18th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
“NATIONALIZATION OF INDUSTRY.
Senator COOPER. - Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel read the statement to to-day^ Sydney press1 by Mr. Emanuel Shinwell, chairman of the British Labour party, and formerly Minister for Fuel,’ that “when we nationalized the coalmining industry, we .thought we knew all about it, hut in fact we did not”? Did
Mr. Shinwell further state that his Government acted with too little detailed preparation, and, as a result, jeopardized its whole policy of nationalization? In view of Mr. Shinwell’s disclosure, and the grave danger of a similar position arising in Australia as a result of the Government’s policy of socialization, will the Minister inform the Senate whether it is the intention of the Government to reconsider its policy?
Senator ASHLEY. - I have not read the statement that hasbeen attributed to a member of the British Government by the Leader of the Opposition. The coal-mining industry in this country has notbeen nationalized. Certainly it is under control, and as a result of that control, working conditions are better, and there is more tolerance on the part of the workers and owners alike. That in turn has led to improved production. I see no need at this juncture to make any statement in regard to the Government’s policy.
– In view of the substantial increase of the number of houses being built by the New South WalesHousing Commission in cooperation with the Commonwealth Government, and by other authorities and private individuals, and of the. large number of telephones required for these homes as well as by business people and others who have been on the waiting list for some time, will the PostmasterGeneral advise what action has been taken by his department to acquire land within the municipality of Bankstown for the building of additional telephone exchanges? Have any plans been prepared for the construction of such ex changes? If so, when will the erection of the buildings be commenced? Is the equipment available to enable applicants for telephone’s to he provided with this essential service at an early date?
– In general terms, preparations have been made for the installation of all the telephones that are applied for in New South Wales. Everything depends now upon the availability of manpower and materials. Contracts have been made with organizations overseas for the supply of cable and other equipment. Cable is now arriving in this country at the rate of approximately 3,000 miles a week, and will continue to arrive in this volume until the contracts are fulfilled. I am unable at present to say what arrangements have been made for the erection of exchanges and the laying of cables at Bankstown, but I undertake to obtain that information for the honorable senator.
Australians in Japan.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Army seen press reports to the effect that the former interstate passenger liner Duntroon is to transport from Japan to Australia defence personnel who are being withdrawn? Has the Minister received from the committee of investigation which visited Japan any recommendation that the Australian forces should be withdrawn?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for the Army with the request that he be furnished with a reply as soonas possible.
– On the 8th April, the Minister for Trade and Customs informed me that every effort was being made to overcome the shortage of cotton thread in Australia. What degree of success, if any, has resulted from his endeavours in this direction? Is cotton thread still in very short supply ? What efforts has the Government made to rectify the position? When is it anticipated that adequate supplies will be available?
– Undoubtedly, the supply of cotton thread is still inadequate despite the fact that every effort has been made by the Government to procure supplies from various parts of the world. I assure the honorable senator that the department and I fully . appreciate the difficulties that are caused by shortage of supplies, particularly of cotton thread. Prices and costs associated with the supply of cotton are extremely high, particularly in India, where there has been a rise of over 40 per cent, since ceiling prices were lifted recently. With a view to alleviating the inconvenience caused by the shortage, the Government is making every endeavour to encourage the production of cotton in this country. I assure honorable senators that the continuance of the shortage is not due to lack of effort by the Government to obtain supplies.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, seen the following report which was published in last night’s edition of the Melbourne Herald : -
Heavy price increases for cotton piece goods or a 20 per cent, cut in supplies arc faced in Australia following a spectacular rise in textile prices in India.
A cabled report from India states that since price control was lifted there, prices have risen 40 per cent, and export duties 25 per cent.
Is not that an indication to the people of Australia of what will happen in this country if they do not adopt the referendum proposals on the 29th May?
– That report cer- ‘tainly gives an indication of what will happen in Australia if the people fail to give to this Government the power which it will seek at the referendum on the 29th May. Such price increases have taken place not only in India but also in all other countries where controls have been relaxed.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Development aware that, according to press reports, stocks of reinforcing rods for house construction are low in South Australia? Is he aware that the Director of Building Materials in that State is reported to have said that house construction is at a standstill because of such shortages? Is it true, that shipments of reinforcing rods to South Australia from the eastern States have fallen off considerably during the last six months?
– I am not fully informed of the position, but I consider that it would be an exaggeration to say that house construction is at a standstill because of the shortage of steel rods.
My department was hawking reinforcing rods to various industries for a period of about eighteen months, but could not sell them. Now, of course, those stocks have been disposed of and there is a shortage of rods as well as of many other building materials. That is the natural result of the intense house construction programme that has been developed in every State. I assure the honorable senator that every endeavour is being made to remove all bottle-necks. We confidently hope that the building problems of every State will be solved within the next eighteen months.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs endeavour to obtain and place before the Senate the names and addresses of the members of Tobacco Distribution Committees in all States?
– Yes, I undertake to supply that information as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for Health read a report in the press of the 4th May that Mr. R. J. Joseph, federal president of the Friendly Societies Dispensaries Association of Australia had said that the Commonwealth Government’spharmaceutical formulary for free medicine covered only 48 per cent, of dispensing prescriptions? How can this statement be reconciled with the Minister’sassurance that the formulary will cover at least 95 per cent, of the people’s requirements? Is it a fact that a survey made by the association showed that many prescriptions made up for the public would not be free because they were not included in the formulary?
– I have not read a report of the statement made by Mr. Joseph, but I have heard of it. It is not for me to reconcile my statement with that made by Mr. Joseph. I leave it to him to reconcile his statement with mine. I have no knowledge of the extent of the survey conducted by the Friendly Societies Dispensary Association or of the basis upon which it was carried out. However, I repeat that I am quite confident that the formulary to be used in connexion with pharmaceutical benefits will deal with 95 per cent, of the ordinary requirements of the people. Representatives of the medical profession advocated that the provision of free ‘ medicine should be confined to the supply of a very limited number of life-saving and disease-preventing drugs, such as certain biological products, sulpha drugs, penicillin, and substitution therapy, including liver extract for anaemics. However, the formulary approved by the Government contains not only the drugs mentioned, but also sufficient other drugs to enable hundreds of thousands of mixtures to be prescribed. The large range of mixtures available will enable treatment to be prescribed for all the common ailments, as well as for more serious diseases. Had the Government accepted the proposal advanced by representatives of the medical profession, it would have had to discriminate between diseases. Members of the Government believe that any such discrimination would be quite unjustifiable morally, apart from the social and political considerations involved.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel read the joint statement recently issued by the general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, the general secretary of the Australian .Sugar Producers Association, and the secretary of the Australian Cane Growers Council, in which it is alleged that the sugar industry will lose £6,000,000 of this, season’s cane crop unless north Queensland waterside workers work faster? Is it a fact that the statement, which represented the views of manufacturers, raw sugar-millers and cane-growers, showed that waterside workers at north Queensland ports were handling sugar at less than half the prewar rate, despite concessions to watersiders in the provision of better conditions, shorter hours and attendance money, and that unless the sugar is shipped about 55 per cent, faster than last year one-third of the north Queensland cane crop will be lost? How does the present rate of loading of sugar compare with the loading of other primary products, such as wheat, wool, and meat in other ports of Australia? What action does the Government intend to take to alleviate the present serious position in regard to the loading of sugar?
– Reference was made in the press to the matters mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, and I should include the bodies which he has mentioned amongst the calamityhowlers of Australia. The -shipping of sugar from Queensland to the southern States is not a matter for which the Government is directly responsible, because the Stevedoring Industry Commission was established by the Government to control such matters. Judge Kirby, who is the chairman of that tribunal, and his deputy, are now in northern Queensland inquiring whether the transport of sugar by sea to the southern States can be expedited. Questions asked by members of the Opposition with the object of discrediting the Government politically do not assist at all in matters such as this. The present question will not help to move a single pound of sugar from the north of Queensland to the southern States, and the honorable senator’s reference to the waterside workers and the payment to them of attendance money is calculated to create an entirely f alse impression. The reason why attendance money is paid to waterside workers is that under the old arrangement waterside workers frequently made long journeys to ports from distant suburbs in order to make themselves available for work. Any man whose name was not called had no alternative but to return home without receiving any payment. That, was the experience of many men on every working day of the week, including Saturday. The Stevedoring Industry Commission has decided that attendance money shall be paid, and I believe that the Leader of the Opposition himself will agree that men who travel considerable distances from their homes to the pick-up place and are not engaged should receive such payment.
– I am mainly concerned about the rate of loading.
– As soon as practicable the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which is the proper authority to do so, will investigate the slow turn-round of ships in the various ports. I sincerely trust that any direction the commission may issue as the result of its inquiry will be obeyed by both the ship-owners and the waterside workers. At present, however, the ship-owners do not want any alteration of present conditions, notwithstanding the fact that many of the methods now followed in ports in all States are obsolete, having prevailed in the industry for from 60 to 70 years.
– In view of the fact that cotton prices have increased by 40 per cent, in India following the lifting of prices control in that country, can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is possible to prevent a corresponding general increase of the prices of cotton goods already held in stock in Australia^ which, judging from our experience, will follow the increase of the price of cotton imports from India?
