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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and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 Hayden, Mr Barnard, Mr Bryant, Mr Lynch, Mr Snedden, Mr Bonnett, Mr Cadman, Mrs Child, Mr Chipp, Mr Coates, Mr Corbett, Mr Drury, Dr Edwards, Mr Ellicott, Mr Erwin, Mr Hodges, Mr Hunt, Mr Jarman, Mr Lamb, Mr Nixon, Mr Staley, Mr Street and Mr Wilson.
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 Hayden, Mr Snedden, Mr Donald Cameron, Dr Gun, Mr Hodges, Mr Jacobi, Mr Jarman, Mr Keogh, Mr Mathews, Mr Wilson and Mr Young.
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 1 975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Cass. Petition received.
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 197S.
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 Dawkins.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 197S.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Drury and Mr Mackellar.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1 975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ellicott and Mr Ruddock.
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 McLeay.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1 975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Viner.
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 replaceable sources of energy.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bennett, Mrs Child, Mr Coates, Mr Cohen, Mr Dawkins, Mr Garrick, Mr James, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Lamb, Mr Morris and Mr Young.
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 power plants fueled by uranium products produce highly radioactive nuclear wastes for which there is no satisfactory method of disposal;
That the contamination of the environment by these nuclear wastes will lead to an increase in binh defects, leukemia and other malignant diseases;
That we fear the mining, enrichment and selling of uranium by Australia is a way of solving our immediate economic problems at the expense of the future of our children.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will suspend all mining, enrichment and selling of uranium until a high-level open enquiry can be made into its effect upon the total environment; and at the same time set in motion meaningful research into alternative sources of energy. by Dr Gun and Mr Wilson.
Petition to the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the Division of Leichhardt respectfully showeth that primary producers represent some 7 per cent of Australia’s population yet they pay some 9 per cent of all income tax in Australia and some 40 per cent of all Death Duties in Australia. The Federal Government will, this coming financial year, take on an extra $3,000m in income tax above and beyond what was taken the previous financial year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will immediately and significantly revise the Death Duties scales and will immediately suspend provisional taxation for primary producers for three years.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction,
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over540 000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilized in Light Water Reactors overseas,
And whereas the Maximum Permissible Inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.0000002S gram,
And whereas the Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers,
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years,
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized panicles, its most dangerous form,
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only eanh available to us.
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Clayton.
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 the Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Law Bill 1974 would be an unjust law if passed since the innocent pany could be divorced against his or her will after a year’s separation.
That the Bill does not only facilitate divorces but changes the nature of marriage and the husband-wife relationships. Legislation ought to reflect public opinion, not attempt to condition it. Gallup polls indicate 75 per cent of Australians are opposed to the concepts of the Family Law Bill. Therefore Parliament has no mandate from the people to ask such a far reaching change in the nature of our society.
That children need a stable emotional and psychological environment in which to grow up. This stability is upset by divorce. A high proportion of criminals come from broken homes. Consequently any law which makes divorce easier is harmful to society.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Parliament so vote as to defeat the Family Law Bill.
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. The humble Petition of 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. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the mathematician Leonid Plyushch has been incarcerated since January, 1972 for his civil rights activities in the Soviet Union.
That he was tried in his absence in a Kiev court for antiSoviet activities.
That, despite lack of any evidence of mental incapacity, he is being held in the special psychiatric hospital at Dnepropetrovsk reserved for the most violent cases.
That he is being heavily drugged and being denied independent medical assistance.
That his circumstances are described more fully in the Paris newspaper, le Monde, of 28 December 1974.
That Soviet embassies, including that in Australia, have failed to respond satisfactorily to questions from the international mathematical community.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the Australian Government seek further information from the Soviet Government on this matter.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
I inform the House that the Treasurer, Dr Jim Cairns, leaves Australia today to attend the Overseas Economic Co-operation and Development Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris, France. In his absence, the Minister for Social Security, Mr Bill Hayden, will act as Treasurer.
– Will the Prime Minister advise the Parliament why the loan authority to the Minister for Minerals and Energy was revoked?
-The long-standing requirements of underwriters in countries from which Australia traditionally borrows, such as the United States and West Germany, is that there shall not be, during the currency of the loan subscription period and for a period of 30 days thereafter, any alternative borrowing transaction which would compete with the loan then under offer, and full disclosure is required. Currently a loan transaction is being arranged in the United States- hence the action taken to revoke the authority.
– I ask the Minister for Min erals and Energy: What relevance has the announced contract between the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria and Esso-Hematite to the pricing of natural gas from the North-west Shelf?
-The prices that have been negotiated in respect of the transaction between the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria and the Esso-Hematite consortium will be of the utmost relevance. We have not the full terms yet, but the base price is obviously of the order of 3c per therm. This equates with the going price in respect of natural gas from the Cooper Basin consortium. I might add for the information of the House that tomorrow I will be meeting Mr Dewhurst, who is the vice-president of the Burmah Oil Company itself, and we will be discussing with him in some detail our future proposals with regard to development.
– My question is addressed to the
Minister for Minerals and Energy. With whom was the Minister negotiating to raise a $2,000m loan in the Middle East? Who was the person who received a letter on official notepaper and a copy of an Executive Council minute authorising him to act on Australia’s behalf to raise funds internationally? Was this gentleman offered a commission, variously reported at $20m and $80m, for arranging the loan? Did he or any other person receive a consideration for services in this connection, and how much was involved?
-The question is largely a figment of the honourable gentleman’s imagination. At no time has any mandate been given to any individual to enter into negotiations and with authority to act on behalf of the Government of Australia. For purposes of identification, a letter was given in very carefully drafted terms. Thanks to the uninvited and purely vexatious intervention of the Opposition in this matter, both the Treasurer and I have been literally swamped with offers. These are under consideration. It would be a gross dereliction of duty on the part of either the Treasurer or myself if we failed to consider them. I add for the information of honourable members that there is an entirely new ball game in relation to international loan availability. There is today a complete distortion of the world economy because of the availability of funds that have been generated in the purchase of Arab oil at increased prices. Today those funds are seeking to be recycled. The funds that came in the earlier part of the operation of the new price system are now available and are looking for safe and reliable homes. There is no better place than Australia. There is no more traitorous group than the Opposition today, who would stop at nothing and who would stoop to anything -
- Mr Speaker, I object to the word ‘traitorous’ and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– It is a word used by a man who has lost control of himself. I do not like it, for that reason too -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He will not take points of order of that nature.
-They would stop at nothing and stoop to anything in order to impede legitimate business transactions. I have had an evaluation made of the mineral and resources wealth of Australia. It is of the order, in situ, of $6 trillion. Extracted and free on board available for shipment, it would be of the order of $4 trillion. Those facts are well known and I quote no less an authority than the former United States Ambassador to Australia, Mr Marshall
Green who said that, per capita, Australians are the wealthiest people in the world. And so we are- and in a new world - (Opposition members interjecting)
Mr CONNOR Mr Speaker, could I get some order?
– I suggest to the Minister that he may well be getting away from the question asked and he should return to it. I would also suggest to honourable members opposite that it is a danger to the health to force oneself to laugh and I might have to protect them against themselves. I suggest that honourable members remain silent.
– In final answer to the honourable gentleman, the credit of Australia would not be hawked around, nor would any person be given the right to do so, but there are quite a number of intermediaries in operation today and these matters I feel should fairly and legitimately remain confidential.
-My question is directed to the Special Minister for State and I ask: Is he aware of any threat to the Government’s child care program? Can he inform the House of the consequences to the children of Australia of obstructing this program?
-I have seen a newspaper report that the Victorian Minister for Health has indicated that he considers that moneys to be paid to Victoria have no constitutional basis. This is somewhat astounding because it would mean that it would place in jeopardy a program we have just announced, in cooperation with the Victorian Government, to assist 54 000 children in Victoria in obtaining child care. It is also worthy of note that the existing Child Care Act introduced by the Opposition when in government was not subject to challenge; it provides for funds to be made direct. So apparently it is all right for the Victorians to take money from the Liberals but not from the Labor Government. I would welcome any legal challenge from the Victorian Government because it would mean that there would be no child care program in that State, and I think that if the Minister is so game as to put in jeopardy that program which is already under way he will pay the penalty at the polls.
It is quite clear that the Australian Government has a mandate for the welfare of children. It has the constitutional facility to provide welfare opportunities to children. There would be nobody in Australia who would want to challenge a program to benefit this year 165 000 children under the age of five. The program is community based and community orientated and it is Australian in its complete context. It is not suggested that we want to give money to bureaucrats or waste it in that way. The real problem with the Victorian Government is that it seems to be super-sensitive because it cannot do the things it wants to do. But when we give it this financial opportunity it is now suggested that we have not got the legal power to do so. I would be very surprised if the Minister was sincere in what he said to the Press, but if he is and he institutes this challenge forthwith we give him this assurance: It will jeopardise the program as far as his State is concerned but it will not jeopardise the program as far as the Victorian community is concerned.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I invite his attention to the proposal of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Executive, as reported this morning, to press the Government to nationalise the oil industry. Is this in line with Australian Labor Party policy to take over control and ownership of Australia’s energy and does the Government propose to act on the call by the ACTU that the oil industry in Australia be nationalised? Or did not the ACTU know when it made the announcement that the availability of $2,000m for energy purposes was just a hoax?
– There is no immediate planning for such action to be taken, nor is it in contemplation in the future. It would be a matter that would require very serious thought as to whether some of the equipment that is in operation in Australia today in petrol refining would be worth taking over at any price. More than that, there is a very good old saying: ‘You never keep a cow if you can get milk by other means’. We will be able to do that too.
-Is the Special Minister of State aware of the severe difficulties being experienced by residents of Sydney’s eastern suburbs as the result of very substantial increases in municipal rates and other local government charges? As these charges are causing severe hardship to some citizens and may have the effect of forcing some aged persons out of homes that they have occupied for a lifetime, will the Minister state what assistance the Australian Government is giving local government bodies?
Further, can the Minister indicate whether Sydney’s residents can expect any early stabilisation of these charges?
-As a resident of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, I am aware of the rapid increase in rates. But I think that this is a problem throughout Australia. My colleague, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, in conjunction with Sir Charles Cutler, the Minister for Local Government in New South Wales, has announced an inquiry throughout Australia into the problems of local government. The Australian Government has taken a number of initiatives in this field. As honourable members know, last year in the Grants Commission (Assistance to Local Government) Act we provided $56m which was not formerly given to local government. It was a most worthwhile contribution to local government. But we make it clear that that money was not in lieu of rates; it was to give services which could not otherwise have been provided. Also, in the area improvement programs, under the control of my colleague, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, substantial benefits have been given to local government.
The overriding and ever-pressing problem is the question whether the right system for collecting the appropriate amount of money required by local authorities is by levying rates on what might be deemed the unimproved capital value of a block of land. People who have retired and who have no other source of income often find themselves rated out of their homes. This is a problem in these areas. A number of inquiries on what should best be done for local government have been held, particularly in the States, but the reports of many of these inquiries have never been implemented. The vested interests of aldermen trying to retain their own little areas always ensure that there has been no legislation rapidly introduced to guarantee that there would be a more efficient administration of local government.
It could well be that there should be a different method of rating. Certainly, there should be much more co-ordination, particularly in regard to public services. As far as the Grants Commission is concerned, a number of submissions to it show that the whole of the rate income has been eaten up in paying wages only, and there is no money at all for capital works. Until such time as local government looks at the problems of local government from the point of view of how best to use its resources, particularly with a different method of rating, I feel that we will still have the problem about which the honourable member complains. Nevertheless, the Australian Government is prepared to play its part. It is now up to local government, and particularly State governments, to co-operate with this Government.
– Will the Minister for Minerals and Energy tell us to whom the letter to which he referred in his earlier answer was written? What was the name of the agent involved to whom the letter was addressed? Will he table a copy of the letter in the Parliament? Who signed the letter? Have any payments been made to the person to whom the letter was addressed?
– There has been no agent appointed. There have been no payments made, nor any commitment entered into.
– What about the letter? Will you table the letter?
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to ask only one question at a time.
– In view of the subversive, irresponsible and politically motivated statements about Australia’s defence program by armchair strategists among the Opposition and their cohorts around Australia, will the Minister for Defence give figures on the preparedness of Australia’s defence forces today as compared with the last year of the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government, 1971-72?
Mr BARNARD The state of the permanent defence force is that the current strength is higher today than it was at the height of the Vietnam conflict. We now have a total of 69 037 volunteer troops compared with 68 467 in March of 1972. 1 am referring to volunteer strength. Without national service, the best the previous Government could muster was a total volunteer force of 54 700 in June 1965. Today, under this Government, the volunteer strength is 26 per cent higher. The honourable member for Wilmot asked for the current volunteer strength. The current volunteer strength of the individual services is: Navy 16 211; Army 31 336; and the Air Force 21 490. What one should point out for the benefit of the strategists from the other side is that they should well remember that back in 1972 they were telling the people of Australia that we would not be able to raise an all volunteer army in this country, that we had to rely on conscription. As I have said, the strength of the volunteer forces today is higher than it was under the previous Government back in 1 972.
Only a short time ago- in fact, only a few days ago- the right honourable member for Higgins made a very precise and, I think, clear statement -and one would assume he was speaking with some authority on behalf of the Opposition- that conscription should be reintroduced. Not only did he suggest that conscription should be reintroduced but he would go back to the most divisive issue that this country has ever had, that is, a selective form of conscription which the Opposition used between 1965 and 1972 to provide a proportion of the forces which were committed to Vietnam. I do not believe that Australians want that kind of force in this country. The right honourable member for Higgins was supported at a symposium which I addressed at Cooma slightly more than a week ago by the honourable member for Riverina. The honourable member for Riverina did not go quite so far in his remarks. He said that he believed there ought to be a debate in this Parliament on 2 aspects of defence- firstly conscription and secondly nuclear weapons. I would assume that if the honourable member for Riverina wants a debate on conscription, then obviously it would be intended to support the reintroduction of conscription. That is the only interpretation that one could place upon his remarks. He was on that occasion representing the shadow minister for defence who had been invited to attend the symposium. Instead of being represented at that allimportant symposium which provided an opportunity for the Opposition to debate with me on the platform -
-Order! I suggest the Minister is going beyond the question. He should get back to the question.
-Mr Speaker, it is a very important question. However, I should be very happy to arrange for a debate on conscription. I should like very much to have the views not only of the honourable member for Riverina and the right honourable member for Higgins but also of the honourable member for Moreton.
Let me conclude my answer to this question by referring to the Army Reserve. For 23 years the previous Government allowed the Army Reserve to run down. It certainly used the Army Reserve as a means of allowing those who were not prepared to accept national service in this country to have their service carried out within the Army Reserve. The strength of the Army Reserve today is about 20 000. Last week I gave effect to one further recommendation of the Millar Committee, the first committee that has ever had the opportunity to investigate the Army Reserve and its future in this country. I have now given effect to most of the recommendations of the Millar Committee. I am determined that, together with the all-volunteer force in this country which stands at a much higher strength than it did under the previous Government, there will be a total concept of one force comprising the volunteers, the regulars and the Army Reserve.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. In view of the fact that the Minister has admitted to the House that a letter was issued for purposes of identification to his agent, who is understood not to be an Australian citizen, will he advise the House what precedents exist for the issue of such letters and what qualifications and experience this agent has that commended him to the Government? Who recommended this agent? Finally, why were conventional banking channels and banking houses not used for this purpose?
-For the benefit of the inexperienced honourable member I might add and repeat that there has been no agent.
– Can the Acting Treasurer inform the House of the increase in moneys paid to the States over the last 2 years? Are these increases less or more than increases in the consumer price index and wage rates? Are any figures available on the proportion of the increase which is represented by Federal initiatives?
– Increases in payments to or for the States for State government Loan Council programs in 1973-74 represented an increase in amount of $744.6m or 20.6 per cent. In 1974-75, according to approximate estimates we have available, the amount of increase was $2,200m or a 50 per cent increase. The consumer price index increased by 12.9 per cent in 1973-74, and the increase in 1974-75 is estimated at something less than 20 per cent. Average weekly earnings increased by 16.3 per cent in 1973-74, and the increase in 1974-75 is estimated at about 25 per cent. No figures are available as to the proportion of the increase in payments to the States which is represented by what are termed Federal initiatives. However, in this connection it may be of interest to know that specific purpose payments to the States increased by $637. lm in 1973-74 and are expected to increase by something of the order of $ 1,390m in 1974-75. After adjustments to remove certain incomparabilities in the figures, these figures represent increases of 29.6 per cent and about 85 per cent respectively. As the figure shows, the Australian Government has treated the States quite generously.
– My question which is addressed to the Special Minister of State is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Phillip. Is the Minister aware that the Australian Federation of Local Government Associations has made up its mind as to what it wants in the way of financial assistance and has asked that 5 per cent of income tax collections be made available to local government? Further, does the Government intend to take any action to provide this essential assistance to local government so as to enable it to relieve the people of this country of their rate burden?
-The honourable member for Maranoa was one of the leading people to oppose the participation of local government in Loan Council deliberations. It is a bit late for anybody on the Opposition side to talk about what can be done for local government because they opposed that referendum. Let us make it clear, there are a number of problems facing local government and they will not be solved just by saying: ‘We want a share of the income tax- in other words, somebody else can have the burden of raising the money. We have no responsibility’. The real problem for local government in many areas is that it is not efficient. It is parochial. It is more interested in frittering away its rather small funds. It does not have an adequate work force to carry out major works. There has been a number of inquiries as to how best to make local government efficient. Some of these suggested that local government areas might be amalgamated into greater areas. That certainly would not apply in the Maranoa area; but certainly it might apply in the city areas. Let me make it clear that the Australian Government has played its part and has endeavoured to assist local government to join us at the Loan Council table. The Opposition denied it that opportunity. The Opposition must bear the responsibility.
– In view of recent reports, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Australian Government submission to the Prices Justification Tribunal in the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd case now before the Tribunal will be in support of the BHP application for a price rise to improve the profitability of its steel-making activities? If so, can he inform the House why the Government is adopting this attitude and whether it will be supporting the full 14 per cent price increase applied for or some lesser percentage?
– I have some hesitation in answering the question in detail because the etiquette in these matters before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal is that the Government’s point of view should be expressed to the Commission or to the Tribunal before it is published elsewhere. However, I believe that I can properly state that the submission to the Tribunal by the Government is in terms to assist the Tribunal in dealing with any such application. The submission does not purport to go into the details of the particular application by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd as to amount or as to arguments. The submission does go quite extensively into the economic ramifications of profitability in Australian industry, particularly manufacturing industry. The submission was settled by my colleagues, the Treasurer and the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, and me yesterday afternoon.
-Since, as I understand it, the Government has been seeking a $100m loan in New York since February, I ask the Prime Minister how can he regard that circumstance as an excuse for revoking the authority to raise $2,000m in the Middle East. What relationship has the $100m loan in the United States, which the Government has been seeking since February, with the sudden revocation of the authority to the Minister for Minerals and Energy? Is it not an example of the lack of credit standing of Australia around the world that, even though $ 100m- a relatively small amounthas been sought in the United States since February, the Government has not yet been able to consumate even that loan?
– The Government’s credit standing is as high as that of any government in the world. This was confirmed by a visit to Australia a month ago on behalf of those firms which makes an assessment in this matter which is accepted by the governments of the United States of America, West Germany, and so on. There was no loan sought in February. Any questions seeking details on these matters obviously should be directed to the Treasurer.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement made yesterday by the Chairman of the Australian Mutual Provident Society Ltd, Sir Vincent Fairfax, acknowledging that there have been over-reaction and impulsive defensive side swipes by insurers in response to Government proposals for an Australian Government Insurance Corporation? Has his attention also been drawn to Sir Vincent’s comment that it was time for a truce? Will he confirm for Sir Vincent and for the insurance industry as a whole that the door remains open, as it always has been open, for the industry to put constructive proposals to the Government for improvement in the Corporation proposals? Will he reassure industry employees, who have been led to fear without any basis in fact that the Government intends nationalising the industry, that that is not the case?
-Order! The question is far too long.
– I did notice the comments by Sir Vincent Fairfax at the annual general meeting of the Australian Mutual Provident Society. They were the sanest remarks printed in the Fairfax papers on this issue for the last month, Sir Vincent being the wise Fairfax out of that dynasty. I would hope that I will have an opportunity to compliment Sir Vincent on his approach. I see him from time to time and I appreciate the meetings I have with him.
Of course the Government is willing to accept any reasonable proposal in respect of legislation. This legislation has been projected for quite some time. There has been consultation with the industry. During the period of about 3 weeks between the introduction of the Bill and the initiation of the debate on the Bill representations were sought from the industry. In some cases they were received from the industry and in all such cases they were considered by the Government. There have been amendments made to the Bill in answer to reasonable representations. For instance, the Bill now explicitly is made subject to various other Insurance Acts passed by this Parliament in pursuit of its constitutional power. I had previously told the House that the Premier of New South Wales suggested a change in the title of the Australian Government Insurance Office to Australian Government Insurance Corporation to avoid confusion with the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales. The Government considered that representation from the Premier of New South Wales, thought it reasonable and has adopted it.
Employees in the industry should have nothing to fear. One realises the pressure which is being put on them. They are being given time off to go to public parks in the cities and to be addressed, harangued and exhorted by discarded Liberal politicians. I think it is remarkable that the last Liberal Minister for Defence, responsible for sending us to the barricades in South Vietnam, is now being brought into service, called to the colours, to encourage insurance employees to rally to the barricades against the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. Nobody doubts that the employees of those insurance organisations which the Australian Government already conducts, such as in the Defence Service Homes Division of the Department of Housing and Construction or the Commonwealth Savings Bank, are as well treated as employees in private insurance companies. Nobody doubts that employees of State government insurance offices in every State are as well treated as those in private insurance offices. As a matter of fact, I would expect that once the Australian Government Insurance Corporation has been established, those seeking to enter its service will come overwhelmingly from the private insurance companies. That is what has happened in Medibank. People realise that their talents are properly made available to the Australian people in government corporations.
There is no suggestion whatever that the Australian Government proposes to nationalise the insurance industry. Of course, we could not if we wanted to do. Nevertheless, what we do believe in doing is to provide some healthy competition and, furthermore, to provide complete cover, and to provide complete cover on the best terms that can be economically provided. There have been very many gaps in the insurance cover available to Australians. There have been very onerous and discriminatory terms in some of the cover when it has been available. With an Australian Government Insurance Corporation the Australian people can be certain that they will be able to insure against all contingencies on the best economic conditions available and that anybody employed by the Corporation will be treated with respect by his employers, by the Corporation, and will be serving the Australian public well.
– I ask the Prime Minister the following question: Is it correct that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission asked for details of the $2,000m Connor loan? Is it also correct that the Commission refused to allow the $100m loan with the United States to go through until such time as the Connor deal was cleaned up?
-I have not heard that any inquiry was made in this respect. I imagine that this suggestion is without foundation. I have been consulted by my colleagues, the AttorneyGeneral, the Treasurer and the Minister for Minerals and Energy on the whole of this matter. The honourable gentleman is very fertile in speculation. I notice he was reported- I am going on one of the Fairfax newspapers this morning- as stating that there was no Executive Council meeting on Tuesday afternoon. In fact, there was. Who was there were the people that would be expected to be there. I assume that the honourable gentleman occasionally went to Executive Council meetings when he was a Minister and that he has not forgotten those days of glory. If the honourable gentleman will read the Court Circular, as I am sure he does while in exile, he will see that I had the privilege of meeting with His Excellency the Administrator on Tuesday evening.
So the honourable gentleman puts up one furphy. It is completely without foundation. I have little doubt that this second furphy is equally without foundation. If he wants to know the answers to questions like this why does he not put the questions on notice? A precise and considered reply can then be given. All I can say is that I have heard nothing to justify this question. I believe there is no more foundation in it than in those matters where, from my own knowledge, I know what has happened.
Perhaps I should augment an earlier answer which I gave on the credit ranking of this Government. For the first time Australia has achieved the top credit ranking, that is triple A, under this Government. Our credit ranking in Australia has gone up since my Government was elected.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister under the special provision in standing order 144 which asks for explanation of government policy. By way of preface I refer to a recent statement by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, Senator Wheeldon, who stated: … it is perfectly clear that in the near future- in the next few years- the Australian Government will have to come to the assistance of the general insurance companies which already are in serious difficulties because of their commitments to workers compensation insurance and, to a lesser extent, their commitments in the field of third part)’ motor vehicle insurance.
I ask the Prime Minister to confirm whether that is Government policy. Will he elaborate on the policy involved? How can it be that these companies can be so wealthy and yet will need government assistance?
– I will try to enlighten the distinguished accountant who asks this question. The insurance industry is in two general divisions. One is life assurance and the other is in general, fire, marine, and accident insurance. There is a very different pattern in financing those two forms of insurance and there is a very different pattern in their capital investments. Government insurance offices in general have participated very little in life assurance. Life assurance generally is mutual in Australia. It is much more in Australian hands than is general insurance.
I imagine that, while the Australian Government Insurance Corporation very properly will make life assurance available to its customers, it will not be a large portion of its business. That has been the experience of all the State government insurance offices. They have done very little life assurance business. Australians have been quite happy to take that out with private companies, which are usually mutual companies. There are some, like the MLC Assurance Co. Ltd, which have private shareholders or foreign shareholders, but they are overwhelmingly mutual companies. They are accordingly nearly totally Australian. The investments by the life assurance societies have been encouraged by successive governments. I instance the fact that one can deduct from one’s taxable income the amount that one pays for life assurance and so on. On the other hand general insurance is very largely- I believe predominantly- in foreign hands. There have been serious defalcations in general insurance in recent years. It is for that reason that my Government extended the operation of the fidelity provisions of its insurance legislation from life assurance to insurance as a whole.
The honourable gentleman has asked in particular about workers compensation insurance and third party insurance. Those are forms of compulsory insurance and have been for very many years. Every State and Territory has compelled people who are employers to take out workers compensation. Every State and Territory has compelled motor car owners to take out third party insurance against personal injury. It so happens that this form of insurance is becoming very onerous for insurance companies. Private companies are very largely leaving the field. For instance, I think that about 95 per cent- certainly over 90 per cent- of the third party insurance written in New South Wales is now written by the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales. The Government Insurance Office of New South Wales makes a handsome profit on all its transactions except third party insurance, on which it makes a very large loss.
Workers compensation and third party insurance premiums are going up constantly. In the last 3 years the premiums on third party insurance have trebled in New South Wales and Victoria, more than doubled in Queensland and South Australia, and trebled in Tasmania. I believe that they have gone down in Western Australia. There may be later figures than those. The plight of the third party and workers compensation insurance sections will be alleviated when the national compensation scheme comes into operation because, as honourable gentlemen realise, the national compensation scheme will subsume third party insurance and workers compensation insurance. Not only will employees injured on the job or going to and from the job receive compensation and not only will people who are injured on the roads receive compensation but also anybody who is injured, including people at school, at home or on holidays, will be covered. Furthermore the cover will be total, there will be no element of fault and the compensation will be immediate. On top of that, of course, there will be very considerable advantages in the national compensation scheme, which for the first time will provide for rehabilitation, which of course workers compensation and third party insurance have failed to do.
I am very grateful to the honourable gentleman for having given me this opportunity further to enlighten him, I hope, and the Australian public on the aspects of insurance in Australia. Insurance in Australia has been inadequate. For those who could get it insurance has been onerous and time consuming. Under the initiatives of my Government in establishing the Australian Government Insurance Corporation, introducing the national compensation scheme and, in due course, introducing a national superannuation scheme, Australians will be able to have a complete cover- immediate compensation- at work or play, during their working lives and in their retirement.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, Could I ask the Prime Minister (Mr
Whitlam) to have a good look at his answer because he has been wrong on at least 3 occasions -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. That is not a point of order, and he is well aware of that.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the National Seminar for Teacher Educators, held at Macquarie University, New South Wales, during the period 28-31 August 1974, entitled ‘The Multi-cultural Society’.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Report of the Interim Committee on the National Estate dated May 1975.
– I table the transcript of evidence given to the Wardens Court at Maryborough on 5 May 1971 and subsequent days in relation to granting certain leases to the Dillingham-Murphyores Corporation.
Ordered that the paper be printed.
- Mr Speaker, may I ask whether the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has yet considered whether he will table the letter which he said, during question time, that he would consider tabling?
-The Minister’s answer was equivocal; he said ‘No’. Did he mean no, he will not table the letter; or no, he has not yet considered the matter?
-Order! I think the Minister has indicated that he has not considered whether he will table the letter.
– There are certain precedents -
-Order! There will be no more debate on the matter. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– We will give leave.
– Would the Minister like leave to speak about the matter?
– There are certain precedents that ought to be examined -
-Is the Minister seeking leave? Leave is granted.
Mr CONNOR (Cunningham-Minister for Minerals and Energy)- There are certain precedents that ought to be examined; then my decision will be given.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) during question time. In response to one of the series of questions raised concerning the need for full and open disclosure of the $2,000m Connor deal, the Prime Minister accused me of saying that an Executive Council meeting had not taken place between the time the Prime Minister told the House that the loan would be used for energy purposes and the subsequent day on which the Prime Minister told the House that the loan authority had been revoked. That charge by the Prime Minister certainly is untrue. What in fact I said, in a very detailed statement issued yesterday, was that the Government must reveal what occurred during the course of the past 24 hours, and I specifically asked when the Executive Council -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-Order! I suggest that both honourable gentlemen might sit down until we get order. I refer also to the honourable member for Darling Downs.
- Mr Speaker, I am taking the point of order that the honourable member is not speaking in any way to justify his assertion that I have misrepresented him. He is going very wide; he is reading out a Press statement.
-Order! I think that the honourable gentleman, if he can establish that the statement that appeared in the Press is not the statement which he in fact issued, is making a personal explanation. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
-Oh, that is all right.
-The statement made by the Prime Minister during question time was, in fact, untrue. The statement which was reported in the Press this morning was a statement issued by me yesterday in which I said specifically that the
Government must reveal what had occurred during the period of the past 24 hours. I asked specifically: When did the Executive Council meet? Who was on the Executive Council? How has it revoked the Minister’s borrowing authority? Was the Vice-President of the Council present? Was the Governor-General present and did he personally express concern? Was the Prime Minister advised that the Government was in breach of the financial agreement?
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has now gone beyond the point of personal explanation.
– I take the point, Mr Speaker. I rest content on the basis of what I have said.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member for Riverina claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, twice by the Minister for Defence in reply to a question by the honourable member for Wilmot. Had the Minister for Defence remained at the symposium in Cooma after delivering a very pitiful address on Australia’s defences he would have -
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wants to make his personal explanation I suggest he refrain from commenting on other matters.
-Yes Sir. The Minister stated in his reply to the question here this morning that I was representing the Opposition shadow Minister for Defence at the symposium. I stated quite clearly that the views I expressed at the symposium were my own personal views and not those of the shadow Minister or the Opposition. Secondly the Minister referred to the word ‘conscription’. Again, had he been present at the symposium when I spoke he would have heard that I did not use that word at any stage. The word is his.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 1 5 minutes past 2 o ‘clock p.m.
– I move:
That this House condemns the failure of the Government to meaningfully assist rural industries to adjust to the changing circumstances of world market demand and rising production costs.
There is no doubt that since the whole of the Australian Labor Party’s program has progressively been exposed to community examination there is no individual sector in the Australian community which has suffered more than the rural sector. There is no doubt that there have always been problems with market changes, price fluctuations, good seasons and bad seasons, droughts, floods, fires- the range of natural disasters. But it is not those which have caused the present position of people in the rural sector; it is significantly the product of a combination of general and particular policies implemented by the Labor Government.
The general policies embrace the whole of the mismanagement of the Australian economy. In a climate in which inflation is running at an average rate of 17.5 per cent per annum, in an environment in which statistics released as recently as this week showing that private employment is down by 140 000 persons and public employment up by 76 000, a directly increasing burden is being placed on those who as wealth producers are finding it difficult to survive in the international markets. It is in that area, of course, that Australian agriculture suffers to a greater degree than any other Australian industry. It is true that other sectors where there is a dependence on exports have equally felt the impact of those general Government policies. But in those other industries there is not the predominance of individual family operations that there is in agriculture.
The significance in the Australian community of the Government’s policies on agriculture is that agriculture is essentially an industry composed of a multiplicity of individual productive units. Those productive units represent not just an enterprise in which finance is involved; but there is an involvement of a family and an involvement of labour and capital. There is an orientation of a productive group which is quite distinct from the aggregations of capital represented in most other industries involved in export. That is not in any way to denigrate those other industries but I seek to make the comparison because it is important that the Australian community recognises the implications of the policies which this Government has applied to those individual productive units. There is a very real problem because while the number of people in agriculture is being reduced, the only way in which production can be maintained is by increased mechanisation. However, again because of direct and general policies of this Government, mechanisation is becoming less and less financially possible. The cost of machinery, the availability of spare parts, the adequacy of servicing and repair arrangements, the ability of those on the land to further improve their per unit production are all being adversely affected because of the policies of this Government.
I mentioned overall general economic policies. I should mention also the inadequacies of capital, the increase in interest rates and the compounding of the circumstances which make any form of private enterprise more and more difficult. However, in agriculture it is not only those general applications of policy which penalise the farmer but also those things which have been specifically introduced by the Labor Government and which make it almost impossible for the family farmer to survive. It is to these aspects that I want to direct my remarks this morning.
I believe that there needs to be a recognition that Labor has not provided the answer in the short-term palliatives which the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns), referred to yesterday in an answer in this House. I want to come back to that answer. First let us look at the things which the Government has undone because there is no reason for it to boast about the things it has done because those things have been delayed, they have been inadequate and they have not been directed to the genuine problems of maintaining a profitable agricultural sector. The only purpose those schemes have had is to try to allay the fears of those who progressively are finding it impossible to survive. Let us return to the particular areas where agriculture has suffered.
Honourable members will recall the introduction of the Coombs report. It categorically set out areas of past government expenditure which, it was said, might properly be excluded from this Government’s Budget program. Of course, that was exactly what this Government did. The Coombs report was adopted in part in the first Labor Budget and then in further part in the second Labor Budget. Those Budget changes included the removal of tax incentives and the elimination of the fuel price equalisation scheme. This scheme enabled people in country areasnot exclusively the farmer but those who assisted him, such as the servicing industries and others involved in the maintenance of agriculture- to contain their cost of operation. So the fuel price equalisation scheme was removed. The Budget changes extended to the field of communications and such worthwhile concessions made to enable some reasonable equalisation of the cost of communicationfor example, the 15-mile telephone line concession introduced by the preceding Liberal-Country Party Government and concessions related to telephone rentals, trunk call charges, Post Office services and the availability of communication facilities- were changed as a result of the direct application of Budget decisions made by the Labor Government.
If that were not enough, by the time we came to consideration of the new 5-year road agreement, we had in the Commonwealth aid roads arrangement introduced by Labor a scheme which deliberately set about reducing the amount of money available to rural communities to maintain or improve their road facilities. The impact of this scheme on rates, which the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) referred to this morning, levied by municipal and shire councils has been echoed throughout every rural shire in Australia. In a submission made to the Industries Assistance Commission a few weeks ago, the Victorian Graziers Association averaged the increase in shire rates in that State at between 30 per cent and 40 per cent. In other States rates have increased over the last 2 years, sometimes by more than 60 per cent. In these circumstances the Commonwealth aid roads arrangement is demonstrably another of those direct additional burdens that Labor is adding to the rural community.
I turn from that to the superphosphate bounty which has been a matter of some public comment in the last few days. The bounty was one of those factors which contributed to maintaining productivity. One of the forces which unfortunately has not registered on Labor is the degree to which productivity and the value of goods produced eventually relates back to the availability of services to the community. Productivity means generating wealth in order to pay for those things which the community needs and for which it asks. Labor has been spending money but it has forgotten about those who are producing it. The essence of the destructive intent in Labor’s rural policy is that it has ignored the necessity for those who are producers of wealth on rural estates throughout this country to survive and there is no doubt that the impact which the Commonwealth aid roads fund will have on shire rates is a distinct and direct product of Labor’s attempt to reduce the amount of assistance available to that sector of production in our community.
I now turn to dairying industry stabilisation. The Australian dairying industry has gone through an extraordinarily complex and difficult time. It has gone through a period when overseas markets have been changing, when previous opportunities of access to the United Kingdom market have been prejudiced by arrangements entered into by the United Kingdom through its tie with the European Economic Community. The result of the application of the Common Agricultural Policy has been not only to prejudice our external markets other than United Kingdom but also to prejudice our continuing ability to sell Australian dairy products in the United Kingdom itself. It was in that climate of market instability, with inflationary pressures at home and uncertain seasonal factors as prevalent as they have ever been in the dairying industry that this Government decided that the dairying industry stabilisation scheme was not be continued. It was not just a matter of the Government eliminating it altogether; it was a factor of the Government saying it would introduce something to replace it. If honourable members look at the policy speech of the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) in December 1972 and echoed by the then Leader of the Australian Country Party in that election campaign they will recognise that we advocated a dairy reconstruction scheme which was an extension of the dairy farm build-up program introduced some 5 years earlier by my predecessor as Minister for Primary Industry. But the Government did not bother to look at those facts. It took 1 8 months to introduce an alternative dairying industry reconstruction scheme, and for all that that reconstruction proposal has much to commend it, there was no excuse whatever for withdrawing the assistance which government provided to maintain some form of profitability for dairy farmers in the face of changing market circumstances.
– Reconstruction is not stabilisation.
-Reconstruction is not stabilisation, but reconstruction could at least have been introduced at the time stabilisation was eliminated. Stabilisation is still a very necessary part of maintaining profitability in the agricultural sector which is plagued by market and seasonal unreliability. It is quite paradoxical for the Minister for the Northern Territory and Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) to advocate income stabilisation and yet for this Government to remove such schemes as the dairying industry stabilisation scheme which provided positive economic assistance to dairy farmers at a time when they obviously were suffering significantly because of the force of the circumstances in which they operated.
Still categorising the particular areas of direct Government intervention which have been prejudical to the Australian rural sector, it was not only the diary stabilisation scheme which the Government eliminated. Let us move to wheat stabilisation. I do not want to debate again in this chamber all that has happened in the wheat industry but what the Government did for it is not the only reason the wheat industry has been able to maintain its level of profitability. It is because specifically world grain markets have been buoyant. The Prime Minister, in that deplorable comment about primary producers never having had it so good, made some 18 months ago in circumstances which I guess now even he would wish to forget, illustrated the basis on which the operation of the whole rural policy of this Government has been predicated; that is, that it is far better for the Government to rely on market improvement and hence to pull out Government support for industry than to ensure the maintenance of a continuing viable agricultural sector. Under the new wheat stabilisation scheme, the changes which this Government introduced mean that the wheat industry, in conditions where world markets are depressed, will be completely dependent on its own resources, and cannot expect this Government to assist in anything other than a minimal way. So, with respect to wheat stabilisation, again there was a direct intervention in the profitability of the agricultural sector.
The Government says that it is not only in the field of removing support measures that it has acted. It says that it has provided a range of positive schemes to assist agricultural production. On 2 1 May in response to a question on notice- one of those Dorothy Dix questions for which the Ministers of this Government are becoming so notorious- in which the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) was asked to what degree representations had been received from the National Country Party of Australia in regard to cuts in Government spending, the Treasurer outlined assistance totalling $670m which he said had been provided in the current financial year towards assisting the agricultural community. I think it might be well worth while to have a look for a few seconds at the forms of that assistance.
