Kobold………. 11. 9.73
Judith McKenna………. 17. 9.73
Jane Anderson……….. 5. 3.74
Jillian Fisher……….. 18. 3.74
Annabel Ayres……….. 14. 4.75
Jeanette Unwin………. 14. 4.75
All these people have at least the minimum qualification required by the Public Service Board for appointment as social workers i.e. a degree or diploma in Social Work or Social Studies at an Australian University, Australian college of advanced education or an award of an overseas educational institution which in the opinion of the Public Service Board is at least equal in standard to the Australian qualification.
In each case these qualifications are supported by varying degrees of experience in social work in a State and /or Australian Public Service.
asked the Special Minister of State and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Matters Relating to the Public Service, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has provided the following information for answer to the right honourable member’s question:
Opportunities for part-time employment are increasing. The Public Service Board Annual Report of 1974 indicated an increase of 25.1 per cent in part-time employment during the period June 1 973 to June 1 974.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Nil Nil Nil Nil Nil 1 Rotary-Wing 1 Fixed- Wing
Nil Nil Nil Nil Nil
Liability not yet determined
1 Rotary- Wing 1 Rotary- Wing 1 Fixed- Wing 1 Fixed-Wing 3 Rotary- Wing 3 Rotary- Wing 1 Fixed-Wing 4 Rotary- Wing 1 Fixed- Wing 5 Rotary- Wing ( 1 extensively damaged, 4 minor damage)
11,210 820 2,269
Liability not yet determined
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1974-75 (tol Apr. 1975)
New South Wales Victoria . . Queensland
300,000 22,000 27,905,539
769,055 1,257,218 21,636,238
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will tax deductibility be allowed for each of the following items once the medical and hospital sections of the Government’s health insurance proposals are in operation: (a) private medical insurance to cover the 15 per cent consultation gap if the doctor does not bulk bill, (b) private medical insurance to cover consultation fees beyond the 15 per cent if more than the most common fee is charged, (c) private hospital insurance for intermediate or private ward cover, (d) private medical insurance to cover the additional cost of medical attention by a patient’s own doctor in hospital as in paragraphs (a) and (b), (e) private hospital insurance to cover any possible additional bed charge where a patient’s own doctor is retained and (f) direct cash payment to cover any of the above medical or hospital charges.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The honourable member’s question raises issues of policy with respect to which the Government’s intentions will be made known at the appropriate time.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What was the charter cost of the Boeing 707 aircraft used on the recent overseas trip to the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The chaner cost has not yet been finalised with Qantas.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What are the names and designations of all the passengers who travelled on the Boeing 707 aircraft during his last trip overseas.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The names and designations of the persons who accompanied my wife and me to and from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Jamaica were:
The Honourable Lionel Bowen, M.P.- Special Minister of
State Mrs Bowen
Dr J. F. Hammett- Consultant Physician
Mr J. Spigelman- Principal Private Secretary
Mr E. Williams- Press Secretary
Ms E. Reid- Adviser
Mr D. Solomon- Public Relations Officer
Ms D. Darlow- Personal Secretary
Miss B. Stuart- Personal Secretary to Mrs Whitlam
Mr R. F. Millar- Personal Assistant
Ms C. Bowtell Assistant to the Press Secretary
Mr V. Ryan Private Secretary to Mr Bowen
Mr J. L. Menadue Secretary, Depanment of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet Mrs Menadue
Mr J. D. Anderson- Assistant Secretary
Mr A. D. Rose- Depanmental Liaison Officer
Mr B. W. Evans-Liaison Officer
Miss E. Miller- Personal Secretary
Mr A. P. Renouf, O.B.E.- Secretary, Depanment of
Foreign Affairs Mr P. C. J. Curtis- First Assistant Secretary Mr H. C. Mott-Section Head Mr C. G. S. Willis-Section Head Mr B. Dwyer- Security Officer
Mr J. Scully- Deputy Secretary, Department of Overseas Trade
Dr R. J. Whitelaw, O.B.E First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Treasury Mr J. Tanner- Official Photographer
Detective Sergeant B. Brown-Police Officer Senior Constable B. Steele- Police Officer Mr I. Coghill- Diplomatic Courier Miss P. Bell- Steno-secretary Miss M. Guy- Steno-secretary Miss J. Hutchins- Steno-secretary Miss J. Wall- Machine Operator
Press Party Mr R. Baudino Mr K. Begg Mr W. Blood Mr P. Bowers Mr P. Costigan MrW.D’Arcy Mr R. Haupt Mr D. Jensen Mr J. Jost Mr P. Kelly Mr P. Lorant MrR. Wilesmith Mr L. Wilson
Not all the passengers listed travelled on all stages of the mission.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1) The following schools within the Electoral Division of Kalgoorlie have been declared disadvantaged:
Derby District High East Carnarvon Leanora Marble Bar
Meekatharra District High
Norseman District High
Roebourne Shark Bay Useless Loop
Wyndham District High
St Mary ‘s Primary School, Broome
St Cecilia ‘s Primary School, Port Hedland
Norseman District High School….. 122,806
All declared Catholic disadvantaged schools shared in the $21,600 granted towards the salaries and expenses of specialist teachers and for the staging of seminars.
No capital grants were made to Catholic disadvantaged schools in Western Australia during 1 974.
Catholic Systemic Schools
The provision of specialist teachers will continue and declared schools are entitled to submit further projects for funding in 1975.
Approval has been given for capital projects as follows-
St Cecilia’s Port Hedland…….. 13,800
St Mary’s Primary School Broome….. 2,700
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750521_reps_29_hor95/>.