– It will be difficult to prevent increases of prices of commodities which we import when prices begin to soar in the country of origin of the goods concerned. I assure the honorable senator that the matter which he has raised will be closely watched and that every effort will be made to prevent the prices from increasing unduly. When prices rise to the degree indicated by the honorable senator we may have to be a little more careful in our purchases of such goods. It may be necessary to restrict imports of such commodities, or, at least, to ration our requirements in such circumstances. In any event, permission to increase prices will not be given unless a strong case for an increase can be made out.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that as a result nf instructions issued by officers of his department, the exportation of onions from Western Australia has been stopped? Will the Minister urgently investigate this matter, and give particular consideration to the loss that will be involved should the prohibition be continued?
– Although the issuance of permits to export onions is a matter for my department, a permit is issued only upon the recommendation of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and ascertain the facts, and supply an answer to the honorable senator in due course.
Passports fob Australians.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to a statement by the Minister for Immigration, published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 1st May, to the effect that the Government would refuse passports to Australians who sought to go to Palestine to fight for either side in the present struggle, and that as far as Palestine was concerned, Australia was keeping out? Has the Minister read a statement by the Prime Minister, published in the same newspaper on the 4th May, that the Government would not prevent British subjects from going to Palestine, provided that they complied with passport and taxation requirements? In view of these conflicting statements, will the Minister inform the Senate of the Government’s policy on this matter?
– If the Leader of the Opposition will vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper reports, I shall endeavour to obtain the information that he seeks.
Investments in Fixed Assets..
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What amount of loan money was invested in the fixed assets valued at £88,000,000 shown as the fixed assets in the Postmaster-General’s report for the vear ended the 30th June, 1040?
– The following is the reply to the honorable senator’s question : -
Loan money amounting to £40,335,000 was provided by the Treasury in respect of the fixed assets of the Postal Department totalling £88,539,963 at the 30th June, 1946.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to the cancellation of nil demands which are at present being served upon ex-members of the forces for tax mi paid for the year prior to entering the forces, particularly in regard to those ex-members who have had one or more year’s active service overseas?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
The tax assessed is legally payable and, in most cases has been fully paid by the taxpayers concerned. Remission of all unpaid Commonwealth taxes imposed on preenlist,ment income would operate inequitably. It would be unfair to those ex-servicemen who have met their taxation obligations in full, often at considerable financial sacrifice., if relief wore granted to other ex-servicemen merely because payment had not yet been effected. Under the existing practice, each case is sympathetically considered on its merits, regard being had to the financial circumstances of the individual ex-serviceman concerned. If it i3 established that payment of the outstanding Commonwealth tax would result in serious hardship being imposed upon the exserviceman or his dependants, and the tax involved does not exceed £20, he is granted relief under section 265 of the Income Tax Assessment Act by the Commissioner of Taxation or one of his officers to whom the necessary power has been delegated. If the Commonwealth tax involved exceeds £20, the case is dealt with by a specially constituted board under the same provision of the act. It is felt that, in each instance, a sympathetic attitude has been adopted towards ex-servicemen owing Commonwealth tax on pre-enlistment income. In the circumstances, it is considered that a departure from the existing practice is not justified.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– -In reply to a similar question asked in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister indicated that he would obtain what information was available. I have asked the right honorable gentleman to let me have the information also, and I shall furnish it to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. There is no governmental control over the distribution of sugar and the matter is entirely in the hands of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The company advises that the following quantities of sugar have been shipped to Tasmania since 1st April, 1948: -
No shipments have been made to Launceston since 1st April, but the Karuah will lift approximately 200 tons on 10th May for that port.
Debate resumed from the 30th April (vide page 130S), on motion by Senator McKENNA -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to increase the membership of the House of Representatives and the Senate. I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lien thereof the following words: - “the consideration of the bill bo postponed to permit the submission to the people by referendum of constitutional alteration to eliminate from section twentyfour the provision whereby the number of members of the House of Representatives is determined by the number of senators.
Section 24 of the Constitution provides that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators. This bill provides for an increase of the number of senators from 36 to 60 representing ten senators instead of the existing six for each of the States. The increase of the membership of the Senate by two-thirds is slightly more than that proposed in respect of the House of Representatives. I shall deal first with the proposed increase of members of the House of Representatives. According to the Minister’s second-reading speech, New South Wales now has 28 members. For the sake of convenience, in the figures that I propose to give, I shall refer to the Parliament as it will be constituted after the proposed increases have been effected, as the “ new Parliament “. In the new Parliament, New South Wales is to have 47 members, an increase of nineteen members. Victoria now has 20 members. In. the new Parliament, it will be represented by 33 members, an increase of thirteen members. Queensland now has ten members, and in the new Parliament is to have eighteen members, an increase of eight members. I point out that in any event Queensland, following the result of the recent census, would have been entitled to an additional member, because of an increase of its population. South Australia now has six members and is to have ten members, an increase of four members. The representation of Western Australia which now consists of five members, is to be increased to eight members. The position of Tasmania will not be affected; it is now represented by five members, and that will be the number of its representatives in the new Parliament. There is one representative for the Northern Territory, but he is not entitled to a full vote; that position is not to be altered. There are 75 representatives in the present Parliament, and it is proposed that there shall be 122 in the new Parliament, an increase of 47. Furthermore, I understand that there is a possibility of representation being given to the Australian Capital Territory, on the conditions that apply to the Northern Territory. In that event, the total number of members in the new House of Representatives will be 123. Although Tasmania has a much smaller population than that of the other States, provision should be made for an increase of the number of its members in the House of Representatives ; because governments are made or unmade in that chamber not in the Senate. The position is somewhat different in the Senate, because the foundation of representation in this chamber is that all States shall be equal. Under this legislation, Tasmania will be represented by ten senators, which will exceed by four the representation of that State in the House of Representatives.
It must be agreed that major changes are involved in legislation which, this Parliament has recently considered. In the past, it was customary for the leaders of the various parties to announce, prior to a general election, what major legislative changes they proposed to make, so that the electors might be fully aware of their intentions. Honorable senators are well aware that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in his policy speech prior to the last general election, made no mention of the Government’s intention to introduce legislation for the enlargement of both Houses of thi3 Parliament. This was not the only omission ; the speech also failed to mention that the Government, if returned to office, would nationalize banking. That major legislation was forced through both Houses of the Parliament a short while ago without having been sanctioned by the people of this country. It would seem, therefore, that it is becoming a practice of the leaders of the Labour party to withhold from the people any intimation of their intention to introduce legislation which might be disagreeable in character, or not favoured by the electors, until it has been returned to office. I assert emphatically that such a practice borders on dishonesty. Notice of intended legisation of such an important character should be given to the electors when the leaders of the various parties seek their support. I claim that the Government has no mandate to place this legislation on the statute-book. If it be passed, all existing electoral boundaries will have to bc altered. If the number of members of the House of Representatives be increased, there will have to be a corresponding increase of the number of electorates. An alteration of electoral boundaries is vitally important, not only to those electors whose electorates will be changed, but also to the present members of the Parliament. A matter of such vital importance should have been fully investigated by a constitutional convention, or an all-party committee of the Parliament, before the legislation was introduced. As .far as we can gather, no attempt has been made to hold a constitutional convention or to obtain the views of members of the Opposition parties. A convention would have been able to make a thorough examination, of the merits or demerits of this major alteration. The only investigation of the need for the change, as far as I have been able to ascertain, was made in the Labour Party’s caucus room. The Leaders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party discussed the size of the Australian Parliament in their policy speeches during the general election campaign of 1946 and suggested then that the proposal to enlarge the Parliament should be examined by a constitutional convention representative of all States. That would have been the proper way to approach a matter of such great importance. The convention would have been able to consider all aspects of the proposal and equip itself to place before the Parliament a well thought out and carefully compiled report of the case for or against an increase.
Not only was this subject not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, but also this Parliament wa9 led to believe that no alteration of the kind now proposed was in contemplation. Only a comparatively short time ago, legislation was enacted to increase parliamentary allowances. I well recall that one of the main reasons advanced in favour of the increase was the greater volume of work which members were called upon to perform now in comparison with earlier years. I wish to be quite fair in dealing with this subject, and I admit that it was pointed out, and proved, that the cost of living and general expenses of members of Parliament had increased in recent years. However, the chief reason for adding to the rate of allowance was that members had to meet greater calls upon their time and financial resources in the course of their work. On that ground, members were also granted extra secretarial facilities. It wa9 appreciated that members needed secretarial assistance to enable them to handle the large volume of correspondence which they received and issued, to meet deputations, and to satisfy the numerous calls upon their time.
An examination of the second-reading speech of the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) shows that the same reasons have been used to support the proposed enlargement of the Parliament. The honorable gentleman stated -
At this point I remind the Senate that the representation of the several States in the House of Representatives is determined by dividing the number of the population of each State, as revealed at the last census, by a quota ascertained by dividing the number of the population of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators.
In 1903 each member of the House of Representatives represented, on an average, 25,247 electors. To-day, the average is 04,599, whilst if Tasmania is omitted, and allowance made for the expected rise in enrolment in the meantime, the average for the mainland divisions towards the end of this Parliament, will be about 09,000 electors. However, if the number of members of the House of Representatives be increased to 121, the average number of electors represented by each member at the time of the next elections will be reduced to approximately 41,300, or, omitting Tasmania, 41,680.
Evidently one of the main excuses for the scheme is that electorates are becoming so unwieldy so that members have difficulty in adequately representing the interests of their electors. That bears out my argument that the proposed increases are supported principally by the argument that was used to support the increase of parliamentary allowances, namely, that increased responsibilities and work justified the change.