Wool marketing assistance he said amounting to $380m was provided of which the Australian Wool Corporation has received $350m. What a dishonest reply. Those funds are being advanced as loan moneys to the Australian Wool Corporation. Every Australian wool grower is being levied at a rate of 5 per cent on his wool earnings in order to finance any losses that might occur as a result of the advance of those moneys and to refund that advance. Eventually, it will be wool industry moneys which will be used and not the funds of the Government.
If it were not bad enough that he makes much play of having advanced that money, his Government has not even considered the future of the wool price support scheme. We have been told through newspaper reports for the last 6 weeks that, imminently, the Government is to come to a decision as to what is going to happen with respect to wool price support for the next financial year. The paper is not even up to the point of discussion, so far as I can gather, if the newspaper reports are anywhere near accurate. If it has been considered, the Government still has not come out and said that there will be a price maintenance program introduced for the next wool selling season.
I personally believe that there is difficulty in a premature announcement of the level of support until the closure of this wool selling season. However, the parties on this side of the House believe that that level of support should be at least at the present rate of 250c. We believe that the Government has a responsibility to tell the agricultural community that that price support program will be continued. But the Government has not given even that assurance.
Turning from wool, we heard from the Treasurer his boast about the rural reconstruction program allocation of $30m in a climate in which the Government has induced the present rural depression. When the program was introduced in 1971, the depression was the product of markets and of seasons. In those circumstances we introduced a $100m program. How generous of this Government to provide $30m to try to offset the diabolical state in which the family farmer in Australia has been pressed because of direct Labor Government intervention.
We are told that the fertiliser bounty allocation is $46m. I trust that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) rests happy that at least the sugar growers of his area might have been cared for at a time when market conditions were buoyant and every other user of fertiliser in Australia was just left whistling in the wind. It is true that the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty is necessary in order to maintain productivity in all those areas of agriculture where urea or the various other alternative forms of nitrogen can be applied. But it is equally important that other forms of productivity be stimulated through other fertiliser subsidies. The superphosphate bounty in particular is one such form which, at a time of rapidly increasing costs of phosphate rock, might well have offset the costs to primary producers, helped them to maintain production, and indirectly generated the money flow to finance those lavish programs of expenditure for which his Government takes much pride.
We move to the advance to the Commonwealth Bank of $20m for rural loans. How generous! That advance was belatedly provided to help the beef industry at a rate of” interest which is absolutely impossible for any cattleman to operate on. I have not time to go through the statistics, as I had intended to, of the cost of operating beef properties in Australia. The beef industry today is in a more critical position than it has ever been. Much of that is the product of market collapses abroad. But this Government has in no way helped the beef industry to overcome its circumstances. For the Treasurer to boast that $20m has been allocated from the Commonwealth Bank for advances to the beef industry is deplorable. That money was inadequate. The interest rate was too high. There is another measure now before this Parliament which provides some additional funds. If the States had not first provided their benefits and, in particular, if the State of Queensland had not provided its allocation to the beef industry, even those moneys would not have been provided.
In no area of agriculture is there a condition which has not been directly prejudiced by the intervention of this Labor Government. In most industries profitability is low. The plight of the farmer is grim. We on this side of the House believe that the circumstances of that plight are such that the Government needs to reverse its program and those attitudes which it has been following. That must be done if the family farmer is to survive.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, and reserve my right to speak. . Dr PATTERSON (Dawson-Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory) (1 1.17)- Once again in the House we have heard a lot of words and a lot of criticism of the Government. I was following closely to find out just what the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), himself would do in this predicament.
– You are in government.
-Yes. I will answer the questions that he has put up. First of all, the honourable member spoke about the small man, the small farmer. Why did his Government not look after the small farmer? The policy of the then Liberal-Country Party Government is well known throughout Australia. It was: Get big or get out. That was the policy of the LiberalCountry Party Government: Get big or get out. We saw the greatest exodus of dairy farmers and other farmers from the industry -
– That exodus is now accelerating.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! I ask honourable members to remain silent. The previous speaker was heard, as he should have been heard, in silence. That must apply now.
-We saw the greatest exodus of small farmers, under the LiberalCountry Party Government, leaving the respective industries. An analysis of subsidies reveals that most of the subsidies paid under the LiberalCountry Party Government went to the big producers and the big companies, many of them foreign companies. Statistics show that more than 70 per cent of total payments of subsidies went to fewer than 20 per cent of producers. Let us not hear this philosophy on the part of the National Country Party about how it protects the small family farmer as, under the former Administration, we saw the greatest exodus of small resident bona fide family farmers leaving primary industry.
As I have said, I listened intently to learn something constructive of what the Opposition would do if it were in government. But I heard exactly the same harangue that we always hear regarding the great deficit that the Opposition talks about. Never once do members of the Opposition rise and say what expenditure they will cut. They rise and say that they will increase expenditure. Do we hear them say that they will decrease the defence vote? Of course not; they want to increase it. Do we hear them say that they will decrease the education vote? Of course not. Do we hear them say that they will decrease the primary industry vote? Every proposal, every criticism, every argument put by the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) has been to increase- I repeat the word ‘increase’- Government spending in the primary production sector. Do we hear them say that they will decrease pensions? No. But on their record, of course we know full well that that is probably what they would do. They certainly would not give the same rate of increase as the Labor Party has given in the pension field. Do we hear them say that they will decrease the housing vote? Of course they do not. We could carry the question right through to the fields of water conservation and roads, and the same answers would apply as applied in respect to primary industry. I am glad that the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) is in the chamber because there has been criticism by the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party over some actions taken with respect to the Coombs report. I have in my possession a letter written by the Leader of the National Country Party to the Honorary Secretary of the Queensland Dairymen’s Organisation in Monto. Apparently the Dairymen’s Organisation asked some specific questions -
– When was that?
-The letter was written on 24 April 1974, that is, before the last Federal election. The Dairymen’s Organisation asked the then Australian Country Party what it would do with respect to certain things, such as the reconstruction scheme and the $10m special Commonwealth Grant which the Leader of the Australian Country Party promised to implement immediately after the election. The Leader of the Australian Country Party said in his letter:
Immediately after the election I asked the Prime Minister to implement our proposal . . .
He then said: . . . I cannot give you any undertaking that the proposal would be back-dated again because of the financial situation the new Government will find itself in.
He then went on to make some remarks in answer to a question whether he would reinstate the free milk scheme, which the National Country Party is criticising this Government for having stopped because of the tremendous waste and other reasons.
– Get on with it and tell us something, you nitpicker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will remain silent or I shall name him. I shall not warn him again.
-The Leader of the Australian Country Party said:
I have expressed strong opposition to the ending of the free milk program for school children but again I cannot give you an undertaking that the program would be reinstated.
On the question of taxation concessions for primary producers, and whether he would reinstate those concessions, the Leader of the Australian Country Party said:
The question of reinstatement of taxation concessions is one that also will have to be considered in the future.
I ask honourable members to listen closely to his next remarks. He said:
I would not necessarily support reinstatement of these concessions in their previous form but would want to see a thorough examination of the whole matter.
If we are going to have a knock-down drag-out argument on primary production honourable members opposite should at least let us know what their policies are with respect to the matters they criticise this Government for. We hear the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party say that we have a rural depression in Australia. But let us look at the figures. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimates that the total value of rural production in Australia in 1974-75 will be $5,400m. That is an increase of almost $2,000m since this Government took office. The value of crop production has risen by 99 per cent in the last 12 months to $2,026m.
– Just about equal to costs.
– The honourable member suggests that costs have gone up by 99 per cent in the last 12 months. His remarks show the absurdity of the National Country Party and the type of things its members are saying throughout the country. It is because of such remarks that people hold them in such ridicule in many areas. To say that costs have gone up by 99 per cent in the past 12 months is utter rubbish. Certainly the value of production of livestock has gone down. As everybody knows, this is due to international market factors. With regard to assistance to rural industry, if one looks at the figures one finds that this Government has given more in real terms, taking into account costs, than any previous government since Federation. Yesterday the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) gave details of that assistance. He said that $950m has been provided in assistance to industry, and of that amount $670m has been provided to primary industry. The wool marketing assistance plan has received $380m.
– In loans.
-What does it matter whether the money is provided by way of loans. How much did the previous Government give by way of loans? Did the honourable member’s Government guarantee a floor price scheme for more than 12 months?
– Yes, we did.
-The honourable member’s Government did not guarantee a floor price scheme for more than 12 months. Thirty million dollars has been provided for the rural reconstruction program; $46m by way of fertiliser bounty and $20m as an advance to the Commonwealth Bank for rural lending. Only yesterday I introduced a Bill with respect to the beef industry which provided for $20m at low rates of interest.
– Eighteen months too late.
-Order! The honourable member for McMillan will cease interjecting. I shall not issue any further warnings. The Deputy Leader of the National Country Party was heard in silence. I ask that the same courtesy be extended to the Minister for Northern Development.
-Let us take a few facts, not just words, words that are waffling, that are no indication of policy and are no indication of what the National Country Party would do. In fact I have quoted things which the National Country Party will not do, despite the fact that they criticise the Government. With respect to the beef industry, the Government has given almost $20m at low rates of interest. It has made available 4 per cent carry-on loans- 3 ‘A per cent in Queensland- with terms of up to 7 years with no repayments of principal and interest in the first year- this will be capitalised.
Let us look at the beef industry again with respect to tuberculosis compensation. The previous Government rejected out of hand any assistance to the beef cattle industry for tuberculosis compensation. Do members of the National Country Party deny that? No. This Government has introduced a compensation scheme for the cattle industry of a flat rate of $50 a head in respect of tuberculosis reactors sent for compulsory slaughter. The question of compensation for brucellosis is now before the Government. The Government has set up a high security animal quarantine station. What did the Government of honourable members opposite do about it? Precisely nothing. We are in the process of looking at the recommendations of the Public Works Committee with respect to Cocos (Keeling) Island. We have set up an animal health disease laboratory. What did the Country Party do about that when it was in office? Nothing. This Government has already made provision for at least $74m for one of the most modern animal health laboratories in the world. That is what this Government has done for the beef industry. We have established a Bureau of Animal Health. In August 1974 the Government approved the establishment of the Bureau of Animal Health. The chief aim of the Bureau is to streamline animal health activities in Australia aimed at disease eradication and prevention. It has had the acceptance and the thanks of the cattle industry throughout Australia as well as of the scientists who work in this field. Special assistance has been given to the Northern Territory. If it were not for this Government, the Katherine meatworks would not have been reopened. Special loans have been provided to cover extra operating expenses and of course to cover debt reconstruction. With respect to beef roads, this Government has given more money per annum, again in real terms, than the previous Government did during the whole time it was in office. In the 3-year program this Government has provided $24m for beef roads. On an annual basis, that is more than the previous Government did in the whole time it was in office.
– In real terms?
– In real terms. In connection with rural roads, the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has completely exposed the hypocrisy of State Ministers, particularly in Queensland. The facts are that 76 per cent of the total road grants in Queensland go to rural areas, compared with 59 per cent under the previous Commonwealth aid program for roads.
– Not true.
-The honourable member for Gippsland says that it is not true. I can assure him that it is accurate; it is true. In regard to the export diversification scheme to be introduced, special provision has been made for beef producers in the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys. I did not hear the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party say much about the wool program. All he talked about were proposals which would increase the budget deficit tremendously. He did not give one concrete proposal, except to further the floor price scheme, which would further increase the deficit. This Government has provided $3 80m to the industry in this respect. It has made determined efforts in the international field to sell wool. It may interest people to know that we are now selling $25m worth of wool a year to China. The Government has continued the wool research and promotion program. It has increased the first advance on wheat from $ 1 .20 to $ 1 .50 a bushel. More importantly perhaps, the increased first advance will be paid on all wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board. This, in effect, endorses the industry’s proposals for suspension of the wheat quotas. The home consumption price of wheat has been increased. I could go on and on.
I have dealt with the rural reconstruction scheme. Under the rural credit scheme, term loan funds have been increased from $62m in August 1973 to $72.6m in 1974. Mention was made of natural disasters. This Government’s record in natural disaster is good. Its record in relation to floods and to Darwin is better than what the previous Government would have done. All we have heard is complaints. We have not had any praise from the National Country Party with respect to Darwin. At least we have had some from the Liberal Party.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) summed up the position very well when he spoke about the Government’s wonderful record in natural disaster. This is not a laughing matter. If there is one disaster area it is in the real recession that is taking place in the rural industries. To listen to the Minister speaking about the Government’s record, one would think that there were no problems in the rural industries and that everything the Government has done has been to encourage and assist them. Of course, the record is just the opposite, and no amount of demagoguery on the part of the Minister will change the impression that people in the rural industries in Australia are in desperate circumstances, particularly those in the beef industry in respect of which the Minister has a direct responsibility and should know the facts.
The facts are that in 1973, when the industry was going through a very buoyant period, this Government set up 4 committees to try to find ways and means of reducing the price of meat in Australia so that consumers could buy it at a lower price, but to heck with the producers. One committee even reached the point of recommending a tax on the export of meat. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), who was a member of that committee, supported that recommendation. The Government now claims that it is meeting the situation by, belatedly, giving a loan to match those to which the States have already agreed. Never before when we have had a major disaster in the rural industries has the Commonwealth Government waited until the States have acted. The Government has now given $20m of loan money to tide over those people in the most desperate situations. We have had a declared policy on this matter. We said that $100m ought to be provided, not just this month but 6 months ago, at 4 per cent interest to try to build up liquidity, and if that was not enough more money would have to be provided. Here is one of Australia’s biggest industries down on its knees. Its liquidity problems are acute. Something must be done.
Today I want to concentrate more on one aspect of rural agriculture which I believe is the most important of all and which must be discussed publicly. That aspect- it is central not only to the rural community but to the whole economy and the whole community- is the impact which inflation is having on primary producers. Despite the boasting of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) last year, this Government has utterly failed to control inflation. It is now almost completely out of control and everybody is very worried. Inflation lies at the heart of virtually all our economic problems and many of our social problems. Unemployment is largely the result of inflation. We will never restore full employment while inflation remains uncontrolled.
For the rural sector inflation is deadly. It is an enemy that the farmer is almost powerless to fight. His capacity to fight it has been greatly weakened by this Government. Let me illustrate just how much inflation is damaging the Australian farmer, how much it is damaging his family and how much it is damaging the communities in which farmers live and work. It is estimated that the value of rural production in 1974-75 will be down by 5 per cent. Net farm income- that is what the farmer has left after paying his costs- will be less than $2,000m, or down 40 per cent on last year, if farm costs- rise by only 20 per cent. Can any honourable member tell me of any other person in the community whose income is falling at the rate of 40 per cent per annum? Yet that is what has happened to Australian farmers over the last 12 months. But that is not the end of it. One has to look at what inflation is doing to the farmer’s income when he gets his 40 per cent less. He has less purchasing power with that reduced income. Furthermore, the tax burden that is imposed upon him is heavier because the tax incentives have been taken away from him. So the farmer is getting it in the neck both ways. The net farm income is reduced and there is reduced spending capacity in what he has left.
Virtually no other person in the community is so defenceless against inflation. Nearly everyone else has some kind of automatic adjustment in his net income or is able to take action to protect himself, at least to some extent, against the damage that inflation causes. But the farmer is right at the end of the line. He sells much of his production overseas and he has to take whatever the market offers. He cannot raise his prices to cope with inflation. He cannot demand higher wages to cope with inflation. He cannot persuade anyone to bring in a system of indexation for his income. He just has to sit back and watch people in every other sector of the community protecting themselves, with varying degrees of success, against inflation- and often making inflation worse in the process- while he is powerless to do anything to protect himself. That is why the question of inflation is so vital.
This Government has done a great deal to reduce the farmer’s capacity to fight the inflation that is crippling him. The taxation concessions which were used, and used to tremendous effect, to encourage investment in farming, property improvement and conservation measures have been taken away by this Government. The bounty on superphosphate has been abolished at a time when the cost of fertiliser is rocketing in this country. There has been a 188 per cent increase in the cost of fertiliser between December 1973 and December 1974. Yet, the Government has the audacity to remove the bounty on superphosphate. I repeat: There has been a 188 per cent increase in the cost of fertiliser. How is it possible for farmers ever to cope with these sorts of cost increases? The farmer has been put into a state of utter confusion and uncertainty about the future of the bounty, so he has stopped buying superphosphate. This is disastrous not only for production and productivity and for the whole of the production and distribution industry but also for the future of agriculture at a time when the world desperately needs more food production.
This Government has been criminal in the way it has discouraged agricultural production. All sorts of assistance measures that were used to help the rural sector have been taken away. The position has been made much more difficult now by the rate of inflation. Yet, we heard the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) yesterday and the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory today bragging about the assistance that they are giving to farmers. Let me inform the Australian community, including the farmers, that the great bulk of this assistance, if not all of it, has been provided by way of loans on which interest has to be paid. This is happening while many other sections of the community are receiving grants to help tide them over. These grants are being given to some big industrial concerns such as Australian Pulp and Paper Manufacturers Ltd and Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australia, companies which make a very big profit each year. This Government is giving patronage to such companiesalmost a direct subsidy by way of grantwhilst the rural community is left abandoned to struggle on as best it can.
Let us look at the way in which some of the other costs have risen during the year 1974. The cost of fuel is up by 22 per cent. Spare parts costs have increased by 22 per cent. Machinery costs have increased by 27 per cent. Farm wages have risen by nearly 40 per cent, rates and taxes by 20 per cent and interest charges by 72 per cent. Overall, farm costs for 1974 increased by 35 per cent. The consumer price index rose by 16 per cent. That means that the cost of the major items a farmer must buy rose by twice as much as the things that the average person in the Australian community has to buy. But while the income of the average person was going up, the farmer’s income was going down. The farmer is caught in the most vicious squeeze between inflation on the one hand and reduced income on the other hand. It is because of this that the National Country Party of Australia makes no apologies whatever for fighting to get a better deal for the rural sector and for people who live and work in country areas and provincial areas. When the Minister berates us for asking for help in the rural industry, I say that he should go out to some of these farmers in desperate areas. When this Government can spend millions of dollars on the Regional Employment Development scheme and on other projects, bow to the pressure of the trade unions and grant shorter working hours for people, let the Minister tell the farmers that they should not appeal for help to carry them through these difficult circumstances.
In the 10 years before the Labor Party came to office- this is up to 1972- farm costs were rising at the rate of 4 per cent per annum. Last year they rose by 35 per cent. That is an intolerable situation for the Australian primary producer. He has been put in this situation largely because of the policies of this present Government. This inflationary situation is rapidly reducing the Australian farming community to a peasant society. The question that can be fairly asked of this antirural Government is whether this is a deliberate policy. If it is not, the Government must knuckle down to tackling inflation. It must reduce the enormous deficit the Treasurer has run up. It must lower the rate at which it is spending money. The Government should free the Australian dollar and allow it to find its own level in the international market place. It should honour the promise that it has made repeatedly to make finance available to farmers on sensible terms. It should honour the promise that the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) made in his Labor Party policy statement last year to introduce an income stabilisation scheme. The Minister made a categorical promise. But what happened? The income stabilisation scheme has been shoved off to the Industries Assistance Commission, along with 60 other matters, for examination. The Government should introduce indexation of taxes so that self-employed people such as farmers and others who do not get automatic income rises will at least receive some relief from the impact of inflation. The Government should restore the bounty on superphosphate. Do not let me hear any nonsense about the cost that would be involved. The money involved in a fertiliser bounty is returned to the Government over and over again through the increased taxes it collects on the higher production in the community.
The fundamental cause of the farmer’s problem today is uncontrolled inflation. Inflation has always been a major problem for primary producers but it is now more serious than ever. Inflation is at the heart of our whole economic problem. That is why I say to the whole community that we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to confront this problem. Unless the Government faces up to this problem the Australian rural industries will be devastated and ruined within a few years. They cannot survive a 35 per cent increase in costs when farm incomes have gone down by 40 per cent in the last year. They must inevitably go down further if we look at commodity prices and the trends that are taking place now. I say to the Government that it is guilty of a dereliction of its responsibility to this nation and the rural people unless it comes to grips with inflation.
-We have seen today the old trick played again. The Liberal Party opposes and the National Country Party proposes. We have heard today from the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) the proposition that the beef industry should have been promised $100m. The industry was promised more than $ 100m by the Country Party in 1972. The Country Party proposed the establishment of a Rural Bank. But who disposed of that? Their Liberal Party colleagues disposed of it. We find now the trick being played around the proposition that the Government should be condemned. The Liberal Party is now condemning the Government for spending money and we find the National Country Party proposing further expenditure. The contradictions that exist in the coalition are becoming manifest and obvious now to all who wish to look at them. Now we find the National Country Party condemning this Government which has probably introduced more reforms and more real programs into agriculture than any previous Australian government in history.
What do the members of this National Country Party who profess to be so expert and who are so quick to condemn, have to offer? At the recent great extravaganza held at the Lakeside International hotel- a very rural setting- the Country Party changed its name and broadened its interest. It decided that it would no longer speak for farmers alone. We find that amongst the handouts at that conference there was one piece of paper headed ‘Primary Industry’, along with the aspirins- now we know why they were provided to the delegates- which contained the socalled policy of the National Country Party in relation to primary industry. If it were not for the fact that the letters were printed so large and spaced so widely the whole policy could be printed on the back of a dollar note. Here on one sheet of paper is the policy of the National Country Party, which presumes today to condemn, in relation to primary industry. What do we find? The policy is stated in very precise, meaningful terms. Suppose a dairy farmer wants to know what the National Country Party will do for him. The piece of paper states:
The creation by Government of an economic climate in which primary industry could be self-sufficient and profitable.
What does that sort of generalisation mean, coining from an extravagant conference such as the one the National Country Party held over at the Lakeside Hotel? The journalists went there expecting hard news. They took their nutcrackers. What did they get? They got watery milk. Instead of the conference being the consummation of a new relationship in politics, it turned out to be hardly a massage. The National Country Party when in Opposition will promise the world.
The Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) when introducing the motion complained that the Government had done nothing for local government, an area where there is a real crisis in rural areas. The National Country Party is putting the proposition that 5 per cent of taxation revenue should be directed to local government. Revenue can only be redirected to local government if the constitutional authority for this to happen is given to this Parliament otherwise it has to go to the State governments. (Quorum formed) The expressed purpose of that little action was to deny the public the real facts. The Government has done more for agriculture than any other government in the history of Australia. The so-called mentors of the National Country Party adopt the tactic of advocating assistance for local government but when the Government seeks the constitutional power to enable it to give this assistance, it is opposed by the National Country Party. Members of that Party should hang their heads in shame.
Members of the National Country Party talk about the wool market. Let me read to honourable members what the Leader of the National Country Party, who has just spoken, had to say on the subject of whether there ought to be the sort of reserve price protection we have provided for the wool market. On 15 November 1970 he expressed the view of the then Australian Country Party in these terms:
I repeat what I have said on earlier occasions: The scheme is not intended to force or defy the wool market, but to test it and to get the best and most realistic price the market can pay.
I am afraid those growers who believe wool users can be forced- in this day of ready availability of cheaper though perhaps inferior textile substitutes- to pay a certain price for wool are not facing up to the realities of the situation.
– Who said that?
-The Leader of the National Country Party said it in opposing the proposition that we ought to have a reserve price, a fixed reserve in the market. Not only did he say that, but when giving evidence on meat prices to the Joint Committee on Prices- and the right honourable member conveniently reminded me about this- the then Country Party’s advice to the Government was: ‘Hands off the beef industry and increase production’. Representatives of the Country Party were telling this Government to increase production in the beef industry. I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there would be very few beef producers in Australia today who would have been pleased if the Government had taken that particular advice. I remind the House that the Country Party said to the Government: ‘Hands off the beef industry; do not go near it’.
We had a situation in which it was quite obvious that the Government had to be involved in the beef industry. We took every possible measure open to us to keep the markets of the world available to the Australian beef producers. Not only that, but we also provided loan funds on terms to the beef industry which had never been excelled. We were criticised in the first instance for providing $20m at the bank interest rate. An amount of $10.5m, or well over half of the $20m provided has already been taken up in the first 5 months of this scheme. I put it to honourable members that if this money was not attractive it would not have been taken up by beef producers. Of course, the Government has supplemented that amount with another $20m at a low rate of interest. Nothing was ever done along those lines by the Opposition when it was in government. The Opposition was never prepared to assist agriculture in these ways simply because the National Country Party proposed and the Liberal Party disposed. The National Country Party belongs to a coalition. It puts up wild ideas because it does not have any responsibility. It even acted in this way when it was a partner in government because the Liberal Party was there to pull it back. It is significant that a Liberal spokesman has not participated in this important debate. It looks very much like the Liberal Party is washing its hands of the National Country Party in every significant way. After its performance at the Lakeside, who could blame it.
-Mr Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20 February 1975 on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That, in the opinion of this House, restrictions upon the granting of supplementary assistance to pensioners are too severe.
– I continue to speak on the motion which states:
That, in the opinion of this House, restrictions upon the granting of supplementary assistance to pensioners are too severe.
In these days of inflation there are some forgotten people. The pensioners of whom I speak are some of the forgotten people. They are not getting the benefit of indexation. For a pensioner the great expenditure is probably that of accommodation. It is for that reason that I have moved motions in regard to pensioner accommodation. Supplementary assistance, as honourable members know, is called rent allowance. It is paid to those pensioners who have to pay rent. There is another class of pensioner who is in difficulty about accommodation and that is the pensioner who, by reason of inflation, finds the burden of rates and taxes imposed upon his home of increasing severity. It is for that reason that another motion is to be brought on in due time. It states:
That, in the opinion of this House, finance should be made available to assist pensioners who own their own homes to meet rates and other necessary outgoings.
I simply say, almost by way of aside, that this is a matter which will be brought on in the future. It is the other half of the present motion. I turn now to this motion in regard to supplementary assistance or rent allowance. Rent allowance was brought in as an addition to the pension in 1958. It was increased in 1965. Then, when I was Minister, I brought in a Bill which increased the amount again to $4 a week. At the same time the allowance was made payable to a married couple. Previously they were excluded.
– With a means test.
-The means test is still too severe and it has become more severe by reason of inflation.
– That is not true. It is the other way around.
-By reason of inflation the means test on supplementary assistance has become more severe. This Government increased supplementary assistance from $4 a week to $5 a week. That was an inadequate increase, but it was still an increase. The Government did nothing about the means test on supplementary assistance. This means test is particularly hard. Let me tell the House about this assistance. For every bit of income above $1 a week the supplementary assistance is reduced by an equivalent amount. So, if a pensioner has an income of $4 a week his supplementary assistance is reduced by $3 a week. If he has an income of $5 a week he gets only $1 a week supplementary assistance. If he has an income of $6 a week- a magnificent sum- he does not get any rent allowance at all. In these days of inflation this is far too severe. If I may say so, I think it was far too severe in the days before we had inflation. I am sure that if we had remained in government this is one of the next things we would have done. We did a lot in regard to this supplementary assistance. We doubled it. We made married couples eligible. But we still kept the sudden death of the $1 for $1 diminution of pension by reason of income. This is too hard a level.
But whatever we did, the position is much worse now. With the rise in prices $1 is worth much less today. If the Government were to restore the circumstances which existed when we were in office, there would have to be some easing of this means test. I hope that one thing which will be done will be the raising of supplementary assistance. But I suggest also that the means test should be radically altered. This will not be a tremendously expensive matter. At the present moment there are approximately 268 000 people on supplementary assistance. That excludes the 20 000 or so people who receive supplementary assistance through the supporting mothers benefit. It is very difficult to ascertain how many are excluded by the means test.
The Department of Social Security is not in a position to give the exact figure. On the available figures there would be perhaps as many as 300 000 people who do not own their own homes and do not receive supplementary assistance. But that is a most misleading figure because it includes married couples who would draw only one rent allowance and it includes a number of people- a majority of them- who are living with their families and do not pay rent. At present nobody either inside or outside the Department can give any more than an estimate, but I should think that if the means test were removed entirely- I am not suggesting that- there probably would be somewhere in the order of 100 000 extra claimants. At the present rate that would represent an additional expenditure of $25m a year, which is a large sum but not a collossal sum.
I would suggest not that we remove the means test altogether from those who pay rent but that we ease it very substantially. The means test presses hard not only upon the people who do not receive pensions but also- I think even more so, very often- upon the people who do receive pensions. I know of many cases of people saying: ‘I would like to take a part time job. I would like to earn a little bit. I would like to do something for myself. But if I do I will lose my supplementary assistance’. I believe that that makes it very difficult. Perhaps it would be possible to introduce a tapering system into the general means test. It might be better to do it in some other way. But let us ease it in some way not only to help the people who do not receive supplementary assistance now but also to help the people who do receive supplementary assistance to lead a better life by being able to do something for themselves.
I know that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has done something in the most urgent field- that is, in regard to the sheltered workshops- and I give him credit for that. But that does not apply to the many age pensioners and invalid pensioners who are in the same kind of position and are not employed in sheltered workshops. We should help those people to do something for themselves. It would not be expensive. This is one of the areas in which the shoe pinches, in which inflation has caught up the most. The accommodation problem is the one that for many pensioners is the most urgent of all their problems. Something should, and I hope, will be done for those who own their own homes and are being pressed by having to pay increased rates and taxes as a result of the inflationary situation and for those who are still paying rent.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– I am pleased to be following the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in the debate on this motion because I think we have a tremendous amount in common in our concern for the plight of pensioners and those on fixed or low incomes. I agree with him that the need to solve the accommodation problem of pensioners is absolutely urgent. I do not agree, however, that solving the accommodation problem should become the complete and whole prerogative of the Federal Government. I will speak on that in a moment. I was interested, on looking at the figures, to find that from 1958 to 1964 there was no increase in the supplementary assistance payment. By 1972 it had increased by $1 a week. In fact it took 15 years for the Liberal-Country Party Government to increase the supplementary assistance payment by $3 a week. The Labor Government increased it by $1 a week in one year. It is always interesting to point out that the Opposition seems to believe that the present Government can do in one year what it failed to do in 23 years in office. It is a great compliment that the Opposition pays to the present Government, but I am afraid that it cannot keep pace quite to that extent.
I have noted in this House on a number of occasions when we have been discussing rent subsidies that every time the rent subsidy payable to eligible pensioners has been increasedthis has happened throughout the years- the owners of the houses and flats throughout the various States that are rented by pensioners and those who rent rooms or provide board to pensionersin fact some State governments used to do it also- take the increase directly from the hands of the pensioners. I offer that not as a reason why rent subsidies should not be increased when the right time comes around or when the right way is found but as an indictment of those States which get out of meeting their responsibility towards those who need accommodation, particularly pensioners, by throwing the matter back on to the Federal Government. It is also an indictment of those States which, through apathy at best, have neglected to make sure that reasonable flats and houses are available for renting to those who are on low or fixed incomes and to pensioners.
The States have the right- they keep ramming this point down our throats- to control the cost of land, housing and rent within their borders, but they abdicate any responsibility for doing so. Through the rent subsidy being paid by the Federal Government to the pensioners, the taxpayers are, in my opinion, subsidising in most cases a group including some greedy owners and the States which have abdicated their responsibility in this field. The States love to point to the Federal Government and lay the blame for inflation fairly and squarely on its shoulders, but they themselves are guilty. Never at any time have they moved to assert the real control that is needed over land speculators and developers.
It is not only the pensioners who suffer under this lack of responsibility; the home builders and the many hard-working families in Victoria, for example, who today are paying up to one-third of their earnings to get a roof over their head also suffer. We have an inherent right to have food, to breathe fresh air and to have shelter, but anyone who is paying $40 out of his weekly take-home pay or his gross pay to get a roof over his head is gradually being reduced to a poverty level. I emphasise that I am referring to the people who are working a regular 40 hours a week and whose pay is not sufficient to enable them to cope with the rent. They will cope all right with the prices being charged, but they will not cope with the rent The pensioners in particular are being hit. Increasing the supplementary assistance payment to $8 a week would, of course, result in the inclusion of many more pensioners, as the honourable member for Mackellar would be well aware. The cost of doing so has been put at $56m in a full year. I find it amazing that members of the Opposition are in such conflict over the subject of spending. The Leaders and Deputy Leaders of the Opposition Parties are continually crying out ‘Cut Government spending drastically in most areas bar defence’; but many members of the Opposition, such as the honourable member for Mackellar, are calling for increased spending. Evidently some conflict exists within the Opposition Parties on that subject. I suggest that they should get together and decide whether they want cuts or increases; they cannot have 2 bob each way.
I refer briefly to the track record of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in the field of social services. In 1 5 years it increased the supplementary assistance by $3 a week and the same conditions applied then as apply now. Why do honourable members opposite always wait until they are in Opposition before they call for such an increase? Why do they not write down their policy now and say clearly to the pensioners: ‘If you put us back into office, this is what we will do ‘? One does not get that information from the Leaders of the Opposition Parties. One gets it only from people such as the honourable member for Mackellar, who is to retire at the end of this Parliament and who has a good track record in the area of compassion for pensioners. I have never heard one of the Leaders of the Opposition Parties say: ‘We will do such and such. We will increase the supplementary assistance payment by such and such a time if you put us back into office. We will abolish the means test in a certain period of time if you put us back into office’. The Opposition is not prepared to write down what it will do. It is prepared only to let its back bench members stand up in this chamber and speak through their compassion. It is so easy to say certain things, but it is the actions that one takes that count. Actions count; words do not. Honourable members opposite had 23 years to do what today they have sought to have done, and in those 23 years they failed lamentably. They would fail again if they were put back into office.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I may have misheard the honourable member . for Henty, but I thought I heard her say that the present Government -
-Order! What is the honourable member for Mackellar seeking to do?
– I claim to have been misrepresented, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! I will give the honourable member for Mackellar an opportunity to make a personal explanation at the conclusion of the debate.
-The honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child), who has just resumed her seat, challenged the Opposition to write down certain things and related her remarks in particular to the subject of the means test. I wish to quote from the joint policy document prepared by the Opposition. It reads:
The removal of the means test by 1 975 for all persons over 65 years of age to alleviate inequalities and help all our elderly citizens.
We wrote it down. We would have carried it out if we had been given the opportunity to do so. The resolution before the House is:
That, in the opinion of this House, restrictions upon the granting of supplementary assistance to pensioners are too severe.
The honourable member for Henty talked about the amount of supplementary assistance to those who are likely enough to qualify for it. The amount that they are receiving is falling rapidly in value because of the inflation caused by this Government. From time to time we hear the Labor Party seeking to pass the buck of responsibility for inflation. First, the Labor Party seeks to blame its predecessors in Government, the Liberal-Country Party Government; secondly, it seeks to justify its action upon the basis that inflation is imported; and today the honourable member for Henty says that responsibility for inflation rests with the States. What nonsense!
I suggest the honourabe member looks at the policies of her own Government to see how its policies have caused inflation to rise from 4.5 per cent per annum to 17.8 per cent per annum. At one stage inflation was running at a rate of 20 per cent per annum and some figures which are currently available indicate that we can expect it to be running at the rate of 30 per cent if the present Government’s policies are allowed to continue. If that rate of inflation continues those people who are most in need will be hurt the most. The people who are most in need are those who today qualify for supplementary assistance and those who deserve to qualify for supplementary assistance.
The Opposition, in its policy speech last year, said that it would do 2 things in this regard; it said, firstly, that it would raise the level of supplementary assistance. But it is nonsense today to talk abot raising it in terms of absolute figures; one needs to look at it in real terms. With the rate of inflation going on as it is, the increase in supplementary assistance of $6 last year necessarily has to be reviewed so that the real benefit so supplementary assistance makes a meaningful contribution to the household income of those pensioners who deserve to receive it.
I turn to the question of the means test that applies to supplementary assistance. In a number of areas the means test for the granting of the pension as a whole has been abolished, but nothing has been done with regard to the alleviation of the means test as it applies to those eligible for supplementary assistance. The means test has its first impact on a single age or widow pensioner who has $920 in the bank or who has $400 in the bank and an income of $ 1 a week. What sort of job would you be doing to receive an income of $1 a week? As a result, those persons who are today eligible for supplementary assistance cannot add further to their income by taking a small part-time job. Organisations managing group housing provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act might be willing to make available part-time work, such as watering the lawns, to those who want to do something useful in the area in which they live. In doing that useful job, those people are deserving of some payment. If those people receive over $1 a week for such a task they lose, on a $1 for $1 basis, the supplementary assistance to which they are entitled.
The Interim Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, the Henderson report, deals with this area of poverty and states that people who pay rent are a class of persons in great need. The report contains a recommendation for an increase in supplementary assistance but the Commission also recommended a fundamental structural change in the basis upon which the supplementary assistance is paid. The report contains the following recommendation:
The Commission therefore recommends that the separate means test on supplementary assistance be amended. Instead, full supplementary assistance should be paid to a pensioner up to the point at which his means as assessed are $16 less than the point at which the pension begins to be reduced. Supplementary assistance should then be reduced by 50 cents for each $1 of extra income until it ceases to be paid at a point of maximum income for the receipt of a full pension.
In spite of that recommendation, the Government has done nothing to recognise the fundamental basis upon which that Commission presented its recommendations. The basis was that the people entitled to supplementary assistance should be given some incentive to earn more or save more. The means test operates as if it were a $1 for $1 tax; a tax of 100c for every $1 these people seek to earn. This not only affects those who are age pensioners; it also has a particular bearing on many families where the children of the family are supported by a widow.
If one looks at the statistics one finds that a higher percentage of widow pensioners are entitled now, under the very stringent provisions of the means test, to supplementary assistance. Many of those widows, for their own good- to enable them to have contact with other people as well as for the financial benefit it provides for their children- want to seek part-time employment. But if they go out and earn more than a very small amount, in 1975 dollars- an amount which is in real terms is far smaller today than it was two or three years ago and its value is rapidly declining- those widow pensioners find that for every $1 they earn they are taxed, as it were, $1 by way of their supplementary assistance entitlement being correspondingly reduced.
An urgent need exists for a review of the restrictions that are now imposed upon the terms and conditions under which supplementary assistance is available. People should be encouraged to provide for themselves by saving. People should be encouraged to do more for their families and for themselves by working either part-time or full time. If they are in need and qualify for assistance under the means test that now operates, that test should be in a form that enables them to supplement their income- to do better for themselves. Instead, the means test operates as a ceiling limit. Widow or age pensioners who qualify now for supplementary assistance are discouraged from supplementing their income. They cannot do better for themselves. The means test operates as a barrier through which, in many circumstances, they are unable to pass. People should not be kept in poverty by a social security mechanism that has got out of date as a consequence, largely, of the economic mismanagement of this Government. The Opposition has stated in its policy that it will review this means test. It has stated that it will seek to encourage people to provide more for themselves to give them greater incentive to increase their incomes, to do more for their children if they are widows, and to do more for themselves if they are single or married age pensioners. They should be given this encouragement. The Opposition calls upon Government supporters to support this motion, which reads:
To vote for that motion is to recognise the fundamental thesis behind the recommendations of the Henderson Committee report on this topic. We call upon supporters of the Government to demonstrate whether they, along with the Opposition, now recognise that there is an urgent need to liberalise this all-too-severe means test on those eligible for supplementary assistance.