A suggestion has been made that better types of parliamentary representatives will be elected under these proposals. I do not believe that a mere increase of the number of members would lead to an improvement of that kind. The choice of members of Parliament is entirely in the hands of the electors. They are responsible for the selection of the citizens who represent them in this Parliament and govern the country. I do not agree that by increasing the membership of the Parliament we should obtain the services of better types of men. One needs only to have regard to the experience of the “ Mother of Parliaments “. Although the House of Commons contains approximately 640 members, it is common knowledge that many of them never speak at all in that House between one general election and another. Of course, we realize that it would be practically impossible for the British Parliament to enact legislation if every member were to speak &t length on all measures introduced. The result is that debate on major measures is usually confined to the top-ranking members of each political party.
Undoubtedly, the duties which members of the Parliament are called upon to discharge have increased considerably during the last decade, and the recent extension of social services has imposed additional responsibility upon them. Members of the community are not clear as to their entitlements and obligations in regard to social service benefits, and naturally they turn to their parliamentary representatives for advice and assistance. The policy of nationalization espoused by the Government has also created additional work for members. The Government has usurped a large number of functions which were formerly discharged by the States, and which, incidentally, could be better administered by them, and it has also assumed partial direction of the activities of a great many private concerns, which, in my opinion, would be much better off without its interference. However, extension of the government’s ambit of activity has entailed more work for members of the Parliament, in that a much larger number of people are constantly seeking to enlist the interest or support of members of the Parliament in regard to individual grievances, complaints against government departments and so on.
In considering the measure now before the .Senate we must ask ourselves why the Government desires that the proposed changes should be made so quickly. The
Parliament has been functioning efficiently in its present form for over 40 years. Undoubtedly, there has been some agitation to increase the membership of the House of Representatives, but it has not been popularly suggested that that matter should be treated as one of urgency. Certainly, no body of responsible opinion in the community regards the increased membership as being so vital that it should be accomplished before the next general election, which will probably be held in approximately eighteen months time. However, it is apparent that the Government desires to effect the proposed changes before the general election. Although I have discussed the present proposals with a large number of people, I have been unable to discover many who are in favour of them ; in fact, most people are opposed to an increase of the membership of the Parliament. One reason for their opposition may be that they do not comprehend the necessity for increasing the membership of the House of Representatives because they do not appreciate the real nature of the functions that are now discharged by members of the Parliament. However, if the whole matter were properly discussed at a constitutional convention, at which the people of every State were represented, the community would obtain a better understanding of the present functions of the Parliament, and of the. necessity for making certain constitutional changes.
It is well known that Parliament House is not large enough to accommodate even the present number of members, and that alterations and extensions will need to be made if the Government’s proposals are enacted. Two major alterations and enlargements have been made to the building in the last fifteen years in order to accommodate properly members and staffs. However, it should be borne in mind that the shortage of houses in Canberra is just as acute as it is in any of the capital cities, and that there is a long waiting list of public servants and others who are called upon to reside here but cannot obtain houses. Another problem that will arise will be the provision of accommodation in guest houses and hotels in Canberra for the additional members of the Parliament and their families. Even under present conditions that accommodation is severely taxed. Any one who is not a member of Parliament, or is not engaged on departmental duties, finds it most difficult to obtain accommodation. The Government has repeatedly emphasized the importance of transferring all government departments from the capital cities to Canberra. I endorse that policy. However, other departments cannot be transferred to Canberra while the problem of providing adequate accommodation remains so acute. A start has been made with the construction of a new administrative block, and accommodation will have to be provided for the staffs which will be employed in that building. I should like the Minister, whenhe is replying to the debate, to explain how the Government proposes to provide the accommodation that will be required by the increased number of members of the Parliament and additional personnel who will be engaged in duties in connexion with parliamentary business.
Whilst a case can be made out for some increase of the numerical strength of the House ofRepresentatives, it is clear that no urgency exists for this legislation. Therefore, I urge the Government to postpone it until such time as the additional accommodation involved can readily be provided. Apparently, this legislation has been introduced in the light of events in the political sphere during the last twelve months. Only a short time ago the Victorian Labour Government suffered an overwhelming defeat in the elections held in that State. It is obvious that the Commonwealth Government has lost much of the popularity which it enjoyed when it was elected about nineteen months ago. Members of the ministerial party are just as much aware of this change as are members of the Opposition parties. One is forced to the conclusion that the Government has introduced this legislation as the result of a survey of that position. By increasing the membership of the Parliament and re-distributing electorates, the Government, apparently, believes that it will be. assured of retaining a majority at the general election to be held next year. I am not surprised, therefore, that this legislation has been introduced so hastily, without any investigation being made as to whether the present is an opportune time to increase the membership of the Parliament, or whether the increase proposed is sufficient or excessive. It is clear that this legislation has been introduced mainly at the behest of members of the ministerial party, who believe, and probably rightly so, that their seats are in jeopardy. Such members believe that the proposed redistribution of electorates will give them a better chance of retaining their seats in the Parliament, and that the redistribution generally will be favorable to the Labour party. I believe that, despite this move, nothing will prevent the swing against the Government, which has already started, and that at the general election next year the electors will decide in no uncertain manner to change the Government. Therefore, the only urgency that exists for the introduction of this legislation arises from the fear of many members of the ministerial party that otherwise they will have no chance of retaining their seats.
These proposals greatly favour New South “Wales and Victoria. The former State will elect approximately two-fifths of the total number of members of the House ofRepresentatives, whilst New SouthWales and Victoria, which are the two most industrialized States of the Commonwealth, will elect approximately two-thirds of the total number of members of that chamber. Under these proposals the margin of representatives of electorates in those States over the number of members from all of the other States will be’ increased from 22 to 39. Thus, those two large industrialized States will be enabled to control the Commonwealth as a whole in this Parliament-
SenatorWard. - One vote, one value. Senator COOPER. - As our largest aggregations of population exist in Sydney and Melbourne, political control of the Commonwealth will practically rest in the hands of voters in those cities. I donot suggest for one moment that the industrial section of the community should not be adequately represented in the National Parliament. It should; but it should not be enabled to dominate parliamentary representation, not only in individual States, but also in the Commonwealth as a whole. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
The representation of the several States in “the House of Representatives is determined by dividing the number of the population of each State, as revealed at the last census, by a quota ascertained by dividing the number of population of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators.
The Minister explained that that calculation gives a quota of approximately 41,300. The quota system favours the closely settled areas at the expense of country districts. A few moments ago Senator Ward interjected, “ One vote, one value “. That principle may be equitable in the cities and towns where the interests of the inhabitants are similar, but in this large continent we are largely dependent for our prosperity upon our primary industries and, for that reason, area as well as population should be taken into consideration in determining electoral boundaries. Under the present electoral system there may be a disparity of up to 20 per cent, between the number of electors in various electoral divisions. I hope that this provision will continue when the new boundaries are fixed. That is a matter upon which I should like some information from the Minister.
A disturbing feature of Australian population trends to-day is the drift to the cities - a problem to which the Government has been forced to give some consideration. The present unbalanced state of our population can only be to the detriment of a country which is still in its developmental stage, and I trust that the Minister, and those who will be responsible for the re-allocation of electoral boundaries, will appreciate the necessity to assist to arrest this drift by granting added representation to rural Australia. I shall be interested indeed to hear the Government’s policy in relation to country electorates generally, and I hope that the Minister will deal with that matter in his reply to the second-reading debate.
As I have said, generally speaking, the interests of city and town dwellers are similar, if not identical. Usually the establishment of one industry in a par ticular locality leads to the growth of other similar undertakings in the same area. The result is that the representative of a city constituency may have only two or three types of industrial workers in his electorate. In striking contrast is the diversity of interests common in country electorates. In addition rural electoral divisions are, on an average, very much larger than the city electorates. For instance, Kalgoorlie, the electorate for the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), is not only the largest in Australia, but also the largest in the world. The second largest is Kennedy, and the third largest is Maranoa, which is more than three times the size of Victoria. The last mentioned constituency is a good example of the diversity of interests that a country member is called upon to represent in the Parliament. It has not only many forms of primary production, but also coalmines, and several manufacturing undertakings. This variety of interests means that a country member has much more work to do than a city member, particularly in view of the long distances that he must travel to keep in touch with his constituents.
Our entire economic structure rests upon our primary industries. If they are not prosperous, economic adversity spreads throughout the land. I remind honorable senators that immediately the prices of our primary products on overseas markets dropped sharply in 1929, the whole of the economic structure of this country became imperilled, and remained in a dangerous state until the prices of primary products, particularly wool, recovered. I contend, therefore, that it is necessary for us to have the fullest possible representation of country areas in this Parliament, so that we may have readily available expert knowledge of our great primary industries. I remind the Senate also that it is mainly upon the export of our primary products, including wool, wheat, butter, meat and sugar, that we depend for our overseas credits. The existence and expansion of these industries depend upon the policy of the Government. Not only do they require financial assistance to tide them over adverse periods, but also there must be a full and sympathetic understanding of the problems associated with them. This will only be possible by the presence in the Parliament of country representatives who know the problems of the primary industries and are able adequately to represent the interests of the rural dweller. Although many of our rural industries are carried on in sparsely populated areas, they play a vital part in our prosperity, and for that reason I believe that country representation in the Parliament should be substantial.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, I consider that there is some justification for a full investigation of the proposal to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives, but this attempt to force legislation through the Parliament with undue haste is completely unwarranted. As this bill and that which will follow it are related, I should like, with the leave of the Senate, to direct my remarks to both measures.
– The bills are cognate measures. Is it the pleasure of the Senate that they be considered together ?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– Is there any immediate need for an increase of the membership of the Senate?
– How does the honorable senator reconcile that statement with his remarks regarding country representation ?
– I shall come to that later. The membership of the Senate is being increased only because the Constitution provides that membership of the House of Representatives shall be, as nearly as is practicable, double that of the Senate. That means, of course, that any increase of the membership of the House of Representatives necessarily involves a proportionate increase of the number of senators. That explains the present move ro increase the membership of the Senate, but it does not answer my question - Is there any immediate need for an increase of the number of senators? I say “that there is no sound reason for such an increase at present. That is why I have moved that the second reading of this measure be postponed until the people of this country have had a chance to say, by way of a referendum, whether or not they wish the membership of the Senate to be specifically related to that of the House of Representatives.
– The honorable senator would victimize the smaller States.
– An increase of the number of senators will not enable the Senate to fulfil more adequately the functions for which it was created, namely, to review legislation passed hy the House of Representatives, and to safeguard the rights of the States. The important factor is that ir the Senate all States have equal representation. If there were 30 senators from each State, the working of the Senate would not be materially affected; it would not have an accretion of strength and honorable senators would not be better able to defend and protect the interests of «heir States. The strength of the Senate lies in the equal representation of the States. As at present constituted, with six senators representing each State, it has mil the necessary strength and ability to safeguard the interests of the respective States. The position would not be bettered in any way if the representation of each State were increased to ten senators, in my view, there is no immediate necessity for an increase of the number of members of the Senate.
That conditions have altered considerably since the Constitution was framed in 1900-01 cannot be denied. I believe that all honorable senators will agree that one of She main functions visualized for the Senate at that time was that it should safeguard particularly the interests of the less populous States. Doubtless that is why aD the States agreed that they should have equal representation in this chamber [Extension of time granted.] I believe that, had that arrangement not been agreed to, the smaller States would not have consented to form the federation that is now known as the Commonwealth of Australia. The constitution of the Senate rather than the number of its members, is what counts. I know that abolition of the Senate has for many years been a plank in the platform of the Australian Labour party. The introduction of a measure of this character causes me to wonder whether the Australian Labour party intends to endeavour to hold the Senate up to ridicule before the- people of this country, by increasing its numerical strength from 36 to 60, and later, using this increase as an argument in favour of its abolition. At the inauguration of federation, the Senate was designed to be an integral part of the legislature of this country. Unfortunately, the voting at the last general election made the party representation in this chamber most unequal - 33 Government senators and three Opposition senators. That makes the conduct of debate very difficult.
– It was not the first occasion on which that happened.
– Honorable senators opposite must realize that, in the existing circumstances, constructive debating is hindered, and the utmost co-operation between the Government and the Opposition is not practicable. Nothing in the bill will alter that position. Then, too, the present unequal representation makes it difficult to build up the prestige of the Senate in the eyes of the public.
– The position was worse when the proportion was 35 to 1.
– After the next general election the position will be different. The Government has shown a great deal of political astuteness. There will be greater need for the Senate to function ‘ after the number of members of the House of Representatives has been increased. Victoria and New South Wales combined will then have in the House of Representatives a majority of 39 over all the other States. Subversive elements may, at some future date, be so strongly entrenched in industrial electorates that they may command a majority of the members, not only of some State parliaments, but also of the House of Representatives. In such an event, the Senate would provide the only safeguard upon which the small States could rely - not necessarily an enlarged- Senate, but one giving equal representation to each of the States on the present basis. That was the intention of the framers of the Constitution. Honorable senators will, I think, agree that the Senate has proved of value in the past. From time to time important legislation has been initiated in this cham ber and subsequently passed by the House of Representatives. There have been important and very keen debates in the Senate. I have no doubt that, in time, the representatives of the parties will again be more equally balanced. Opposition senators will then be able to exercise greater control over the government of this country than is possible in the present circumstances. I believe that the Senate is capable of performing most valuable work in connexion with international affairs. It could function similarly to the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate of the United States of America, which has performed exceptionally good work in the international sphere.
The Commonwealth Electoral Bill is designed to alter the method of voting, from the preferential system to that of proportional representation. The Australian Country party .has advocated that method for many years. The system is not new, even in connexion with the Senate. “While perusing the history of the Senate recently, I learned that the Tasmanian senators in the first. Commonwealth Parliament were elected under the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation. It will be seen, therefore, that, at the very commencement of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, six senators were elected under the system of proportional representation. That system was again discussed in this chamber on the 15th October, 1919, during the consideration of a bill to substitute for the then existing method of voting by a cross the numerical preference system. That bill was introduced by Senator Russell. An amendment to it was moved by Senator Pratten, with a view to the adoption of the principle of proportional representation. The merits and demerits of proportional representation were debated comprehensively, but the amendment was lost. On the 26th July, 1922, Senator Sir George Pearce introduced legislation to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and during the committee stage, on the 9th August, 1922, Senator Elliott, moved an amendment in these terms -
The members of the Senate shall at the next and subsequent Senate elections be elected in accordance with the principles of proportional representation.
That amendment was the subject of a very long discussion. Opposing it, Senator Sir George Pearce endeavoured to establish that proportional representation would not preserve the truly State representation which the framers of the Constitution had envisaged. My view is that proportional representation will provide ‘ better representation of the interests of the States than is possible under the present system of straight-out party voting. The subject was also discussed in the House of Representatives on the 20th September, 1922, when an amendment to the bill was proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The right honorable gentleman’s remarks are worth quo-ting. He said-
My desire is that a vote of the committee shall be taken on the definite principle of proportional representation for the Senate. The vote which lias already been recorded in that direction may be regarded as a test, perhaps; but it was in respect of a clause which really dealt with the matter of deposits. To enable the principle of proportional representation in the Senate -to be specifically voted upon by honorable members, and so that it shall be duly recorded in its proper light, I am seeking the omission from the act of the present provisions for voting for Senate candidates, and the inclusion of the new sub-sections which I have just read.
After lengthy discussion, that amendment was defeated. “Whilst I am in favour of proportional representation, I strongly disapprove of the way in which the Government has introduced this proposal. There is no urgent need to enact this measure for the benefit of the people. The subject should be considered by a constitutional convention, as I have already suggested. That would enable the delegates of the States most affected by representation in the Senate to express their views. I believe that the Government has seen the writing on the wall and fears defeat at the elections next year.
Under the present system of voting, which has been in operation since 1919, the parties now in opposition could obtain a majority in the Senate by winning all seats at the forthcoming elections. The Government is not blind to that fact. It knows that such a thing has happened before.
– It will never happen again.
– No. The Government will make sure of that! That is the burden of my complaint. It has introduced this legislation against the wishes of the people and without having, a mandate to do so. The proposal ensures that Labour party candidates shall secure at least eighteen seats in the Senate at the next elections. In fact, by means of this scheme, the Government will give to each of its supporters in this chamber who is due to submit himself for re-election next year an outright gift of several thousands of pounds. Theresult is a certainty. It is like tossing a double-headed penny. Om at least three occasions, candidates representing one party have gained all seats in Senate elections. Those occasions were the elections of 1925, 1934 and 1943.. Also, at the elections of 1946, Labourparty candidates won fifteen of the eighteen seats. They were defeated only in Queensland, the State which I and my colleagues represent.
Under the proportional representation system, it will be impossible for the Opposition to regain a majority in the Senate at the next elections. The Government realizes that. It expects to “sit pretty “. Half of the present number of senators will offer themselves for reelection next year - three from each State. They are all members of the Labour party. In order to make up the increased total of ten senators for each State, this legislation, provides for the election of seven senators from each State next year. The three non-retiring senators from each State will make up the full complement. Under the proportional representation system, only four of the seven vacancies in each .State next year can be filled by the candidates who receive a majority vote. Therefore, even if the Opposition gains a majority vote in every State, as I expect, it can gain only 24 seats. Under the new system, the minority faction must secure three seats in every State. This will mean that, if the Opposition parties gain every seat they can gain, they will have 24 new senators and Labour will have eighteen re-elected senators. It is extraordinary that eighteen senators on the Government side of the chamber will be obliged to submit themselves for re-election next year!
The proposal which we are now considering means that they are certain to be returned. The remaining eighteen members of the present Senate will retain their seats until the 30th June, 1953. Fifteen of them are supportei’3 of the Government, and three are members of the Opposition. Therefore, as I have shown, the Labour party, with its fifteen non-retiring senators and the eighteen senators who must be re-elected next year, will retain a majority in this chamber. The Opposition, which will gain a majority of the votes in each State at the elections, can, nevertheless, gain only 24 seats, so that, with the three senators now in opposition, it will have only 27 members in this chamber. The reason for the Government’s haste in this matter is apparent. The bills are to be passed at the behest of Labour senators who are about to retire and of Labour members of the House of Representatives who are in “unsafe” seats. The Government is actually providing security of tenure for a further period for eighteen senators - provided, of course, that they obtain their party’s endorsement. These senators will go to the polls with their seats already “in the bag”. Can any honorable senator deny that? As I have said, not more than four of the seven vacancies for each State can be filled by Opposition party candidates. Therefore, three seats for each State must be held by Labour party candidates.