– It seems extraordinary that we should have this motion put before us this morning- not that I am without some sympathy for it- following straight after the previous motion calling for further Government expenditure. These are 2 measures seeking increased Government expenditure. The first proposal involved hundreds of millions of dollars in respect of farmers. This motion calls for expenditure in respect of social welfare benefits. This Government has been accused of spending too much, particularly on social welfare. I should like the Opposition to tell us on which items it would increase expenditure and on which ones it would cut it. It is all very well for the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) to say: ‘We have written down what we intend to do about this business of supplementary assistance’. I suppose the Menzies Government in 1939, all those years ago, wrote down that it was going to bring in a system of national superannuation. We are still waiting for it. The only hope we have of being likely to get it is under the present Government. In 1949 the Menzies Opposition, as it then was, promised to abolish the means test. It did not do it. We get all these recommendations when the Opposition Parties are in Opposition but their practice in government does not measure up in any way towards their promises.
Of course the simple fact of the matter as everybody knows is that more has been done for social welfare beneficiaries under this Government than was done under any previous government. Of course I think there is a case for increasing the supplementary assistance allowance. But it is a simple case that we cannot do everything. As has already been mentioned we have done something for those who work in sheltered workshops. We have relaxed considerably the means test in respect of earnings so that those people can retain their supplementary assistance and we have gone on to encourage more of these people who are aged or disabled to enter sheltered workshops. We have made available very generous subsidies to the organisations conducting sheltered workshops. That is to be considered in addition to the $1 a week increase in supplementary assistance which we have made available in our 2% years in office.
I remind the House that apart from this item of supplementary assistance, that affects, I suppose, less than one in eight pensioners, we have done a great deal for all pensioners. I shall cite briefly what we have done. In respect of the married rate of pension for age, invalid and service pensioners, it has been increased in our 2h years in office by 73.9 per cent- nearly 74 per cent. However, the consumer price index has increased by only 36.3 per cent. In other words we have increased the pension for married couples by more than twice the percentage by which the consumer price index has increased. For the basic rate pensioner receiving the single rate pension, which is the much more numerous type of pension in the community, we have increased that pension by 80 per cent as against this 36.3 per cent increase in the consumer price index. In other words we have increased it by well over twice as much as the CPI. The same could be said about the class A widows pension. It has been increased by 80 per cent. The class B widows pension has been increased by 108.6 per cent and the class C widows pension has been increased by 108.6 per cent. The married couple sickness beneficiaries payment has increased by 140 per cent. I remind the House that all these increases can be compared with an increase of only 33.6 per cent in the consumer price index over the period of time to the end of 1 974. So the Government has done a great deal to assist pensioners in general and social service beneficiaries.
We have done something- we would like to do more- in regard to those receiving supplementary assistance. I think it might even be considered that we ought to do something for those who are paying off their homes ahd who have to meet a high rate burden. I think there is a case for them too, particularly those who have only just started paying off their homes. Once they become purchasers of their own homes they are ineligible for supplementary assistance. Certainly, they receive some benefits from State governments by way of subsidy towards the paying off of their homes. They are building up an equity in the ownership of their homes, but I still think there is a case for them and there is a case for other people who have other types of calls upon them who deserve some kind of extra benefit over and above the basic pension.
I remind the House that although the Government does increase supplementary assistance all too infrequently, when it is increased the increase is gobbled up by increased rental charges. In that regard it is notable that owners of private dwellings tend to increase rents much more readily than do governments. We make accusations against State government housing authorities which sometimes put up their rents before pensions or supplementary assistance, or both, are increased. That happened recently. We are in the process of increasing the pension presently. The increase will take effect from 1 May, but pensioners will not receive that increase until the beginning of next month. However, in many cases rents have already gone up.
I agree that it would be desirable both for the supplementary assistance allowance to be increased and also for the means test affecting it to be lightened. But the simple fact is that we have to make choices. We are examining much more comprehensive schemes, such as the national superannuation scheme, which possibly may take account of a variety of circumstances, not just those relating to the paying of rent. Some of those who are paying rent are not all that badly off. Others are in a much worse position. The situation varies considerably. In my view our whole scheme of social welfare needs to be much more flexible. It needs to take account of a whole variety of circumstances. As I have said, in 2½ years this Government has done a considerable amount.
A lot of people have accused us of trying to do too much in a hurry. We are being accused of this by some people for carrying out our promise in respect to abolishing the means test. They say that we are giving benefits to people who do not need them. We did give a pledge and we are trying our best, given the circumstances of the economy, to carry through our pledges in that regard. But at the same time we are getting various calls not only in the matter of social welfare but also in relation to education, primary producers, secondary industry, the promoting of exports, the building of houses and in the alleviating of problems of those people who suffer from natural disasters. All these are calls on the Government purse.
– The unemployed.
– And the unemployed, and this is not the first time we have had unemployed in this country.
– We have never had so many, though.
-That is all very well. Unemployment has happened cyclically every 5 years, even under the previous government. We are trying to meet that situation. In humanitarian terms we are doing a lot more to help those who are unemployed or who happen to be sick than our predecessors every contemplated doing. The Government is building more homes for the aged, either directly itself or through State government authorities, housing commissions, private organisations and the like. These are all matters that will help those pensioners who are confronted with having to pay rent.
I am not so sure if we eased the means test for pensioners that many more pensioners would go into the work force. There is the matter of inclination and many of them may think they have done their fair share of toil during their lives and that they are entitled not to work. I would expect at least 80 per cent of those who have reached retirement ago to be content to call that the end of their working life, though I am not speaking in terms of work involved in looking after their own homes or taking up some activity in society. I am speaking in terms of going out to work regularly. I do not think a great many would be induced to take up work simply because we eased the means test for pensioners. Easing the means test would be more likely to help those who have savings, superannuation and the like.
Also I do not think that supplementary assistance will do as much as we think it will. However, having committed ourselves to providing supplementary assistance, and it does benefit about a quarter of a million recipients in our community at present, we should make an effort in terms of other commitments that we have to do what we can to ease the means test and, at the appropriate time, to increase further the amount of supplementary assistance which pensioners are allowed to receive. I have indicated that it might have been our opponents’ policy to increase supplementary assistance but not do very much for the vast bulk of pensioners. This was one of the devices I saw used over the years by the previous government, to do something for a comparatively -
Motion (by Mr Wentworth) proposed:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr U. E. Innes)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Mr Stewart, and read a first time.
– I move:
One purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian income tax law so that when Papua New Guinea becomes independent it will be treated as a separate country for Australian tax purposes. The Bill will also give effect to other taxation proposals, some of which have been earlier announced. Our income tax law contains a number of special provisions relating to Papua New Guinea. These are the product of a variety of circumstances, including the longstanding policy of applying our tax laws in a limited way to Australian Territories. Some relate to an administrative position that came about in 1959 when a separate income tax was imposed in the Territory of Papua New Guinea. The provisions appropriate for a Territory are not of course appropriate for an independent country. Moreover, changes in both countries’ laws since 1959 have removed the justification for the provisions relating to the 1959 situation. Except in a few respects, the amendments proposed by this Bill will end the operation of these special provisions. In broad terms, those provisions that provide special treatment for certain categories of income or expenditure related to activities conducted in either Australia or in Papua New Guinea, but not in other countries, will be made inapplicable by the Bill so far as concerns income and expenditure related to activities conducted in an independent Papua New Guinea. Subject to some exceptions, income derived from a source in Papua New Guinea by Australian residents will be treated in the same way for Australian tax purposes as income from a source in other places outside Australia. Residents of Papua New Guinea will be taxed like other non-residents on income from sources in Australia.
One of the more important exceptions is a form of double tax relief to apply after independence. A tax credit system at present applies in respect of Papua New Guinea income of Australian residents and in the converse case. It is proposed to retain this system in Australia after independence but, as the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) announced recently, the salary or wages of Australians working in Papua New Guinea will be exempted from Australian tax where Papua New Guinea taxes the income. The rate of withholding tax on dividends paid to Papua New Guinea residents is half the general rate of 30 per cent. This is a concession we ordinarily make only in the context of a comprehensive double taxation agreement with other countries. We propose however to continue it in Papua New Guinea’s case after independence. The Bill generally requires the changes I have described to be synchronised with Papua New Guinea’s independence. Transitional provisions are included to take account of commitments that may have already been undertaken by taxpayers against the background of the present law. The Bill also contains some other measures related to Papua New Guinea’s independence. One of these is that, on a basis of reciprocity, people in receipt of pensions from Australia or Papua New Guinea are to be taxed only in whichever of the 2 countries they reside. Another will confer an exemption from Australian tax on compensation and allowances paid under the employment security scheme now authorised by the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act 1973. These amounts are paid to members of the Australian Staffing Assistance Group and other former expatriate officers of the Public Service of Papua New Guinea on termination of their services there.
An altogether different provision of the Bill will facilitate the raising of loans overseas by the Australian Industry Development Corporation. It will provide an exemption from withholding tax for interest paid by the Corporation on such loans. The Bill provides also for the accelerated income tax deductions for depreciation announced on 9 December 1974 to stimulate investment in manufacturing and primary production plant. Taxpayers will be entitled to claim depreciation deductions on eligible plant calculated at twice the rates normally applied for income tax purposes. The increased rates will continue to apply in succeeding years until the cost of the eligible plant has been written off. Plant that would have qualified for the now abolished investment allowances, and is first used or installed ready for use during the 12 months period ending 30 June 1975, will be eligible for the concession. In broad terms, this is new plant acquired for use in a manufacturing or associated process and plant to be used wholly and exclusively in primary production activities. Taxpayers may elect to forgo the accelerated depreciation allowances if they so wish.
The Bill will also implement 2 earlier announced decisions designed to give relief in the private sector of the economy. The first of these- to dispense with the collection of an instalment of tax from companies in February 1975- was announced late last year. The second- the repeal of provisions enacted in the 1974-75 Budget to ascribe minimum values for income tax purposes to cars available for private use of employees- is one of a package of measures that the Treasurer announced on 28 January to assist the motor vehicle industry. The law will also be amended by the Bill so as to remove any possible doubt that allowances paid under the National Employment and Training system are liable to income tax and subject to tax instalment deductions. The various amendments are explained in detail in the memorandum being circulated to honourable members, and I need not elaborate on them further in this introductory speech. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Yesterday, it was my fortune to be able to hand over to the Australian War Memorial the service revolver used by the first Australian winner of the Victoria Cross, Albert Jacka. In regard to a report in a newspaper today, an error obviously had been made in the transmission of the story to Melbourne. The newspaper reports me as saying that Albert Jacka was a very brave man, that on one occasion he was with 4 colleagues in the trench and that he withstood a German attack. The House will know that Albert Jacka won the VC at Courtney’s Post, at Gallipoli. As far as I know, there were no Germans fighting us at Gallipoli; they were Turks.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Stewart, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill introduces legislation for the screening of foreign takeovers of Australian businesses and the prohibition of such takeovers determined by the Treasurer (Dr J. F. Cairns) to be against the national interest. Since foreign takeover controls were first introduced in 1972, they have operated on the basis of:
Interim legislation- the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act 1972-1974- which extends only to foreign takeovers of companies effected by means of acquisitions of voting shares.
Policy measures which, up to 10 December 1974 when the Government announced its comprehensive foreign takeover legislation proposals, extended to takeovers of:
The policy measures for the control of foreign takeovers have been operated on an administrative basis pending the introduction of comprehensive legislation. The measures have worked reasonably well with the voluntary co-operation of both Australian and foreign interests whose transactions have been affected by their administration. However, the lack of comprehensive foreign takeovers legislation has not been entirely satisfactory from the viewpoint of either the private sector or the Government.
The Bill provides for legislation which comprehends the whole of the Government’s controls over foreign takeovers. An outline of the comprehensive legislative proposals was given in a statement made by the former Treasurer on 10 December 1974, a copy of which is attached to the explanatory memorandum that I have circulated on the Bill: The explanatory memorandum outlines in detail the operation of the scheme embodied in the Bill. Briefly, in addition to company takeovers effected by means of acquisitions of voting shares, the Bill will cover 3 other areas:
First, takeovers covered by the 1972 policy measures, that is, takeovers of businesses by means of asset acquisitions and takeovers of mineral rights.
Second, takeover methods which. have been used to evade the operation of the 1972 statutory and policy measures for the control of foreign takeovers. These comprise company takeovers effected by means of acquisitions of shares other than voting shares; company takeovers effected by means of splitting a large shareholding into small nominee groups where this has the effect of increasing the voting rights attached to the shareholding; business takeovers effected by means of leases or licences over the assets of a business; and business takeovers effected by agreements and arrangements relating to board representation rights and rights to participate in the management or profits of a business. (The main practical effect of these extensions will probably be to discourage use of such methods of evasion. It is expected that in practice these provisions of the Bill will not need to be used to any significant extent.)
Third, transfers of control of business from one foreign group to another.
In connection with the last-mentioned area, the Bill also provides for the screening of certain transactions in the shares of a company incorporated outside Australia. This provision is a logical consequence of the Bill’s coverage of transfers of control from one foreign group to another. Effective control of an Australian business can pass from one foreigner to another without there being any change in the legal ownership of the Australian business concerned. For example, a change in the ownership of the shares of a holding corporation based overseas could change the beneficial (but not legal) ownership and control of any Australian subsidiaries of the overseas corporation.
The Government considers that it would not be feasible or desirable to attempt to examine all overseas transactions in the shares of a company incorporated outside Australia. The relevant provisions in the Bill are based on a recognition that, on rare occasions, such transactions could result in a change in the control of a major Australian business that would be against the national interest. The Bill accordingly provides that a share deal which results in a change in the control of a company incorporated outside Australia will be examinable where either 50 per cent or more of the assets of that company are held in Australia or where its Australian assets amount to more than $3m. The Bill does not provide for exemption from examination of any domestic takeover transactions. However, the Government will continue its existing administrative practice of not intervening in takeovers of businesses with total assets of $lm or less, except in special circumstances.
I come now to the question of criteria forjudging whether a foreign takeover proposal would be against the national interest. The criteria have not been incorporated into the Bill; this is because the criteria must be flexible in their interpretation and application and it has been found that it would be impracticable, consistent with the need for such flexibility, to express the criteria with the precision required by legislative form. The criteria that will be used are essentially the same as those which have been developed in the administration of the legislation and the measures that have operated since 1972 and which experience has shown to be both appropriate and effective.
The first criterion for judging a proposed foreign takeover under the Bill will be: Whether, against the background of existing circumstances in the industry concerned, the takeover would lead, either directly or indirectly, to net economic benefits in relation to such matters as competition, productive capacity, technological change, development of new markets, production, quality and range of products and services, level of prices and efficiency which would be sufficient to justify the change in foreign control of the business concerned. If the proposed takeover is judged not to be against the national interest on this basis, the following additional criteria will also be taken into account:
Whether, after the takeover, the business concerned could be expected to follow practices consistent with Australia’s interest in matters such as exports, imports, local processing of materials produced, research and development and industrial relations; and
Whether the takeover would be consistent with the Government’s objectives in relation to such matters as defence, the environment and conservation, urban and regional development and the preservation of Aboriginal land rights.
In making judgments as to whether particular foreign takeovers would be against the national interest on any of the foregoing grounds, due weight will be given to:
The extent of the Australian participation in ownership, control and management that would remain after the takeover; and The interests of employees, shareholders and creditors of the business subject to the takeover proposal.
In preparing the Bill the Government has had the benefit of more than 2 years’ experience of the operation of foreign takeover controls. The Bill has been drafted with careful regard to that experience. It embodies a scheme of comprehensive and effective control of foreign takeover proposals. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Cass, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honourable members will recall the recent enactment of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act and the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act. These historic Acts represented the first, firm evidence by an Australian Government of a co-ordinated approach to the protection and management of this nation’s natural resources. More recently, my colleague, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), and I have introduced a Bill to establish an Australian Heritage Commission. This Bill builds on these foundations.
The Great Barrier Reef, a vast collection of islands and coral reefs, extends along some 1 900 kilometres of the Australian coast. This nationally and internationally important marine ecosystem encompasses many unique forms of sea life, and is the largest and most complex expanse of living coral reefs in the world- quite possibly the largest which has ever existed. It is an area of unique beauty and of irreplaceable scientific value. Most simply, the Reef is a significant part of the world ‘s heritage- a priceless heirloom which we must safeguard for future generations. No previous Australian Government has demonstrated the conviction necessary to act on this obvious truth. Marine ecosystems, especially the rich inshore parts, are vital to the survival of many species- including man. They are the breeding grounds and nurseries of species upon which the world ‘s commercial fisheries depend and of many other species vital to the complex food webs of the marine environment. To ensure that marine ecosystems generally are protected in a comprehensive manner, I will be introducing a Marine Environment Protection Bill in the Budget Session of Parliament.
Only recently has the ‘park concept’ been applied to the oceans, but already it has achieved world-wide acceptance as an important conservation priority. This is due partly to the realisation that man is increasingly turning to the sea to solve food shortage problems and because of concern that he is over-using the seas as a cesspool for the toxic wastes resulting from his ever-increasing activities. The creation of viable marine parks is not without problems; even so, many marine national parks have been created throughout the world. Highly industrialised Japan, one of the most populated parts of the world, for instance, had reserved 23 marine park areas by 1974.
Undoubtedly the future declaration of marine parks and reserves will be difficult for most countries. Those with highly-developed technologies will be torn between the desire physically to exploit the sea’s resources and the demands of conservationists and recreationists for areas to be reserved. Less developed countries, particularly the small island areas, also will be torn between the desire for commercial exploitation of their off-shore areas and the traditional dependence of their people on marine resources for subsistence. While the Australian Government cannot stand apart from such conflicts of interest, it has decided that protection of our unique Barrier Reef is of paramount importance to Australia and the world.
This Bill proposes the establishment of a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority which will examine the entire Barrier Reef region, determine which sections of the region should be proclaimed as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and decide appropriate uses for its various sections. It has been prepared after extensive consultations with departments and organisations concerned with all aspects of the Reef. Once the legislation is passed, the Government will be able to declare and protect zones of the Reef as national parks or nature reserves, which will then be managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Other zones will be set aside for tourist development, for shipping, fishing, and other appropriate uses. However, conservation and protection of the Great Barrier Reef will be the paramount aim of the Authority in all zones of the Marine Park. The Bill specifically excludes operations for the recovery of minerals within the declared Marine Park areas except by or with the approval of the Authority for the purpose of research and investigations relevant to the establishment, care and development of the Marine Park or for scientific research.
I am sure this Bill will receive the support of all Australians who are concerned that our magnificent natural heritage should be preserved. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Adermann) adjourned.
– I move:
That the House of Representatives approves of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Dvisions as proposed by Messrs I. F. Weise, A. B. Yeates and C. A. Hughes, 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 except that the name of Kennedy be substituted for Flynn and the name of Forde be substituted for Glasgow.
The Government, having considered the report of the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Queensland, as tabled in this House on 17 April 1975, pursuant to section 23A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners, now recommends approval of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals for that State.
The Liberal Party and the National Country Party of Australia have decided to oppose the redistributions. The National Country Party, of course, made the decision as soon as the Commissioners were appointed without having any idea of the ultimate result. This action was even taken in regard to Tasmania and South Australia where they have no political representation. This attitude is in keeping with the National Country Party’s policy of maintaining loaded electorates not in the interest of the people, but entirely for its political survival. It is a cynical and undemocratic approach. It is all the more so when it is considered that no party has a more shameful record of political gerrymandering than the members of the National Country Party. Queensland presents an outstanding example of manipulation of electoral boundaries by a political party.
The Liberal Party, of course, terrified by the thought of the National Country Party leaving the coalition, in a most docile way follows the leader. If the puppet new Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had the same courage as Sir Charles Court in Western Australia, he would accept these boundaries as the basis of a really fair and just electoral system and let the National Country Party beg for mercy, as it is doing in Western Australia today.
I repeat for the benefit of this Parliament the views of Malcolm Mackerras, the electoral analyst closely associated with the Liberal Party. He was or is a member of the Liberal Party. He said:
In overall political terms the 1975 redistribution is the fairest set of proposed boundaries ever to be presented to any Australian Parliament in my lifetime. 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 on the Commissioners.
It is strange indeed that the Queensland boundaries should be opposed by the National Country Party and the Liberal Party because they weaken considerably divisions held by Australian Labor Party members. Of the 18 seats based on 1974 figures, the Australian Labor Party would be lucky to hold five. In addition, the seats of Leichhardt, Dawson and Capricornia have been weakened for the Government. In order to place the proposals in context, let me refer briefly to the situation which has developed in Queensland since the 1968 redistribution. The rate of growth has accelerated sharply. In the 13 years between the 1955 and the 1968 redistributions, the quota rose by nearly 23 per cent. Three electorates grew by more than 20 000 and a further two by more than 10 000. In the 6 years between the 1968 and 1975 redistributions the quota rose by nearly 28 per cent. Five electorates grew by more than 20 000 and a further five by more than 10 000. Thus, there has been much more growth in half the time.
As may be seen by reference to the table presented by the Distribution Commissioners at page 2 of volume 1 of their report, enrolment growth rates have varied drastically from division to division over the past 6 years. For instance, while enrolment in the Division of McPherson increased from 47 371, as at 1968 redistribution, to 93 108 as at December 1974, enrolment in the Division of Maranoa increased by only 1526, from 44 788 to 46 314; in the Division of Brisbane by only 1878, from 58 546 to 60 424; and in the Division of Griffith actually decreased by 70, from 58 868 to 58 798.
The anomalous situation which has developed under the existing electoral boundaries in Queensland may also be illustrated by reference to the current substantial variations from the quota. Thus, as at 28 March 1975, enrolments in 9 of the 18 existing divisions varied from the quota by more than 10 per cent, including four which varied by over 20 per cent. Enrolments ranged from 94 437 or 45.28 per cent above quota for the Division of McPherson to 46 497 or 28.47 per cent below quota for the Division of Maranoa. The identity of the 18 divisions drawn in 1948 remained unchanged for over a quarter century, a period when new divisions were created in all other States but Tasmania. The extent of growth, and its uneven spread compels change. As a consequence of postponed major revisions, it is now necessary to make substantial alterations.
The Distribution Commissioners’ proposals represent a substantial improvement on the present situation and a response to the previous developments. The proposed enrolments, based on December 1974 enrolments, range from 58 537 or 9.76 per cent below quota, for the new Division of Glasgow to 68 515 or 5.63 per cent above quota for the Division of Brisbane. It is proposed to extend the metropolitan area slightly to the north as far as Caboolture and to the south as far as Beenleigh, which will then correspond with the census definition of the metropolitan area and with the reality of urban growth in recent years. The metropolitan area will now contain 9 quotas and therefore must have 9 divisions.
This fact of life was recognised by both the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party in their submissions; the National Country Party chose to put its head in the sand and refused to say anything to the Commissioners other than that there should not be a redistribution- even though one is overdue and the number of divisions outside the permitted variation is excessive. Even with the 20 per cent variation under which it worked previously, the National Country Party could not have put forward a case which would have preserved the present 10 extra-metropolitan divisions. So it chose to say nothing, and then to complain bitterly when the inevitable happened. Given the low existing enrolment, it was logical to alter drastically the Division of Maranoa. It combines with the western part of Kennedy. Again, in order adequately to adjust boundaries within the Brisbane metropolitan area, and to define the 2 new proposed metropolitan divisions the Commissioners found it necessary to abolish one of the existing metropolitan divisions. The Division of Griffith is proposed to be abolished, being the only metropolitan division with a negative enrolment growth rate during the 1 968- 1 974 period.
Since 1948 Queensland has had 3 sprawling outback divisions. It still has 3- Leichhardt, Dawson and Flynn. Dawson has a coastal strip north and south of Mackay, just as Kennedy once had a coastal strip around Bowen- to give the Minister for the Navy his port, it was said at the time. The position has not changed anywhere near as much as the National Country Party will assert. We will hear a great deal about the enormous size of the proposed Division of Flynn; what we will not be told by its critics is that almost half the area is accounted for by 2 subdivisions which contain between them fewer than 2000 electors. A careful examination of the character of Kennedy will show that it is basically the old Maranoa plus some modest border extensions and plus the city of Mount Isa in its splendid isolation in the north-west of the State. We will hear about the impossibility of servicing Mount Isa and Dalby in the same electorate, but the last redistribution required the honourable member for Kennedy to service both Mount Isa and Gayndah. The distances are remarkably similar. Kennedy is still much smaller than the Division of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, which is so ably represented by my Labor colleague (Mr Collard). One hears little criticism of the size of it from the Opposition. I suggest to the people in the electorate of Flynn that they should choose a Labor member.
With regard to the boundaries of the proposed Division of Flynn, I would make two other brief points. Firstly, as pointed out in paragraph 12 on page 3 of the Distribution Commissioners ‘ report particular consideration was given to the Division of Flynn and to the problem of striking a balance among the various criteria laid down by section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. As a result, following consideration of objections to the preliminary proposals, a substantial modification to boundaries of the proposed Division of Flynn was effected, involving compensatory adjustments to the proposed Division of Dawson. The other source of complaint, evidenced in objections lodged, has been the disappearance of Griffith. Within the metropolitan area with its 9 quotas, there are approximately equal numbers to the north and south of the Brisbane River, and a crossing is inevitable. Four bridges cross the river in the area of the proposed Division of Brisbane. The residents on both sides share the same problems- the squeeze of business and industrial premises against residential areas, displacement by freeway construction, the decline in the quality of urban life, large numbers of pensioners and migrants. Two of the last three State redistributions have crossed the river in this area, one under a Labor Government in 1949 and Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s latest effort. Is it to be suggested that he does not know the best interests of the residents of inner Brisbane, particularly now that the National Country Party is going to run candidates for the Brisbane City Council?
Those proposed divisions for which enrolments have been fixed at below quota are all either non-metropolitan- Capricornia, Fisher, Flynn and Herbert- or incorporate rapidly expanding outer metropolitan componentsFadden, Glasgow, McPherson, Oxley and Petrie. In those cases where the proposed enrolment for a non-metropolitan division has been fixed above the quota- Darling Downs, Dawson, Leichhardt and Wide Bay- either the proposed variation from the quota is extremely small, for example, under 1 per cent for both Dawson and Leichhardt, or else it can be anticipated that population growth rate will be such as to reduce the degree of variation from the quota over the next couple of years.
It will be argued that it is a mistake to have a distribution now because, after the next census has been taken and after the population counted up between States, in a few years time Queensland might- I repeat might- be entitled to 19 seats instead of eighteen, and the job will have to be done again. That may be true or it may not. But if it does come true, the concentration of population growth in the south-east of the State, and in the area between the Gold Coast, Ipswich and Brisbane in particular, makes it highly likely that a nineteenth seat could be carved out of the adjacent Divisions of McPherson, Oxley and Glasgow with a minimum of fuss anywhere else. Obviously the next set of Commissioners cannot be anticipated in this, but anyone who claims that the next redistribution would have to be major if a nineteenth seat becomes available to Queensland is talking through his hat. We cannot delay an overdue distribution on such flimsy claims of what might happen in years to come.
It is interesting to note the projected enrolment as at May 1977, based on the assumption that the House of Representatives will run its full term. Those 3 existing divisions in Queensland with the highest enrolments as at 25 April 1975 will be as follows: Bowman will increase from 79 629 to 87 000; McPherson will increase from 94 024 to 104 000; Petrie will increase from 77 459 to 84 000. I note that the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) will follow me in this debate. I know that he is a top grade member, but justice and equity in electoral representation demand that neither he nor any other honourable member should be called upon to represent practically double the quota just to allow the National Country Party to survive with its loaded country electorates. I interpolate at this stage that I notice in this debate that there are 3 Liberal Party members and 2 National Country Party members in the House. During the debate on the redistribution of the Victorian electoral boundaries there will be one Liberal Party member and 2 National Country Party members speaking in the debate. In regard to the redistribution of the electoral boundaries in New South Wales, there was one Liberal Party speaker and 5 National Country Party speakers. So we know that the tail is wagging the dog in relation to electoral redistribution. This is because the Liberal members want it and the National Country Party members will not let them have it.
It is appropriate that the name of ‘Kennedy’ be substituted for ‘Flynn’, and ‘Forde’ for ‘Glasgow’. The right honourable Frank Forde is a former Prime Minister of Australia. Like the late Sir Arthur Fadden after whom a division has also been named, he served the people of Queensland with great distinction in State and Federal parliaments for a lifetime. To sum up, the proposals by no means favour the Australian Labor Party and, as a matter of a fact, weaken certain divisions held by Government members. The Government considers, however, that the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals for Queensland are the result of a commendably painstaking and impartial study of the problems involved in the fixing of electoral boundaries for the most decentralised State in Australia. In the circumstances I have moved that this House approve the report of the Distribution Commissioners for Queensland dated 14 March 1975. Mr Speaker, I ask leave of the House to incorporate the latest enrolment figures available for all divisions in Queensland as at 25 April 1975, as provided by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– I thank the House.
– At the start of my remarks it is worth recalling that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) was specifically selected by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to serve in this portfolio, not just for his administrative capacity but also because the Prime Minister knew that in selecting Mr Daly he would put a first class numbers man into a key portfolio which would assist the Australian Labor Party, and hence the Government, to entrench itself in its position as the Government of Australia. One of the first pieces of legislation to be introduced after the 1972 elections- I think it was in the first week of the sitting- was a Bill which was designed to make amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The Minister made his position very clear right from the outset. I said then- I repeat it now- that I have a number of reasons for opposing this electoral redistribution. I have always maintained that a 20 per cent tolerance in electoral sizes is needed in Australia today. If that is not the percentage of tolerance that is needed, certainly more than a 10 per cent tolerance is needed because with a 10 per cent tolerance there is not sufficient allowance for growth. My electorate of McPherson demonstrates that.
I have said that if the Government had introduced a Bill which sought a 15 per cent tolerance I might well have been encouraged to support such legislation. Of course it will be remembered that the Bill which was rejected was rejected by the joint Opposition Parties. It was not rejected by the Liberal Party or by the National Country Party, we opposed it as a joint Opposition. We opposed it right through. We had the Joint Sitting of the Parliament, and matters have flowed on from then. Now we have the various electoral maps for the States of Australia, other than Western Australia. The one critical issue of them all is that there are substantial changes in a number of electorates throughout Australia. I do not think by and large that the Redistribution Commissioners took into account the need to have regard to existing divisions and sub-divisions. That is another major criticism that. I have of the Australian Electoral maps. It is all very well for the Minister to discard the census of 1976 and say that we cannot be holding up matters because that could take some years. In effect, if we get the figures from the census by early 1977 there is no reason why we could not have a redistribution of electoral boundaries based on the census of 1976 into the Parliament in 1 977. That would not be such a lengthy delay.
The present Government is saying that these maps right throughout Australia are fair and they demonstrate an equality of voting. I suggest to the Australian electorate that a close study will demonstrate that these maps, by and large, assist the Labor Government throughout Australia in the marginal seats. Of course, that is the critical element. I think that one of the New South Wales members, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), made this same comment yesterday. I do not see why the Australian Labor Party should complain about the present boundaries. After all, it came into office in 1972. It held onto office very narrowly again in 1 974. So the real concern is that it is aware of the political climate and that it will need to have many more things happen if it is to survive the next election.
I turn to deal with the Queensland electoral map. The Minister said: ‘Is it not reasonable? We have sorted out all the imbalances and there is substantial equality of voters’. Of course, there are imbalances in Queensland. The size of my electorate is substantially over quota. But if we are to have an equality of voting- I indicated that I have embraced that principle- we have to see that it is implemented with a necessary degree of tolerance, a degree of flexibility and a real measure of common sense. When I make some comments about the new proposed seat of Kennedy, I will point out that that is where common sense flies out the window. I want to make it perfectly clear following the Minister’s statements that the Liberal Party is opposed to this redistribution, not just organisationally but as an entire parliamentary party. This is not just a matter of the National Country Party demonstrating its interest organisationally against the proposals in Brisbane, Queensland, as did the Liberal Party executive. It is no good the Minister for Services and Property talking about problems of redistribution in Queensland. There was no greater perpetuator of the gerrymander than the Labor administration in Queensland in those bygone days. If honourable members wish to compare the electoral distribution in Queensland now under the Bjelke-Petersen-Chalk Government and compare that with the distribution when Labor was in office, they will see that there is a vast improvement in fairness and equality.
Of course, these changes could have been avoided. I heard the Minister say yesterday that I had been crying since I realised that the previous electoral maps had been rejected. I want to say this in answer to him: If I were going to weep around Parliament House it would not be over electoral redistribution. One has to make certain that one holds back one’s tears every time an economic measure is delivered into the Parliament by this Government. If honourable members want to weep for Australians, they do not talk about electoral redistribution; they talk about the high rate of unemployment in this nation and the substantial problems with the economy, particularly inflation. Of course, I do not take very much notice of the Minister for Services and Property. I rarely listen to his speeches. In those of his speeches I do hear I generally find a sense of amusement, but I am yet to hear one from the Minister which contains an element which informs me or persuades me to follow his point of view.
It is not merely a matter involving my electorate, which presently contains 95 000 voters and will go now to over 100 000 voters. That is a substantial growth. I can well see that at the next election I will be sitting in the Parliament with a majority of at least 25 000 votes. The vote for the Liberal and National Country Party candidate in the McPherson electorate has never been below about 60 per cent. I would think that in the present political climate it would go close to 70 per cent. That is a tolerable burden for a member. There will be a little more work, but I enjoy that, and they are pleased to have me represent them. So I do not find that so onerous as the Minister suggests that it should be. There are a number of issues in relation to the Queensland electoral map. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is rightly concerned as his electorate is eliminated. It disappears off the electoral map. This is the last real ditch chance. In an effort to try to wrest the seat off Mr Donald Cameron at the last election the Labor Government endorsed the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Jones. But the Labor Party made one basic error. When the Prime Minister flew up to Brisbane and put Alderman Jones into the VIP aircraft and took him up to Rockhampton to convince him of the need for the Lord Mayor of Brisbane to serve there was substantial Press publicity, and if you want to do well in Queensland you do not get your photograph taken with the Prime Minister of Australia. That encourages electoral defeat. If one wants to do well in Queensland, one needs to have one’s photograph taken with Mr Bjelke-Petersen or Sir Gordon Chalk. I say that out of a sense of charity to members of the Labor Party. The honourable members for Brisbane (Mr Cross), Bowman (Mr Keogh) and Dawson (Dr Patterson) and even the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) are concerned- they have every right to be concernedbecause if we transpose the figures in the last State election to a Federal election the Labor Party would be lucky to hold more than one or two seats in Queensland. In fact, Labor Party representation in that State might disappear completely. The proposed redistribution of the electorate of Kennedy is quite ridiculous and unacceptable. I put aside the great contribution that has been made by the honourable members for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and Kennedy (Mr Katter) all these years. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that the people of western Queensland can get effective representation when they live in an electorate which runs from Mount Isa in the north to Dalby in the south. This recommendation is unacceptable not just because the work of the member will be made almost impossible to carry out but also because it will be unfair to the electors of Queensland- those substantially important people. This is one of the main reasons why the Liberal Party will not have a bar of the proposed redistribution.
We know the real reason for the redistribution.
It is not that Labor is so concerned to adjust imbalances throughout the Australian electorate. The Labor Party knows full well that things are not going too well for it electorally. Its members read in the Press that in the popularity poll the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is now ahead of the Prime Minister. They become concerned when they see that the economic management of the nation is going into ruin in their hands. They become very distressed when they see personality clashes at the highest level within their Party.
-Order! This is the second time that the honourable gentleman has gone over this ground. It has nothing to do with the proposal before the House.
-I thank you for your guidance, Mr Speaker. I was just trying to indicate that I believe -
-Order! I allowed the honourable member to make this point on the first occasion. However, I do not think it is necessary for him to do so again.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I simply wanted to indicate that there were reasons other than those indicated by the Minister in his speech why the redistribution has been carried out.
The Liberal and National Country Parties are unanimously opposed to the proposed changes. The Minister, of course, has had great pleasure and delight over the years in occasionally reminding us that he has the numbers in this House. That is very true. Of course, we will accept the decision of the majority. But we have the numbers in another place, and the Minister might as well get used to the fact that the proposed redistribution will be rejected. It is unacceptable to the Liberal Party and to the National Country Party. More importantly than that, it is unacceptable to the electors of Queensland, who see the proposed redistribution for what it is.
– I rise to support the motion moved by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), which relates to the proposed boundaries for the State of Queensland. I speak with some sorrow and sadness at the way in which the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) spoke. The honourable member, who has just spoken in this debate, in earlier days was President of the Liberal Party in Queensland. In those days he showed very great courage. He was one of the first people in the Liberal Party to look into the future and to see the Country Party threat which is now known as the National Party threat. In. those days he supported colleagues such as Mr Porter, the member for Toowong, and others in their attempts to overcome the National Party incursion. He comes here today as an apologist for principles of electoral distribution which he opposes in his heart, both in this place and in Queensland.
I take it that the honourable member for McPherson, in speaking about how the proposed boundaries advantaged the Labor Party, was not reflecting on the Distribution Commissioners, because the facts of life are that the boundaries are drawn up in accordance with the legislation. I do not think anyone could dispute that.
– Are they beyond reproach?
-In my view the Distribution Commissioners are beyond reproach. I have been in this Parliament since 1 96 1 , during which time I have followed electoral matters, as most of us do, with considerable interest. I look with interest at the amount of time that the Distribution Commissioners spent in going to various parts of the State to look at the developments which had taken place in order to determine what proposed boundaries should be put before Parliament. I think that members of all political parties should be generous enough to say that the Distribution Commissioners have carried out their task fairly and in accordance with the legislation.
It has been alleged that the proposed boundaries advantage the Labor Party and it has been stated that the significant seats to look at are the marginal seats. Of course, those of us who represent marginal seats would agree with the latter statement. I am indebted to the Minister for handing me a list of marginal Labor seats which are worsened by the redistribution in Queensland and in other parts of Australia. In Queensland the seats of Dawson, Capricornia and Leichhardt are disadvantaged by the redistribution. The seat of Henty in Victoria, the seats of Evans, Eden-Monaro and Hume in New South Wales and the seat of Hawker in South Australia will be disadvantaged. If that is a redistribution designed to advantage the Labor Party and masterminded by the Minister at the table, something went astray very sadly. In regard to the Queensland redistribution, the facts of life are that it advantages and disadvantages each of the political parties. Take the Government or Labor Party point of view. I have given the seats held by the Labor Party which are disadvantaged. The seats of Oxley, Bowman and Brisbane are advantaged. The redistribution of the seat of
Wide Bay, which formerly was held by the Labor Party, will advantage the Country Party and disadvantage the Labor Party.
The honourable member for McPherson made the point that the present electoral feeling in Queensland was advantageous to the Opposition. Every Queensland member of this House knows that the 2 new seats proposed for the metropolitan area of Brisbane, which it was suggested should be called Glasgow and Fadden although our suggestion is that they be called Forde and Fadden- are seats that the Liberal Party would win at this point of time. So the Liberal Party is advantaged in those seats. 1 fail to see any seats in which the Liberal Party is disadvantaged, except that of Griffith. The National Country Party is advantaged in the seats of Leichhardt, Dawson and Wide Bay. The seat of Fisher remains a very safe National Country Party seat, as it always has been and always will be. Of course, the proposed new seat of Flynn- which is proposed to be called Kennedyis also a safe National Country Party seat. I cannot see how anyone can say that any political party is disadvantaged to the exclusion of other political parties by this redistribution. We are in the same position as were previous governments in regard to this redistribution. There are things that one likes and things that one does not like about the recommendations of the 3 honest men who were appointed to carry out the redistribution. The Government of the day is stuck with the proposals of the Distribution Commissioners, whether it likes them or not. Frankly, I could have seen a redistribution in Queensland which would have advantaged the Labor Party much more than the present redistribution does. I support the redistribution because it is a fair redistribution.