These measures, which provide for enlargement of the Parliament and a new method of voting for the Senate, involve major changes, and no party should be given an unfair advantage over any other party as the result of their implementation. The fairest method to adopt would be to arrange for all 36 members of the present Senate to retire before the elections next year and submit themselves for re-election by the system of proportional representation. By means of the procedure proposed, the Government is denying to the Opposition parties any opportunity to secure a majority in this chamber. It pays no regard to the wishes of the people. The Government could evolve some means of dissolving the Senate if it wished to do so. My colleagues and I will hold our seats until the 30th June, 1953. Nevertheless, we are prepared to assist the Government to evolve a scheme for the dissolution of the Senate so that all of us can face the electors next year under the system of proportional representation.
– The honorable senator would get a shock if the Government took him at his word.
– No. I would willingly submit myself to the electors. That would be the only fair method of giving them a chance to express their wishes. The Government’s scheme assures Labour senators who are due to retire that not one of them will be defeated at the elections. The dice’ have been loaded against the Opposition parties. If the Government honestly believed in the principles of democracy, it would agree to submit these proposals to the people by means of a referendum. The present plan can only be looked upon as a device to retain a majority in this Parliament for the Labour party.
– In opposing these measures the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has repeated the assertion made in the House of Representatives that the Government has no mandate from the people to introduce this legislation. Of course, that is absolutely untrue, because the Australian Labour party has, for many years, advocated an increase of the membership of the Parliament. In order to substantiate that contention one has only to refer to n report of the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald three days before the last general elections. That report states -
If the Labour Government is returned at Saturday’s elections it will consider an increase in the size of the Federal Parliament after next year’s census.
That was a very clear and definite statement. Furthermore, prominent members of the House of Representatives stated, prior to the last elections, that when the census was taken the membership of that House would be increased. The Prime Minister referred to the desirability of increasing the Parliament in 1946, and the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, mentioned it in 1944. The need to increase the membership of the Parliament has also been referred to frequently by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford).
The Leader of the Opposition has intimated that he intends to submit an amendment to the measures now before us, but there is really no need for him to do’ so. If he examines the bills carefully he will realize that by virtue of section 27 of the Constitution the Parliament has power to increase or decrease the membership of the House of Representa1tives. The Leader of the Opposition said that it would be advantageous to appoint a committee, or some such body, to examine the present position in regard to parliamentary representation. Resort was frequently had to that subterfuge by non-Labour governments. Whenever they wanted to shelve or pigeon-hole some embarrassing proposal they appointed a board of inquiry to investigate it and report. I need only remind honorable senators of the action taken by a former non-Labour government in regard to the proposal to introduce a scheme of national insurance. The enabling measure was enacted by the Parliament, but that government never implemented it. The Leader of the Opposition also advanced the argument that Parliament House could not accommodate an increased number of parliamentarians. However, I point out to him that seating arrangements for additional senators could be made very quickly, and little more than one week should suffice to devise accommodation for additional members of the House of Representatives.
It is true that if the present proposals are enacted New South Wales and Victoria, taken together, will be represented by two-thirds of the aggregate number of members of the House of Representatives. However, this is not a fascist country, and under any democratic system it is inevitable that there will be disparities in representation. The important thing is that Labour supports the principle of “ one vote one value “, and it proposes to implement that principle in this legislation. The Leader of the Opposition con.tended that the application of the electoral quota to country areas was unfair because it resulted in the creation of electorates so large in area that representatives could not maintain proper communica- tion with their constituents. That is an old contention, and I thought that it was disposed of some time ago. No unsurmountable difficulty is presented by even the largest electorates to-day because modern means of communication and travel enable a parliamentary representative to communicate with his constituents at the shortest notice.
The Leader of the Opposition also asserted that members of the Australian Labour party have, for many years, advocated the abolition of the Senate. That, is so, but it must be remembered that, the abolition of the Senate would entail an alteration of the Constitution, a process which would need to be approved by the people. Personally, I do not advocate the abolition of the Senate until all the upper houses of the State legislatures have been abolished. I believe that first things should come first, and that we should clear the ground before we commence to rebuild. So long as undemocratic upper houses remain in State legislatures it would be futile and silly to abolish the Senate, which directly represents the people. However, those are my own personal views ; the fact remains that the platform of the Australian Labour party is sound, and the Senate will be abolished at the appropriate time. The attitude adopted by members of the parties opposite is a remarkable one, and, therefore, I propose to read the report of a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), prior to the last election. He said -
There are two matters which we will have promptly investigated if you return us to office.
The first is the size of the Federal Parliament, which has the overwhelming share of the responsibility for government in Australia, but which is nevertheless much smaller in numbers than the Parliament of New South Wales. I point out to you that an effective democracy requires that Parliament should b* fully representative; that members should not be so immersed in matters of detail as to be unable to devote full consideration to major matters of policy, and that there should bc the widest possible area of choice of the Ministers who have to accept the ultimate responsibilities of administration. We are not wedded to any particular proposal, but we believe that early in the new Parliament the problem should be specially investigated on its merits.
The right honorable gentleman then referred to the Senate, and said -
The second matter is the method of electing the Semite. In view of the fact that only half of the senators are voted for at each general election there are serious difficulties about introducing new methods of voting. But it is, we believe, true that the present system, under which all the candidates elected in any one State are inevitably of one side of politics is basically unsatisfactory. Thus, at the present election it happens that every Liberal party and Australian Country party senator retires. To secure a majority in the Senate as a result of this election we will need to have a complete victory in every State. It is because of the difficulties of the problem that we believe that an early attempt must be made to devise some new method of Senate election and some way of making the introduction of the new method fair to both sides of politics, and to electors of all shades of political opinion.
However, members of both political parties opposite are now opposing these measures, and their twist of attitude reminds me of the twist of tobacco which was issued to members of the forces in England during World War I. The stick was dirty and smelly, and it left a nasty taste in our mouths. I propose to read what has been written in the press, the traditional friend of the political parties opposite. A leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 19th April”. 1948, stated-
The Government’s bill to increase the size of the Federal Parliament deserves general support. It has long been evident that, as Dr. Evatt said, Australia had outgrown the small parliamentary bodies with which the Commonwealth was equipped in 1900. Though Australia’s population has doubled in the intervening years, this has not been matched by any increase whatever in the number of parliamentary seats. The present move i3 overdue and should not be made a party issue. Opposition leaders have, in the past, recognized the need for smaller constituencies and more members, and while it is regrettable that such an important reform was not initiated by a representative all-party committee, there is nothing in the Government’s measure to which the Opposition can legitimately take exception.
Members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives who took part in the debate on these measures were bard-pressed to find some argument to support their attitude. Apparently their main contribution to the debate was to indulge in abuse of the Senate. I have been a member of this chamber for ten years, and I know that its members take their duties seriously and discharge their functions “ conscientiously. Speaking for myself, I try to visit all parts of Tasmania, which I represent, twice a year. In addition, I carry out organizing work for the political party which I represent, and I do all sorts of jobs for the electors of Tasmania. Although members of the House of Representatives were unduly caustic in their comments on the Senate and urged that the Government’s policy of full employment should be implemented in regard to the Senate, I believe that the great majority of members of this chamber justify their political existence and are entitled to the allowances which they draw.
I propose to examine further the attitude of honorable senators opposite in the light of informed comment which has appeared in the press. Under the heading, “ Duty of an Opposition “, the Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd April, stated -
Only the dangerous doctrine that an opposition’s duty is to oppose, regardless of the merits of the question in issue, can explain Mr. Menzies’s general attack on the legislation brought down for the enlargement of the Federal Parliament. In so far as he and Mr. McEwen have any coherent basis for their attack, it would seem to lie in the fact of thu reform being instituted by Labour and not by their own parties.
It is no doubt perfectly true that caucus lias been far from disinterested in pressing for the change, and that the hope of retaining their seats is uppermost in the minds of Labour members. But that is not sufficient reason for scotching a desirable and long overdue reform. No one who believes in the democratic process can be satisfied with the working of the present Commonwealth Parliament, with its unwieldy electorates and the restricted choice it affords to party leaders in search of Ministerial talent. This is a matter which should’ surely be settled by agreement, and without party rancour.
This must surely be the only case on record of an opposition leader attacking the Government for carrying out a proposal which he himself advanced in his policy speech, on the ground that his party was rejected by the electors! It is equally absurd to protest that there should bc a special appeal to the people before the Parliament acts in such a matter.
I quite agree with the comment, and I believe that this must be the only occasion when a Leader of the Opposition has attacked a government for carrying out a proposal which he himself had supported. The article to which I refer goes on to state -
It is odd that Mr. Menzies, in his zeal on behalf of the smaller States, should criticize the Government for preserving this balance by providing in its bill for the enlargement of the Senate along with the House of Representatives, as it was bound to do by the Constitution.
An important function of the Parlia- ment is to elect the members of the Government who carry on the administration of the country. “When the membership of the Parliament is increased rank and file supporters of the Government will have a wider choice in the selection of members of the Ministry. Another important function of the Parliament is to provide opportunity for debate and for criticism of the Government. A larger Parliament will undoubtedly afford greater opportunity for democratic discussion and criticism of government proposals. Furthermore, the range of subjects discussed in the Parliament will undoubtedly be greater if we have more members. Another important aspect which must be borne in mind is that an increase of the membership of the Parliament will enable members of the community to maintain closer contact with their parliamentary representatives. I regard the introducion of this legislation as a great event. The first duty of members of the Parliament i3 to their constituents. In order to know what they should do in Parliament, they must first know what their constituents want. In a democracy the first requirement is that the people’s representatives shall put democracy into action, and they can do so only by giving proper consideration to the wants of the people.
The proposed increase of the membership of the House of Representatives will be found to -be fully justified when we compare the conditions which existed in 1900 with conditions to-day nearly half a century later. In 1900 the population of Australia was, 3,765,339, whereas in 1947 it was 7,580,820. Since federation the population of Australia has more than doubled, yet the Parliament still consists of 75 members of the House of Representatives and 36 senators. However, whilst the ministry consisted of only seven Ministers, a vice-president of the Executive Council and one minister without portfolio at the time of federation, it now consists of nineteen ministers. That fact indicates that the founders of federation did not visualize the tremendous increase of the responsibilities which would devolve upon the Parliament. Whereas, in 1903 the number of electors enrolled was 1,893,586 the number enrolled to-day is 4,780,334. In 1903 each member of the House of Representatives represented on the average 25,247 electors whereas to-day the average is 64,599 electors, or nearly two and a half times as many. In 1903, each senator represented on the average 52,596 electors, whereas to-day the average is 132,787 electors. In 1903. each member of the Parliament, combining senators and members of the House of Representatives, represented an average of 17,059 electors whereas to-day the average is 43,457 electors. When the Parliament i3 enlarged under this legislation each member of the House of Representatives will represent approximately 41,000 electors and each member of the Parliament, combining members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, will represent 27,600 electors. Those facts fully justify the proposal to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives.
Members of the Opposition parties in this chamber and in the House of Representatives have bemoaned the fact that Tasmania will not be given additional representation under these proposals. Let us look at the position frankly. If Tasmania were given . representation on the same basis as the other States, Tasmanians would elect only three members to the House of Representatives. To-day, however, Tasmanians elect five members to that House. I regard with satisfaction the provisions of the Constitution that ensures that each State, no matter how small its . population may be in comparison with that of the other States, shall be entitled to return not fewer than five members of the House of Representatives. Under these proposals, whilst Tasmania will retain that representation in the other chamber, it will elect ten senators. That is satisfactory. I have not heard any complaint in Tasmania with respect to the representation of that State in the Senate. Labour senators from Tasmania have always been willing to undertake any task that the State Government might entrust to us, but I cannot recall any occasion when any government in that State, either Labour or anti-Labour has sought our special help. Obviously, Tasmania is satisfied with the basis of its representation in the Senate. In the Tasmanian Parliament, each member represents on the average 3,290 electors. That is a generous basis of representation. The people of Tasmania are quite satisfied with the treatment they will receive under this legislation. In 1945, Mr. Churchill, when he was Prime Minister of Great Britain, introduced the Representation of the People Act, under which everybody in England who had reached the age of 21 years was given a vote. That is something which we have not done in Australia. Referring to that legislation, Mr. Churchill said -
This measu.ru is designed to give something to those people who so gallantly fought to protect us during the war.
Something along those lines should be done in Australia. Undemocratic upper chambers in the various State legislatures should be abolished, and universal suffrage, in fact, should apply throughout the Commonwealth. The mothers of sons who died in the recent war should be given an opportunity to vote at every election for public office in the Commonwealth. To-day, however, plural voting is maintained in municipal elections in some States. In Tasmania a person may qualify for as many as twelve votes under the existing system. It is the duty of this Parliament to follow Mr. Churchill’s example and recognize the gallantry of our citizens during the two world wars. The Government should give urgent consideration to the provision of adult suffrage in respect of all elections for public office as has been done in Great Britain.
Dealing with the method of voting proposed under this legislation, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
The method is generally in accord with the practice laid down by the Proportional Representation Society. It follows closely the provisions contained in the Proportional Representation Bill 1912 of Great Britain and the system employed in respect of municipal elections in the United Kingdom and South Africa, lt is virtually identical with the method used in the election of the Parliament of Eire, and is similar to the system which was employed in respect of parliamentary elections in New South Wales from 1920 to 192S. In principle, the method proposed is the sama as that used in Tasmania, although for reasons of workability and simplicity it differs slightly in its practical application.
I have had considerable experience of proportional representation in Tasmania. It works most satisfactorily. I have never known of any hitch or argument to arise in connexion with it. Tasmania has applied that system ever since I have taken an interest in politics. By adopting proportional representation we shall obviate the unfairness revealed in results of past elections for the Senate. In 1934, the three successful candidates, Messrs. Grant, Herbert Hays and J. B. Hayes, received 53.73 per cent, of the formal votes recorded, whilst electors who voted for other candidates remained entirely unrepresented. At the general election in 1937, Senator Aylett and I and our colleague, the late ex-Senator Darcey, polled 53.70 per cent, of the formal votes recorded, whilst at the general election in 1940 the three successful candidates, Senator Herbert Hays, Senator J. B. Hayes and Mr. Sampson, polled 55.99 per cent, of the formal votes recorded. In 1943, I and my colleagues, Senator Aylett and the Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator McKenna), polled 57 per cent, of the formal votes recorded, whilst at the last general election in 1946 Senators Murray, Morrow and O’Byrne polled 50.76 per cent, of the formal votes recorded. On each of those occasions candidates of only one party were elected, whilst all electors who voted for other candidates were entirely deprived of representation. The Opposition parties had numerous opportunities when governments which they supported were in office to reform the present representation system, but they made no attempt to alter the block system. In 1922 the Senate consisted of 35 antiLabour senators and only one Labour senator.
– And no fuss was made about that.
– No. The Opposition parties then said that everything was “ O.K. “, but when the system does not suit them they say it is criminal. They moan about these proposals, but they did not make any attempt whatever to democratize our system of parliamentary representation. Therefore, they have no cause now to complain. They had many opportunities to initiate a reform of this kind, but did not do so. The Labour party is noted for doing things. It is not content merely to appoint commissions and boards to inquire into proposals and then to pigeon-hole their reports.
I emphasize the need to allocate more effectively governmental duties between the Commonwealth Parliament, the State Parliaments and local governing bodies. In many instances the States can do a better job than can the Commonwealth. For instance, the Commonwealth is not so well equipped as are the States to handle public works, housing, railways and education. The municipalities are better equipped than are the States to do certain jobs. Local governing bodies should have the responsibility of policing weights and measures, prices control and matters with which they are most closely in touch. They should be given control of liquor ordinances. “We must make a proper distribution of powers between the Commonwealth, the States and local governing bodies.
The Leader of the Opposition contended that there should be a double dissolution of the Parliament in order to initiate the new system of representation in the Senate. If the Government sought a double dissolution it would merely perpetrate a fraud upon the people, because it would have to introduce a measure solely for the purpose of having the Senate reject it. A double dissolution would not be tolerated by the people when they know that the Parliament can initiate the new system of representation without taking that course. I again commend the Government upon the introduction of this legislation. The population of Australia has grown to such a degree that an enlargement of the Parliament is inevitable in the interests of democracy. As I have already said, it is essential in the interests of democracy that electorates be distributed in such a way as will enable members of Parliament to keep in touch with their constituents. I support the system of pro- portional representation, and again congratulate the Government upon taking the opportunity presented by the recent census to introduce this legislation, which will be of great benefit to the nation.
– The desirability of this legislation needs no emphasis by Government supporters. These are democratic measures, and they give yet another indication to the people of Australia that the Labour party is the only political party in the Commonwealth that has the democratic spirit sufficiently at heart, is sane enough politically, and has the intestinal courage necessary to bring in legislation that is in the interests of the people of this country as a whole. The arguments advanced by Opposition speakers against this proposal have been similar to those advanced by their colleagues in the House of Representatives. There is general agreement that increased representation in this Parliament is desirable. Unfortunately many honorable senators opposite have resorted to political manoeuvring, and have alleged that the introduction of these measures at the present time will confer some peculiar advantage upon the Labour party. I remind them that the present representation in the Parliament was devised with the inauguration of federation nearly 50 years ago and that, to-day, some electorates have as many as 85,000 voters whereas originally the largest constituencies had only 30,000 on the rolls. Section 24 of the Constitution reads -
Thu number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner.
I draw particular attention to the words “ until the Parliament otherwise provides “. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has alleged that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) did not mention the enlargement of the Parliament in his policy speech prior to the last elections. That charge has been adequately refuted. Even the press of this country has admitted that, prior to the elections, there was general acceptance of the view that if Labour were returned to office il would consider larger representation in the Parliament. We have also heard the old bogy, “ The Government has not been given a mandate to do this. It has no sanction from the people”. This cry is ludicrous when we consider that the Constitution specifically authorizes the Parliament to determine its membership. So why all this propaganda about the need for a referendum? The Leader of the Opposition also told the old story about the Government having nationalized the banks without reference to the people. Whilst I do not intend to embark upon a prolonged discussion of that matter to-day, I point out that power to legislate in respect of banking is specifically conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament. It is foolish to suggest that a referendum should be held in respect of legislation which it is clearly within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth Parliament to enact.