There has been some controversy about the abolition of the seat of Griffith. I say this to the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron): When the Liberal Party crossed the boundary of the Brisbane River in the State seat of Brisbane in a former redistribution, that was considered to be a statesmanlike thing to do at that time. But suddenly it is a terrible thing to do when it happens in a Federal redistribution. I understand the honourable member’s feelings in this regard. I share his regret that the name of Griffith perhaps will not be used after this redistribution.
– So you should.
-I have said that I do. I happened to serve on the Select Committee on the Naming of Electoral Divisions. Given the fact that the
Distribution Commissioners have recommended that the present seat of Griffith be abolished, it would be quite foolish to carry the name forward. That would be confusing to the nth degree. All honourable members know that the name of Cook was used again in New South Wales at the 1968 redistribution after having been lost for some years. That is the normal practice; it has been followed for many years. I cannot understand the suggestion that there is no need for a redistribution in Queensland. If we take the figure for 1968 and for December last year we note that the number of electors in Queensland has increased by 254000-odd. In December 1974 the most populous electorate was McPherson where the member at that time represented 93 108 people. The least populous electorate was Maranoa where the member represented 46 3 1 4 people, about half the number in McPherson. I am not reflecting on my friend, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), but I think this is discrimination against the people in McPherson, the majority of whom vote Liberal, while the majority of people in Maranoa choose to vote National Country Party of Australia. This is something which no one should support, certainly no member of the Liberal Party.
The new proposals which have come out show numbers very evenly stated. It is proposed that the largest seat, in terms of enrolment, in the State, will be Brisbane with 68 5 15 electors. The smallest seat was to be called Glasgow but it is proposed to change the name to Forde. It will have 58 537 electors. I am sure the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) will agree with this. I think he is pleased that the proposal takes away from his electorate the fastest growing area in the State. The low numbers in that seat are an indication of the population growth which will take place in the years immediately ahead. Then we come to McPherson which will have 61 710 electors and Petrie with 63 500. This recognises the increased growth in those areas. I think that by any standard it can be said this is a fair redistribution. The Melbourne ‘Age’ which is not always noted for its support of the Government today states:
Liberals opt for electoral folly
Liberals opt for electoral folly
In determining their attitude to the proposed redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries, members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party had the option of adopting 2 approaches. They could have asked themselves: Is this redistribution fair and equitable and in accordance with democratic principle? To which the honest answer would have been- Yes!
The article goes on to point out the fact that the Liberal Party is sacrificing the long term interests of the people who support it for the short term interests of the National Country Party which, at the present time, dominates the Liberal Party. As to this sweet harmony on the Opposition side that we are told about, let me quote from a submission to the Distribution Commissioners made by the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann). He concluded by stating:
We respectfully submit that neither the submission by the Australian Labor Party nor that of the Liberal Parry can pretend to be based on the needs and rights of country people. Nor can we accept that either submission can claim to be reasonable, just, or fair in its provision for representation of country areas.
We would have no alternative but to oppose on every occasion distributions based on the inequities and the irrationality so much in evidence in these two submissions.
I make the point that the word ‘two ‘ is there. The National Country Party is saying that not only is the submission of the Labor Party unfair and irrational but also that the Liberal Party submission is unfair and irrational. I express my happiness with the proposal to commemorate the fine record of Mr Frank Forde, a former Australian Prime Minister, by naming an electorate in Queensland after him. I think it is very proper that our former good friend. Sir Arthur Fadden, is also commemorated in this way. It has been a practice for former governments to acknowledge the work of Prime Ministers by naming divisions after them. It can be argued, of course, that Mr Forde is still alive. He is a man in robust good health, in his mid-80s, retired from politics but active in public affairs. I am pleased to see this tribute paid to him in this way. Knowing the good work of Sir Arthur Fadden for Australia and for Queensland I make the same comments about him. I am pleased to see his name suggested for a new division.
I close on much the same note as that on which I opened. I express great sadness at the way in which the Liberal Party is sacrificing principle on the occasion of this redistribution. Every State member of the Liberal Party in Queensland, every Federal member and every member of the Liberal Party Executive knows that the time is drawing near when they will have to take on the National Country Party in Queensland. In the Federal electorate of Brisbane which I represent Liberal Party members are in great anguish. One thinks of Mr Lane, the member for Merthyr. The National Country Party is putting out dodgers in the Liberal areas of that electorate seeking members, not for the purpose of defeating the Labor member for that seat- it has no Labor member in the State Parliament- but -
-No. I suggest to the honourable member for Griffith that he cross the river some time and talk to the people who belong to his
Party in my electorate. He will find out that they think the National Country Party has a rather more sinister motive than to unload me in establishing branches in their areas, whatever the result of that might be in the future. Every member of the Liberal Party knows that the time is approaching when the Party will have to confront the National Country Party in Queensland. But once again they are running away from it. Before the last State redistribution I told Sir Gordon Chalk that it was his last chance to become Premier of Queensland. He had to grow a backbone instead of a wishbone and do something about the Queensland State boundaries. But once again the Liberal Party went along with the National Country Party and honourable members know what happened in the last State election.
– You got slaughtered. We know that very well.
-Well, let us look at what happened in the last State election. The National Country Party has 39 members in the House and the Liberal Party 30 notwithstanding the fact that the Liberal Party vote was some 30 per cent more than the National Country Party vote. If that is democracy then honourable members opposite do not use the Oxford English dictionary as I do. Every member of the Liberal Party in Queensland knows that it is only a question of time. It is more difficult for the Liberal Party to take on the National Country Party in the State where that Party governs. I hoped that this would be the time when the Liberal Party in this place and in the Senate would stand up in the interests of the Liberal Party voters whom they purport to represent. I tell the Liberal Party quite frankly that until it stands up for the democratic principles which it put in its submissions to the Distribution Commissioners but which it runs away from in this House it can only expect to see the Liberal Party vote in Queensland declining in the future. The Liberal Party is making its own nest and it will have to sleep in it.
– That was a rather unfortunate contribution by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), because he tried to present, incorrectly, a picture of disharmony and discord existing between the Liberal Party and the National Country Party of Australia in our State of Queensland. As a Queenslander I assure the honourable member for Brisbane, who hopes upon hope that some division might arise which will create disruption, that the combined viewpoint of those 2 parties is that the honourable member must go. They are working to that end. There is a wonderfully harmonious relationship between Sir Gordon Chalk and Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Let no man come between that association or suggest that it is anything else but what I have described.
One of the comedies in the debate on the redistribution of Queensland into electoral divisions is that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) stands up time after time and talks about the concept of one vote one value. In my mindcorrect me if I am wrong- one vote one value means just that. Yet here we are debating a measure which allows a 10 per cent divergence from the quota either way. The figure can be 10 per cent below the quota or 10 per cent above the quota. That is a range of up to 20 per cent. To my mind, once we have gone 10 per cent, 5 per cent or even 1 per cent away from the quota the concept of one vote one value no longer exists. So let us put an end to that suggestion. One of the major reasons that the Liberal Party joined the National Country Party in Queensland in opposing the suggested electoral divisions is that we hold the belief in the Liberal Party that, among other things, a great disservice and injustice is being done to the interests of the outback people of Queensland. The people of the outback are the backbone not just of Queensland but of this nation of Australia. Those people, who work with their hands from sun up until well into the night building this great nation, are looked upon by the Minister for Services and Property as being dispensable- not important.
I suggest that the distribution commissioners should, if they are asked to do a redistribution again, look at the difficulties and problems that exist in outback Queensland. Instead of drawing up an electorate that stretches from the New South Wales border to way beyond Mount Isa in the far north they should look at one that takes into account the main links of communication in Queensland. The people from the Charleville area look upon the ToowoombaDalbyWarwick region as their area of communication. The people of the Longreach area look upon Rockhampton as their area of communication. The people of Mount Isa, Hughenden and Charters Towers look across towards Townsville. Electorates could be determined in accordance with those natural links that have been created with the passage of time. That would be far more satisfactory than having a sprawling electorate in outback Queensland whose member would need to have the access of the nation’s Prime Minister to the Qantas fleet if he is to visit the various pans of it within a 3-year cycle. The redistribution is totally unfair in that regard.
I do not want to sound parochial. I like to approach subjects like this with an open mind and a mind that is devoid of personal interest. But I could not help but notice that the proposal put forward by the Minister seeks the total elimination of my seat. The honourable member for Brisbane, who was the previous speaker in the debate, said how sad it would be to see the name of Griffith- the seat was named after Sir Samuel Griffith- disappear. I ask: Do honourable memben opposite find it sad that the name Cameron might disappear from this side of the chamber? That is what could happen because of this proposal. The Minister for Services and Property referred to the fact that the federal seat of Griffith has been the only seat in Queensland to decrease in enrolment between 1968 and the end of 1974. The figure by which the enrolment decreased was 70. Let me remind the Minister that when a redistribution was carried out in 1968, because of the fact that my electorate is one with what might be described as a decreasing population area, the figures were boosted to take that into account. I had about the largest enrolment in Queensland in 1 968 because that very factor had been taken into account. I do not see that as a justification for wiping out the electorate of Griffith.
The Minister for Services and Property mentioned the 4 bridges in my electorate that cross the Brisbane River. Those honourable members who know Brisbane should agree with my contention that one does not see many people walking across the Storey Bridge. It is about 3 times as long as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The only people who cross the river there are on push bikes or motor bikes or in cars or trucks. One just does not do so otherwise. The second bridge- the Centenary Bridge or Captain Cook Bridge- does not even have a pedestrian area. Any pedestrian who commenced to use that Bridge as a means of communicating with the other side would be either booked or killed. The third bridge is the Victoria Bridge. Certainly many people walk across that bridge, as people have been doing since the nineteenth century, but that is no reason for the elimination of the electorate of Griffith. The fourth bridge is the Grey Street Bridge. It is used during the football season by the people of the electorate of Griffith who go to Lang Park to watch Queensland defeat New South Wales at rugby league.
On a more serious note, many people in Brisbane and throughout Queensland agree that if Clem Jones had won the seat of Griffith at the last Federal election the electorate of Griffith would remain. They ask: Is this a redistribution or retribution? Far be it for me to reflect upon the tremendous integrity that we were told by the honourable member for Brisbane is possessed by the distribution commissioners, but I tend to think sometimes that it is retribution and that if Clem Jones had been successful there still would be an electorate of Griffith but because Cameron beat Clem Jones it is being said: ‘We did not get him with the sword- with Clem- so we will use the pen and wipe out his seat altogether’. I can assure honourable members opposite, as the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) pointed out, that we on this side of the House have the numbers in the Senate and that is iust not on
How do the people of the electorate of Griffith feel about this matter? One Saturday morning my supporters and I went out into the shopping centre with some petition forms and more than 1 500 people clamoured to put their names to petitions in protest at the proposal to eliminate the electorate. Those protests are recorded in a document that was presented to the Parliament some weeks ago.
– They were all in the same handwriting. I saw them.
– That is a rather remarkable comment from the honourable member for Bowman. It reminds me that the Australian Labor Party is endeavouring to plunder my electorate to try to save the skin of the honourable member for Bowman. It proposes taking two-fifths of my electorate to put into the honourable member’s electorate and another two fifths to put into the electorate of the honourable member for Brisbane in order to bolster their chances of holding their seats at the next election. This will not do the Australian Labor Party any good because the people of Griffith know what it is like to have representation by the Liberal Party of Australia in the Federal Parliament.
– It is good representation.
– I accept that compliment with great modesty. The people of Griffith will not have a bar of the Australian Labor Party. The people of Queensland have in mind a change in the Federal Government, but there is only one way by which that can be brought about and that is if the Liberal and National Country Parties are given the chance of winning the seats on the existing boundaries. That is what is in the minds of Queenslanders.
The Minister for Services and Property referred to the electorates of Glasgow and Fadden as being electorates which would be Liberal seats.
A couple of days after the redistribution proposals came out with the suggestion to eliminate the electorate of Griffith I recall the State President of my own Party saying: ‘What are you going to do? Are you going to run for Glasgow or Fadden?’ I said: ‘I am not going to run for either, Mr President, because although the figures might appear all right on the surface when you look at them closely you will see that away from the 1974 results, despite the current ill mood towards the Labor Party, those seats would in all probability be Labor seats’. Honourable members opposite know only too well that they could win seats in Queensland in the future as a result of this redistribution and that it will not be to their detriment. They could do quite well. That is why they want to embrace these proposals.
I am not going to suggest that there has been any gerrymander because that would be to cast a reflection upon the commissioners, but I would like an explanation about the electorate of Dawson. On the redistribution as presented originally- before the amendments- the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Terrritory (Dr Patterson) would have lost his seat by approximately 1000 votes. Amendments and changes were made when that was pointed out. New lines were drawn. With a bit of luck he could now get back. Why was that done? It was done in an effort to bolster the Minister’s chances of retaining the seat for the Labor Party. Far from regarding this redistribution as being very fair honourable members on this side of the House have found reluctantly that we will have to reject it because it is not fair. From my own point of view I hope that everyone understands that when the electorate of Griffith was marked for death or disappearance I could hardly have been happy, having lived in the district for a lifetime and fought off the onslaught of 4 severe Labor campaigns which culminated in the arrival of Labor’s biggest gun in the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones, who is now, fortunately, not here but back in his lord mayoral robes in the City Hall in Brisbane.
-The contribution to the debate by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) did not, of course, contain any surprises, not even when he got to the stage at which he decided to denigrate the job done by the distribution commissioners. Surely the most disgraceful example that any honourable member has ever heard was to be heard when the honourable member said this afternoon in this House that if the Australian Labor Party’s candidate at the last election, Clem Jones, had won the seat of Griffith the result of this redistribution would have been different from what it has been. I hope he will be prepared to look at the Hansard tomorrow and that he will realise exactly what he said.
Further on in his speech he made reference to the Commissioners and said he would not denigrate or criticise them. Of course, very often he says things that he does not even realise he is saying, so free is he with words. We had an example of this this afternoon when he criticised the Commissioners over that particular issue and the abolition of the seat of Griffith. There is one reason, and one reason alone, why he, the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) and other members of the Liberal Party in this House have determined that they are going to oppose the redistribution proposals. The whole country knows that the reason is that the Country Party in this House is standing over them to the same extent as for years it has stood over them in the Queensland sphere.
I remind the members of the Liberal Party in this place that when these redistribution proposals were disclosed earlier this year, the Leader of the Country Party in this House and the State Secretary of the Country Party in Queensland did not wait 5 minutes to confer with the Liberal Party before making an announcement indicating the attitude of the National Party in Queensland- as it was then known- towards the redistribution proposals. I suppose that party is now known as the National Country Party, in line with the changes made in the other States. Members of the National Party immediately announced that they were going to vote against the proposals and reject them. The only reason they reject them is that they believe the redistribution would be disadvantageous to their political future and the only way they could save the day for the coalition would be by standing over the Liberal Party and forcing it to toe the line on this redistribution, as they so successfully have done over a number of years in Queensland.
I remind the honourable member for McPherson that in respect of this redistribution it is just as true to say what he said when the last redistribution was carried out in Queensland. I refer to an editorial in the ‘Australian’ of 30 March 1971, in which he was reported to have stated that the redistribution was ‘electoral injustice at Country Party insistence’. I suggest he might like to reflect on that. If he could come forward and truthfully make the type of speech in this House today that his conscience would dictate to him- that the advantage to his own Party would dictate to him- he would say the same now as he said then. But instead of that, with tongue in cheek and I am sure, very reluctantly, he made the type of speech that he made some few minutes ago, explaining in a very lame fashion why the Liberal Party saw this as an unjust redistribution and why it believed the redistribution should be opposed.
He said and others have said that it is not time for the redistribution; that it should be done after the next Census. But I remind those honourable members of what happened in 1971 when the Census was carried out. The Country Party stood over the Liberal Party on that occasion and prevented a redistribution from being carried out, correct though it might have been in those days to have a redistribution. The Country Party is standing over the Liberal Party again today and preventing it from supporting a fair, equitable and unbiased redistribution. I refer not only to the redistribution proposed for Queensland, but also to the redistribution proposals for the entire 5 States- the two that were considered yesterday and the three we will be considering today. The decision of the Opposition to oppose the redistribution proposals could not honestly be made on any basis whatsoever. Of course, it has been made dishonestly because of the attitude of the Country Party.
This is a far cry from the days when the honourable member for Griffith was associated with the Young Liberals. I suppose it would be embarrassing to him if I were to remind him that the acknowledged policy of the Young Liberals in Queensland is, in fact, totally in line with the legislation under which these redistribution proposals have been put to this House. I remind him by quoting from a document that was published in 1973 entitled ‘Towards a New Freedom’- I suppose the word ‘freedom’ does not have much place in the parent Liberal Party in Queensland, even if it means something to the Young Liberals in Queensland. At that time they passed a resolution which said they would include in their policy: … the establishment of a continuing independent electoral commission which would distribute seats with an allowable variation of not more than 10 per cent in the number of voters.
That is an honest approach and it has been put forward by the younger people in the Liberal Party. I hope that before long their position of power and influence in the Liberal Party might be able to change the attitude that currently is presented in this House by the members of the Liberal Party who have spoken on the redistribution proposals. There is no doubt that, long before the Commissioners ever met, the decision was made by the National Country PartyCountry Party, as it was then known- that the redistribution proposals would be opposed every inch of the way. This was despite the fact that when the proposals were announced earlier this year the great suburban daily in Brisbane, the ‘ Courier-Mail ‘, came out and said in its editorial:
The proposed redistribution of Queensland Federal electorates has many sound points . . .
The Redistribution Commissioners, quite fairly-
I remind the honourable member for Griffith that, despite what he said this afternoon about the Commissioners, even the ‘Courier-Mail’, for which he so often gets on his feet in this House and offers words of praise, said in its editorial:
The Redistribution Commissioners, quite fairly, have put the seats where the people are. The Labor and Liberal Parties favour this principle.
But this afternoon members of the Liberal Party foresook that principle at the insistence of the National Country Party. The honourable member for Griffith nods his head in complete agreement with me because he is embarrassed by the fact that he is a Liberal member who has been forced to bow to the demands of the National Country Party. I have already indicated the attitude of the ‘Courier-Mail’. I remind the honourable member for Griffith, if he is not prepared to accept it already, that some more enlightened members of the Liberal Party in Queensland, including one recently elected to the State Parliament, warned the executive of the Liberal Party recently that a swing against the State Government in the next election could see the Liberal Party being the only party to lose seats. He said this was because the National Country Party had managed to convince people in metropolitan areas that the National Country Party was Queensland ‘s governing party. The only party to lose in the long term because of the attitude being taken by the Opposition in respect of these redistribution proposals will be the Liberal Party.
It is a narrow-minded, short term attitude of political expediency that members of the Liberal Party have taken today in allowing themselves to be dictated to by the Country Party.
We heard earlier that the redistribution would be to the advantage of the Labor Party in Queensland. My colleague, the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), reminded the honourable member for Griffith that this was not so. In fact, on the assessment that I have seen of the situation which would result from a transfer of the votes cast in the 1974 election to new boundaries, the Labor Party would hold 6 seats out of eighteen. Might I say that the marginal seats that the Labor Party held prior to the last election and that would be threatened by this redistribution were the seats of Lilley and Wide Bay. They will not be made any easier for us to win back under these redistribution proposals. Some of the seats that we currently holdnamely, Dawson, Leichhardt and Capricorniawill not be made any easier for us to hold in the future under these redistribution proposals. I refer now to the seat of Petrie. It had grand representation in this Parliament for a short period of time by the ex-member for Petrie. I reminded him of the tactics that were likely to take him away from this scene, and they have done so since. That seat is now represented by his colleague who knocked him off in the last preselection ballot in Petrie. The seat will not be made any easier for us to win under the redistribution proposals. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) might have a better chance of escaping the wrath of Marshall Cooke ii he supports the redistribution proposals rather than votes against them today.
Today we are seeing that in the Federal sphere the Liberal Party at last has succumbed to the demands of the National Country Party. The situation that has existed in Queensland is such that the Liberal Party in the State sphere can never hope to gain the position of strength in the Queensland coalition that it should be able to demand according to the number of votes it receives in the elections. It is a well known fact that Sir Gordon Chalk regards the Premier of Queensland as nothing more than a bad dream. He hopes that one morning he will wake up and find that the dream has gone. If anything can be done by the Liberal Party in Queensland to overcome the unfair advantage that the National Party has in that State sphere, it should have been done before the last redistribution proposals in Queensland were passed. It is an equally well known fact that the Liberal Party in Queensland will never again be a major party in the State sphere.
But now on the national scene the Liberal Party under the leadership of the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has shown that it is prepared to accept from the National Country Party in the federal sphere the same stand-over tactics as it has accepted in Queensland for so many years. Today we have the joint effort of the great partners in the Opposition coalition to vote against these proposals which on no honest assessment could be considered to be anything but the most fair and unbiased proposals that could be put forward by any commissioners. I refer not only to the proposals that were put forward by the commissioners in Queensland but also to the proposals in each other case that we have been and will be considering on this occasion. There is no doubt at all that it cannot reasonably be argued that the Government has not a mandate to initiate these changes. On 2 separate occasions this policy, this proposal, was supported by the people: The result of that support is contained in the redistribution proposals we are considering. It is a reflection on the wishes of the people of this nation that because the Opposition has the numbers in the other House- a House which has no responsibility as far as boundaries are concerned and a House in respect of which the principles that determine the people who will represent the States there cannot be dictated by the House of Representatives- it proposes to reject these proposed redistributions. The Opposition members in this place have got together and said that they are prepared to use the numbers they have in the Senate to reject the wishes of the people, to reject the policy of the Australian Labor Government which was endorsed by the people, and to reject this redistribution.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I oppose the redistribution of the boundaries in Queensland; the National Country Party of Australia opposes the redistribution of the boundaries in Queensland; and the Liberal Party of Australia opposes the redistribution of the boundaries in Queensland. The only real argument we have heard from the Government in regard to the boundaries in Queensland has been a futile attempt to try to stir up a bit of trouble between the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. That is doomed to failure. That is the whole core of the Government’s attack today. It has scarcely mentioned boundaries; it has just talked about the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. I have been associated with the National Country Party over very many years; and, as vice-president of the Party in Queensland and, well before I was elected to that office, as, I believe, an influential member of the organisation and as a member of this Parliament, I have never condoned an approach by our Party to contest a Liberal-held seat. Government supporters can put that in their pipes and smoke it. The only gains that have been made by the National Party in Queensland have been made at the expense of the Australian Labor Party. It is no wonder that the Government is sour about it.
There are a number of very sound and well based reasons why we should oppose these redistributions. Before I go any further I should say that I have the greatest respect for the Commonwealth Electoral Office and its officers right down through the organisation. They are dedicated people and I pay tribute to them. The attitude that the Labor Party has taken up is that one cannot debate the boundaries without reflecting on the integrity of the Distribution Commissioners. What utter rot! What utter nonsense! Even in the last redistribution in Queensland the Chief Electoral Officer in Queensland issued a minority report. Did he suggest anything against the integrity of the other 2 Commissioners in that State? Why are these proposals brought into this Parliament, except for the pros and cons and the justice of them to be debated? They would come here only for a rubber stamp, otherwise. Why should we be allowed to debate the boundaries at all if we are not to debate whether they are fair and reasonable?
One of the reasons why I oppose, and many others oppose, the redistribution at present is that it should have been delayed until after the census which is due in June next year- not in a few years time, as the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) said. Is that a few years time? Of course, he cannot even count. Someone here said that he is the best numbers man the Government has. He did not even know that the National Country Party won by an absolute majority. When his attention was drawn to that by the honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) and many members of the National Country Party, he could not understand. If he had understood he certainly would not have maintained that untruth; he would have withdrawn it. He has never withdrawn it; so apparently he does not understand. If he is the best numbers man the Government has, it is very short indeed of good numbers men. Another reason why the redistribution should not have taken place at this time is that 3 States have a case before the High Court questioning the validity of the present Electoral Act. Surely it would have been proper for that legal challenge to have been decided before the redistribution was proceeded with, when no urgency at all was apparent. Indeed, the only urgency for a redistribution could have been from a party political angle. That is the situation. A number of honourable members from this side have pointed out that the redistribution was carried out because if favours the Labor Party nationally.
The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), in his speech on the South Australian redistribution proposals, gave the figures in relation to the advantage. I have them here. He said that a 3 per cent swing against the Government would give the Opposition a gain of 12 seats under the present boundaries but a gain of only 7 seats under the redistribution proposals. So the Labor Party will gain nationally, and everybody knows that. A redistribution from a party political point of view not only is unjustified but also is a misuse of parliamentary power.
There are a number of reasons for opposing the redistribution. I have to select the best ones. One of the main ones is that new proposals do not give sufficient consideration to community of interest. In fact, in the new electorate, proposed by the Commissioners to be named Flynn and renamed Kennedy by the Government, community of interest has been disregarded completely. The 2 largest centres of population in that proposed Division, as has been mentioned before, are Mount Isa and Dalby. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker: What community of interest does Mount Isa, a large mining town in the far north-western part of Queensland, have with large towns in south-western Queensland, of which Dalby is the largest, which depend on servicing highly fertile farming and grazing lands and whose manufacturing industries are almost totally engaged in the manufacturing of farming implements? It is worth remembering too that Dalby and Mt Isa are over 1000 miles apart.
In support of my contention that community of interest has been disregarded, I would like to quote from the statement by Distribution Commissioner, Mr I. F. Weise, the Electoral Officer for Queensland, for whom I have great respect, giving his reasons for dissenting from the proposals relating to the divisions of Capricornia, Darling Downs, Dawson, Fisher, Kennedy, Maranoa and Wide Bay in the 1968 redistribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions. Mr Weise in that report gave reasons two of which I will refer to, for his dissent. The first was that the proposed division of Kennedy encroached upon the area of south east Queensland with which it has little or no community of interest. Let me repeat that: The proposed division of Kennedy encroached upon the area of south east Queensland with which it has little or no community of interest. That was said by the Electoral Officer for Queensland. The other reason for dissent was that the boundaries of the proposed divisions of Kennedy and Maranoa, comprising 247 500 square miles and 194 565 square miles respectively, each extend from the western boundary of Queensland to within 140 miles of the city of Brisbane. The other 2 reasons for dissent did not affect the electorate of Maranoa at all and affected the electorate of Kennedy only in respect of one of them.
There has been no change in the character of the electorates since that time to justify any change of opinion. Previously, in 1968, Mr Weise in his minority report objected to the electorate of Kennedy extending from Mt Isa to Gayndah. The present proposal would have it extend from Mt Isa to Texas on the New South Wales border, some 300 kilometres further into south east Queensland. So on Mr Weise ‘s own 1968 assessment- and he is a man with great experience and knowledge in this field- community of interest has been ignored on this occasion. Some effort has been made to suggest that this is a good idea. It was made by the Australian Labor Party in its submission to the Distribution Commissioners, the last part of which said:
Communication by commercial airline and three western rail lines would facilitate serving the large western seat, a consideration which did not seem apparent when the boundaries for Kennedy seat were set in 1 968.
According to the submission of the Labor Party, it was not apparent that there were any railway lines there in 1968. Has it only just found out that much about Queensland? These 3 railway lines were there in the last century. The airline services of Trans-Australia Airlines have been reduced and if it were not for private operators such as Pagas and Bush Pilots we would have a very poor service in the electorate proposed to be created by the redistribution. Let me again refer to the people I honour so much, those in the Australian Electoral Office, and to representations made by Mr Taylor, the Divisional Returning Officer for Maranoa, to see whether he agrees with the comments on communication. He said, referring to Maranoa only:
The Division presently covers a vast area and in some ways the communications instead of improving have, in some areas either not improved or deteriorated, therefore, I feel it is important when considering the additional electors to be added to this Division the important things to which serious thought should be given are:
Maximum number of electors to be obtained from within a minimum area.
b ) Close and direct communications.
One cannot get a more impartial view on communications than that, because Mr Taylor has no axe to grind. So much for community of interest. The only people I know who have proposed this type of redistribution are those in the Australian Labor Party. Certainly the proposals were altered slightly as a result of representations made but they did not affect the major situation, that is, the extremities of the electorates.
Let me again refer to a view which shows at least a lack of bias against the National Country Party. I quote from an article by Mr Elgin Reid of the ‘Courier-Mail’, an expert in his field, who described this proposed redistribution of Western Queensland as ‘a monstrous affair’, a scathing criticism from a competent critic who would have no axe to grind. Never in my experience in politics has there been such an uprising against an electoral proposal, and if I concentrate on this proposal it is because of lack of time and because it is a prime example of the injustice of the redistribution which has occurred in Queensland and, perhaps, in other States as well. Local authorities in the electorate of Maranoa in the past have not taken a very active interest in these matters but so great was their concern at the unjust treatment handed out to western Queensland people in this redistribution that approximately 80 per cent of the shires in the division of Maranoa registered protests against what they considered unjust treatment of western Queensland in the proposals put forward. Although these proposals have been altered slightly, they have not been altered in the direction of the main objection.
Queensland’s outlying areas since Federation have been broadly contained within 3 electorates, a far northern electorate, a central electorate and a southern and south western electorate. I think the Minister for Services and Property said that the central electorate is Dawson. Why not take it to to the Northern Territory border if we are to have a central electorate there and alter the boundaries to suit the numbers that would be included within such an electorate? Let us look at this question from the point of view of industry organisations. The graziers Association of Central and Northern Queensland services the central and northern areas of the State which are largely contained within the existing electorate of Kennedy. On the other hand, the Graziers Associations of South- West Queensland, Warrego and Maranoa are almost wholly within the boundaries of the existing Maranoa electorate which also contains a considerable proportion of the area of the South-East Queensland Graziers Association. The South-Western Local Authorities Development Association services almost all the inland, southern and south western areas and other local government associations service the areas further north.
Time does not allow me to give all the information that I have here but I hope that the people whose remarks I have quoted will be regarded as responsible people. Mr Taylor, the Divisional Returning Officer for Maranoa, enjoys a very high reputation as an efficient and completely impartial public servant and I am sure that that reputation would be upheld by at least the vast majority of responsible citizens in the area in which he lives. I am sure it would be supported also by the Electoral Officer for Queensland and the Chief Australian Electoral Officer as well. When he made these representations, he made them as a very responsible citizen and I congratulate him on taking that amount of interest. I congratulate the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) and the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) for their contributions to this debate. They expressed a very wide and sensible approach. I believe it would be a tragedy if we were to lose the electorate of Griffith and the honourable member for Griffith.
Speaking with some authority because I represent in this Parliament the great majority of the people who would come within the proposed electorate of Kennedy, if there would be confusion by retaining the name ‘Griffith’, why would there not be confusion in retaining the name of ‘Kennedy ‘ because the great majority of electors concerned are now within the present division of Maranoa. And while I have no objection to having an electorate named Forde, I believe it is a tragedy that probably the greatest Queenslander of them all, Sir Samuel Griffith, is to have his name taken from an electoral division in Queensland. His name should have remained. They changed the name of an electorate from Flynn to Kennedy in order to retain that name, so why not retain the name of Griffith? The redistribution is unfair. That is not a reflection on the Commissioners but a statement of fact. It is unfair to the people of Queensland. Do those 2000 people in western Queensland whom the Minister disparaged deserve no representation at all? The Minister is supposed to be representing people but says that because there are only 2000 people in an area they should not be taken notice of.
The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put:
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 Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs L. J. Abbott, J. E. Mitchell and D. W. Rawson, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on 13 May 1975, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted except that the name of Menzies be substituted for Doncaster and Templestowe.
The Government, having considered the report of the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Victoria, as tabled in this House on 13 May 1975 pursuant to section 23A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners, now recommends approval of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals for that State. In the course of my remarks supporting the redistribution proposals for South Australia I have already commented on the general background to the redistributions which are to be considered for all States other than Western Australia, indicating why the situation is one which cannot be tolerated by any government committed to the principle of one vote, one value. I do not intend to go over that ground again now. However, in order to place the proposals for Victoria in their proper context I want to refer, briefly to the way in which the situation in respect of electoral inequalities has deteriorated in that State since the boundaries of existing divisions were fixed by the 1968 redistribution.
As may be seen by reference to the table set out by the Commissioners at paragraph 6 of volume 1 of their report, enrolment growth rates between the 1968 redistribution and December 1974 have varied substantially in respect of the 34 existing Victorian divisions. For instance, the overall enrolment growth rate for outer metropolitan divisions has very greatly exceeded that for non-metropolitan divisions. Thus, the average enrolment for the existing outer metropolitan divisions- Bruce, Burke, Casey, Deakin, Diamond Valley, Flinders, Holt, Lalor and La Trobe- as at the 1968 redistribution was 49 383. By 13 December 1974 the average enrolment for these 9 divisions had increased to 78 121. By contrast, the average enrolment for the 1 1 existing non-metropolitan divisions as at the 1968 redistribution was 48 426. By 13 December 1974 the average enrolment for these 1 1 divisions had increased to 56 738. Thus, whereas at the 1968 redistribution the average enrolment for outer metropolitan divisions exceeded that for nonmetropolitan divisions by 957, this difference had increased to 21 383 as at 13 December 1974.
Let me further illustrate this important point by referring to some of the more striking examples of enrolment growth in existing divisions over the period between the 1968 redistribution and December 1974. During this period, enrolment in the division of Burke increased from 47 472 to 83 245; and in the division of Diamond Valley, from 50 668 to 86 053. By contrast, several of the inner metropolitan divisions actually experienced a decrease in enrolments over this period. For example, enrolments for the division of Melbourne Ports decreased by 1316. During the period between the 1968 redistribution and December 1974, enrolments in metropolitan divisions, taken overall, increased far more rapidly than enrolments in nonmetropolitan divisions, though there were exceptions to the rule, as in the case of a few inner metropolitan divisions. Thus, by December 1974, there were 1 1 metropolitan divisions for which enrolments exceeded the quota by over 10 per cent, including six for which the variation from the quota was over 20 per cent. By contrast, there were 5 non-metropolitan divisions for which enrolments were more than 10 per cent under quota, including two for which the variation was over 20 per cent. Althogether, therefore, as at 13 December 1974, enrolments in 16 of the 34 existing divisions varied from the quota by more than 10 per cent, including eight which varied by over 20 per cent. Enrolments ranged from 86 053 in Diamond Valley to 49 1 50 in Wimmera.
Under the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals, this grossly inequitable situation would be greatly improved. For example, the enrolments for proposed divisions, as at 13 December 1974 ranged from 59 355, that is, 6.54 per cent below quota for the new division of Doncaster and Templestowe to 66 949 or 5.42 per cent above quota for the proposed division of Melbourne.
The projected enrolments as at May 1977, the date which has been taken for projection purposes, on the assumption that the present House of Representatives will run its full term, for the 3 existing divisions in Victoria with the highest enrolments as at 25 April 1975 will be as follows:
Burke-84 325 increased to 92 000 Diamond Valley-87 522 increased to 92 000 La Trobe-82 400 increased to 90 000
As the Distribution Commissioners point out in paragraph 9, page 9 of their report, the abolition of one of the existing rural divisions was unavoidable, given the trend of population changes and dispersal of electors throughout the State, as was the creation of a new division within the metropolitan area. Given the comparative enrolment growth rates to which I have already referred, it was obvious that this new division should be situated in the outer metropolitan area. It was also logical that the rural division to be abolished should be Wimmera, since this division contains fewer electors than any other existing division.
As with the redistribution proposals for the other States, the Government is far from being in complete agreement with the Victorian proposals. For example, it strongly disagrees with the proposal to remove the subdivision of Holmesglen from the division of Henty. The Commissioners acknowledged the strong objections received by them in this connection and, in fact, agreed that there is a strong community of interest between Holmesglen and the existing division of Henty. However, the Commissioners apparently felt that the retention of that subdivision in Henty would have resulted in a violation of the ‘community of interest’ criterion as it related to other electors. In fact the Government’s position has been significantly weakened in the division of Henty. On the other hand, based on the 1974 election results, on the proposed boundaries there would be no change in the political representation of Victoria. The Australian Labor Party representation would remain at sixteen and the non-Labor parties eighteen. Certainly the National Country Party of Australia would have to continue its Western Australian war with the Liberal Party over the couple of seats involved.
The Victorian branches of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party did not make any objective suggestions to the Commissioners in accordance with section 18a (1) (a) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, confining their remarks to a broad objection to any redistribution at all. It is interesting to hear members of the National Country Party say that they are entitled to criticise the Commissioners, but they condemned proposals for a redistribution even before the Commissioner’s names were announced. It is interesting to note, however, that when the maps were displayed both parties were roused from their lethargy to offer some comments and objections. Again the National Country Party’s comments of 13 November 1974 were confined to its own narrow personal desire for survival without any reasonable arguments for a fair electoral redistribution.
The Liberal Party went to great pains in its objections of 14 November 1974 to present extensive proposals in opposition to those displayed by the Commissioners. Its motives, however, like those of the National Country Party, were politically motivated entirely by its desire to protect its own interest, even at the cost of its supposed coalition partner, the National Country party In this regard I was interested to read in today’s ‘Age’ under the heading ‘Liberals opt for electoral folly’ the following article:
In determining their attitude to the proposed redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries, members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party had the option of adopting two approaches. They could have asked themselves: is this redistribution fair and equitable and in accordance with democratic principle? To which the honest answer would have been- Yes! Or they could have pondered: does this redistribution serve our long-term political interests? In which case the wise answer would also have been Yes! The Liberals made a decision which was neither honest nor wise: they decided to oppose the redistribution. In doing so, they opted for a marginal short-term political advantage and for a mockery of electoral justice. The main beneficiary of this aberration will be neither the Liberal Party nor the people of Australia, but the National Country Party.
It goes on to say:
The Opposition has the numbers in the Senate to block the redistribution proposals. This may give it a slight advantage in the next election, but at the price of perpetuating an unfairly weighted electoral system and of protecting its often mischievous coalition partner against being cut down to a size more proportionate to its popular support. We shall not even be spared the mendacious cant with which this cynical expediency will be defended.
I suppose there has been no more avid supporter of the Liberal and National Country Parties over the years than the Melbourne ‘Age’, and that is its summary of the situation. I put that on the record in order to show that fair-minded people agree that this is a fair-minded electoral redistribution.
The Distribution Commissioners for Victoria gave full and careful consideration to the 35 submissions lodged by members of the general public following publication of their preliminary proposals. As a result, alterations were made to these preliminary proposals in respect of a number of divisions. The Government believes that the proposals of the Distribution Comissioners for Victoria represent a thorough-going attempt to provide the citizens of that State with electoral boundaries which will go a great distance towards the achievement of electoral justice for all voters and political parties. It is proposed to substitute the name ‘Menzies’ for ‘Doncaster- Templestowe’ after the Right Honourable Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, K.T., former Prime Minister of Australia. I have pleasure in moving that this House approve the report of the Distribution Commissioners for
Victoria, dated 14 April 1975. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the latest enrolment figures for Victoria.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– It is interesting to hear the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) refer to the great ‘Age’ newspaper in such glowing terms today. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) might well take a leaf out of his book for many days past. The other thing I always find interesting about the Minister is his continuing love-hate relationship with the National Country Party of Australia. Of course we in the Liberal Party have the closest possible relations with our country friends. It might be described as a relationship of continuing affection. I think we can only describe the Minister’s relationship as one of love-hate. He loves talking about members of the National
Country Party but he seems to hate them. He goes on and on about them.