Under the proposals that we are now discussing, New South Wales representation in the Parliament will be increased from 28 to 47 members. In respect of Victoria, the increase will be from twenty to 33, Queensland ten to eighteen, South Australia six to ten and Western Australia five to eight. The representation of Tasmania. - a State for which the Leader of the Opposition professes great sympathy - will remain at five members. Many people in that State have indicated that the proposals are quite satisfactory for their State because of its small population. Tasmania, of course, will have four new senators, therefore its membership is actually being increased. Another argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition was that there should have been an inquiry into the proposal to increase the size of the Parliament, preferably by means of a constitutional convention. We heard similar pronouncements from the Opposition parties when they occupied the treasury bench, but they were always without result. Their statements are purely political propaganda, because they realize that their stocks are low and that they must endeavour to persuade the people by some means or other. I remind honorable senators opposite that under various aliases the parties which they represent formed governments in this country for many years and had ample opportunity to bring about this necessary reform. I recall vividly the time when the Labour party had only one representative in this chamber. I remember, too, when it had only three to the 33 representatives of the present Opposition parties. When the late Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister, the question of reforming the method of electing the Senate was considered and action was promised. We were told that the matter would be investigated; that an inquiring authority would be set up; but once again nothing was done. By introducing this legislation, the Labour party has proved that it is democratic and believes in giving to the people of this country adequate representation in their National Parliament. Undeniably, the increased population of this country, and the widening of the scope of the activities of the Australian Parliament, have cast an onerous burden upon members. The only satisfactory solution to this problem is an increase of membership. Since the present representation was established, we have had two world wars and a world-wide depression. Each of these events has meant increased work for the National Parliament. We have been told that the question of increasing the size of the Parliament was referred to by the leader of one of the Opposition parties at the 1946 elections, and that a thorough investigation of the proposal was promised. Once again, I remind honorable senators of the many similar promises made by the present Opposition parties during their long term of office in the Parliament. Attention has already been drawn to the fact that since federation the population of this country has more than doubled. That alone is sufficient justification for these proposals. If democracy is to work as it should, and if we are sincere, in our claim to be democrats, we must ensure that the electorate shall be adequately represented in the Parliament. I am sure that honorable senators opposite will agree that there is a necessity for increased membership of both Houses of the Parliament. Arguing against the proposal, they have claimed that the time is not. opportune for this move, and that the measures are designed to benefit the Labour party in some way. The Leader of the Opposition asked, “ Why is this change being made?” Ample justification for the introduction of this legislation has already been given to the Parliament and to the people of this country. This is the first opportunity that the Labour party has had since it has been in power to make this move.
Another charge made by Senator Cooper was that in the reshuffle of electoral boundaries an attempt would be made to favour the Labour party. In other words, the honorable senator has attributed dishonest motives to that party. I assure him that his charges are without foundation. The honorable gentleman then predicted that the Labour party had adopted this course because it saw the writing on the wall. He claimed to know that the electorate would reject the Labour party at the next elections. As an honorable senator replied by way of interjection, that is wishful thinking. The people of Australia know that the only hope for the maintenance of a stable economy in this country lies in the continuance in office of the Labour party. The Leader of the Opposition says that we have six States in the Commonwealth. That is quite true; but I remind him of a time when there were seven states and tens of thousands of people lived in the seventh state - the state of poverty. The present Opposition parties were then in occupation of the treasury-bench in this Parliament. To-day there are six States because, having been in office since 1941, the Labour party has succeeded in implementing its policy of full employment and of providing adequate social services for the people of this country.
Reference was made by the Leader of the Opposition to the disparity in population between the country districts and the cities and towns. How that affects the proposal to increase the membership of the Commonwealth Parliament I do not know, except, of course, that the honorable senator obviously realizes that the greater the number of metropolitan constituencies the greater will be the majority of the Labour party in this
Parliament. He fears that the redistribution of boundaries will reduce the chances of his party at the next elections. I assure him that that would not be any loss to Australia, because there never has been a .more impotent party than the misnamed Australian Country party. Throughout its history, it has been merely an appendage of the Liberal party. The honorable senator also dwelt at length upon the alterations that will be necessary to Parliament House to provide accommodation for the new members. That matter is hardly one for debate at this juncture. Any necessary alterations can easily be made. If necessary reforms were to be delayed because of a shortage of materials or accommodation in some particular part of the Commonwealth, they would never be brought about.
Pursuing his argument that the Government has not a mandate to proceed with this legislation, the Leader of the Opposition indicated that in his opinion the people of this country might revolt against this proposal. He mentioned the defeat of Labour at the recent Victorian elections. But a majority of the people of Victoria know now that the Labour Government in that State was put out of office by a political subterfuge.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– This legislation clearly proves to the people of Australia that when any legislative reforms are needed the Labour party is the only party that can he trusted to give effect to them. This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition, referring to the general election that was held in Victoria last year, implied that the people could not be induced to take political action unless they had first been given an opportunity to approve of it. In respect of the legislation we are now considering, he used the old bogy that the Government had not received a mandate from the people for its introduction. That that contention has no force becomes obvious when we consider the provision in the Constitution which stipulates that this Parliament shall have the power to increase the number of its members’ should it think fit to do so. There is general agreement, even by Opposition senators, that the numerical strength of the Parliament should be increased. The only complaint so far voiced by our opponents is that the present time is not opportune for such a change. The suggestion has been made that its introduction proves that the Government has an ulterior motive. The Leader of the Opposition clutched at the tactics that were employed to bring about the Victorian general election last year. Political action along the lines adopted by the Victorian Legislative Council on that occasion was unprecedented and has no parallel in the annals of democratic government anywhere. It was forced on the people of Victoria by an undemocratic chamber, and those people, in the main, now realize what a mistake they made. . They were stampeded by propaganda into ousting the Cain Labour Government, the best Government that Victoria has ever had. The Legislative Council which precipitated that election had been elected by only one-third of the adult population of Victoria. As honorable senators are aware, it is necessary to have a property qualification in order to be eligible to record a vote in a Victorian Legislative Council election. Worse than that, before a person can become a member of that council he must have unencumbered property worth at least £500. Yet Opposition senators continue to speak of democracy, and are supporting a political ruse similar to that which was so successful in Victoria last year. I refer to legislation which is being enacted in the Victorian Parliament at the present time, ostensibly to control rents. Obviously, it is designed ro defeat the referendum on prices, rents and charges which is to be held on the 29th May; at least a bold attempt is being made to defeat it in Victoria. One of the principal arguments advanced is that, if the controls be kept within the States, they can be watched. I suggest that that is all that could be done. In whatever way the controls might be used, there would be no chance of defeating the will of the Legislative Council.
Viewing everything in proper perspective, I believe that it is high time for the number of members of both Houses of this Parliament to be increased. In 1903, there was one senator to each 52,000 electors. To-day, there is one senator to each 132,000 electors. In my view, one person cannot adequately represent such a large number of electors. The Government realizes that adequate representation, is the basis of democracy. The parties which now sit in opposition had theopportunity to remedy <the position during the many years when they were in. power, but they did not do so. It will be remembered that some years ago there was only one Labour senator in this chamber. Opposition senators cannot now claim that this measure has been introduced because they constitute the minority in the Senate.’
The Leader of the Opposition has said that representation by six senators is sufficient for any State. It is elementary that, with ten senators, the people of each State will be more adequately represented than they are at present, because closer attention could be given to the important problems which continually arise. It must be borne in mind that since the framing of the Constitution, when the representation in this Parliament was laid down, there have been two world wars and one world-wide depression. Obviously, therefore the duties of members of Parliament have become more onerous and exacting. In order that adequate attention may be paid to matters of public importance, I contend that an increase of the membership of both Houses is an absolute necessity. The argument of Opposition senators that the time for increasing the membership of the Parliament is not opportune, could be advanced at any time. The proposal to make the change now must prove to everybody that the Australian Labour party is determined to effect this essential reform without fear or favour. The Leader of the Opposition laid great stress on his assertion that the Government had seen the writing on the wall. He contended that the Government intended to take a mean advantage of its opponents by means of the new system of voting in relation to the Senate. My answer is that the Opposition parties had their opportunity in the past to effect electoral reform in relation to the Senate, but neglected to do so. He also said that an investigation should be made by a constitutional convention. He merely repeated what honorable senators had heard frequently over the years. There has been no justification for the abuse and criticism that have been levelled against the Government for having introduced this legislation.
The gem in the honorable senator’s speech was his reiteration of the statement in the House of Representatives that all honorable senators should retire and stand for re-election. Doubtless he would be quite prepared to resign under pressure - 1 say that advisedly - if the Constitution permitted him to do so. In 1946, under the terms of the Constitution, certain honorable senators were elected for six years. There is neither justification nor legal right to’ terminate their services before the expiration of that period. .Those who advocate such a course show that they are insincere and inconsistent whenever they speak of democracy. I have a vivid recollection of what happened not long ago when an extraordinary vacancy occurred in the Senate in consequence of the lamented death of our late colleague, Senator Keane. Democratic principles were not observed in Victoria in the election of his successor for the remainder of his term. Because parties represented by honorable senators opposite had an overwhelming majority in the two Houses of the Victorian Parliament, they had no qualms whatever about electing Mr. A. J. Fraser, of the Australian Country party, for the remainder of the term.
– The electors subsequently had an opportunity to put the position right.