Nr Nixon- He cannot beat them; that is why.
-He cannot beat them. Of course they are magnificent fighters in the grass roots election campaigns around this country, in whatever State. I think all parties could take a leaf out of their book. They are most assiduous at cultivating the grass roots. That is what the Minister dislikes about them. He shows again and again, along with a number of his colleagues in government, the strange and rather sad antirural bias of this socialist government. It is sad how far this thing has gone in the last Vh years. The Government’s anti-rural bias would appear to be just as big as its anti-business bias, which needs to be felt to be understood.
The important thing to say about this electoral redistribution is that the Australian Labor Party needs it. Labor needs this electoral redistribution about as much as it needs to spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds on public relations to cover up its policy failures. It needs this electoral redistribution about as much as it needs to threaten members of the insurance industry with fines or even gaol because they dare to disagree with Labor’s socialist plans. It needs this electoral redistribution basically becase of its sheer incompetence and its socialist policies which mean that it would find it extremely difficult to win an election on existing boundaries. I do not believe that Labor could come within a bull ‘s roar of winning elections on the proposed boundaries, even these boundaries which nudge the electoral system Labor’s way. All the public relations, all the advertising, all the wild spending of taxpayers’ funds and all the redistribution of boundaries in the world will simply not save this sad socialist Government. It has had its fair go and now it is stretching it. It is stretching the rules of the game to new limits. With all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, it is reacting in fine authoritarian fashion to proper criticism of its policies.
-Order! I think the honourable member, as a Victorian member, might just mention Victoria in the course of this debate.
– It is important to see the situation of Victoria in relation to the overall design of the Labor Government with respect to redistribution. We can only understand its redistribution plans by understanding its plight in the Australian community today. I am merely briefly elaborating that argument for your greater understanding, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will not pursue this line far, only to say that these days nobody talks about open government. All that open government means to the socialists is that you leak the secrets of your opponents in Cabinet to your friends in the media.
In the redistribution I think the important point for this House and the people of Australia to note is that the Government has done it with subtlety. It takes a detailed analysis to understand the undemocratic advantage which this redistribution in fact gives to the Labor Party. A cursory examination of the maps reveals that it is not a visually crude redistribution. It can only really be seen to be unfair when the figures are fully analysed and when it has been looked at Australia-wide. Doing the sums and the figure work in an electoral redistribution is difficult. On this occasion it has been difficult for us in the Liberal Party. We have looked at the work of independent commentators such as Mr Mackerras and the few others who work in this field. Our treatment of the redistribution is based upon an analysis of the figures and not simply on the words of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Those who say that it is a fair distribution, in my view, either have not studied the figures in detail or have approved of the undemocratic emphasis because they see it as overcoming the old Labor problem that, like the National Country Party of Australia, it has great voting strength in certain restricted areas. We in the Liberal Party tend to gain a more even spread of the vote than either the National Country Party or the Labor Party.
There are also those who say that this redistribution must be fair because it is rather unhelpful to the National Country Party, on the principle that anything is fair if it hurts the National Country Party. It needs to be understood clearly that the Opposition ‘s attitude has not been determined by the National Country Party. It is not a case of the National Country Party tail wagging the Liberal Party dog. In this matter the Liberal Party’s bite is as bad as the National Country Party’s bark. Of course, redistributions in Australia automatically cause more anguish for the National Country Party than for either the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. This is a natural by-product of the population surge to the cities that has taken place since Federation- a surge which, incidentally, has many obvious undesirable aspects.
It has to be said that the Liberal Party was not automatically opposed to a redistribution by the Labor Government. We would have supported a fair redistribution based on the broad principle of one vote one value. We waited to see the figures. We have studied the figures and have found them to be unfair- I add, perhaps not grossly unfair or not altogether obviously unfair, but on close study plainly unfair and providing an undemocratic advantage to a Labor Party in panic. If the Liberal Party dog was in fact being wagged by the National Country Party tail, surely the dog would have wobbled a little and surely someone would have seen it wobble. But there have been no reports of conflict between the Liberal Party and the National Country Party over this matter. We have heard members of the Government party say that our attitude has been determined by the National Country Party, but there is no evidence for this. There has been no fight in the Liberal Party room- in what the Labor Party calls ‘the Caucus room’. There is no evidence whatsoever that we and our National Country Party friends are living in anything but the utmost harmony over this electoral distribution.
– Fred does not like that.
-That is the trouble. The Labor Party has to make it up. It has told the Australian people that, on the basis of first principles, the Liberal Party and the National Country Party must disagree, and because the ‘Age’ agrees with the Labor Party it must be right. But honourable members opposite have not given us one iota of evidence that in the party room, where this matter was decided, there was anything but an extraordinarily united stand on this issue- an issue which is important for the Australian people and an issue which, of course, is important to the point of anguish for all members of this House. I might add that my seat has suffered a little. I will win it still, but it has suffered a little nonetheless. All we have is allegations by the opponents of the coalition parties. They are not always without foundations, but they happen to be without foundation in this case.
Commonwealth redistributions have been much misunderstood and often mixed up with the blatantly undemocratic gerrymanders which we have seen so often in the State parliaments. I hold no brief for them. The verdict of most impartial observers of past Federal redistributions is that they have not been blatantly unfair to any party. Of course, over the years we have been responsible for the boundaries most of the time; so our attitude stands the test of time. I must confess that one thing did rather tempt me to give perhaps cynical support to the Australia Labor Party’s boundaries, and this is simply that the last time the Labor Party drew the boundaries it lost the next election.
– In 1948, as the honourable member rightly reminds me. If members of the Australian Labor Party had not been that little bit too greedy, that little bit too selfish, we in the Liberal Party would have seriously considered supporting the new boundaries, but they were that little bit too greedy. Let us look at the position as at the last election. With a minority of the votes they gained a clear majority of the seats. With the same vote, under the proposed boundaries, they would gain a considerably bigger majority of the seats. They now have a majority of 5 seats. At the last election their vote was about 49 per cent.
– It was 49.5 per cent.
-No, 49.2 per cent. The same 49 per cent would give them an extra 3 seats, moving their majority from five to at least eleven. It might in fact be more. What they have done in this instance is not extraordinarily gross. It is not obvious as one reads the maps. But when one does the sums one finds, as sure as the living daylights, that they have nudged it this way and that.
– It is like an iceberg.
– It is more like an iceberg than anything else. They have nudged it this way and that, so that with the same vote they gain more seats. They had a minority of the vote last time and they gained a clear and fair majority of the seats. No Australian, least of all the Opposition, would deny them that. So, that is the story that needs to be told about this redistribution. We need to put to rest this nonsense about division between members of the Liberal Party and members of the National Country Party. It is not a case of our dog being wagged by their tail.
– Not much!
– It is not a case of that at all. Our bite is as bad as their bark. We disagree with the proposals which are clear, if not gross. They are undemocratic inasmuch as they would improve Labor’s position. It would win at least 3 extra seats throughout Australia, on a conservative estimate. It might win more.
– A very conservative estimate.
-To be fair, we have made a very conservative estimate. We do not want to exaggerate our case. The case stands on its own feet and needs no exaggeration. All that needs exaggeration in this country at the moment is any of the virtue which is left in the Labor Party. It will need exaggeration beyond even the imagination of the Minister for Services and Property who has one of the most wonderful imaginations in Australian politics. The story here is that Labor is facing a hostile Australian community- not hostile at the outset, but hostile now because of the impact of Labor’s policies and because of the records that Labor is creating in so many vital fields such as record unemployment, record inflation and record interest rates. It is in that context that Labor seeks this redistribution which will give it more seats with no more votes.
-I have said this before and I think it needs to be said again: The honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) was a lecturer in political science, and I think it is to the everlasting benefit of those who are now students that he is no longer a lecturer. He moved into many false areas and adopted a conciliatory manner. Those who were listening to him and who are not fully aware of what is really going on would have been left with the impression that this Government or the Australian Labor Party drew the lines on the map. If the honourable gentleman had been honest he would have conceded that it was the Distribution Commissioners who drew the lines on the map- 3 independent peopleand drew them as the law said they ought to be drawn. So, the Government had no influence in the matter; the Labor Party had no influence in the matter. If it did, the Liberal Party and the National Country Party had as much influence as the Government or the Labor Party had. The honourable gentleman does not do himself, the parliamentary process in this country or the community a service when he endeavours to mislead the House by giving that sort of impression.
He spoke about an undemocratic advantage being given to the Australian Labor Party. I listened carefully to what the honourable gentleman was saying. Throughout his remarks he used the words ‘figures’ and ‘doing sums ‘. I have been a member of this Parliament only since 1 969. 1 like to think that I came here to represent people and not statistics. I would like to think that I came here to put a point of view that would effect people and not to sit down with my pocket calculator and do arithmetical calculations and use the people in my electorate and the people in the rest of Australia as the basis for those calculations. It would be impossible to draw up a redistribution of electoral boundaries for Victoria or, for that matter, anywhere else that would please everybody. If it is found after the areas have been subdivided that the redistribution favours one party or the other, the parties that are disadvantaged will complain. It is true that neither the Liberal Party of Australia nor the National Country Party put a submission before the Redistribution Commissioners. The members of both Parties had plenty to say after the electoral maps were published, but that is how much interest they had in the matter- neither party prepared a submission. This great democratic National Country Party, or whatever it calls itself for the time being, had such a great interest in the matter that it said the redistribution was crook even before the Commissioners were appointed. It said that it was a bad redistribution before the Commissioners had even been appointed. This is the nature of these people opposite.
In my view, there are 2 things to be considered when we talk about redistributions. As I have heard the contributions to these electoral redistribution debates especially from members of the National Country Party, some honourable members opposite seem to think that being a member of Parliament revolves only around going around the electorate and servicing the electorate. I concede that that is a very important function of a member of Parliament. But this Parliament-this building or this chamber where the decisions are made- does not enter into that field at all. In this area we start to talk about the other role that the parliamentarian plays, as a legislator or decision maker. If he is to perform that task he must express the view of the people of the electorate- not the statistics, the peopleas accurately as possible in this chamber. In that way we have the views of the whole community transmitted to this chamber. That is not possible whilst an electorate like mine has a voting strength or population of 87 000 and an electorate like Wimmera has a voting strength of 45 000. 1 will concede that it is far more difficult to service electorates like Mallee, Wimmera, Indi, Gippsland and the other larger electorates in the other States. I readily concede the difficulty in servicing the electors in these seats. That is something that can be overcome readily. There are facilities available to members of Parliament now. They no longer have to ride around on their ponies or in their traps to go out to see these people. They no longer have to use their floating rail cart or whatever members used in earlier days. It is unfortunate that the National Country Party is still geared to that bygone age. Since then Alexander Graham Bell has invented the telephone, Henry Ford has been responsible for developing the motor car and the Wright brothers were given credit for making sure that heavier-than-air machines could fly -
– They drive Edsels
-They can afford them. We must keep our thinking clear on the 2 aspects that I mentioned: Firstly, servicing the electorate, and, secondly, representing the population of Australia in this chamber. When we speak about representing the population of Australia in this chamber, nobody could disagree with the proposition that each electorate ought to be as nearly as practicable equal in size so far as numbers of people are concerned. I take the minds of honourable members back to our Australian Constitution, the bible by which we as a Government and a Parliament live. There is a thread running through it as to how a redistribution is arrived at. Without quoting the Constitution verbatim, it states that the Senate shall be constituted of an equal number of representatives from each of the States and that twice that number shall be divided into the population of Australia and the figure arrived at shall become the quota. The quota shall be divided into the population of a State and the result of that shall determine how many seats there are in a State. If there is a remaining number, an extra seat shall be allocated in that State. It is also stated that no State shall be represented by fewer than 5 members. That is how the Constitution tells us a redistribution will be conducted.
The Australian Labor Party did not draw up the rules. The Liberal Party did not draw them up and the National Country Party did not draw them up. The Constitution tells us how to do it. Using that formula, Victoria must return 34 members to this Parliament. If we are to be equitable, as the Constitution has been until now, as I have quoted it to honourable members, then surely there must be equity in the next step. Surely it must be said that each of those 34 divisions must, as nearly as is practicable, be equal in terms of people- not area, but people. Area is only a consideration when we talk about the serving of the people in it. But a redistribution becomes a gerrymander when a member starts to represent area, haystacks, fence posts or anything other than people in the electorate.
That is the attitude that has overtaken the members of the National Country Party and held them captive for so long. They might well contend that we must find a more effective way of doing things and provide more facilities to service the people in their electorates. For instance, it could be said that more facilities are needed in Gippsland than Johnson needs in Burke. I would agree with that. I would support members of the National Country Party 100 per cent. But if you stand up and tell me that I must represent twice as many people as another member, but that I will not be allowed to put up my hand twice, then
I think that is inequitable. That is where I part company with you.
Under the previous law, there could be a variation of 20 per cent above the quota or 20 per cent below the quota. In fact, there could be a variation of 40 per cent between electorates where one electorate was 20 per cent over the quota and another was 20 per cent under the quota. That is too big a margin. So this Government, in its wisdom and with the consent of a Joint Sitting of the Parliament, reduced that variation to 10 percent.
-In other words, weight of numbers.
-It is not weight of numbers. It seems to me that there could still be a variation of 20 per cent between electorates with one electorate being 10 per cent over the quota and another being 10 per cent below the quota. Such a provision must be in the legislation because there are changes in the demography of electorates. For instance, my electorate is the fastest growing electorate in Victoria. Its population is increasing at the rate of something like 10 000 electors a year. I humbly believe that in terms of servicing the people those electors are probably receiving the best service in Australia. If I may pontificate I will give some advice to the Liberal Party which, unfortunately, has only 3 members in the House at the moment. (Quorum formed). I find it rather disturbing to see only 2 members of the Liberal Party in the chamber- one has just left. The advice I give to the Liberal Party- I think the members of that Party should take it- is that it has performed probably the silliest political act that it has ever performed in letting the National Country Party stand over it and tell it to reject this proposal.
Having been involved in some pretty dicey political situations over a number of years, I can with great experience say to the Liberal Party that this was its golden opportunity to shake off the fleas from its body. The Liberal Party neglected to take it. Never again, should it ever become the government at a future time, which is perhaps doubtful, would it be able to bring in a redistribution that would give it- never mind about the Labor Party- as much as this redistribution will give it now. The Liberal Party has muffed this opportunity. It had an opportunity to reduce the influence of the National Country Party in the coalition. If the Liberal Party is frightened that the National Country Party will say, ‘We will pack up our bags and go home’, I would invite it to look at the situation in Western Australia where the Premier had the courage to tell the National Country Party in that State, ‘Well, if you want to go home, go home ‘.
Nothing is so important to the National Country Party as to sit on the Treasury benches. That Party does not serve any purpose sitting on the corner benches. It wields no power from the corner benches. It wields power only from the Treasury benches and unless it is part of the coalition it will never sit there. The National Country Party needs the Liberal Party more than the Liberal Party needs it. This is a lesson that the Liberal Party did not learn. In the Senate it knocked out two redistribution proposals concerning the States of Tasmania and South Australia. It threw them straight out of the Senate and it will live to regret it. The Liberal Party will rue this day forever more. Never will it get a redistribution that will suit it so well.
The Liberal Party could have won the seat of McMillan in Victoria. It could have won the seat of Mallee in Victoria and it would have been without the seat of Wimmera, which is proposed to be incorporated into the seat of Mallee under the proposals. If the Liberal Party is to advance it will have to advance at the expense of the National Country Party. I do not mind that. I would be on the sidelines cheering it on.
As far as is humanly possible the redistribution is fair. It is not possible to bring in a redistribution that will please everyone or all parties. But it seems to me that the proposed redistribution does give the people- they are the ones about whom I am concerned- far more equitable representation in this Parliament than they now have. I say that on the basis of numbers of people not acres, hectares, tree stumps, fence posts, haystacks or anything else. My case rests there. I think that I have made it very well and I am sure that the House will agree with the proposal put forward by the Minister.
-The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) has given an address full of errors and exaggerations. I do not know whether he made any study of this matter before he made his comments today but it would appear to me that he did not. He said for a start that the electorate of Wimmera had been reduced to 45 000 electors. He should have read the statement issued by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) because that puts the figure at 49 000 electors. He said that neither the Liberal Party nor the National Country Party had put in a submission to the Distribution Commissioners. What does he think is contained in the little blue booklet put out by the Commissioners. It clearly indicates exactly what the
Liberal and Country Parties submitted. I agree with the honourable member for Burke in one respect. If the Government’s policy is allowed to drift as it has done in the last 2 years I would not be at all surprised in the not-too-distant future to see the absence of all country seats because judging by the number of farmers who have been driven off their properties there would be no one left to vote and as a result we would not have any electorates in country areas.
After listening to the comments made by the Minister in regard to the proposals for the various States I have come to the conclusion that he is a very worried man. He shows by his comments that he is somewhat jealous of the harmony that exists between honourable members on this side of the Parliament. He just does not like the way we can trust one another. This cannot happen within his own Party. He tries to cover up by putting over funny stories and to ridicule us in the hope that people outside will forget his own Party’s problems. The Minister forgets tomorrow what he says today. The Minister cannot remember today what he said yesterday. I have vivid recollections of reading a statement in which the Minister referred to the fact that once members of the National Country Party heard of the new redistribution proposals they would all have heart attacks. I wonder what the Minister knew that we did not know? This is an example of the little things that he forgets.
I do not have time to reply to all the comments that have been made today by some supporters of the Government other than to say it is pretty obvious that they have little or no interest in the future of this great country. If this redistribution is allowed to pass in its present unsatisfactory form, it will make the seat of Mallee the largest geographically in Victoria. In comparison I am informed that some metropolitan electorates are only .04 of the size of the proposed Mallee electorate. Just imagine- about 250 small city electorates would fit into one great broad electorate of Mallee which will comprise some 60 000 big hearted people. This electorate would be the State’s largest in area; and yet now it is almost one of the largest numerically. We all hear supporters of the Government talk about the principle of ‘one vote one value’. But where is the evenness in this case? Yet, the Government would force through this undemocratic proposal. It would, in effect, disenfranchise many of these country people who, in my thinking, the thinking of my Party and the thinking of all previous governments- Liberal-Country Party and Labor- deserve the same representation as people in suburban electorates.
How often can a constituent speak to his member who is just as distant when in his electorate as he is when he is sitting here in Canberra? Is this the spurious kind of representation this Government offers to city people? I wonder why this is so? This Labor Government has a special and quite peculiar responsibilty in this regard. It has actively brought about policies of centralism. It has concentrated into this national capital of Canberra more and more of the affairs which govern people’s daily lives. Today, country people expect frequent contact with their elected members. They will expect more contact with them as Labor develops its concept of centralism.
Some of the people of Wimmera, which, under this proposal, becomes Mallee, would lose contact in a redistribution of the nature proposed. They would have no central point. The main cities would be Mildura, Swan Hill and Horsham, all of them widely separated and extremities of the electorate. The redistribution proposal is, quite obviously, completely unnatural. And this brings me to a most important point. Wimmera has been an electorate since Federation, a mere 74 years ago. But well before then, it was a recognised region because of its climate and topography. It is a natural region in every sense of the word and this is obvious from the activities of the people in the Wimmera. Their lives, from farming to commerce to sport, are woven together into a regional fabric because the natural components of the region blend automatically. But Labor wants to destroy this natural fabric of human interest and activity, and replace it with an isolation that belongs to the horse and buggy days. People will be isolated from their members. They will have limited, and in some cases, no access to the people who make decisions that bind their lives. This is a direct and deliberate denial of democracy. It is also a classic example of the hypocrisy and double dealing for which this Government is building quite a reputation. The people will have their democratic rights, but they will be unable to exercise them. That is the beginning of the destruction of democracy.
Some honourable members on the Government side will sneer that I am merely trying to keep my seat. That would be the level of their idealism and intelligence. To them I say that I would be quite disappointed to lose my seat. Naturally I would. Any normal person would be saddened to lose something for which he has worked hard for some 20 years. I hope honourable members on the Government side will note this: If the loss of Wimmera would strengthen Australian democracy and benefit the people, I would certainly step aside. I would expect others to do the same. The greatest gift that all Australian Labor Party members could give this nation would be to give up their seats, but I do not see them rushing in to make what would be their sole valuable contribution to the welfare of the Australian people. When I see a move to destroy democracy in this country I have not only a duty to speak up but also a heavy obligation to my people to do something about it.
I also reject this motion for the redistribution of the electoral divisions of Victoria in the interests of city people. Labor’s deliberate neglect of rural electorates, particularly by abolishing them, must lead to a disaster for people living in the cities. Unless primary production is made profitable and kept viable no one will continue farming, whether he wants to or not. Farmers will swell the ranks of the unemployed. They will compete with city dwellers for jobs. Food prices naturally will be affected. They will soar as this country has never known before. No one farms so well as the owner-operator. The Russians have acknowledged this by returning portion of their farming land to private owners. These private owners are a small percentage of Russia’s farmers, but they produce most of Russia’s food. Neither socialism nor huge corporations are capable of efficient farming and cheap food production because the true farmer is a man moved by the love of his land. He is prepared to nurture that land for a lifetime and to make sacrifices for it in a way that is foreign to the minds of those who spend their lives on bitumen and who produce by pushing buttons. Farmers have a fundamental wisdom in their chosen vocation. I implore members of the Government who do not understand this to try to comprehend this fact before they blunder into errors which will cost this country dear for generations to come.
How serious is the Government about decentralisation when it robs the rural areas of meaningful representation? Obviously the Government intends to continue the already heavy expenditure in areas where the most votes reside, particularly in industralised suburbs. I ask honourable members not to forget that while country people are neglected they will still continue, through sales tax if not through their profits when they disappear, to contribute to the cash which this Government recklessly rushes to place into the suburbs of the metropolitan areas. Some of the intellectuals who misguide Labor’s hand will see some merit in bringing more people to the cities. The same academics recommended high rise flats for city living. Now the cost of social services to the State for these people living on the brink of suicide, and for those in these flats who go over that brink, is much more than proper housing in country areas would cost. A good decentralisation plan would cost far less because once established it would generate its own revenue. High rise living generates only misery and continuing expense.
Simple arithmetic shows that this redistribution proposal means that Labor will continue in office with less than 50 per cent of the vote. This would be government by minority, which is the opposite of democracy. Unions would feel freer than ever to place bans on exports, such as they have done on wheat sales to Chile at a time when world wheat prices have dropped by one-third. Australian Wheat Board members are at their wits’ end trying to find buyers with enough cash to pay for 900 000 tonnes of unsold wheat before the next harvest.
-It cost $ 1 4m
– The honourable member for Mallee has pointed out that that one deal alone cost the industry $14m. Yet we have the honourable members on the Government benches who are prepared to accept and condone this sort of thing. Genuine democracy- not just some academic juggling of figures- demands more rather than less rural representation. This proposal in its present form is a threat to Australian democracy. I am reminded of the comments by the former member for Mallee that there is only one way really to carry out true decentralisation and that is by commencing with decentralised representation in our various Parliaments. That is the very opposite to what this Labor Government is trying to introduce.
Honourable members who have studied the submissions placed before the New South Wales Distribution Commission cannot but be impressed by the fact that some 10 000 people saw fit to object to the alteration to the Riverina electorate. So 10 000 people were prepared to put their names to a petition protesting against the proposals as they have been presented. This was done in a very short time. There could be 2 reasons for this. Firstly, it could be because the electors respect their present member. There is no disputing that. Secondly, of course, it could be because they realise that they may lose another of their number. Surely this indicates the feeling of country people to these loaded redistribution proposals. These have been caused not by the deliberate action of the Distribution Commissioners but, basically, by an alteration to the Electoral Act which was carried in this chamber not very long ago. That Bill dealt with variations in the population and numbers on the roll.
Finally, I appeal to members of the Government to have a real regard for the fine national contribution made by country people and to drop the ‘milk comes out of bottles’ attitude. After all, this is the simple way in which many people look on country representation. I reject these proposals entirely. As I think the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) mentioned a little while ago when he was referring to the future of this great nation, if we allow this redistribution to go through the Parliament and to be implemented we will never get an opportunity on some future occasion to get the true feeling and voice of the people. I refer to a comment by the Minister for Services and Property when he gave the reason why the Wimmera electorate should disappear. He stated:
It was all so logical that the rural Division to be abolished should be Wimmera, since this Division contains fewer electors than any other existing Division.
If the philosophy and the reason why the Wimmera electorate should disappear is because it is the smallest numerically, I ask: What will be the next move? Will this automatically mean that the electorate of Mallee should be the second electorate to disappear because it is the second smallest numerically? I reject these proposals. I am sure there are plenty of people outside the Parliament who agree with me on this matter. I am sure that at the next election the people will recognise this fact.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am very disappointed in the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) who has lost his flair for objectivity on matters of electoral systems and their fairness. I am disappointed because 9 years ago he strove dearly and hard to educate me in the principles of electoral systems when I was at Melbourne University. Now he has seen fit to throw away his books and his beliefs. For him facts are no longer what they are but as he sees them. He said that redistribution would ‘nudge the electoral fortunes Labor’s way’. Then the honourable member set about attempting to convince us that an assessment of electoral fortune depended on detailed analysis. We find that what he meant by ‘fair’ was really what was favourable to the Liberal-National Country Party coalition. There was no supportive argument because his observations- selective and manipulative as they are- clash with the basic democratic principles. When that occurs it is just like what happens when an indestructible force meets an immovable object. There can be no reconciliation of his argument with the facts.
I remind the House that we have to observe 2 basic principles when we are working through a parliamentary system that is coupled with an electoral voting system that reflects the wishes of the people, before we can claim to be a democracy. Those 2 basic “principles should not bear repetition; but, from the nature of the debate, they certainly do. They are the principle of universal suffrage and, most importantly in redistribution matters, the principle of one vote one value. Surely the people want the principle of one vote one value because it was an issue at the double dissolution and they voted overwhelmingly for the return of the Government, which supported that principle. In a Joint Sitting the Parliament as a whole supported the tenet of one vote one value. It is the law. There are many ways in which to bring that about. I believe that the Distribution Commissioners have done that openly, honestly and carefully within their terms of reference. I do not agree with every part of their report; I do not agree with their report in its entirety. Perhaps some changes should be made in the electorate of Henty and one or two in my neighbouring electorate of Casey. But overall I support the report. I support it because it is objective and impartial and unquestionably fair and reasonable. Prior to the amendments, the legislation allowed for a 20 per cent variation above or below the quota.
Seven years has elapsed since the last redistribution. I remind honourable members that one census has been taken since then. One is taken every 5 years. Yet the Opposition argues that this is not the time to have a redistribution and that we should wait until after the next census.
– That is the law.
– This redistribution provides for the changes that have occurred since the 1971 census. An honourable member interjected that that is the law. This redistribution fulfils the law. Honourable members opposite are merely delaying these proposals because they hope against all odds that they will win the next election and then be in a position to bring in a gerrymander. Let us look at some of the facts. On 13 December 1974 the enrolment in the electorate of Diamond Valley was 86 053 and in the electorate of Wimmera it was 49 150. There was a disparity of almost two to one. In my own electorate of La Trobe there was an enrolment of 81 884, compared with the enrolment of 49 657 in the electorate of
Mallee. My point is this: I have to go and tell my electors they have to muster 5 votes to equal the force of argument of only 3 voters in the electorate of Mallee.
– Of course it is disgraceful. I cannot support such a situation. My people have sent me here to rectify that malapportionment. I can only support the proposal, having been requested to restore the democratic principle and basic tenet of one vote one value. The present system works against the city dwellers. I remind the House that 75 per cent of Australians live in capital cities or the larger urban areas. The present system works in favour of the rural dwellers. The present sytem is against the citybased parties. That goes for the Liberal Party as well as the Labour Party. The present system works in favour of the rural based party- the National Country Party. I cannot come to this Parliament and support anything else but that which gives a proper system of one vote one value to the 75 per cent of Victorians who live in the urban electorates of Melbourne.
One should ask: Why do the National Country Party and the Liberal Party oppose the recommendations? The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) told us yesterday that this matter should be argued in general terms. He said that to say that the impact on marginal seats determines whether there is a bias is debatable but he takes a subjective viewpoint. I prefer to accept the objectivity of the Distribution Commissioners. He argued that the weighting is to provide for smaller electorates so that country voters may be better serviced. That argument has been supported by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). I argue that we must not interfere with the basic fundamental principle of one vote one value. The answers to the problems of the rural voter are more complex. It is a more complex solution than just an interference with the basic right. We must consider it against the background of a narrowed differential of plus or minus 10 per cent. The member for a country electorate needs better services. He needs better equipment. He needs more staff. He needs better organisation in his own group. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has already improved beyond anything provided by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government the services provided for members for country electorates. If the members for country electorates believe that there should be a better voice and that there should be a better argument to convince the city people of the disadvantages to primary producers and others of living in the rural areas of this country, then they should do it openly. That should be argued strongly in such areas as the Industries Assistance Commission. That is the area in which the problems of country people should be exposed and a solution should be found. That should not be left to a minority, blinkered party such as the National Country Party. Honourable members opposite argue that we are not ready for a redistribution. I again lay that misrepresentation by saying that it is 7 years since the last redistribution took place and that a census has taken place since then. It is time to rectify the situation.
Let us look at the real reasons why honourable members opposite are opposing the proposals. In a nutshell, the Liberal Party is being stood over by the National Country Party. I really cannot understand why. The Liberal Party will not win office while it is a part of the coalition because the people of Australia realise what would happen if the coalition were returned to office. First of all, unjustifiable and secret subsidies to the rural industries would be continued at the expense of the metropolitan electorates. There would be another example of dilly-dallying over revaluation, which would be to the benefit of the speculators. Of course, the Liberal Party could not win on its own because if it were to go to the people it would have to demonstrate how far it is out of step with the general situation. It proposes to cut welfare and education expenditure; it would encourage Australia to be involved in another war in South-East Asia; and it would destroy national government by referring national responsibilities to the States. There can be no long term political advantage to the Liberal Party in supporting the opposition in these proposals. Honourable members opposite are attempting to hold together a coalition which is splitting in Western Australia and Queensland and which is overstrained in the national sphere. In case there are any doubts about that, let me give 2 examples of the strains in Victoria concerning the Federal sphere. The submission from the Liberal Party in Victoria to the Commissioners was in the form of a letter dated 14 November 1974. It appears at page 54 of the report. It reads in part:
Finally, given the criteria in the Act, we have to agree with the Labor submission of a reduction of one seat from the rural area and an increase in one in the south eastern area.
That letter was signed by the former Secretary of the Liberal Party in Victoria, Mr Leo Hawkins. It should be noted that he is no longer the Secretary.
– He got the sack.
– That is true. He got the sack because he dared to stand for the principles of the Liberal Party and not buckle under to the minor partner in the coalition, the National Country Party. Last year the coalition split and fought over the question of whether the Liberal Party should oppose the National Country Party in rural seats. The only short term advantage that I can see in the Liberal Party opposing this redistribution is that it hopes to extend the honeymoon of its new Leader.
Having heard the honourable member for Wimmera- who, I might add, apart from the fact that he will lose his seat, is a resident of my former home town of Horsham and is a member of the Party of which my father was a representative in the State House- I can understand well and truly why the National Country Party is opposed to this redistribution. It is its last chance of survival until the shaky national expansion at the expense of the Liberal Party is obtained. Let us consider one of the arguments advanced by the honourable member for Wimmera to support his case. Because one electorate- I think it is the electorate of Grayndler- is 4 per cent of the size of the electorate of Mallee, he wants in Mallee 25 times the power of voting in a metropolitan electorate. It is one thing to represent cows, haystacks or lamp posts, but we came here to represent people.
Let us look at the Opposition’s argument that the present system returns members according to a reflection of the wishes of the people. A total of 9.44 per cent of the votes cast returned 16 per cent of the members- those in National Country Party held seats. Although bad I do not think that that gives an accurate picture of the situation. I think it is better to look at the weight of voters through their representatives. Let us look at the average enrolment in the seats won by the various parties. The Australian Labor Party won 66 seats with an average voting enrolment of 63 458. The Liberal Party was worse off; not only did it win no more than 40 seats, but its average enrolment was higher than ours- 64 045, whereas the Country Party coasted in with 21 seats, with average enrolments of only 54 708. This proposed redistribution would not favour the Labor Party any more than any other Party in the House. On those figures, it would favour the Liberal Party most. This shows the inconsistency of argument of the main Opposition partner in the coalition.
I should like to applaud the change of name of the new seat of Doncaster-Templestowe to Menzies. But I notice that the Liberal Party, the Party of the former longest serving Australian
Prime Minister, is voting against that too. The naming of seats has become a form of memorial. There are few exceptions to this, although one that readily comes to mind is the seat of Casey. We should, I believe, remember to express our recognition of contributions made in the lifetime of our former parliamentary leaders wherever possible. The Minister has done this by naming a Western Australian seat, the seat of Tangney. The seat of Forde has been suggested, as well as the seat of Menzies. We may not agree- in fact, we hardly agree- with anything that was stood for by the former member for Kooyong, Sir Robert Menzies. We opposed him on his commitment to Vietnam and on his basic philosophies. But it is important that we are big enough, we have enough guts, to acknowledge that he made a contribution and to recognise that in his own lifetime.
I have set out a case that demonstrates that this Bill does not attempt to establish a gerrymander; it attempts to destroy a monument to malapportionment. The Government agrees with the noted psephologist, Malcolm Mackerras, who said:
In overall political terms, the 1975 redistribution is the fairest set of proposed boundaries ever to be presented to the Australian Parliament in my lifetime.
He went on to say:
The Commissioners have bent over backwards to avoid any suggestion of gerrymander.
It will be a tragedy and a travesty of democracy if the Opposition in the Senate uses its brutal numbers to defeat these Bills. I end on another quotation from Mr Mackerras:
My impression is that the Commissioners have set out to draw boundaries so patently fair that rejection by the Senate would reflect discredit on the Senate, not the Commissioners.
It would reflect discredit on the Opposition members in this House who would like to deliver a fatal body blow to one of the basic principles of democratic parliamentary representation: one vote one value.
-The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) commenced his address by complaining about the lack of objectivity of the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley). He went on to say that the honourable member for Chisholm, in earlier days, used to teach him. Having just heard a lot of political rhetoric without a great deal of substance or sense from the honourable member for La Trobe, I can understand the reason why he is one of the few failures as a student that the honourable member for Chisholm had. All I can say is that to teach the honourable member for
La Trobe must have been too much of a task for any one man.
The honourable member for La Trobe went on to say that he was going to vote for the motion. He then complained bitterly about what has happened in the electorates of Henty and Casey. Apparently he is sorry that the Minister for gerrymander who is sitting at the table did not quite gerrymander the electorates enough to fix up his colleagues. I must say, though, with great respect to the honourable member for Henty, that I think he was shedding crocodile tears; he is most pleased that the Minister for gerrymander supported him and failed to support the honourable member for Henty.
– A sexist redistribution.
– Yes it is a sexist redistribution which picks on the only lady in this House from Victoria. It just shows that the old bias of the Minister spreads even to sex. He is opposed to the one woman in the House of Representatives. Obviously, she does not pander to him enough and therefore he makes sure the boundaries are drawn in such a way that the only fair woman in the House will leave us if this redistribution is agreed to. I guess that is reason enough for the Labor Party to throw out this redistribution proposal. It ought to stop this sexist attitude and be fair about redistribution.
There are many good reasons why this proposed redistribution ought not to be agreed to by the Parliament at this time. The Minister knows as well as I do and as well as every member of this House does that there is no call for a redistribution in Australia at this point in time. The 10 per cent allowance is the meanest and most miserable allowance of tolerance, between large country electorates and the small push-bike pedalling city electorates, provided in any country in the world. Even so, every seat in Tasmania complies with the 10 per cent allowance. But the Minister for gerrymander made sure Tasmania was examined again so he could refiddle the boundaries and push them this way, that way and another way, in the great hope that the Labor Party could be perpetuated in office.
The honourable member for La Trobe complained that it takes 5 votes in the La Trobe seat to equal 3 votes in the seat of Mallee. Does he know, being such an ardent enthusiast of the principle of one vote one value, that in the whole of Tasmania there are only 247 301 electors and they have 10 senators and 5 members of the House of Representatives to represent them. Where is the honourable member’s fairness now? I represent 58 000 people in my electorate.
Why is he not moving to correct that situation? It is humbug for them to come into the House and talk about one vote one value when they stand for that sort of difference between Tasmania and Victoria and complain because of the few votes difference in their particular States.
The honourable member for La Trobe is one of the Victorian members who is prepared to vote to get rid of a country seat. The reason, of course, is that the Labor Party does not hold any country seats in the State of Victoria and it has no chance of winning any there. Labor candidates almost lose their deposit when they come down my way. There was one occasion when I even trebled the Labor vote. In fairness to the Minister for gerrymander I have to say that under the “proposed redistribution I will do even better than that. I thank the Minister kindly for the way he has drawn the boundaries as far as the electorate of Gippsland is concerned. But I have to be a statesman, and while I would like to accept this proposal for Gippsland I find that, in the national interest, I have to reject the redistribution proposals. So do not give us any more talk about one vote one value. The simple fact is- and this explains my stance- that with 45 per cent of the primary vote the ALP, under this proposal, could get a majority of 5 seats in the Parliament, yet it would take 55 per cent of the primary vote for the Liberal Party and Country Party to get the same 5 seats majority. That is the difference and that comes to the real nub of the whole redistribution proposal. It is a clear gerrymander. It is not right for the Minister to get up and say that I am attacking the Distribution Commissioners; it is not right, it is not fair and it is not true. I am not attacking the Distribution Commissioners. What I am attacking is the criteria that this Parliament passed and the Minister for gerrymander introduced.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member has been deliberately referring- and it is quite obviously deliberate- to the Minister at the table not by his correct name or title, which is the Minister for Services and Property. I call upon the honourable member withdraw that statement and in future to refer to the Minister as the Minister for Services and Property or the Minister at the table.
– I withdraw the remark, Mr Speaker. I am referring to the Minister for Services and Property who has brought down a gerrymander. I will use those words if you like it that way, if he is so sensitive and needs the protection of the Chair. I am sure I will find that out at the end of the debate. The Minister for Services and
Property, who is in charge of this gerrymander, went to Canada to study its electoral laws and electoral systems. When he came back he got off the plane and he said: ‘I have got the answer to members of the Country Party. I will fix them. They will have heart attacks when I finish with them. I will introduce laws into the Parliament that will get rid of these people we cannot beat by elections. I know we cannot beat them by elections but I will get rid of them in other ways. I will introduce laws that will do that’. That is exactly what he seeks to do. He introduces into this BUI changes to the electoral system that will make it impossible for any fair-minded Distribution Commissioner to bring down a fair redistribution. He has so tightened the electoral laws controlling Distribution Commissioners that he has made their task impossible.
His proposals mean that 45 per cent of the primary vote will give Labor a 5 seat majority and it will take 55 per cent of the primary vote to give the Liberal and National Country Parties a majority of 5 seats. There is no question that this is the greatest gerrymander in history. I say with some modesty that I was the Minister in charge of the last redistribution. The fairness and correctness of it is seen in the figures. Compare the figures I have just quoted with these figures: Labor won 5 1 per cent of the seats with 49.5 per cent of the vote. Labor got into power with 49.5 per cent of the vote. That is the system the people of Australia want. They want a redistribution that will reflect the true feeling of the people in the electorate; not one of these fiddled things that the Minister has been at. They want a truly fair redistribution. I will be the first to vote for a truly fair redistribution when it comes in but this is not a truly fair redistribution.
Another test that can be applied as to the fairness and correctness of this redistribution is in the figures of Malcolm Mackerras. It seems to me that psephologists, as they are called, are rather like economists. If one wants 2 opinions about the economy one should ask one economist. If one wants 2 opinions about election figures one should ask one psephologist. That seems to be the pattern. But the facts are that on the present distribution a swing of one or two per cent, from the figures I have quoted, will change the Government. But under the proposed redistribution it will take a swing of 4 per cent to 5 per cent to change the Government. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) knows that full well because he is one of the backroom boys who helped the Minister for Services and Property design this scheme prior to 1972. The Minister for Services and Property who sits in this House is, I think, entitled to the name ‘Father of the House1. Am I correct?
– You are.
- His trouble is that he is dead scared members of his Party might realise he is the grandfather of the House and this might be his swan song. I am told by a person very close to him that early in the morning when he wakes up he looks at the newspapers to see what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is up to with changes of portfolios. The Prime Minister might recognise that the Minister is the grandfather of the House and too old to be useful and put him out to grass. I think that after this redistribution is rejected, as it will be because of the unique tightness and compatibility between the 2 Opposition parties both here and in the Senate, he will be looking at the newspapers on Saturday when the Prime Minister, I understand, intends to announce a number of changes to portfolios.
It is no wonder the Minister is nervous, has a red face and is concerned when he knows that he is on the way to grass in disgrace- not in honour as he would like, but in disgrace. He cannot even look forward to the pastures of Ireland because those pastures have already been filled by an exparliamentarian from another place. So the Minister definitely has real concern for his future. He knows that this is his swan song. He has been here for 43 years. I remember when I was first elected to this House that the present Minister railed against the Country Party night after night and attacked the Country Party only because he could never beat it at the elections. In fact I used to say to him: ‘Come to my electorate’. I used to hope the honourable member for Grayndler would come to my electorate. Every time he opened his mouth I got more votes. That is how he has been. He used to go round the countryside of the North Coast of New South Wales before elections. He got the shock of his life after the elections to find out that the local Country Party member’s votes had increased. He did not realise that he was in fact doing the Labor cause a lot of harm.
Another aspect of this proposal that causes me concern- again it leads to this talk about gerrymanderis that I am told, and I should like the Minister to nail these rumours, that when the Minister was seeking to appoint a third Commissioner he asked various members the political colour of certain people who might be eligible. I am told that one Sunday morning in Perth he called on a fellow who was mowing his lawn. He asked him whether he could take time off to have a cup of coffee and when he found out that the fellow’s political views were not quite leftist enough or biased enough -
– Or socialist enough.
-Or socialist enough, thank you- I understand that he did not appoint that man in Perth as the third Distribution Commissioner. That is a story widely told. I think the Minister would be doing the House a great service if he would publish the short list for the third Commissioner put to him by the Chief Electoral Officer, just to nail that story as an untruth. I personally do not believe it. I do not think the Minister would stoop to that. Nevertheless, as the story has a great deal of currency I think the Minister, in fairness to himself, ought to nail it as being untrue. That would do him a lot of good.
I am disappointed that the seat of Wimmera is to be abolished. It is a great historical seat. It has produced many fine members of Parliament, none finer than the present member, my colleague Bob King. I can understand why a petition with 10 000 signatures was prepared to present to the Parliament to try to retain the seat of Wimmera. But because the Minister is so intent on getting this gerrymander through he obviously will not accept the course I have suggested and agree to the retention of that seat.
In the time that is left to me I wish to take up a point made by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). I give him full marks for it. He recognised that there are some differences between a city seat and a country seat. He was being honest- a bit unfairly honest, but nevertheless honest. In my electorate I have 16 shires to service, compared with the one or two of the honourable member for Burke.
– Shires or sires?
– Shires to service. The honourable member recognises that there is a vast difference between the servicing of electorates in the country and the city. But the honourable member did not go on to say that the sorts of assistance we have been given and the extra staff and the like are also given to the honourable member for Burke. The Minister has been generous to country members, but he ought to be more generous and try to help a little more. Many good reasons have been given why this redistribution ought to be rejected. It is our responsibility as an Opposition to make sure that these degenerate socialists are not perpetuated in office for life. For those great statesmanlike and national reasons I will oppose this redistribution.
-I have been most entertained by the honourable member for
Gippsland (Mr Nixon), but I have to call his attention to one or two errors in what he had to say. He asked the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) why he did not rectify the situation of Tasmania being represented by 10 Senators and 5 members of this House. The honourable member for Gippsland is as aware as we are that that is a constitutional requirement. This Party is not opposed to the Constitution. Tasmania has to have a minimum of 10 Senators and 5 members of the House of Representatives. The honourable member knows that as well as we do, although it might make a good story to say otherwise.
I think the honourable member for Gippsland intimated that the Australian Labor Party does not have much country vote support, but I remind him that we hold about 20 country seats, including Kalgoorlie and Grey, two of the largest country seats. I also remind him that my colleague the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) represents quite a number of farmers. I think his vote in his rural area is as high as his vote from the urban areas. I was interested to hear the honourable member for Gippsland say that he would fight for a fair redistribution. I ask him why he does not fight for one in his home State in which his Party and its coalition partner get 45 per cent of the vote and consistently gallop in and take office. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) thought Labor would get over 50 per cent of the vote under this redistribution and that this would be undemocratic, but why does he not fight with his Party in Queensland for a redistribution there? Why does he not go to Queensland and get them to bring in a redistribution that is not undemocratic? He cannot do it.
I am in support of the Bill even though, as the honourable member for Gippsland said, it took a hatchet to me. I will not be like the honourable member for Wimmera and say that I would be prepared to resign graciously in the interests of democracy. I believe it is democratic for me to be here and I will fight to keep my seat. In speaking on the borders of Henty as proposed by the Commission, I would like to be fairly critical of the Commissioners. I put in a submission and a petition, so honourable members opposite and I have quite a lot in common. The petition was taken up very quickly and signed by about 80 per cent of the people who live in the sub-division of Holmesglen. My submission was in agreement with the views of the honourable member for Wimmera and of the Liberal Party of Australia when they, in writing to the Commissioners, listed the following as matters which should be taken into account when moving boundaries: Community of interest, commerce, education, religious affiliation, sport, kindergartens and general municipal matters. I believe in this affinity of interest and I believe that my subdivision of Holmesglen belongs very clearly within the seat of Henty. The Commissioners knocked back my submission, saying:
Your Distribution Commissioners appreciated that there was a community of interest between Holmesglen and the existing division of Henty, but to accede to the objection, the community of interest of other electors would be violated and a resultant major rearrangement of other division boundaries would only have aggravated the situation.
My criticism comes not from the knocking back of my submission but from the fact that in their reasons the Distribution Commissioners say that the existing electors would be violated. They do not say which electors and they do not say how they will be violated. I realise though that these electors are left in the seat of Chisholm, so perhaps that is what they meant. They gave no real explanation of who would be violated and how they would be violated. When they say ‘resultant major rearrangement of other division boundaries would have aggravated the situation’, I would remind them that the submission I put in sought to move only the borders of Chisholm and Henty. It was a straight swap of 3000 housing commission people for 3000 Chisholm-type people. One is a very affluent area and the other is not. We would have given our 3000 to Chisholm and taken back the 3000 from Holmesglen. Holmesglen, to all intents and purposes, is a part of the city of Oakleigh. It is not in the same municipality- that is true- but transport, shopping, churches, schools and newspapers are shared. The people of Holmesglen have easy access and transport to Oakleigh. The Commissioners in doing the Victorian redistribution recognised this when they moved the subdivision of Holmesglen back into the city of Oakleigh which, to me, showed very good sense. I was disappointed that they did not see fit to do so in respect of a Federal redistribution. Apart from that I believe that the Victorian redistribution is eminently fair.
I think that the Liberals, left to themselves, would support this redistribution. There is no doubt that it is very strongly in their favour. If they had only themselves to consider they would vote for it but, as usual, they carry on their backs the National Country Party of Australia. I am glad to see that they have of late managed to shake off the Democratic Labor Party, but they are still very much subject to National Country Party pressure and most decisions that they make on issues and in regard to this redistribution have to fit in with National Country Party plans, sometimes to the embarrassment of the Liberal Party as we found during the last election when the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) raised the issue of the price of petrol. It bounced back on the Liberals, but that is the price they will pay if they do not have enough courage to stand up and try to be a Party and an alternative government in their own right. I support the Bill.
– I rise to speak in respect of the redistribution of boundaries in Victoria. Firstly, we must assess what the whole program is all about. Under this proposal many seats now held by the Liberal-Country Party Opposition- formerly reasonably safe seats for those parties- will now become marginal seats and winnable by the socialist party. On the other hand, many seats which are now held by the socialist party and which were formerly marginal seats winnable by either side will become blue ribbon, or should I say red ribbon, seats for the socialist party. This is fair enough, according to the Australian Labor Party or socialist party, simply because it ties them up in office for ever. Yesterday during the debate on the Tasmanian redistribution, the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) made the comment that my seat of Bendigo was improved and that I should be pleased. He has the most peculiar mathematical brain I know of because it is the first time I have heard of anybody improving his seat by losing votes. By drawing the boundaries very cleverly he has ensured that my seat, among others, will be much more difficult for my Party to win. It was difficult enough the first time round, but he has made it a dashed sight harder this time. In fact, it makes it very difficult.
I do not think it is right to speak only of one’s own seat or of one particular seat. We should look at the proposal as a whole. Through the redistribution, one country seat in Victoria- one more throughout Australia- is wiped out. It does not matter who holds that seat, though it had to be either the Liberal Party or the National Country Party because the Australian Labor Party could not hold a country seat now or ever. Irrespective of who holds that seat, it is to be wiped out. That means that there is much less representation for rural areas in this House of Parliament and that is one aspect of the redistribution that must be considered. It has created a further imbalance because there are additional seats in metropolitan areas bringing about two differentials between the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. We are getting a much greater imbalance between metropolitan representation and rural representation. This in itself is a prejudice against the people who are not living in metropolitan areas. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) in his usual bright style mentioned the word ‘gerrymander’ and claimed that the definition of ‘gerrymander’ was the taking into account of sheep, posts, paddocks and so on as voters. For his information- I am sure everybody else is aware of it- a gerrymander is a matter of cooking the boundaries so that one party can stay in office for ever. Let us not be too doubtful about it.
I was told yesterday that we must hesitate to mention the word ‘gerrymander’. It is all right for the Leader of the House to cry out in wrath and indignation about gerrymanders when it applies to some of the States, but it should not be mentioned when it is applied to federal politics. That would be totally wrong because, particularly when there is a socialist government in power, a federal government would not dare do it. And it would not be done under this Leader of the House, the greatest book cooker of all time. The real point is that nobody will blame the Distribution Commissioners. They cannot. But what they can blame is the criteria laid down for the Commissioners to follow, and one of the criteria laid down for this redistribution provided for boundaries that will ensure that the Labor Party or the socialist party has representation here for years to come. The Government is so devoid of ability to govern that it has to resort to any means to stay in power. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), that learned gentleman who failed so miserably under the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) as a youth, stated that there is no gerrymander. He said that this redistribution is fair but that if the Opposition got in at the next election it would be a gerrymander. He said that and I am sure that what he implied was that the Commissioners have cooked the books both ways, firstly to suit the socialists and, secondly, if we get in, to suit us. I disagree. I think that the statement made by the honourable member for La Trobe is a terrible one. What he does not realise is that when the Opposition Parties were in government they followed criteria which resulted in the drawing of fair and equitable boundaries and a fair and equitable distribution of seats.
– We can see the halo above your head.
– It is there. What the honourable member for La Trobe suggests is that a variation of 10 per cent above or below the quota provides a fair electoral distribution. I cannot understand that proposition. The variation of 20 per cent above or below the quota was seldom exceeded in the days prior to the present redistribution. In very few seats was that variation exceeded. If the boundaries had been drawn on that basis, we would have had a far more equitable redistribution before us now. If the redistribution had been left on the basis of the variation of 20 per cent above or below the quota, we would have been able to wait until the 1 977 census. But the Government cannot wait that long.
As the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) clearly pointed out, if the Government is able to achieve success in respect of these proposed electoral boundaries, we will have in Australia a situation in which the Labor Government, with a 45 per cent share of the total votes as against the 49 per cent share that it achieved at the last election, will remain in power. Unfortunately for the parties on this side of the House, we would need to achieve a mammoth proportion of the votes to maintain the present numbers that we have in the House, let alone to be returned to government. I ask honourable members opposite: Is this a really fair way to approach this matter? Is it proper to set up the redistribution in such a way that the Opposition Parties cannot ever be re-elected to government? I do not really believe that Government members mean anything that they say about fairness. They know that these proposals are not fair. The proposals certainly are fair to them. They are delightful to them.
The situation that faces us is a continuation of socialism. If these proposals are carried, they will result in Australia, not only Victoria, becoming socialist forever. Once the Government achieves a total stranglehold on the country, there is no way in the world that we will ever get back to sane and democratic government in Australia. That is what these propositions are all about. Objections by honourable members on the Government side to what I am saying serve no purpose. They know that this is what they are planning to do. Like some of the other measures that the Government is introducng these proposals are designed -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. What has this to do with the motion?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)That is not a point of order.
-I appreciate your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have shown much more sense than did the honourable member who just took that point of order. Finally, I question again the sense in adopting a variation of 10 per cent above or below the quota for redistribution purposes. Surely the Minister for Services and Property is aware, as many of us are aware- I suggest that in particular the honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Burke are aware of this- that on a 10 per cent quota variation even now, on the figures in these proposals, the seats of those 2 honourable members are very close to exceeding the maximum number of electors that would be permitted in terms of that variation. They know that what is before us is a singular plan to keep the Government in office forever. It is not fair; it does not recognise reality.
– in reply- I wish to reply to some of the very weak arguments offered against these proposals. Before I do so, let me ask the House to judge the statements of the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) on the basis of something that I will reveal now. I thought that today the honourable member sounded more like Richard Nixon than the Nixon he is. He said that I had called on a prospective Distribution Commissioner in Western Australia when the proposed redistribution was under consideration there, had a cup of tea with that person, found out his politics and then would not appoint him. The situation is that I appointed to the Redistribution Commission in Western Australia in 1973 and 1974 a Mr Robson who was the nominee of the honourable member for Gippsland when he was the Minister responsible for electoral matters. So, I ask the House to judge the rest of the honourable member’s remarks on the basis of that statement.
The honourable member is, I understand, a dairy farmer. I hope that he is better at milking cows than he is at giving figures. He said that Labor would require only 45 per cent of the votes to remain in Government, whereas the Liberal Party and the National Country Party would need 55 per cent of the votes. He gave no authority or justification in quoting those figures. He made up those figures. He may be able to milk cows, but he cannot count.
– They are primary votes.
– I will give the honourable member the real facts of the matter. I have here details of the first preference votes polled by the major parties at House of Representatives elections from 1949 to 1974. Only once in that period has the National Country Party received more than 10 per cent of the total votes. Yet that Party exercises control over almost 1 7 per cent of the seats in this Parliament. That is the reason why these proposals will not be passed in the other place. The rump on the Opposition side holds power and influence over the Liberal Party out of all proportion to the votes it gains at elections. What was said by the honourable member with respect to Tasmania was completely destroyed by the remarks of the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child). The honourable member called her ‘this fair lady’; yet she is dark haired. Honourable members can see that he was quite inaccurate in his comments in that respect. Members of the Liberal and National Country Parties claim that this redistribution should not have taken place as there is to be a census next year. Why, they even denied the people of Western Australia the additional seat to which that State was entitled, although a census had been held. Was it not heart rending today to hear honourable members opposite speak of their unity? They have their arms around each other. They are eating out of each other’s hands, right up to the elbow. It was lovely to hear them say that they are one unified body. Why, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) told me that Liberals from everywhere came to him last night to congratulate him on his speech. They said: ‘You spoke just as we would like to speak, only for the blessed National Country Party’. He told me this. He showed up the disunity that exists opposite. That disunity is apparent.
Fancy members of the National Country Party talking about what will be the result of these proposals for the nation in respect of electoral boundaries. I remind honourable members opposite that the variation of 10 per cent above or below the quota was endorsed by the Australian people at an election and was passed at a Joint Sitting of this Parliament. It is the law of the land and it restores electoral justice. The fact that those who sit in the National Country Party corner have not the intelligence of the brighter ones of us is no reason why there should be fewer electors in their electorates. The Labor Party sends great men to this Parliament from country districts. We have sixteen or twenty of them. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) represents an electorate which is one of the biggest in the world. The fact is that the National Country Party selects such poor candidates that they can look after only half as many electors as any other member. It is just not possible to continue such a situation.
The former Minister, the honourable member for Gippsland, talked about gerrymanders. Let me say that when he attacks me he attacks the
Distribution Commissioners. As a former Minister, he knows that the Minister responsible for electoral matters has no power of direction to, no control over and no right to dictate to Distribution Commissioners in any way at all. It is no good for the honourable member to say that I am doing these things. When he says that, he attacks some of the most reputable men in the land. No Distribution Commissioner to date has been challenged by anybody in this Parliament in regard to his integrity or his capacity. I do not mind the honourable member attacking me. I am here to face that. But the honourable member must remember that, when he does that, he is attacking men of great ability and great integrity who cannot reply, as they are the ones who have drawn the proposed boundaries.
Anyway, why take any notice of the National Country Party? Even before the names of the Distribution Commissioners were announced, that Party said that it would have nothing to do with them. The simple reason for that statement was that the National Country Party knew that it could get its puppet partner in this Parliament to jump as it saw fit. It is no wonder that Charlie Court has given the National Country Party away in Western Australia. I wonder why he put up with it for so long. The fact of the matter is, as honourable members opposite know as well as I do, that the National Country Party would never survive on the basis of a popular vote; it survives on loaded boundaries. Of course we cannot beat National Country Party candidates in some electorates. How can we beat a candidate who has to receive only 22 per cent of the primary votes to win?
– It was 26 per cent.
– The honourable member for McMillan says that he received 26 per cent of the primary votes. I am sorry that I was wrong. That demonstrates the situation. Opposition members say that these proposals will be rejected in another place. I would like to get a good go at the Senate boundaries, too. I would make a bit of a difference there. We would see some changes from those old gentlemen in that other place if their boundaries were being considered. These proposals are accepted by Malcolm Mackerras a member of the Liberal Party, I understandby the Melbourne ‘Age’ and by all Australians as representing the fairest electoral boundaries ever introduced in the history of Australian politics. We know what the Australian people want. They want fair and equitable electoral boundaries.
Unfortunately, as a result of the Liberal Party again capitulating, the Australian people will be denied these boundaries, but only temporarily. Honourable members can take it from me that, as sure as night follows day, ultimately these proposals will be accepted by the Australian people and by this Parliament, at a Joint Sitting if necessary, or because we will have a majority in the Senate in due course. I understand that Senator Steele Hall said today: ‘You might as well vote for these proposals. Next time two or three Liberals will be wiped out and I will vote for the proposals with the Labor Party in the Senate’. I hope that this motion will be carried. It deserves to be carried. I congratulate all speakers on this side of the House for their application to this great debate. But I condemn honourable members opposite for their lack of knowledge and for the fact that the issue of their own personal survival has motivated them in their approach to these proposals.
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.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Mr Speaker -
- Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House. It is appalling that we have only 5 members of the Government in the chamber. (Quorum formed).
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order ! Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Mr Speaker, this morning after question time the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) sought to make a personal explanation, and when you asked him whether he claimed to have been misrepresented he said yes. I quote from the transcript which, with the permission of the honourable gentleman, I have received from Hansard. It reads:
– Yes, Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) during question time … the Prime Minister accused me of saying that an Executive Council meeting had not taken place between the time that the Prime Minister told the House that the loan would be raised for energy purposes and the subsequent day on which the Prime Minister told the House that the loan had been revoked. That statement by the Prime Minister certainly is untrue.
Since that time I have been able to secure a transcript of an interview which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition gave on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television news last night. The transcript reads:
LYNCH: I suspect that the Prime Minister has, in fact, acted without the authority of the Executive Council … I think it is most unlikely that the Executive Council in fact met last night to consider this specific issue.
As I stated during question time this morning, the Executive Council did meet. I attended the meeting. As anybody reading the newspapers could have ascertained, I did in fact spend the evening of Tuesday with the Administrator. What I stated about the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was true. I did not misrepresent him; he misrepresented me.
Mr LYNCH (Flinders)-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I cannot quite understand why the Prime Minister should take such personal offence at what in fact is one of the most trivial of matters when matters of substance ought to be before this House.
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wants to debate the question he can only do so by asking for leave, not with my indulgence.
– The Prime Minister said during question time this morning- as I recall it, without qualification- that I had indicated that a meeting of the Executive Council had not taken place. It was to that specific charge that the Prime Minister returned after question time and has in fact returned again tonight. The transcript upon which he relies -
- Mr Speaker, I did not speak after question time at all.
– I am aware of that.
-The Prime Minister sought to interject while I was making my personal explanation. He is becoming rather personal and emotional about this. The point to the issue is this -
-Order! There is no point to the issue.
– I am making a point of personal misrepresentation.
-Order! The only question at issue is where the honourable gentleman was personally misrepresented, and no debating points will be accepted.
– The point of personal misrepresentation is this: The Prime Minister made a statement at question time this morning, in an unqualified sense, that I had -
-Order! The honourable gentleman has made a personal explanation on that matter. He can make a personal explanation now only on the matter to which the Prime Minister has just spoken.
- Mr Speaker, surely the Prime Minister is referring to a statement which he made which was the subject of a personal explanation. The matter can be clarified in a few seconds if I have an opportunity through the Chair. The Prime Minister made a statement that I had indicated that the Executive Council meeting had not taken place. In order to make his point of personal explanation he relied on a transcript of an Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast which quotes me as saying: ‘I suspect that it is most unlikely that . . .’I put it to the good sense of the House that that is not a specific charge. After question time this morning, when drawing a matter to the attention of the House and the Chair, I indicated quite clearly that what this House wanted was a full disclosure of the facts -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– The Prime Minister is not prepared to do that.
-Order! I will not accept any further debate on this issue.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the House of Representatives approves of the redistribution of the State of New South Wales into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs R. F. Mallon, L. N. Fletcher and J. B. Enfield, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on 13 May 1975, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted except that the name of Gilmore be substituted for Eastwood, the name of Evatt be substituted for Toongabbie and the name of Evans be substituted for Concord.
The Government, having considered the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of New South Wales, as tabled in this House on 13 May 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 Commissioner’s proposals. Before dealing with some of the major features of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals for New South Wales, I want to refer briefly to the current electoral inequalities which are evident in all four of the most heavily populated States, and which provide ample justification for the proposed redistribution in these States. It is appropriate that I should repeat some comments I made when speaking on the South Australian redistribution in order to keep the record straight. I said:
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 in 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 1975, enrolments for divisions in New South Wales varied from 83 941 in Mitchell to 46 975 in Darling; in Victoria, from 87 522 in Diamond Valley, to 49 200, in Wimmera; in Queensland from 94 024, in McPherson, to 46 456 in Maranoa; in South Australia, from 83 388 in Bonython, to 49 561 in 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.
Looking at the National Country Party members, I know why they want a lower vote.
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 dissatisfaction with the ‘status quo’.
The National Country Party indicated through its Leader, the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony, the right honourable member for Richmond, even prior to the Commissioners being appointed, that it would not support the proposals, despite the fact that the legislation has been endorsed at 2 elections and by a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament. In line with this attitude the National Country Party did not make any substantial submission to the Commissioners in the initial stages. However, the publication of the maps of the provisional boundaries certainly stimulated the interest of the National Country Party, as evidenced by the protests lodged in regard to Riverina and Gwydir in particular.
It is interesting to note that in submissions made to the Commissioners the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party- I mention that to National Country Party members as they are their colleagues in arms, the ones they are in love with- in line with the Australian Labor Party proposed the abolition of a division held by the National Country Party. Do honourable members who sit in the corner agree with that proposal? Since the 1968 redistribution, which observed the previous guidelines, the consequent inequalities in 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.
I wish to outline some major features of the redistribution proposals for New South Wales in particular, in order to demonstrate that these proposals are fair and reasonable, taken as a whole. The Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales have proposed the abolition of 3 existing divisions- Evans, Lowe and Riverinaand the creation of 3 new divisions- Concord, Eastwood and Toongabbie. Two of the three divisions to be abolished are in the Sydney metropolitan area, while one is a southern rural division. All three of the new divisions created are in the Sydney metropolitan area.
– Well, people live there. They are a bit different from trees and cows. Hence, the net result of these variations is a reduction of one in the number of rural seats. In this respect it is worth noting the Commissioners’ comment in paragraph 10 of volume 1 of their report that ‘after consideration of the dispersal of the population throughout the State it was obvious that there were insufficient electors in the country to retain therein the existing number of electoral divisions’. What the National Country Party has to decide tonight is whether it wants to represent people or trees in this Parliament. Having had a good look at the National Country Party, I think that they would go better with the trees. It should be stressed that the Commissioners.did not arrive at this conclusion lightly. They travelled to 37 centres, representative of most areas of the State, in order to gain first hand knowledge of local conditions, administrative arrangements and particular requirements of local government bodies.
– They were there for 10 minutes.
– The honourable member for Paterson said that they were there for a short time. They were never there in the time of the Liberal-Country Party Government. They were not allowed to travel. In all, the Commissioners proposed alterations to the boundaries of all but three of the existing divisions- Banks, Barton and Blaxland- with some of these alterations being quite minor while others are inevitably more substantial. The Commissioners have proposed a very significant reduction in the overall range of percentage variations from the State quota, which was 62 765 as at December 1974. Thus, taking enrolments as at December 1974, on which the Commissioners’ proposals were based, percentage variations from the quota for the existing divisions ranged from 25.72 per cent below quota for Darling Division to 31.83 per cent above quota for Mitchell Division. Furthermore, as at that date four of the other existing divisions- Chifley, Hume, Macarthur and Robertson- varied from the quota by over 20 per cent, while a further 12 divisions varied from the quota by over 10 per cent.
Under the proposals now before the House the extent of these variations from the quota is substantially reduced, under a law passed by a joint sitting of the national Parliament. Thus, the maximum divisional enrolment proposed is 65 625, or 4.56 per cent above quota, for the Division of Hume, while the minimum proposed divisional enrolment is 60 008, or 4.39 per cent below quota, for the division of Macarthur. Honourable members will notice that the only ones interested in this are the National Country Party members. They have a vital interest in this matter. Apart from the proposed Divisions of Hume and Macarthur, variations from the quota for the remaining 43 proposed divisions range from 4.09 per cent below in the Division of Prospect to 3.83 per cent above in the Division of Newcastle.
- Mr Speaker, the Minister said that the National Country Party members are the only people interested. The Labor Party is not interested. I draw your attention to the state of the House.
– That is reasonable, there are only 3 Liberals here.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. If the honourable member for Farrer rises to make a speech when he is drawing attention to the state of the House again I will deal with him. I have warned other honourable members for the same thing. (Quorum formed)
– It is interesting to note that there are still only 3 Liberals in the House. They are frightened of the National Country Party on electoral redistribution matters and they are ashamed to show their embarrassment in public, while the bushrangers in possum paddock look at them and sneer.
– That will go over well in the country.
– The honourable member for Paterson is interjecting. He is like the condemned man; he will not be -round again. This is almost the condemned men’s day. I have heard them all speak today. The Commissioners found themselves faced with the substantial task of examining some 277 suggestions, comments and objections lodged with them in pursuance of sections 1 8A and 2 1 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. That the Commissioners performed this task diligently is evident from the fact that as a result of those comments and objections lodged after the preliminary proposals were published, the Commissioners altered the boundaries of no less than 13 of the 45 proposed divisions. Thus, there can be no doubt that the Commissioners have paid due heed to the views of a wide crosssection of the general public before presenting their final proposals.
While the Government does not agree with a number of the proposals contained in the report by the Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales, it has no doubt whatsoever that they have performed a most exacting task with competence, dedication and integrity. This is supported by Mr Malcolm Mackerras, a member of the Liberal Party. In fact, the Government has suffered rather severely at the hands of the Commissioners. The former seat of Evans has been radically changed from a Labor majority to a division favouring the Liberal Party. EdenMonaro and Hume have been considerably weakened in favour of the anti-Labor parties, particularly in favour of the National Country Party. The marginal seat of St. George remains almost unchanged. It is difficult to understand the reasoning of the Commissioners in eliminating The Warren subdivision of Grayndler from St. George after it had been included in the preliminary proposals. Objections raised by the Liberal Party that Cooks River provides a natural barrier evidently did not apply to the New South Wales State Liberal Party redistribution where Arncliffe is linked with Tempe in the Rockdale electorate.
Another criticism which might be levelled is the failure of the Commissioners to accept the proposal by the Australian Labor Party that the Milson’s Point and North Sydney subdivisions of the division of North Sydney should be included in the Sydney division. The Australian Labor Party submitted in its submission dated the 29 October 1974:
The commercial development of Sydney has caused the creation and growth of a twin-city coupled with the North Sydney area becoming an integral part of the city main commercial life.
This point of view is sound and reasonable and the New South Wales Commissioners might well have followed the example of the Queensland Commissioners who did not regard the Brisbane River as a barrier in their proposals. A study of the submissions by the Liberal and National Country Parties in all States, particularly New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, clearly indicates that their only interest in the redistribution was self-preservation, the ‘loading’ of electorates and the perpetuation of electoral injustices. It was quite apparent that the only boundary changes that they would support were those that they sponsored themselves.
The National Country Party, for example, in all States opposed the redistribution proposals even before they were announced and made only a nominal comment. Let the honourable gentleman who replies from the other side tonight tell us why the National Country Party condemned the proposals before it even saw them. The Liberal Party was not much better. It was interesting to note, however, that in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, Country Party members came to life when they realised that the legislation passed at a Joint Sitting of the Parliament was being given effect to and the boundary changes could become an accomplished fact. They did not hesitate to attack the submissions of their Liberal coalition partners- their love mates- and showed they were prepared to bare their fangs once their electoral base was challenged. In New South Wales they certainly covered some territory, whipping up petitions and protests. If the local members had anything to do with them, particularly in Riverina and Gwydir, their electorates have seen more of their member during the redistribution proposals than during the last 20 years. This all points to one thing which the public should know. The Liberal Party and National Country Party do not believe in electoral justice. The National Country Party refuses to recognise the fact that without people in country districts they cannot maintain their representation and demand ‘loaded ‘ electorates.
To their eternal discredit the. members of the Liberal Party ‘bend the knee’. They are prepared to maintain an unjust electoral system because they are afraid of this National Country Party. Sir Charles Court is not afraid and now they are begging for mercy in the West, even after the intervention of the Leader of the National Country Party who sits opposite. Nothing is more apparent than this attitude in Queensland where the ‘tame cat’ Liberals sacrificed their principles on electoral reform because of the fear of BjelkePetersen and other political manipulators in the northern guided democracy. The Government proposes that the name of Gilmore be substituted for Eastwood, Evatt for Toongabbie, and Evans for Concord. Evatt is to honour the right honourable H. V. Evatt, eminent Australian, judge, statesman and scholar. Gilmore is to be named after Dame Mary Gilmore, poet, author, schoolteacher, journalist, wife and mother, who during her later years achieved unique status as a public figure who was listened to with respect on any subject simply because she was Mary Gilmore a really great person. It is most appropriate in International Women’s Year to honor her as a great Australian.
The Liberal-Country Parties have opposed the redistribution on the most unprincipled grounds. In support of this I ask honourable member to read the Melbourne ‘Age’ newspaper published today. All their arguments, however, cannot hide the fact that they are opposed to fair and equitable electoral boundaries. These proposals in all States have been described by one political analyst as ‘the fairest set of proposed boundaries ever to be presented to an Australian Parliament’. All the cant, humbug and rantings of the National Country Party and its ‘puppet’ Liberal leader cannot destroy the equity and justice of the proposals drawn up by Commissioners whose competence and integrity are unchallenged.
As the Melbourne ‘Age’ newspaper states today:
The main beneficiary of this aberration will be neither the Liberal Party nor the people of Australia, but the National Country Party.
Therefore, I have moved that this House approve the report of the Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales dated 5 May 1975.
Mr Speaker, I ask leave of the House to incorporate the latest enrolment figures available for all divisions as at 25 April 1975 in New South Wales as provided by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
– It will take many years to re-establish the high reputation of the Commonwealth Minister responsible for electoral matters after the appalling, biased political performance of the present Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). Today we have seen him present the maps and make the appropriate speeches in this House in relation to those maps. But those speeches have not been objective speeches presenting a case to the Australian people. They have reeked with party politics and they have done everything possible to poison the thinking of the Australian people against the country people and the National Country Party members who represent the majority of those people. It has been a vendetta carried out against the Country people of this nation by a person who has a political hatred of country people. The hatred reeks out of him. He cannot control himself. We are not getting a decent representative administration on behalf of the Australian people; all we are getting is a presentation that one would think emanated from a Labor Party political meeting. It is disgraceful and I hope that when the next Minister takes over we will have higher ethics emanating from that position.
The Minister has tried very hard to disregard country people. He does not care if their voices are weakened or whether country seats will be eliminated. But he has been much more cunning in trying to divide the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in this House. He wants to make out that the redistribution in the metropolitan area of Sydney, as in Melbourne, is quite fair and above board. But he cannot fool the members of the Liberal Party. By some strange coincidence, the way the boundaries have fallen in these areas just happens to give an advantage to the Labor Party in those seats which are narrowly won by the Liberal Party, and in those seats that have been narrowly won by the Labor
Party it just happens to give the Labor Party a slight advantage. This is so in all those areas to a point that if there were to be another election on these new boundaries the Labor Party could win with a percentage vote substantially less than it had at the last election. For the National Country Party and the Liberal Party to beat the Labor Party they would want a greatly increased percentage vote. How can that be called a fair redistribution? It is nothing more than a blatant gerrymander.
The facts of the matter before the House demonstrate yet again the impropriety for which this Government is noted. It is most improper that the redistribution of electoral boundaries should be proceeding in this House at the present time. The Act under which this redistribution is proceeding is at this moment under challenge in the High Court of Australia. Three States- New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland- have asked the High Court to declare the Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) invalid. The hearing began yesterday, the very day on which this Government brought these proposals into this Parliament. Yet the Government, with its customary contempt for such legal questions and for established conventions, is proceeding along the path to a redistribution.
The Government’s determination to persist in such an improper course of action must itself raise the question of the Government’s motives. These motives, of course, are well known. They have been spelt out quite clearly from the time the Minister took office when he declared quite openly that he was going to try to get rid of Country Party seats and country seats. Why did he say that? He said it because Labor members know that the policies of the Labor Party are alien to the thinking of country people. The Government adopts the attitude that if it cannot win these seats it will abolish them. This is the most ruthless political tactic we have ever seen in this country. The Government’s motives are to reduce the strength and the political voice of country people and to give greater strength to the political voice of city electors, and to Labor Party supporters in particular, by maximising the Labor vote in city areas.
My Party is unequivocally opposed to this redistribution. We opposed it even before the maps were presented because the ground rules had been changed unfairly for the first time since federation. Every previous Labor government was prepared to accept those rules; but not this Government- not this unprincipled Government. Whatever it does as far as electoral laws are concerned is designed basically to strengthen the position of the Labor Party. The Government, having regard to its fading fortunes, is getting more desperate to do whatever it can to try to manipulate the electoral law. We oppose the proposed redistribution, firstly, because the Act under which it is taking place is, as I have said, under legal challenge. We oppose it because it is unnecessary. I will explain that later. We oppose it because it will cause severe and unnecessary disruption and inconvenience to many people and it will have to be carried out all over again after the next election. We oppose it because it is based on ground rules which have been changed by this Government in a way that ignores justice and that ignores the right of every Australian to enjoy equality of representation in this Parliament. We oppose it because the proposals brought down by the Commissioners go far beyond even what the Minister had in mind when he had the rules changed.
My Party does not often find itself in agreement with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). But in one matter we do. We agree with the Prime Minister’s view, which he stated in this House some time ago, that the 20 per cent tolerance in enrolments allowed under the previous Act was ‘perfectly reasonable’. What the honourable gentleman said is recorded in Hansard. Mind you, these remarks were made when he was a newer member of this Parliament, that is, before he got a lust for power and the determination to stay in office. He is reported in Hansard as saying:
At least, the numbers should be approximately equal, within the perfectly reasonable latitude of 20 per cent above or below the quota as allowed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Country members experience difficulties in representing their electorates.
– When did he say that?
– In 1955, when speaking on the Commonwealth Electoral Act. But, of course, with a desperation to stay in office these things change. If the Prime Minister thinks the 20 per cent allowance is perfectly reasonable, why has the Government forced through a reduction to 10 per cent? The answer is quite clear: Despite the Prime Minister’s belief that 20 per cent is perfectly reasonable, the Labor Party, for the most cynical and blatant political motives, has tried to give itself an increased advantage by reducing the tolerance to 10 per cent. There can be no other reason. In the same speech he went on to say:
I suggest that the Constitutional Committee which the Prime Minister - then Mr Menzies- has promised for several years to appoint and the appointment of which he has consistently postponed, be appointed and that it consider means of ensuring that the Australian Constitution is altered in order that no gerrymandering shall be possible and that the principles enunciated in our electoral act shall be preserved and enshrined in the Constitution.
That is, that the 20 per cent tolerance should be written into the Constitution. It is not very often that my Party agrees with the Minister for Services and Property on something he has said on this question. He said:
Equality of political rights is inherent in a truly democratic state.
We agree with that entirely. We dispute very vigorously that this redistribution, and the rules under which it is being carried out, will achieve that objective. The Minister’s view of political equality depends on there being the same number of voters in every electorate, as far as practicable. He would enforce that provision to the last voter, if he could.
The Minister says that so long as he has in his 3-square-mile electorate the same number of voters as the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) has in his giant electorate, or the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) has, or the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) has in his 900 000 square-mile electorate, then political equality is assured. What rubbish! What an undemocratic, unfair, twisted attitude! No account whatever is to be taken of the differences in the representational tasks involved between compact electorates and vast electorates with all sorts of transport, communications and other special difficulties. Every democratic country in the world that I know of, except Australia, makes provision for the representation of remote regions. Every democratic country except Australia provides for considerably smaller numbers of voters in large, scattered electorates than in tiny, compact city electorates- and that includes Britain, the mother of parliaments, where a tolerance of several hundred per cent is provided, Canada and the United States of America. They do this because they know that real political equality lies not in a strict mathematical formula but in giving every citizen, no matter where he lives, the greatest possible opportunity to enjoy full political rights and full political representation. But that is the last thing in this Minister’s mind and this Government’s mind.
They could not care less about real political rights. Their only concern is the good of the Australian Labor Party.
When we look at the actual enrolments proposed by the Commissioners, we find that the reduction in the tolerance has not only been put into effect, it has been taken to the opposite extremes- so much so, that where previously some allowance was made for the difficulties of representing large country electorates by giving them smaller enrolments, the reverse is now to apply. Under this proposal, the big enrolments will be in the big country electorates and the small enrolments in the small city electorates. One wonders just how far this Government is prepared to go in its vendetta against country people when it supports this kind of proposal.
The normal justification for a redistribution is that there is a certain degree of imbalance in enrolments in a certain number of States. The normal purpose of a redistribution is to correct electoral inequalities and, simultaneously, to correct State entitlements to seats, that is, to provide the number of seats which each State should have under the formula laid down by the law. There is no requirement for a redistribution on these grounds at present. Every State has the correct number of seats. When the next census is taken next year, it seems certain that it will show that New South Wales should lose a seat and Queensland and Western Australia each gain one. This makes the present redistribution both unnecessary and ridiculous.
It is unnecessary because a redistribution will be required after next year’s census and it is ridiculous because it is based on State entitlements which clearly will change very soon. So all the work that is being done now will have to be done again or, in some cases, completely undone. Why is the Government so insistent that a redistribution be held now, followed by another one in only two or three years ‘ time? The answer should be clear to anyone. The Government is desperate to give itself a much better chance- an unfair chance- in the next election.
It is interesting that this is the first time Australia has ever had a redistribution of boundaries intended to apply for only one election. Thousands of electors are to be disturbed so that this redistribution can take place to benefit the Australian Labor Party, and thousands are to be disturbed all over again when substantial changes have to be made at the further redistribution which must take place in a couple of years’ time. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the House and the Minister for Services and Property, who moved that I be given an extension of time. I think it could well prove the case in future under the new rules that we will have a redistribution after, or for, every election. It seems to me to be quite absurd to be changing boundaries and disturbing electorates so that members will be unsure of whom they represent.
It is very hard to avoid coming to the conclusion, Mr Speaker, that these proposals represent a gerrymander that will favour the Labor Party. In saying that I want to make it clear that I am in no way reflecting on the Commissioners. They are bound to act in accordance with the law and of course they have done so. But changes in the law have been forced through this Parliament by the Labor Party so that the Commissioners now have been virtually forced to come up with the grossly unfair proposals we now have before us.
If we look at the results of the last election, which was fought on the present boundaries, it can be seen that the present distribution is a fair one. In May last year Labor won 52 per cent of the seats with 49.3 per cent of the votes. The Opposition won 48.3 per cent of the seats with 46.8 per cent of the votes. The proposed boundaries will bring about an unfair result. Yet the Labor Party’s scheme means that it can stay in office with fewer votes. The Opposition will need more votes to put the Government out of office. In other words, it will take a bigger percentage swing to change the Government. Some authorities have calculated that the Australian Labor Party will now be able to remain in office with 45 per cent of the vote while the Liberal Party and the National Country Party will have to gain at least 55 per cent of the vote to form a government.
It is clear that the purpose of the new boundaries and of the new law is to secure the Labor Party in office. It is obvious from these proposals that the Labor Party would take 3 seats from the Opposition, would have ten of its marginal seats strengthened and would see several Oppositionheld seats abolished. One of those seats would be Riverina in New South Wales. Is it any wonder that the ALP Government is asking the Parliament to approve this blatantly unfair redistribution? The Parliament will not be impressed by the old Labor Party argument that there is little difference between the seat of Kalgoorlie and the new seat of Flynn in Queensland. Kalgoorlie has one or two major centres whereas the new seat of Flynn stretches from north of Mount Isa right down to nearly Tenterfield in New South Wales and right across Queensland taking in an area almost from the Northern Territory border to Rockhampton. This area will be represented by one person. It has a multitude of small centres and there is not one major centre in the whole area. Yet the Labor Party thinks this is fair.
The same remarks apply to the seat of Gwydir in New South Wales which is in much the same sort of situation. It will take in 40 per cent of New South Wales. It has 40 significant centres, municipalities and organisations which all have to be represented by a member. Of course, a sitting member with only 3 square miles in his electorate such as the Minister for Services and Property would have no conception of the responsibility which a member undertakes in a country area.
The seat of Riverina will be abolished. The people of Riverina are highly incensed by this move. It is a seat which has existed since Federation and is a complete community of interest, so much so that the electors signed a petition which is now incorporated in the report of the Distribution Commissioners. The protest submissions up 392 pages in the report and represent the view of 10 000 electors in that electorate. These 10 000 electors signed a petition asking that there be some alteration. Even this massive protest did not dint the Commissioners one iota. The boundaries were not changed in any way whatsoever. It is a fact that there does not seem to be any way in which country people will be able to express their attitude to this undemocratic and unfair redistribution which is now taking place under the law under which the Commissioners have to operate. The National Country Party of Australia because it believes in a fair go for all Australians rejects this proposal which is before the Parliament.
-Most honourable members in Parliament will be filled with a sense of disgust after listening to the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony). Two broad features emerge from his speech. Firstly, he is not prepared to discuss the proposals with logic and reason. Rather, he is prepared to try to condemn the proposals by using smear, innuendo and slander.
– Who listens to logic like that?
-Order! The honourable member for Phillip will resume his seat. If the honourable gentlemen on my left seek to prevent the honourable member for Phillip from making his speech I shall deal with them.
– He can make his speech by all means.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for the Northern Territory. I am standing on my feet and he will remain silent. Honourable gentlemen appear to be approaching this debate with a pattern of interjections, one after the other, in order to prevent the honourable member from making his speech. I will not tolerate it and I warn honourable members.
-The second thing which emerges is that the Leader of the NCP is not only condemning proposals made by the Australian Labor Party but also attacking, vigorously and viciously, proposals which were made to the Distribution Commissioners by his brothers and colleagues in politics, the members of the Liberal Party. In a moment I shall show why that attack has been made. Much of the criticism which the Leader of the NCP has levelled against this report could just as validly be levelled against the submissions made to the Commission by the Liberal Party. What a cowardly lot are the authors of the Liberal plan. They will sit here tonight meekly, humbly, deceitfully, and allow the Distribution Commissioners to be attacked for following suggestions made by the Liberal Party. They lack the courage to stand up and justify their own actions. What a deceitful lot they are. Surely, having led the Commissioners into doing those things which they advocated, they should have the decency to defend the Commissioners when they are attacked with slander and misrepresentation by the National Country Party and its leaders.
I challenge any member of the Opposition to deny that the Distribution Commissioners- each and all of them- are men of integrity. Their honesty is beyond reproach. Yet honourable members opposite dare to stand up and say that this is some plot. It is a plot to give equality of representation and to provide as near as practicable a means of ensuring that every vote cast will have the same value. The Leader of the National Country Party says that it is a vicious plot against the country people. It is a plot to achieve equality and a plot to preserve democracy. Let honourable members opposite come out in their true colours. On that occasion the Liberals stood with us, but they do not have the courage to do it now. The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) is now shaking his head. He should be careful; it will rattle.
The Liberals put forward a proposal from which they now seek to hide. I will show honourable members what they did. The Country Party made no substantive submission. It was not going to make any submission. The Leader of the Country Party said: ‘We were not going to make any submission because we knew the ground rules’. The Country Party soon made one when it saw the Liberals’ proposal. It could not get near the Distribution Commissioners quick enough. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) drummed up 10 000 objections and checked to see that all of them were placed before the Distribution Commissioners. There had been none beforehand. Of course, the Liberals are now attacking the proposal. Their proposal was a gerrymander against the Country Party, against the Labor Party and for the Liberals. They now hide from it but their proposal was a gerrymander. Of course, we all know that hell hath no fury like the Liberal scorned. They now want to attack, and attack viciously, the defenceless men who are not present tonight- the Distribution Commissioners.
The Liberals now want to introduce a new procedure in voting for the Australian Parliament. They want to divide the State into regions. Those of us who are from New South Wales know what that means. That is the way by which the Askin-Lewis forces have been able to gerrymander New South Wales. The Leader of the Country Party said that there might have to be another redistribution in 2 years time- that is not necessarily so; but he claimed that- and said: ‘Is it not odd to have a redistribution so quickly?’ The Liberal and Country Parties in New South Wales have one before every election. In other words, before an election comes round they get hold of the gallup polls and take all the samplings to see how many they are short and whip through a new distribution. What do you know- they always win. Despite that their supporters come here and suggest that the Labor Government is engaged in some gerrymander and attack the integrity of the Distribution Commissioners.
Let me explain the sneaky, deceitful plot that the Liberals tried to perpetrate. Let me show honourable members how the Country Party’s criticism of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposal is so ill-founded. I take as an example the electorate of Gwydir. The Distribution Commissioners have suggested an electorate of 64 882 electors. The Liberals suggested an electorate of 67 650 electors. I turn to the electorate of Paterson. In another deceitful plot the Liberals were going to whip the electorate of Paterson away from the Country Party because it was not making any submissions and pinch it for themselves. What did they do? They put forward almost the same figures as we did. (Quorum formed). In relation to the electorate of Paterson the Distribution Commissioners have suggested that there should be 63 348 electors. The Liberals suggested that there should be 67 433. For the electorate of New England the Distribution Commissioners have suggested that there should be 62 230 electors. The Liberals suggested that there should be 66 179. Where is the spite and the spleen to be vented now? Not on the Distribution Commissioners, who proposed electorates substantially less in number than those suggested by the Liberals in their sneaky, deceitful plan. Is it any wonder that they have been caught out by the Country Party and have been told to stand up and be counted. They have again reneged, they have again buckled at the knees under the weight of the Country Party’s whip. They dance to the tune of the Country Party and the funds produced by the miners.
In December 1962 there was a dress rehearsal of tonight’s episode. On that occasion the Liberal Party. Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, brought a proposal before this Parliament and the Leader of the Country Party at that stage- Mr McEwen as he then was- opposed it and the Liberals walked away. Let me tell honourable members also about the so-called bias of the Labor Party against country interests and country people. The Liberals suggested the abolition of 2 Country Party seats in New South Wales- Riverina and Hume. They did the same thing in relation to other States. The Liberals suggested that those 2 seats be abolished. The 2 honourable members who hold those seats have stunned looks on their faces, but that is the truth and they know it. The Liberals suggested that in place of the electorates of those 2 honourable members there should be a new division of Lawson, which would be occupied by a Liberal. They reckoned that he could do twice as good a job as the 2 honourable members together. They might have been right. Anyway, that is what the Liberals did. So do not let us have this humbug about the Labor Party being against country people. It was the Liberals who put forward those proposals. Frankly, I agree with them.
The Liberals also made some queer suggestions. I recommend to students of political science that they look at the Liberals’ plan for the electorate of St George. It is a magnificent piece of gerrymandering. One would have to travel the world to find a better example. Their plan went round corners in such a way that when one drew it on a map it looked like Felix the Cat’s bow tie. It flared out on both sides and turned sideways at the middle to go through a narrow laneway which was in the centre of the electorate. It was a magnificent plan! Of course, the Distribution Commissioners would not accept that sort of proposition. When it came to the electorate of Cook the Liberals wanted to follow natural boundaries so they jumped across an 8-lane highway and went down a gully to try to get in a certain area. That is the way in which they went about their business. That was their proposal. I understand the Country Party’s concern about the Liberal Party’s proposition because it was a bit raw.
I for one am not content with the proposal put forward by the Distribution Commissioners. I believe that it is a reasonable proposition. I accept it as the work of men of integrity and honesty. But, in terms of judgment and objective opinion, in my view they erred and erred very considerably in the drawing of the boundary of the centre of Sydney- the electorate of Sydney. For people to say that there is more in common between those in the centre of Sydney and the people who live in Leichhardt, Lilyfield and Haberfield than there is with those who live in North Sydney is in my opinion ludicrous. North Sydney and the City of Sydney are now one and the same. Unfortunately North Sydney was not included on this occasion in the division of Sydney but at some time State electoral commissioners will see the merit of that proposal. It must be that the electoral commissioners in the future will get away from the landlocked Labor ghettos that have been perpetrated over the years.
A subversive speech was made by the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia tonight when he attacked the members of the Commission for carrying out the law. The Leader of the National Country Party stood in this Parliament tonight and advocated opposition to a law of Australia. He said that the National Country Party would not co-operate with that law and that it would not make submissions because it would not accept that law. He said that the National Country Party believed that that law was unfair, unjust and so on. Next time the Leader of the National Country Party wants to criticise the unionists I will remind him of his speech tonight. It was a subversive speech. It was the speech of a man who was trying to incite a breach of the law by commissioners, either now or in the future. This morning the Melbourne ‘Age’ published an excellent article. I seek leave to incorporate this editorial in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
In determining their attitude to the proposed redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries, members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party had the option of adopting two approaches. They could have asked themselves: is this redistribution fair and equitable and in accordance with democratic principle? To which the honest answer would have been- Yes! Or they could have pondered: does this redistribution serve our long-term political interests? In which case the wise answer would also have been Yes! The Liberals made a decision which was neither honest nor wise; they decided to oppose the redistribution. In doing so, they opted for a marginal short-term political advantage and for a mockery of electoral justice. The main beneficiary of this aberration will be neither the Liberal Party nor the people of Australia, but the National Country Party
Officially, the Opposition will say that a redistribution is unnecessary and that the particular proposals submitted to Parliament give the Labor Government an unfair advantage. These are both dubious assertions. A joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament after the last elections -in what can be fairly held to reflect a popular mandate- decided to change the electoral rules to provide more accurately for the democratic principle of one vote, one value. It did so by reducing the discretionary margin above and below electoral quotas from 20 to 10 per cent. In the past, the electoral commissioners had been instructed to use the 20 per cent, margin, not simply to allow for future growth areas, but to give greater weight to rural as against urban votes. Having erased this blot from the electoral law, the Government, not unreasonably, ordered a redistribution to give all Australians a closer approximation to an equal say on who should govern.
Inevitably, when electoral boundaries are realigned, each member and each party will calculate the potential gains and losses. As it turned out, in the plans drawn up in the redistribution now in dispute, the National Country Party would have three of its seats abolished and would be likely to lose one or two others through changed boundaries. The main reason for this is that the NCP has been over-represented in Parliament because the system has been deliberately tilted in its favor. The NCP’s losses would not necessarily be Labor’s gain. In three of the five States (no changes are planned for Western Australia), the likely advantage would be to be the Liberals. Overall, Labor would have a marginal advantage, but it must be remembered that the system is weighted against Labor in other ways, chiefly because its supporters are more concentrated than its opponents.
The Opposition has the numbers in the Senate to block the redistribution proposals. This may give it a slight advantage in the next election, but at the price of perpetuating an unfairly weighted electoral system and of protecting its often mischievous coalition partner against being cut down to a size more proportionate to its popular support. We shall not even be spared the mendacious cant with which this cynical expediency will be defended.
– I thank the House. The editorial is headed ‘Liberals opt for electoral folly’. One could not put it any clearer. This was the opportunity for there to be equity and justice in electoral laws. This was an opportunity for the Liberal Party to stand on its own feet, to try to regain some of its lost honour, to try to regain some of its integrity and some of its reputation which has become so tarnished in recent months and years. But no. With the weight of the funds of the miners and the foreign corporations that want to exploit the resources of this country behind it, the National Country Party cracked the whip and the little fledglings in the Liberal Party danced to its tune. I support the adoption of the Commissioners’ report.
-I suppose it is a sign of the sardonic sense of humour of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) that he has scheduled the debate on these boundaries so that the proposals which are most unacceptable to the Liberal Party- that is, the proposals which involve the State of New South Wales- are kept until last. Maybe the Minister for Services and Property thought that we on this side of the House might get a little tired of the debate. I can tell the House that the Liberal Party, unequivocally and without qualification, is opposed to the proposals for redistribution in New South Wales. Let there be absolutely no doubt that this is a decision shared both in the organisation itself and in the parliamentary section of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. The Minister for Services and Property said in his speech:
A study of the submissions by the Liberal-Country Party in all States, particularly New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, clearly indicates that their only interest in the redistribution was self-preservation, the ‘loading’ of electorates and the perpetuation of electoral injustices.
Let us put that proposition against the proposals made by the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party and the proposals made by the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party. The proposals of the Labor Party, which of course the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) was a little too embarrassed to say very much about, if applied against the figures of May 1974 would have produced in New South Wales 29 Labor seats against only 16 Opposition seats. Yet the Liberal Party submission would have produced 23 Labor seats as against 22 Opposition seats. Who is perpetuating the injustice? Who is loading the boundaries? Who is looking to their own self-interest in these proposals? The Labor Party cannot have it both ways. On the one hand we have been upbraided for being overborne by the National Country Party in respect of other States, and in respect of New South Wales the honourable member for Phillip tries to persuade my colleagues in the National Country Party that the Liberal Party is out to get them. It is true that the Liberal Party in New South Wales submitted a plan that proposed the abolition of the seats of Riverina and Hume and their replacement by the seat of Lawson. It is equally true that the Liberal Party submission on New South Wales was written with the following qualification:
Although we realise that the matter is outside the authority of the Commissioners, our first submission is that it is undesirable to carry out a redistribution at this particular time. A national census is due in 1976, and this may well have the effect of altering the allocation of electoral divisions as between the States, resulting in the need for another redistribution for New South Wales during 1 977.
Forty-five seats from New South Wales are held in this Parliament of which, at the present time, the Labor Party has 25 seats and the Opposition has 20 seats. Under the proposals now being debated if the 1974 figures applied the Labor Party would have 28 seats and the Opposition only 17 seats. The Labor Party majority would go from 5 to 9 seats a net gain of 4 seats. The seats of Riverina and Evans are effectively abolished. As the Minister pointed out, they will be replaced by Eastwood and Toongabbie. The real significance of these redistribution proposals is not the tip of the iceberg but the iceberg itself.
It has already been raised in this debate on redistribution that the really important seats to examine are marginal seats. It is an examination of marginal seats, particularly in New South Wales, which is so revealing. A 3 per cent swing against the Government at the present time would cost the Government 12 seats. If these proposals are accepted a 3 per cent wing would cost the Government only 7 seats. At present the most marginal Labor seats in New South Wales are Eden Monaro, Cook, Macarthur, Barton, Evans, Phillip and St George. Let us look at them one by one and see what is to happen to them. The seat of Eden Monaro is to remain substantially the same. It has not been significantly strengthened for the Opposition, as the Minister for Services and Property carelessly pointed out during his remarks. The seat of Cook is to be slightly strengthened for the sitting member. The seat of Macarthur is up by 5.1 per cent in the Labor Party’s favour. Now a 9.8 per cent swing would be required, under these proposals, to dislodge the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin). The seat of Barton is to remain substantially untouched. The seat of Evans will be abolished but it is to be replaced by a rock-safe Labor seat of Toongabbie. What is to happen to Phillip? We heard much from the honourable member for Phillip during the debate tonight. His vote will be up by 1.2 per cent. The seat of St George is to remain substantially the same. Unfortunately, the electors of St George will not have as one of their number the Minister for Services and Property.
Let us look at the Opposition’s marginals. The seat of Paterson is to be made into a Labor seat. A swing of 4.5 per cent on the new boundaries would be required for the Opposition to hold the seat of Paterson. I have little doubt that if, by mischance these boundaries do get through, my colleague from Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) would achieve that swing of 4.5 per cent. The seat of Hume is to remain substantially the same. The seat of Riverina is to be abolished. I concede that it is to be effectively replaced by the new Liberal seat of Eastwood which, I understand, the Minister wants to call Gilmore. The seat of Parramatta, so well held in this Parliament by my colleague, Mr Ruddock, is converted with a stroke of a pen into a seat with a Labor majority such that he would need a swing of 6.5 per cent to hold the seat. I think that whilst the honourable member for Parramatta would achieve that, it would be a very difficult job. Then we have the interesting complex of Evans and Lowe. We have the new seat of Concord which is now proposed to be renamed Evans. The seat of Lowe is, I think, for all practical purposes a fairly safe Opposition seat, but under the new proposals the seat of Concord is 2y2 to 3 per cent weaker for the Opposition than the existing seat of Lowe.
So the pattern emerges in New South Wales, so far as the marginal seats are concerned, in which Labor marginal seats are to be significantly strengthened and Opposition mariginal seats are, in many cases, to be significantly weakened. These are the seats that really count so far as holding power in Australia is concerned. The Labor Party knows that it is electoral history in the rural areas of Australia and that its last hope of hanging on to power is to hold the large urban areas of Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. It therefore is no real coincidence that we find in the metropolitan areas a pattern that so clearly favours the Labor Party.
To suggest that there is anything wrong with the boundaries under which the last elections were fought is complete nonsense. After all, the Government has twice won an election on the existing boundaries. At the last election, in 1974, the Labor Party won a clear majority of seats in New South Wales. It had a clear majority of votes, and I would not argue otherwise. It won 25 out of 45 seats. But that is not sufficient. Under these proposals, with the same vote- no extra votes needed- its number of seats would go from 25 to 28 and the Opposition’s share would go down to 1 7 seats. What is more important, the Opposition’s prospects of disturbing that allocation would be extremely small notwithstanding a reasonable swing.
If there is one thing that is required in a redistribution of electoral boundaries it is a situation where the people of Australia, wanting a change of government, can be certain that when they cast their votes they will be able to achieve a change of government. The only way that can be achieved is by preserving equity in relation to marginal seats. It does not matter if we reduce the Liberal majority in Bradfield or Warringah by a few per cent or the Labor majority in Chifley or Grayndler by a few per cent; what really matters and what is so important about the redistribution in New South Wales is what happens to seats like Phillip and Macarthur. What has happened to those seats? What has happened on the other side to seats like Paterson? It is gone. It has been altered to give a 4.5 per cent swing against the Opposition.
– Democracy in action.
– Honourable members opposite call that democracy. That is not democracy. The proposed redistribution in New South Wales has a very distinct bias in favour of the Australian Labor Party. It is totally unacceptable to the Liberal Party. The decision of the Liberal Party was arrived at independently. It coincides with the attitude of the National Country Party, but in no way is it a result of any subordination. There is a total repudiation of these electoral boundaries in New South Wales by the Liberal Party because, particularly in the metropolitan areas of Sydney, they contain a very distinct bias in favour of the Labor Party, especially in the marginal seats.
A consistent attempt has been made during this debate by supporters of the Government to divide the members of the Liberal Party and the members of the National Country Party. Of course in electoral matters it has been a tactic of the Minister for Services and Property to hold out a few carrots to the Liberal Party and say: ‘Look how generous we are. You have a nice new seat in the metropolitan area of Melbourne called Doncaster- Templestowe and a nice new seat in the metropolitan area of Sydney called Eastwood. They are nice rock-safe Liberal seats and we have abolished Wimmera in Victoria and Riverina in New South Wales. You would be mad if you did not take advantage of this. You could get two up on the National Country Party if you do’. Of course what the Minister for Services and Property does not want members of the Liberal Party to realise is that although he is dangling a couple of carrots under our noses, these redistribution proposals will make it extremely difficult for a significant swing against the Labor Party- in New South Wales particularly, and to a slightly lesser extent in Victoriato result in a change of Government. I have news for the Minister for Services and Property.
– The good oil?
-I have the good oil for him. He is not the only person who does his electorate sums. We do not entirely go to sleep in Ash Street and we have done our electoral sums on this. I think the Minister ought to understand that the New South Wales Liberal Party and the New South Wales members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party find the proposed redistribution totally unacceptable because it contains a distinct bias in favour of the Government. It does not deliver essential electoral justice in New South Wales. The Labor Party can coo as much as it likes.
– Speak the truth.
-And the honourable member for Phillip can screw up his nose as much as he likes. Honourable members opposite can talk about redistribution in the States. They can talk about Queensland or New South Wales however much they like. We are talking about a redistribution of electoral boundaries for this Federal Parliament. These proposals in New South Wales are as unacceptable as any proposals could be and both the Liberal Party and the National Country Party will vote en bloc to reject them.
– We have j just heard from one of the greatest actors of the Twenty-ninth Parliament. I believe the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) appeared for many years on behalf of his Party in other redistribution hearings. Perhaps he justified with equal verve, panache and acting ability the redistributions of 1 968 when 3 Sydney members lost their seats- the seats of KingsfordSmith, West Sydney and East Sydney, Watson, Grayndler and Dalley were pushed into 2 seats and the Labor Party lost 3 seats at that time. If one wants to worry about losing seats, it is pretty easy to look back at the other redistributions of the last Government to see exactly the same sort of tactics, only applied more ruthlessly.
The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) gave an example of the sneaky sort of proposals the Liberal Party of Australia put up for the redistribution. Earlier tonight we had the leader of the NCP-I think the ‘N’ stands for national, this new CP, the NCP; anyway, the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony)- enter the chamber to make a speech. He did not have the guts to put in a submission to the Electoral Commissioners. How the heck can any one get up on his hind legs and come in here and bleat about the unfairness of the redistribution when he did not have the courage of his convictions even to put an argument. The Leader of the National Country Party talked about the Division of Macarthur. I resent anyone talking about that beautiful electorate.
The problem in Macarthur is that all the Labor votes are in the northern end of it. In a State like New South Wales, with all the population centred in the cities, any redistribution must be definition work outwards from the city centres of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollogong and from the borders in. The problem of Macarthur is that the city is expanding into the electorate. If we are to avoid the situation of having 100 000 voters in the electorate at the next election- if the mates of the honourable members opposite in the Senate knock this Bill off- the only possibility for the Distribution Commissioners to cut the numbers down is to remove some of the southern part of the electorate. That is why the position looks so good for me at present. I have a vested interest in both sides of this argument. It really does not matter. If I have 100 000 voters there at the next election, that will suit me fine.
I suppose we could have a proper discussion about what is involved in electoral redistribution and what is involved in a whole series of electoral matters- what is involved in the very principle of representation. The last thing that is discussed in debates on redistribution is the concept of representation. I remind honourable members opposite that it is people who vote, not boundaries; that it is people who vote, not areas; and what democracy is about is people. That seems to be rather fundamental and straightforward to me, but we have all these sorts of red herrings always thrown into the debates.
I have never taken part in one of these redistribution debates before. I always thought they were good fun, but they are pretty boring because all the arguments have been thrashed out. It reminds me of being back in the high school days debating whether comics send one silly, or capital punishment. Earlier tonight one of my colleagues was reminding me of the debates in the eleventh century by the theologian Duns Scotus, who debated how many angels could dance on the point of a pin. These debates seem to be about as relevant at times. But these sorts of debates on redistribution are a set piece game. We always have the Opposition versus the Government. Whenever one is in government one is wicked and when one is in Opposition one is virtuous. The same old arguments are trotted out.
Of course the Opposition ignores the shocking example of its State colleagues and also often brings in these theories that the Commissioners are corrupt. We must dispute this from the word ‘go’. Thank God the Leader of the NCP at least admitted that the Commissioners were not corrupt, but he said that perhaps the laws were corrupt. Governments set up the laws, and I suppose all governments set up laws to favour themselves marginally. We have been moral enough to set them up to favour us marginally, whereas the last government required the Commissioners to favour country areas. A magnificent editorial in the ‘Age’, which I hope to read out later, has pointed this out. This redistribution was based simply on people and a margin of 10 per cent up or down. That was it. For the first time we are looking at the situation of allowing people to vote. I suppose that the honourable member for Bennelong is pretty honest when he says that what the argument is all about is seats. The reason why the debate hots up and becomes rather humorous is that we are all worried about our seats.
But the opposition of the National Country Party- except in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, and it is trying to get rid of the Liberals in Queensland- is purely ideological. It opposes the redistribution in South Australia and Tasmania when it does not even have a member in those States. This is typical of a sectional party. It never looks at the contradictions in its own case. It simply maximises a simple proposition. If one says that the Labor Government is centralist, socialist or anti-rural for long enough, in some Geobbels-like manner, eventually the people will believe it. This morning we had the National Country Party members grizzling about the Labor Government, in favouring school children and other groups, favouring people in the cities; yet by its own definition, by its own rules of the game as a sectional party- it should accept the verdict once in a while- all it is doing is looking after its own sectional interests. The Labor Party is not pursuing only its own sectional interests. Even if all our support is supposed to reside in the cities, we try to govern nationally. The Liberal Party does, too; but it cannot manage without the support of the National Country Party.
Let us look at some of the statements of the Leader of the National Country Party. We have from him the same old tirade about a vendetta against country voters, those poor persecuted people- and his country electorate is smaller than mine. Where does the Leader of the National Country Party live? Quite sensibly, he lives in Canberra most of the time. Where does the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair) live? Quite sensibly, he lives in Canberra most of the time. Where do I live? I live in Canberra, too. We cannot argue in terms of space and physical characteristics. My colleague the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson), who sits next to me, with an electorate of possibly 30 square miles, is probably far worse off than the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), with his thousands of square miles, because the honourable member for Perth spends 2 days a week flying backwards and forwards between his electorate and Canberra, and there is no way one can reach someone in an aeroplane.
– At least I go to my electorate; you do not appear to.
– I appear there often. The only way we can argue about this physical situation is in terms of how one’s electorate is shaped topographically or how one is affected by the transport network. It seems to me that the only way we can talk of boundaries is in terms of the physical attributes of an electorate. We hear about these big electorates. I have flown over some of them. I spent 3 days flying over the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) and I did not see one person, except at the 2 places where I got off the aeroplane. I have seen the electorate of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). It is a very big electorate, but there are no people in the damn thing.
– What rot!
– There are no people in most of it; they are all in the big mining towns in some of these electorates. The problem of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie and the honourable member for Kennedy is a lack of resources. They do not need fewer voters; they need more resources to enable them to get to their people.
– Why not increase their allowance?
– That would be fine; but I do not believe that the city members should have the same allowance. We all have letters and telephones to help us. This Government is setting up regional offices. There is nothing magical about people being able to see their member physically. Anyone who wants to knock me on the head or really take up a grievance has no problem finding me. The way the Public Service acts, the people these days have much more redress there than they have from many other people in the community who serve them, in business and whatever. What honourable members opposite are doing in talking of representation is ignoring the question of responsiveness. It does not matter how many voters one has. There is no correlation between that number and responsiveness. This centres exactly and individually on the member himself. If he has a massive majority, perhaps he does not work as hard; but it does not necessarily follow. Perhaps the members in the marginal seats work the hardest; but that does not necessarily follow either.
My simple proposition is that democracy cannot be diluted. One man, one vote is the ideal. This redistribution accepts and acknowledges that this ideal is difficult to attain, but it is the fairest redistribution we have seen in this House. The 10 per cent variation up or down comes nearest to the ideal. The Distribution Commissioners have been set this formula, have gone about their task of looking at each electorate individually and have come up with a fair redistribution. The Melbourne ‘Age’ succinctly set out the situation when it said this morning:
The Liberals opt for electoral folly.
They have not the wit or the wisdom to see the virtue in the redistribution. Let me return to the electorate of Macarthur. Perhaps I can outline the problems of running a seat which is increasing so fast in population and voters. The reason why I have to drive 30 000 or 40 000 miles a year is that there are more and more voters in the electorate. In 1969, when I was the campaign director for my friend the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), there were 5 1 276 voters in the electorate. In 1972, when I was privileged to win the seat, there were 63 952 voters in the electorate. Eighteen months later, in 1974, there were 75 844 electors. Now there are nearly 8 1 000 people enrolled. If there is no election until 1977, I will have 100 000 electors by then. I do not for the life of me know why I should be required to represent 100 000 people while my friend the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) represents 53 000, the honourable member for Hume represents 50 000 and the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) represents only 47 000. If they have problems due to a large component of new Australians or Aborigines or if they have problems due to the population of their electorates being centred in one spot in some vast expanse of desert, quite clearly they need more facilities. That is the way I argued before the Remuneration Tribunal. Members of this Parliament do not need more money; they need more facilities.
At the last census the population of the electorate of Macarthur was 1 1 6 000; it is now probably 145 000. It has one of the highest young populations in Australia. In 1971 there were more than 42 000 children of school age or younger; in other words, well over one-third of the populations. I am not grizzling, but there are 4 separate groups of interests in the electorate. There are some places where I get 83 per cent of the vote; there are other places I go through only at 2 o’clock at night. This is the way the electorate is. I do not grizzle about it, but it is a difficult electorate to work- not because of its size or physical attributes, but because there are so many people flooding into it. It has 6 State members, including the State Premier whom I will swap with anyone. There are 2 television stations, 2 radio stations, 15 local newspapers and 9 local government areas. It is expanding at a rate of knots. Its population will double in the space of 8 years.
I suggest with respect to this redistribution that what we are talking about is democracy, and democracy cannot be diluted. There are problems in gaining access to electors in some electorates, and more facilities should be provided in such cases. If we want to have a proper debate on representation and what is involved in it, we need to go back through history and study the way our system has developed to this day. In the old days we had politics and representation only in terms of interest. That is the National Country Party approach. Then we had the representation of opinions, and the fine theory of the 19th century and earlier was upset by the emergence of political parties.
If we look at political parties and relate them to representation, we can come up with a wide range of theories. There is a theory about the representation of personal influence which involves unduly individualistic assumptions about the nature of society. There are theories about the inevitability of class conflict. There are theories about the representation of sectional interests and these fail to show how policies reflecting the national interest can emerge in any sort of society. There are theories about the representation of personal opinions which involve a host of practical and intellectual difficulties. There are theories about the functions of representative government in eliciting the common will of society, but those theories are somewhat vague and optimistic. There are theories justifying party discipline and the idea of electoral mandate which involve some dubious assumptions at times about the knowledge and behaviour of electors and the possibility of keeping to long term plans for government action. At this time, given our history and our concepts of democracy- I might say that the people in Portuguese Timor have better ideas of democracy than many of the members on the other side of the House- this is the best son of electoral redistribution which we could present. I congratulate the Distribution Commissioners. I commend the motion to the House.
– I would be less than honest if I said that I did not have a personal interest in this debate. I am afraid that some of the members on the Government side in my opinion have been less than honest. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) represents an electorate of 8.5 square miles. The second Government member to speak in this debate, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan), represents an electorate of 5.3 square miles.
– It is only 4.5 square miles. Do not exaggerate.
– That is even worse. The honourable member was not honest enough to say so; it had to be brought out from him. The whole question here is whether the electorates have had adequate representation to date. The honourable member for Phillip admitted that they have not. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) not only admitted it but also gave certain suggestions how to improve representation within electorates. Surely we must be dealing with facts here. Government supporters seem to me to be arguing against themselves. They are admitting on the one hand that people in certain electorates do have inadequate representation, but they are getting out of this situation and having a little bit each way by saying that we need better facilities. I would like to talk a little tonight about this.
I have a great responsibility on this occasion that outweighs any of my personal considerations. I must voice, on behalf of the people of my electorate, the strongest possible objection to the redistribution proposals. I am speaking on this occasion with almost absolute support from my people. I have practically every single member of the electorate of Riverina on my side. They are appaled at, they are against, and they have expressed their disgust at, the redistribution proposals.
The facts speak for themselves. The proposals were published in my electorate on 4 March 1974. The Distribution Commissioners called for comments and objections. These were to be in the hands of the Commissioners by 30 March 1974, a period of only 26 days, which included the Easter holidays. Considering the time taken to inform, to organise, to collect and to forward objections, which was in fact less than 3 weeks, the results were overwhelming. They were overwhelming for 2 reasons. Firstly, they revealed a unanimity of feeling in the electorate towards the proposals. This was a feeling which cut across any party political proposals. Labor Party members and supporters in the community were just as unhappy with the proposals as were National Country Party and Liberal Party supporters and members within the electorate. Secondly, the results revealed quite clearly how much the Minister for Services and Property is out of touch with reality.
While we are speaking about the Minister’s responsibility for electoral matters, I think we should consider his track record on these matters. It is a record which, I believe, should give him no reason for self-satisfaction, self-gratification or anything else which would suggest praise. Compare the electorate of Riverina with the Minister’s electorate of Grayndler. Grayndler is a mammoth 8.5 square miles! Riverina covers a meagre 40 000 square miles! Riverina is 5 000 times larger than the Minister’s electorate.
– How much bigger?
-It is 5000 times larger.
– How big do you think the electorate of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie is?
– I appreciate that comment from the honourable member for Burke. It is interesting to note that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) has seen fit not to enter into this debate and not to make any points at all.
– That is because the redistribution proposals for Western Australia have not yet been presented to the Parliament. They are not before the House yet.
– That does not stop the honourable member from participating in the debate at all. Only last year, the Minister for Services and Property walked out of his front door, turned down the street, tripped over what he described as his dog- it was probably his electoral boundary- landed on the concrete, and broke his arm. Personally, I felt sorry for the Minister, but some of my acquaintances said some other things which were not as kind as I expressed at the time. An ambulance was called. I believe it came from outside his electorate. The ambulance took him to a hospital which was outside his electorate. I am told that the doctor who attended to him had been called from outside his electorate. How can this Minister have any understanding of the problems of large electorates? The Minister in fact started his parliamentary career on the Rationing Committee in 1946.
Old habits die hard. He is still rationing. As his career comes to an end, he is now rationing electorates.
But I come to a more serious matter concerning the Minister. Here I pay a compliment to the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham), the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) who have seen fit, as I would say most Ministers generally have, to go out to the electorates, to the grass roots levels, to see the effects of their policies and to find out at first hand what is going on. But what is the position with the Minister for Services and Property with respect to electoral matters? I would like him to answer me now by saying what rural electorates he has been to, to find out what the people think about electoral redistribution. Where has he gone?
– Currabubula. Frank O’Keefe took me there.
-I am told that the Minister went there because he was invited to participate in an old boys’ reunion. That is the sum total of the knowledge that the Minister has of the electoral matters before this House.
I return to the electorate of Riverina. I refer to Volume II of ‘Copies of the Suggestions, Comments or Objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales’, 398 pages of which express what the people of Riverina think about these proposals. There are 10 000 signatures on those pages from those people. I quote the words of the Mayor of Deniliquin, Counsellor Renwick, who says:
This petition was influenced by the lack of time allocated, which meant that in the majority of areas only two or three days were available for the collection of signatures.
This was brought about by Easter falling within the month allocated by the Commissioners for petitions to be collected, and by difficulties in communications.
Of those approached to sign this petition 95 per cent expressed their ready willingness, and signed the petition.
Had there been time to canvass the electorate fully on this matter, there is no question that over 50 000 of the current 5 1 000 electors of Riverina would have signed that petition. This is an expression of feeling from the people regarding these proposals as they affect the Riverina electorate. They have condemned the proposals. The Electorate Council of the Riverina Australian Labor Party condemned the proposals. That condemnation came from the Minister’s own Party.
– What about Grassby?
– The honourable member for Darling Downs has asked: ‘What about
Grassby?’ Well, the former sitting member came forward at that meeting and in fact moved the motion to condemn the proposals. This was a tremendous pity because his track record in this House reveals something entirely different. At the time when the electoral legislation changing the variation of the quota permissible was debated in the House, the former member for Riverina voted 1 1 times in divisions in favour of the Bill. He voted 9 times to gag debate by the Opposition on that legislation.
Putting that aspect aside, the question is: Why do the people of Riverina object to these proposals? The first reason why they object to them is the change in name. There is a historical significance connected with the word ‘Riverina’. A Riverina electorate has existed almost since Federation. The district itself has been a recognised geographical area since the very early days of Australia. Why should an electorate which comprises 40 000 electors from the present division of Riverina and only 20 000 from the present division of Darling be called Darling? Perhaps a reason is that it would give an advantage to the sitting member for Darling in the event of an election. No other reason can be given for it.
The second reason why the people of Riverina are unhappy with this proposal is that there will be difficulties with representation, and they know it. The present electorate is twice the size of Tasmania, and yet Tasmania has 5 members. I wonder whether the Distribution Commissioners took into account that the population of Riverina is distributed among approximately 80 towns or small villages. Why should these people not see their representative?
The honourable member for Macarthur says that he travels 35 000 to 45 000 miles a year. The honourable member for Riverina currently travels in excess of 60 000 miles trying to cover his electorate. The previous honourable member for Riverina- I have no doubt that his word was true- said that he covered 100 000 miles, but of course he had the services of a driver and a car, which cost the Australian taxpayer $50,000 for the year. Assuming that I travel the 60 000 miles at 50 miles per hour, that is 1200 hours of driving time. On Public Service hours of 5 days a week and 8 hours a day, I spend 30 weeks of the year behind the wheel of a car. Honourable members opposite might say: ‘There is nothing wrong with that’. But the point is that during that time it is impossible to provide any representation for the people of Riverina. On the other hand, the city representatives have that much time to work in their electorates. They do not do anywhere near that amount of travelling. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that some of the city representatives do not even own cars.
Apart from the time taken to get around the electorate, it is tiring to drive, and consequently one’s ability to represent the people adequately is decreased. During the coming weekend I will travel approximately 900 miles. I will not see my electorate secretaries before I arrive back in Canberra next week. I dare say that the city representatives will be in contact with their electorate secretaries by 10 o’clock tomorrow morning. If they decide to walk around their electorates over the weekend they will see most of their electors and they will have a lot of time in which to examine the Bills which will be before the House next week. Very few country representatives will be able to do this.
The Minister for Services and Property says that he has an interest in people. If he has an interest in people, why does he not accept these things as facts instead of talking about how we can improve them in the future by giving the country representatives aeroplanes and the ability to get around their electorates. Let us deal with these things as they exist right now. I was disappointed to hear the honourable member for Macarthur say that country people had telephones with which to get in contact with their representatives. If he would come to the Riverina now I would take him to an area where 200 people were burnt out in the bushfires over Christmas. These people have not yet had their telephones restored because they have no money. They cannot get the money, and the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) will make no allowance for this position. It is politically desirable to make great play about the rebuilding of Darwin, but because there are no votes for the Australian Labor Party in the Riverina where I come from the farmers there will get nothing.
The Distribution Commissioners stated that they were cognisant of the community of interest within each proposed division, including economic, social and regional interests. I heard the honourable member for Phillip ask what was the community of interest between the people living in North Sydney and those living in Sydney. I ask not only the honourable member for Phillip but also the Commissioners what is the community of interest between the fine people who live in Broken Hill who mine the silver found there and the people in the Riverina who farm in the irrigation area. Surely there is none. There is no point in saying that there is a community of interest among the people in the proposed new seat of Darling.
The new electorate will be a quarter of the size of New South Wales. No talking by the Minister will ensure that the people of the electorate will get adequate representation. If they cannot get it now they will not get it in the new seat of Darling. Not only is Broken Hill a centre where the community of interest is completely different from that of the Riverina, but it is hundreds of miles away from the area of the Riverina. Under the proposed boundaries more people than at present will never see their elected representatives. There is no doubt that the Minister is responsible for this action. I can assure him that unfortunately his fine Party will suffer in country areas in elections because of his actions. I have no hesitation at all in condemning the redistribution proposals.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan). I do not care much what the honourable member says about me politically, but if he is dealing with my private life he should get the facts on the line. He said that I broke my arm when I was walking my dog, went to a hospital outside my electorate and went to a doctor outside my electorate. He continued in that strain. The fact of the matter is that I did break my arm when walking my dog, who is appropriately named Grayndler.
– I do not have time to walk with a dog.
– As a former Army officer, you ought to learn to tell the truth. The fact is that I did break my arm. I drove myself to the hospital. It was the Marrickville District Hospital. I went to the casualty ward, and next day I was attended by whichever doctor was on duty. Having made the facts clear, I would expect the honourable member, like an officer and gentleman, to apologise.
– We have just heard from the aware, alert, attentive honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), who condemned the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) for not taking part in these electoral debates. Of course the fact is that the Western Australian redistribution was dealt with in 1973. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie quite clearly has no particular motivation to participate in this debate. If he did he would do so on the grounds that he represents the largest electorate in Australia. A member of the Australian Labor Party represents the largest electorate in Australia, and a Labor member represents the largest electorate in New South Wales. The members who have experience of representing large electorates are found on the Government side. The members who have to come to terms with the difficulties and problems that those electorates present are found on the Government side. They do not whinge; they do not complain; they do not excuse their poor performance; they do the job.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, this is just too much. I draw your attention to the state of the House.
-Order! The honourable member should not make comment. Is the honourable member raising a point of order?
– No, not a point of order. I draw your attention to the state of the House. Only 3 Labor members are present.
-Order! Will the honourable member please resume his seat. He has made his point. (Quorum formed)
– The largest electorate in South Australia is also represented by an honourable member on the Government side. Indeed, most large electorates are represented by members on this side of the House. Those people who are genuinely interested in a detached and very careful approach to the problems of representing large electorates clearly will turn to the Australian Labor Party. Not only do we find this particular experience in the Labor Party but also we find an unusual sensitivity for the future of the Riverina seat. It was not the Labor Party that recommended that Riverina be abolished; it was the Liberal Party. The Liberals suggested not only that Riverina be abolished but also that Hume be abolished. We discover that they were very careful about their own seats but were prepared to ditch Riverina and Hume.
Perhaps this gives us an explanation for the fact that on 10 May this year there was supposed to have been a Country Party pre-selection ballot in Eden-Monaro. But the reason it was not held, as we were told in all the newspapers in EdenMonaro, was that the Country Party was uncertain about the state of the boundaries. It did not know whether the boundaries of Eden-Monaro would be changed. Clearly, the Country Party did not trust the Liberal Party. When we look at the recommendations that the Liberal Party put forward in New South Wales we can understand the basis for that lack of trust. The Liberal Party suggested that the 2 seats of Riverina and Hume be abolished.- 1 might also say that the Liberal Party recommended that the city of Goulburn be eliminated from Eden-Monaro. An interesting situation developed there. We discovered that as soon as the boundaries were announced the branch of the Liberal Party in Goulburn complained publicly that Goulburn had been excluded from Eden-Monaro, but their very own State branch had recommended it. Communications within the Liberal Party are obviously pretty weak. It is a little bit like the situation which exists in one of the Liberal branches in my electorate where the President passes messages to the secretary of the branch through me. They have more confidence in me than they have in each other.
The main city that serves the electorate of Eden-Monaro has been drawn out of the electorate. Goulburn has a natural affinity with EdenMonaro. The recommendations of the Distribution Commissioners in this case have failed completely to identify the historic, traditional and geographic links that Goulburn holds with Eden-Monaro. It is the State decision-making centre for all the towns on the tablelands of my electorate. To draw it out of the electorate is absurdity in the extreme, an absurdity in which the Liberal Party took the lead. Not only did the Liberal Party suggest that it be drawn out of Eden-Monaro, it also suggested that it be put into Macarthur. That is an incredible suggestion. The Bungonia Gorge and a great mass of hilly bushland lie between Goulburn and the next town in Macarthur. The relationship between Goulburn and Macarthur is virtually nil, both in geographic and social terms. There is no community of interest between those 2 pieces of geography. Yet the Liberal Party was prepared to draw Goulburn out of Eden-Monaro and put it into Macarthur. At least the Distribution Commissioners had the sense to realise that the trade links with Goulburn went somewhat to the west and south and certainly not to the north, because they have put Goulburn into Hume.
I want Goulburn back. Goulburn is a very important pan of my electorate. It is a very important part of the community that exists on the tablelands of Eden-Monaro. In EdenMonaro we have probably some of the most spectacular geography in Australia- certainly the highest mountain, certainly some of the best beaches, certainly some of the most beautiful forests. Not only is it a spectacular part of Australia which enshrines all the major geographic features of Australia, but also it has a somewhat international flavour. As well as having very close associations with this country, it has Runnymede, it has Bombay and, if anybody wants to know where Kenya has gone, I have it in EdenMonaro. Eden-Monaro is representative of the total community and of its geography. In every sense the electorate is truly Australian.
But we also have many problems in the electorate. These are not due to the mountain range and the presence of the Australian Capital Territory; they are due to the incredible scarp that exists on the coast. It is absurd to add to Monaro the further coastal areas of Nowra, Kiama and so on because these areas feed into Wollongong. The proposal introduces into the electorate a completely new decision-making centre. It makes it incredibly difficult to reach these areas. There are only 2 major roads between Canberra and the coast in Eden-Monaro and they are 150 kilometres apart. In order to get up to Kiama it is necessary to travel some 400 kilometres from Canberra. These are the sorts of problems we have in the Eden-Monaro electorate. I am prepared to say here and now that the problems of servicing the Eden-Monaro electorate as it stands now are more than offset by the wealth of humanity and the associations that the Federal member develops with the 53 communities that exist in that electorate. To add to those problems is to do a disservice not only to the Federal member, as we have heard also from the Opposition, but also to the people he has to represent. To take Goulburn out and to add those towns on the coast seems to me to be a major mistake in this redistribution proposal.
– I would love to have Goulburn, Bob.
– The honourable member for Hume says that he would love to have Goulburn. I will fight to keep it.
– He can have the gaol if he wants it.
– No, the honourable member for Hume cannot have the Goulburn Gaol. It employs 600 people and has a few other associations. Distance and size will always be a problem in this country. It would be impossible to draw electorates in Australia which were not large. It would be impossible to avoid having electorates such as Kalgoorlie, Darling and Grey. It would be impossible to avoid the situation that we have in Eden-Monaro with 15 000 square miles. Clearly, this is a problem that must be faced up to, and the only way in which it can be faced up to is to provide extra facilities for the
Federal member. In my case an aeroplane would not be satisfactory. In the case of Riverina it would be satisfactory. In the case of Grey, Darling and Kalgoorlie the unlimited use of aeroplanes would, in my view, be justified. I believe also that in these large electorates we ought to have more offices spread around the electorate. In an electorate the size of Darling- one could make a strong case for this in an electorate like Eden-Monaro- we ought to have more than one electoral office. These are the sons of facilities that would assist in ensuring that each person in the electorate receives the representation that he deserves as a citizen of our nation. It is only in this way that we can overcome these problems.
To complain continually about the large electorates that exist is simply to defer the real decision. To stand up in this place and in some mythical way to say that if we alter the law we would be able to come closer to solving this problem simply avoids the issue. How can we solve the problem in Western Australia? How can we solve the problem in the western part of New South Wales or in Queensland? It is impossible. The only way in which the parliamentary representation can be properly provided is to follow along the lines that the Minister for Services and Property has already adopted and to make sure that the resources available to Federal members of Parliament are suitable for the job they have to do. It is not just a case of providing an electoral allowance. Much more importantly, it is a case of providing the facilities that I have enumerated already.
I am extremely proud to be the member for Eden-Monaro. I will fight to hold Goulburn in that electorate. In that sense, I disagree with the Distribution Commissioners. I believe that they should have been more sensitive to the historic and social associations that have been built up in Goulburn. They should have been more sensitive to the geographical significance of the scarp that exists on the eastern edge of the electorate. Canberra and the mountain ranges are of minor importance. People do not live around the mountains. People do live on the other side of the scarp. I believe that overall the Distribution Commissioners have done a fine job to bring democracy to the people of New South Wales. I fully support the redistribution, with the qualifications I have xpressed this evening.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Nicholls) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Hon. G. G. D. Scholes)
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.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 2 1 May.
Clauses 29 to 35- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
We do not believe that the wording is sufficiently precise. We think the discretion is too wide and that it ought to be deleted.
Amendment 12, which seeks to delete words at the end of sub-clause (5) is largely selfexplanatory. I think the reasons for it will be apparent to the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby).
– The Government cannot accept the amendments for the reasons that I gave when speaking last night. This does not apply to amendment No. 12 which proposes that words be omitted. These words have been inserted perhaps with an abundance of caution. But the sub-clause is deemed to be appropriate so that the rights of individuals and parties to claim a privilege, such as a solicitor and client privilege, will still apply notwithstanding the earlier provisions in the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 37 agreed to.
Clauses 38 and 39- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
– I seek leave to move amendments 10, 1 1 and 12 standing in my name.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Similar amendments have already been moved in respect of clause 28. Both amendments 10 and 1 1 standing in my name seek deletion of clauses in the same way as did amendments 8 and 9 standing in my name. I repeat the comments that were made in respect of clause 28, that the discretion given to the Minister, whom we want in all circumstances to be the AttorneyGeneral, is too wide. We are not satisfied with paragraph (c) of sub-clause ( 1 ) which states:
– I move:
Clause 40 gives to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal power to summon persons before it. The Opposition believes that any such persons summoned before the Tribunal should have the opportunity of representation by counsel or solicitor of that person’s choice. We hope the justification for this amendment is self-evident and that it might commend itself to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby). The second part of the amendment stipulates that evidence given by a person before the Tribunal is not admissible against him in any criminal proceedings, other than proceedings for offences against this Act. This safeguard is necessary. The Committee will be aware that another clause of the Bill provides that as far as possible the proceedings should not be bound by the strict rules of evidence and should not pay regard to undue technicalities. In these circumstances there is clear justification for a proviso that evidence given by the person before the Tribunal should not be admissible against that person in any criminal proceedings. Of course our amendment has the necessary safeguard that such immunity does not extend to proceedings for offences against this Act. This part of the amendment we also think is selfevident and self-explanatory. We hope it commends itself to the Attorney-General.
-Unfortunately the Government cannot agree with my good friend the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) that these matters are self-evident. In fact, the Government takes a different view and suggests that they are not self-evident at all. With respect to the first aspect put by my good friend, he seeks to have a right built into the legislation for every witness- party or not- to have a lawyer. We think that that is not self-evident. That is not the normal position in other courts. We know of no reason why the position should be taken to this unheard of stage unless someone is seeking to abuse the legal process or even abuse the system of legal aid upon which the Government has generously embarked. So for those reasons, briefly, the Government cannot accept that proposal. As to the second part of my friend’s amendment, that is the proposed insertion of new clause (3b) which provides that evidence given by a person before the Tribunal is not admissible the Government certainly accepts the proposition but it claims that it is part of the existing Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 41 to 43- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– I seek leave of the Committee to move together amendments numbers 1 4 to 1 8 standing in my name.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
As will be apparent to the Committee all these amendments have the effect, if carried, of transferring jurisdiction to hear appeals from the decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on matters of law from the proposed Superior Court of Australia to the Supreme Court of a State or Territory. The Committee will be well aware of the attitude of the Opposition to the establishment of the Superior Court of Australia. As was pointed out during the Committee debate last night, the Superior Court of Australia does not exist. Admittedly, the Government has provided in this legislation that until such time as the Superior Court comes into existence the jurisdiction which would otherwise be exercised by the Superior Court of Australia will be exercised by the Australian Industrial Court.
The Opposition does not believe that there should be a Superior Court of Australia. Our views on this matter are well known. In the opinion of the Opposition there are very good and substantial reasons why such a court should not exist. During this Committee debate is not perhaps the appropriate time to dwell at any length on the differences between the Government and the Opposition on the question of the Superior Court. The Opposition proposes that the reference to the Superior Court should be eliminated. Instead we propose that jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Tribunal on questions of law should be given to the Supreme Courts of the States or Territories. For this purpose the Supreme Court of the State or Territory will be invested with the appropriate federal jurisdiction. Amendment No. 16 provides precisely for that.
– The Government, as would not surprise my good friend the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), cannot accept these amendments for the reasons to which he has adverted. There is a clear difference of opinion between spokesmen of the Liberal and National Country Parties and the Government on this matter. The Government holds firmly to the view that Australia’s interests will be best advanced by the creation of a Superior Court. The emergence of this new branch of administrative law has been described by the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), who is a Liberal Party spokesman learned in the law, respected in the law and with enormous prestige in the law, as one of the great advances in legal reform in Australia. This is something for which the Labor Government can claim credit.
The Government believes it would be folly of the worst form to allow questions of law to go to Supreme Courts of the different States or Territories. In that way, in the long period of time, there would be no uniform system of administrative law emerging in Australia. One would have conflicting appellant decisions on what was the situation in this case or that. With the Government’s determination to try to introduce a more rational system of appellant law in Australia the Government certainly could not accept these amendments. In passing I say- not in any formal sense although I appreciate that this is recorded and it is intended to be- that next week I hope to re-introduce the Superior Court Bill into this chamber.
Clause agreed to.
Where a question of law arising in any proceeding has been referred to the Superior Court of Australia under this section, the Tribunal shall not, in that proceeding-
– I move:
The reasons for the Opposition moving this amendment are precisely the same as those advanced in relation to clause 44. 1 detain the Committee no longer.
Clause agreed to. 260326 Clause Clause 46.
When an appeal is instituted in the Superior Court of Australia in accordance with section 44 or a question of law is referred to that Court in accordance with section 45-
– I move:
The arguments in favour of this amendment are precisely the same as those advanced during the debate on clause 44. 1 shall take no further time.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 47 (Temporary exercise of jurisdiction by Australian Industrial Court).
-The Opposition would have sought the deletion of clause 47 had the amendments moved to clause 44 been agreed to. Obviously if no jurisdiction were to be entertained by the proposed Superior Court of Australia the provisions of clause 47 which provide for an interim jurisdiction until the establishment of the Superior Court of Australia would be redundant.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new Part IVa.
– I move:
After Part IV insert the following new Part: ‘PART IVa-ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW COUNCIL ‘47a. There shall be an Administrative Review Council which shall consist of the President, the Ombudsman, the Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission, a senior administrative official and a Parliamentary draftsman. ‘47b. The function of the Council shall be to advise and make recommendations to the Attorney-General from time to time as to the following matters-
those decisions made in exercise of powers conferred by enactments which are not the subject of review by a Court or other body and which in the opinion of the Council ought to be and as to the appropriate Court or other body (including the Administrative Review Tribunal) to which a right of appeal or review should be given;
the sufficiency or otherwise of the procedures in use by tribunals engaged in the review of such decisions and the improvements which might be made in those procedures; and
the sufficiency or otherwise of the procedures in use for the judicial review of such decisions and the improvements which might be made in those procedures;
the constitution of tribunals engaged in the administrative review of such decisions;
the desirability of decisions which are the subject of review by a special tribunal being made the subject of review by the Administrative Appeal Tribunal; and (0 generally as to ways and means of improving the pro cedures for administration and to ensure the adoption of a just and equitable system of review. ‘47c. The Attorney-General shall provide the Council with such staff (including research staff) as the Council considers necessary for it to perform its functions. ‘.
Schedule Section 26
Section 2 1 -President sitting alone.
Broadcasting and Television Act Section 87a- President sitting alone.
Customs Act Section 183c- President sitting alone.
Section 40- President sitting alone. Section 47- President sitting alone. Section 52- President sitting alone. Section 58- President sitting alone.
National Health Act Section 37- President sitting alone. Section 80.
Section 97- President sitting alone.
Section 12 a.
Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act Section 44- President sitting alone.
Section 34- President sitting alone. The present provision for review by the Attorney-General is dispensed with.
Migration Act Section 14- President sitting alone.
Regulation 29- President sitting alone. The present provision for review by the Attorney-General is dispensed with.
Section 44- President sitting alone.
The proposal is to insert a Part- Part IVA- concerning a body to be called the Administrative Review Council.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! It being half past 10 o’clock, in accordance with the order of the House of 1 1 July 1 974, I shall report progress.
-Order! The question is:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker, I require that the question be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the negative.
-The Opposition proposes that proposed clauses 47 a, 47B and 47C, which provide for the establishment of an Administrative Review Council, should be insertedin the Bill. Reference has been made to the establishment of such a Council by Opposition speakers during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. For the reasons canvassed during that debate, the Opposition believes that such a Council which would have an extremely beneficial role if it were established, should be established.
– Proposed clauses 47a, 47b and 47C are tremendously important to the Opposition. In the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill members of the Opposition indicated the significance of this proposal. Actually the Kerr Committee did recommend that the first step that ought to be taken in relation to judicial and administrative review was the setting up of such a Council. The Opposition believes, notwithstanding the fact that that was not done in 197 1 and notwithstanding that it was not done by the present Government when it came into office, that it should be done now. Acceptance of this proposal would have the effect of setting up a permanent council which would combine in it the President, the Ombudsman, the Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission, a senior administrative official and a parliamentary draftsman. It would therefore not be a body which would lead to the incurring of great additional expense. It would require a small number of research staff to be appointed to service it in an appropriate way. I take it that the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) agrees that this is an appropriate proposal. I hope that he does not seek to delay it. I hope that he will agree to it being done now rather than at a later stage because there is a basic need, as he has indicated in previous speeches, to have the questions of administrative review and judicial review under constant surveillance. That can be achieved only by having a permanent body. The idea advanced in the second reading speech of the AttorneyGeneral that there be some committee of the Attorney-General’s Department is, with very great respect, not sufficient. Of course, it would be to some extent an offence to people such as the President of this Tribunal and the Ombudsman if some other body was dealing with these significant questions. This is a basic amendment as far as the Opposition is concerned and the Opposition presses it.
– The Government does accept the principle of the setting up of the Council. I think I have already indicated that to my good friend the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott). However, the Government cannot accept the drafting that is to be found in this amendment. That is not meant as any offence. I should tell my good friend that following the last adjournment of the matter we made every effort to have the Parliamentary Counsel come up with what was considered to be a proper drafting. Unfortunately, with the pressures on them at this stage and with all their workload, it was just not possible to do so. I regret that as much as my good friend does. I put this to him for his information and consideration: On the drafting questions, for example, some obvious errors were made by whoever did the drafting. There were references to administrative review tribunal bodies that did not exist and matters of that sort. We would suggest that the staffing arrangements also are defective. But I would go further than he has gone and suggest that the Council as proposed by the Opposition’s amendment is too narrowly based. I should have thought that it would have been better to cast the net a little wider because there are perhaps people in academia who might have the qualifications desired and who would be excluded by the language chosen. I give my good friend the assurance that when the matter is considered in the Senate, as I assume it will be, we will be moving an appropriate amendment to achieve the same effect.
– I am very pleased to hear the assurance given by the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby). I remind him of the comments that were made during the committee debate last night about other amendments in respect of which similar assurances were given. The Opposition does regard this matter as important and it will watch the progress of events in this area when the Bill is considered in the other place.
Proposed new Part IVA negatived.
Clauses 48 to 57- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 57a.
Mr ENDERBY (CanberraAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Police and Customs)- I move:
After clause 57, insert the following new clause: 57a. ( 1 ) A person who-
has made, or proposes to make, an application to the - Tribunal for a review of a decision;
is a party to a proceeding before the Tribunal instituted by another person; or
proposes to institute a proceeding, or is a party to a proceeding instituted, before a court in respect of a matter arising under this Act, may apply to the Attorney-General for the provision of assistance under this section in respect of the proceeding.
Where an application is made by a person under subsection ( 1 ), the Attorney-General, the Director of the Australian Legal Aid Office or a person employed in the Australian Legal Aid Office authorized by the Director in writing in that behalf may (in the case of a person employed in the Australian Legal Aid Office, subject to any restriction specified in the authorization) authorize the provision to that person of legal assistance including assistance by way of the payment of any costs and expenses reasonably incurred by or on behalf of that person in connexion with the proceeding, in accordance with the means and needs test of the Australian Legal Aid Office for the giving of legal assistance.
I need not speak at any great length on proposed clause 57a. It deals with the provision of legal assistance- legal aid- to the people who might be using the facilities.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 58 agreed to.
Reconsideration of new clause 57A.
Mr HOWARD (Bennelong)-Mr Chairman, I seek the leave of the Committee to speak to new clause 57a.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Opposition naturally does not oppose the provision of proper legal aid facilities for appearances before the Tribunal, but it does enter a couple of reservations about the form of the clause drafted by the Government. Reference is made to the Director of the Australian Legal Aid Office or persons employed in the Australian Legal Aid Office. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby) will be aware of the problems that have arisen regarding the Australian Legal Aid Office. He will be particularly aware of the problems that have arisen insofar as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned. The Attorney-General is shaking his head. I do not think that it is a matter that can be dismissed as easily as that. The status of the Legal Aid Office in the Australian Capital Territory is not without ambiguity and is not without difficulty. The Opposition has reservations regarding the references to the Director. It is not an Office which is provided for by statute of this Parliament. The only reference to it appears in an ordinance which has been brought down recently by the Government. Whilst the Opposition has not had sufficient time to draft an alternative amendmentthe text of this one was given to it only last night- it does enter the reservation about the form of the clause proposed by the Government insofar as it refers to the Director of the Australian Legal Aid Office and persons employed by the Director.
– The Government believes that the amendment is completely proper. The reference made to the Australian Legal Aid office is to an office which is in existence. It does not have legislative form at this stage but I have publicly announced my intention that it shall have legislative form. Indeed, a Bill is being prepared at this stage which I hope will be presented to the House in the near future. I do not know whether it can be done this session or not but I hope it will be done in the near future.
There are 29 legal aid offices already operating extremely successfully around Australia, with people beating a path to their doors. They are a very important part of the Government’s proposals. We hope to establish more legal aid offices and have them continue to provide services for Australian litigants. I should say as well that I do not know what is in the mind of the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) but there is plenty of precedent for what is contained in the amendment. Indeed, the Family Law Bill has an almost identical clause.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Enderby)- by leaveread a third time.
– I have received messages from the Senate returning the following Bills without amendment:
Curriculum Development Centre BUI 1 975.
Technical and Further Education Commission Bill 1975.
– I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House that the Senate concurs in the resolution of the House varying the resolution of appointment of the Joint Committee on Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament.
Beef Export Tax- Air Service at St George- National Country Party: Policies Motion (by Mr Enderby) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
-Tonight I want to refer to the difficulty that I have had in getting information, particularly from the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) and the Minister representing him in this House, the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson).
Some weeks ago duing the absence overseas of the Minister for Agriculture and in response to requests for information from my constituents concerning the Government’s intentions in relation to retaining or lifting the beef export tax, I sent a telegram to the Minister’s representative in this House, the Minister for Northern Development. To the best of my knowledge I have not even had an acknowledgement of that telegram. When the Minister for Agriculture returned I sent him a copy of the telegram that I had sent to the Minister for Northern Development. Again, I have not received an acknowledgement from him indicating that the telegram has been received.
Mr Speaker, you will be aware of the difficulties Opposition backbenchers have in asking questions. Because I have not received a reply to the telegram I decided I would ask a question on the subject in order to obtain the information for which I was looking. The question was not a long one. I began by asking the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture why the Government was so adamant about retaining the beef export tax. My object was to obtain some information. I coupled that with another question, on the same subject. I asked why the Goverment was not making funds available to enable all beef producers in need of funds to participate and so help them survive in the severe depression being experienced by the industry. The Minister in a very sarcastic way, asked me if I was able to read. I knew perfectly well what had gone on. What I was looking for, of course, was the availability of more funds under conditions which would spread them across the industry and thereby assist the industry generally.
I want to raise 3 points in connection with this matter. How does an honourable member get information for his constituents in these circumstances? Has the Government any right to fail to give honourable members information when they make the effort that I made? I have not been unreasonable about it. I have not pressed for replies and I decided to try to obtain the information by way of a question. For those who understand my point- I am sure there are many who do- honourable members do not like to use up their opportunities to ask questions, because they know they will not have many. It was with some effort on my part I attempted to obtain some information. Had the Minister replied to the telegrams I sent initially there would have been no reason for me to ask the question. I raise this matter tonight by way of protest so that I will be able to show my constituents that I did try to obtain information for them. I express my disappointment at the treatment I have received from these Ministers. It does not matter whether this Government is concerned with the welfare of primary industry or not, it should have the courtesy to reply to a telegram sent to one of its Ministers. A proper reply should have been given to the question during question time in the House. I am glad that the Minister for Northern Development has come into the chamber. The question I asked him was not complicated. It had 2 sections to it. He completely ignored the first part of the question and concentrated on the second part. That is not good enough when a question is as simple as that. The Ministers, as you have pointed out Mr Speaker, can answer questions any way they like. All the redress we have is to express our dissatisfaction with the method of answering questions if, in fact, the answer is not satisfactory. I will add nothing to that for the time being.
I hope that the Ministers concerned will take some cognisance of what I have said. If I do try to get some information from a Minister he should at least give me the courtesy of a reply. That is very little to ask.
The other point I want to raise is in connection with the air service at St George. I have received this information from the person who is responsible for the running of that air service. I have mentioned this matter to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). For 24 years, he advises me, the St George district has had available to it a commercially registered light aircraft, based at St George and owned and operated by a local resident holding a commercial pilot’s licence. The aircraft has been used for charter and flying training and has been readily available on short notice for urgent ambulance flights, supply dropping in flood time and for stock spotting during floods- all of which are extremely important. It has been necessary to have an aircraft to carry out these activities. This service, generally, has been a very real asset to the area. Yet the cost of these services has been only the normal higher rate as and when used, with no additional money to be raised or paid by the taxpayer to keep the machine on standby. It is a good service. It is one that we regret we may have to lose.
The operator of the aircraft has now decided that the service has to be discontinued, due solely, in his words, to the extortionate registration charges being made by the Federal Transport Department. Twenty years ago, he says, a similar aircraft to that now being used would have cost about $20 to register. The operator claims that the amount now being demanded is $807. In addition to this, there is a tax on the fuel used of 19.7c a gallon and there is also compulsory passenger insurance of $225 a year. One realises that it is necessary to have passenger insurance. He goes on to say that these charges for registration and passenger insurance are regardless of the hours flown and on utilisation during the past 2 years represent $8.60 per hour flown. The fuel tax adds a further $1.45 an hour. Even without the passenger insurance- we recognise it is necessary- direct Government charges are more than $8 an hour. This is making the position of light aircraft owners in those areas impossible.
I hope that the Government will give some consideration to the suggestion that where people use aircraft as they are used in these circumstances they should be given some special treatment so that there will be a greater relationship between the charges and the hours flown, particularly, as I have pointed out, when this aircraft serves as an aerial ambulance and performs the other important duties it has been performing. I believe that such an operation should be encouraged. I do not think it should be beyond the capacity of the Minister for Transport- I am sure that it is not, if he puts his mind to it- to devise a method by which these charges can be alleviated.
The letter goes on to state that the reason given for charging this outrageous amount for registration is that the cost of running the civil aviation section of the Department of Transport must be recovered from aircraft operators. Of course, the operators have no say as to the efficiency or otherwise of the running of the Department; they simply have to pay the costs. So, tonight I make an appeal for consideration for these people who provide a very special service which could not be provided in any way other than by aircraft. The services cannot be provided economically, except by this type of operator. He is just being forced out of the business, as has been described in the letter. I hope that consideration will be given by the Minister and his Department to whether it is possible to give some concessions to operators in those circumstances to enable that very valuable service to be continued.
– I rise in the adjournment debate in an attempt to put the record straight and to answer some of the bigoted ranting and raving of the Opposition, in particular the members of the National Country Party. Judging by the company they keep, they could quite properly be described as members of the National Civic Council party. Whenever progressive policies are projected by the Government in this House to give effect to the mandate that was obtained from the people in 1972 and 1974, the scream of ‘socialism ‘is heard in practically every speech from Opposition members, who are devoid of any objective argument and dedicated to carrying out the philosophy of organisations such as the National Civic Council, the League of Rights, the White Australia Committee and other sectional interests. These organisations, judging by the Opposition speeches and the utterances of Opposition members, dominate the policies of the Opposition. If these organisations do not already control the Opposition in due time they will do so.
Evidence of the associations to which I have made reference is freely available. An example of the unholy alliance is contained in an article which appeared recently in a Gippsland newspaper. The headline reads:
Bishop, MHR, Patrons of Anti-Red Talk.
The article states:
The Bishop of Sale, the Most Reverend A. F. Fox, and Mr Peter Nixon, MHR, are joint patrons of a dinner to be addressed by Mr B. A. Santamaria in Sale.
A limited 1 50 invitations have been issued to the dinner to be held at Armadale on Monday evening, June 2.
Amongst other things, the article goes on to make reference to a suggestion that in Australia a group of communist controlled unions had proved that they were stronger than the Australian Council of Trades Union and Federal and State governments. The last paragraph states:
The 19-member sponsoring committee, which is acting on behalf of the National Civic Council is headed by Dr Bill Barry as chairman.
This is not the only such meeting. This sort of function is being held throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) held a meeting in the Mallee area. I cannot recall the name of the town. I saw an invitation to attend that meeting, along the same lines as those in the article. As I indicated, this sort of meeting is being held throughout the whole of Australia, and I want to draw attention to such meetings.
Mr Santamaria, of course, is a dedicated clerical fascist. He is the individual who has led the National Civic Council in Australia and has been involved in the conquest by stealth for the last 40 years. All those people who point their fingers at other people ought to have a look in their own neck of the woods. Mr Santamaria formed the group known as ‘The Movement’, allegedly to combat communist influence in the trade union movement and in the Australian Labor Party. By 1946 he really had a going concern. Let me refer to a union about which I know something and in which I was involved. In 1953 Mr Santamaria took time out to organise groups in an endeavour to control the Electrical Trades Union in an effort to defeat communist candidates. After a number of communist candidates were defeated- I defeated one of them- another ticket was arranged by the local group representing the Santamaria organisation which tried to unload everyone else, and went within a hair’s breadth of doing it.
In 1969 there was a repeat performance. Two individuals opposing the officers of the union spent about $7,000 in distributing material. They would not have had 7000 Mintie wrappers between them. It was proved in evidence later that they obtained support from the National Civic Council. The same thing happened in other areas and in government departments. I viewed with disgust the way in which Dr Mannix, Mr Santamaria and the then Monsignor Fox addressed meetings in the Myer Emporium in which I was an employee. After communion breakfast they told the workers the commitments they had to the Movement and the steps they should take to ensure that the people with whom they were involved were put into places of some advantage or authority. Is it any wonder that we see the same involvement here? Honourable members come into this chamber projecting exactly the same philosophy and reaching the point where they advocate union bashing, conscription, nuclear defence, snobocracy, phoney money policies, the gerrymandering of electorates and blatant dedication to vested and sectional interests. All this vicious bigotry was projected, in effect, by those people. The same sort of thing has been going on day after day in this House. If honourable members have any doubts about the track record of Mr Santamaria, I refer them to a book written by Mr Paul Ormonde and entitled ‘The Movement’. He was deeply concerned with the Catholic workers’ organisation and knew of his own knowledge what happened.
Time is running out for me, but I should like to draw the attention of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), who is at the table, to the conquest by stealth by which these organisations have almost gained control of the National Country Party. Believe me, it will be next, so it had better have a look at itself. The same sorts of techniques as were used in the unions to divide the Labor movement have been developed to infiltrate the Country Party. It will be next. So heed a note or warning. We see this sort of patronage given to individuals who week after week get out and glorify our involvement in the war in Vietnam and who put up precisely the same policies as those being enunciated by the National Country Party. Members of the National Country Party should have a look at themselves. It seems to me that this sort of association should not go unnoted. The association of these organisations with the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), the honourable member for Mallee and others has to be looked at with a great deal of suspicion. Let us hope that in the future people on the other side of the House, including people in the Liberal Party, will take note of what I am saying, because many of them know full well that what I am saying now is the truth.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. on Monday.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The answer to both parts of this question can be found in my reply to Question No. 1788 (Hansard, 14 May 1975, page 2298), which also relates to European Carp.
Department of Special Minister of State: Grants for Programs (Question No. 1559) Mr Snedden asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following reply does not include information in relation to the Prices Justification Tribunal, details of which were provided by the Prime Minister on 5 December 1974 (Hansard, page 4850).
1 ) to (3) Administration of grants towards the holding of international conferences in Australia.
Each request for assistance is considered on its merits. To qualify for assistance a conference must demonstrate national benefit, substantial participation from overseas countries and sound organisation, financially and otherwise.
The program has been in operation since 1 966.
Funds are appropriated in the Budget.
Support for international conferences in Australia is luted under the functions of the Department of the Special Minister of State in the Australian Government Directory.
1971-72,31; 1972-73,25; 1973-74,27.
Applications are considered by an interdepartmental committee which makes recommendations to a Committee of Ministers comprising the Special Minister of State, the Treasurer and the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
1971-72, 64 per cent; 1972-73, 68 per cent; 1973-74, 84 per cent.
See (12) above.
1 5) In accordance with Treasury Direction 23/8 relating to the payment of grants applicants are required to furnish an audited statement of income and expenditure at the conclusion of the conference.
1971-72, $111,245; 1972-73, $57,426; 1973-74, $212,824.
$270,250 from 19 December 1972 to the present time. Prior to 19 December 1972 the program was administered by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The Interdepartmental Committee on International Conferences is responsible for considering all requests for assistance towards the holding of International Conferences in Australia, with the exception of meetings of an administrative nature, mainly inter-governmental, conducted in accordance with established arrangements.
asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The answer the the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
When the results of this study are available the Government will consider the policy it should adopt.
Department of Tourism and Recreation Department of Housing and Construction Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Tourist Commission Australian Automobile Association Australian National Travel Association Australian Council of Trade Unions.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Major-General A. B. Stretton, Director-General. (Proceeded to Darwin 25 December) Mr R. Vardanega, Deputy Director-General Mr A. W. Seibold Senior Clerk Corporal S. E. White, Operations Clerk
Mr W. L. Peirce, Clerical Assistant Mrs N. P. Martin, Stenographer
Colonel R. T. Jones, Principal Staff Officer (Operations). (Recalled from leave for the period 25 December-3 January)
Flight-Lieutenant R. R. Stott, Staff Officer (Operations). (Recalled from leave for the period 25 December-3 January).
(a) The following telephone lines and numbers were operated by the Organisation in Canberra on 24 December 1974:
Ten extension lines from the emergency switchboard (466600) were provided for internal distribution of calls.
Mr E.G. Whitlam, Q.C. Dr J. F. Cairns
Senator Lionel Murphy, Q.C. Senator Douglas McClelland Dr Rex Patterson Senator John Wheeldon Mr Tom Uren Mr Les Johnson Senator G. Georges Mr B.M. Snedden, Q.C.
Mr S. E. Calder, D.F.C. was in the area in the period.
The above Members of Parliament were not subject to the permit entry system.
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice:
Has his Department been instructed to employ apprentices in the metropolitan areas only and not in rural areas; if so, why.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No instruction has been issued to my Department to employ apprentices in the metropolitan areas in preference to rural areas. My Department is conscious of the need to give a lead on apprenticeship training. In this regard, the honourable member would be interested to learn that my Department presently employs 641 apprentices, which is about 30 per cent more than when the Government came to office. Of that number of apprentices, some 179 are employed in nonmetropolitan areas. This is a high figure when it is considered that my Department does not maintain a large workforce in country areas.
I would also mention that in the States in which my Department does have a large non-metropolitan workforce, the ratio of non-metropolitan to metropolitan apprentices is much higher. In Queensland, for example, my Department employs as many apprentices in country areas as it does in the Brisbane metropolitan area.
asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)to (3)Yes
No. Significant steps taken to increase accessibility of records more than 30 years old to the public include the following:
Income Statistics (Question No. 2313)
asked the Special Minister of
State, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
Forms of accommodation but not detailed designs should be suggested which might be developed to meet the needs of Australians in the low cost area as well as any other measures which might encourage better utilisation of existing facilities.
Study design agreed to by Steering Committee which has been set up to control study.
Consultant has begun initial field investigations.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
In order to obtain additional information on the educational needs of Aborigines the Commission invited a number of Aborigines to form an Aboriginal Consultative Group to meet with and advise the Commission. The members of the Group were nominated by the National Aboriginal Consultative Group following discussion between the Commission and the Departments of Education and Aboriginal Affairs.
asked the Minister for Police and Customs, upon notice:
When may I expect an answer to question No. 1 1 85 which I placed on the Notice Paper on 2 October 1 974.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Please refer to House of Representatives Hansard dated 13 May 1975, page 2192.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1975/19750522_reps_29_hor95/>.