– That is so. The people of Victoria revolted in no uncertain manner against the undemocratic action of the Victorian Parliament in electing Mr. Fraser for the balance of the late Senator Keane’s term; and I am very proud of having been one of the senators elected for Victoria in 1946, by a record majority. Apparently, they ar; quite satisfied with their present representation, which I am certain will bp unaltered after the general election in 1949. The electors of Victoria will then also return a larger number of Labour members to the House of Representatives. The Leader of the Opposition has merely indulged in wishful thinking. The Opposition parties are pinning their faith to a campaign of fear, because it was so successful in Victoria last year. They are engaged in political manoeuvring, in an effort to influence the people of this country. The electors now realize the political impotency of the parties opposite. That they are politically barren is proved by the number of times they have changed their name in recent years.
The Government has taken action of which the Opposition has approved in principle but has never implemented. This legislation is urgently needed if democracy in Australia is to function adequately. There must be adequate representation of the people, by a sufficient number of members in both Houses, if the work of the Parliament is to be done efficiently. The Government is determined to maintain its policy of full employment, and to go ahead with its social services programme. It is determined that tens of thousands of people shall not be compelled to live in the seventh state - a state of poverty - as they had to do under the administration of the Opposition parties when the.y formed the government of this country. The Opposition is not sincere in its antagonism to the bill. Its members are endeavouring to make political capital out of a long overdue reform, of which this Government may feel justly proud. If we go ahead as we have been going, we shall receive the approval of the people of Australia in 1949. The Australian Labour party has been responsible for such a splendid performance on behalf of the people of Australia that undoubtedly it will be returned to power for many years to come. I assure the Opposition parties that their chance of securing the treasury bench is very remote. I assure them and the people of Australia that under a Labour government, which we will have for many years to come, we shall march forward towards a realization of those humanitarian ideals for which the Labour party stands. I commend these bills to the Senate in the belief that they represent a long overdue reform, that they will help this Government to carry on its good work, and that they will lead to great social achievements.
– These bills, I find, have not much opposition from the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (.Senator Cooper) has admitted that he and his colleagues realize that an enlargement of this Parliament is inevitable, and he has raised only three points of objection to the legislation. One is that the time is not opportune; the second is that, in his opinion, the Senate should not be increased in proportion to the House of Representatives as the Constitution provides; and the third is that provision is not made for increased representation of Tasmania in the House of Representatives. He has laid great stress on the alleged fact that Tasmania and other small States will suffer under this legislation. He .has declared that the more populous States will benefit most from the expansion of this Parliament. It is abundantly evident to anybody who has studied these measures that the larger States will not benefit as much in proportion to population as the smaller States. The truth can be ascertained very simply by combining the figures of increased membership of the House of Representatives and the Senate proposed in both bills. Tasmania will have four additional members of Parliament. In other words, a little more than 250,000 people will be represented in both Houses by fifteen members. If New South Wales were to be represented on the same basis per head of population, it would have almost 180 members in this Parliament instead of the 57 members proposed. Victoria would have 120 members instead of 43; Queensland would have 60 members instead of 28; South Australia would have 38 members instead of 20; and Western Australia would have 30 members instead of 18 members. Those figures are based on the latest available statistics, compiled twelve months ago. If the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues still contend that Tasmania will suffer in comparison with the more populous States, I should like to know on what basis they make their calculations.
The Opposition has raised the cry that the Senate should not be enlarged. An old derelict who has been a member of the House of Representatives for a quarter ‘of a century, one of the greatest political intriguers that the National Parliament has ever known, has been to the fore in opposing this proposal. When this legislation was before the House of Representatives he submitted an amendment providing for the plan to be referred to the people. That action illustrated the hypocrisy of his pleas for increased representation in this Parliament for the people of Tasmania. First of all, he said that Tasmania should have an extra member in the House of Representatives. Then he moved the amendment providing that a referendum be held in order to determine whether the people would sanction any enlargement of the Senate, to which he was opposed. That action demonstrated that, despite his earlier plea on behalf of Tasmania, his object was to deprive it of four additional members. Had he been able to have his way, Tasmania would have gained one additional representative in this Parliament instead of four, as proposed in this legislation. I repeat that, when this plan comes into operation, the people of Tasmania will be more adequately represented, on a population basis, than the people of any other State. In the face of the facts, how can members of the Opposition claim that the larger States will get far better treatment than Tasmania? The member of the House of Representatives whom I have mentioned, being a New South Wales man - and I would say a bigoted one - is manoeuvring to secure an increased majority for that State in this Parliament. By means of political intrigue he hoped to reduce the increased representation proposed in this legislation for the smaller States. I was more than surprised when the Leader of the Opposition swallowed the bait which he had set. The electors of Queensland will take a grave view o.f the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition to-day, when he condemned the proposal to provide four additional parliamentary representatives for that State.
Honorable senators opposite say that the time is inopportune for the introduction of this scheme. The time will always ibc inopportune, in their view, as long as a Labour government holds office; it would be opportune only if an anti-Labour government were in power. They have told us in no uncertain manner that, if they were in power, they would increase the size of this Parliament. We on this side of the Senate do not believe in sidetracking issues of national importance. Beyond all doubt, the increased population of Australia and the extra responsibilities that have devolved upon the National Parliament definitely warrant an enlargement of the legislature. The Government does not shirk its responsibility in spite of the objections raised by a minority of the electors. These measures represent the initial step necessary to meet the needs of the country.
Another objection to the proposal is that provision is not made for a double dissolution of the Parliament. Honorable senators opposite want the Senate to be dissolved before the new system is introduced, but they have not been able to find any fault with the democratic system of electing senators which this. Government has planned. After the 1946 elections, when a landslide from the Opposition gave the Labour party an overwhelming victory, the Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Cooper), and exSenator McLeay squealed like stuck pigs in a slaughter-house about the “ undemocratic system “ of electing the Senate. They did not stop squealing for a month. They shouted, “ This is Labour rule ! This is dictatorship “ ! The parties which they represent, had been in power in this Parliament for 25 years, but during that period none of those honorable gentlemen had anything to say about the “undemocratic system of electing the Senate even when an election swing provided their parties with a majority of 35 members to one member of the Labour party in the Senate. It was a very good system in those days !
This Government, realizing the injustice of such an unfair system of electing the Senate, proposes to introduce the system of proportional representation so that the Senate will always have a reasonable number of members in Opposition and if Opposition parties can secure men of the right calibre - be a sound debating House. We are most hopeful that the best men available will be found to represent all parties at future elections so that the Opposition will be a good one. We are now giving the Opposition an opportunity to select some good men - if they have any amongst their members and supporters - for election to this chamber, where they can assist in dealing with the important problems that come before us from time to time.
Honorable senators opposite have stated that senators do not have much work to do. That statement is only partly true. It is true that members of the Opposition have not been accustomed to do very much work; otherwise their numbers would not have been reduced so drastically as they have been by the electors. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber, however, can always find plenty to do on behalf of the people whom they represent. Should we ever fall down on our jobs and became idle, our numbers will dwindle as the numbers of honorable senators in Opposition have dwindled. Scurrilous statements have been made by a member of the House of Representatives about a senator “ receiving a letter to-day, answering it to-morrow, and posting it the next day “. That gentleman was a former senator. Why is he no longer here? Most likely the answer is that the people realized how inefficiently he represented the min this chamber. The electors give a fair trial to their representatives in the Senate, but, if senators do not discharge their duties satisfactorily, nine times out of ten they are not returned for a second term. Those honorable senators who complain that they have no work to do when the Senate is not sitting will be rejected by the people. When the people listen to broadcasts of debates in the House of Representatives, they might be excused for thinking sometimes that they are listening to a number of Kilkenny cats. Do honorable senators opposite call that work? While that squabbling is going on, honorable senators on this side of the chamber are probably hard at work in their respective States, much more actively occupied than when the Senate is in session. The whole of our work is not carried out on the floor of the Senate. The easiest times I have experienced since I have been a member of this Parliament have been in Canberra during meetings of the Senate. I have always taken part in debates, and have held my own, but I find that the major part of my work as a representative of the people is done when the Senate is not sitting. Honorable senators opposite tell the people that the Senate has met on only a few days in a period during which the House of Representatives - has sat much more frequently. But they do not tell electors that stupid adjournment motions have been proposed by members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives in order to discuss matters of little importance, simply for the purpose of holding up the business of the country and delaying the passage of valuable legislation which this Government has introduced. Opposition members in the Lower House strive to create an impression in the public mind that, because they are holding up the business of the Parliament, often squabbling like Kilkenny cats, they are working. They are merely killing time and trying to obstruct the passage of important legislation. The reason why this chamber does not meet so frequently as the House of Representatives is quite obvious ; the number of members of the Senate is not nearly so great as that of the House of Representatives, and therefore debate does not occupy so much time. Furthermore, a great deal of the time of the House of Representatives is wasted in debate on motions for the adjournment of that House in order to discuss matters of comparatively trivial importance. Motions of that kind are submitted regularly by’ the Opposition in that chamber in order to give its supporters an opportunity to impress their constituents through the medium of radio broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings.
The system of proportional representation proposed in this legislation is one of the most democratic that could be imagined. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition that it will be a practical impossibility for any political party to gain more than four of the seven Senate seats in each State at the next election is quite incorrect. It will be possible for a party to gain five, and possibly six, seats. In support of my contention, I need only mention that under the system of proportional representation in elections for the Tasmania Parliament, on one occasion one political party won four seats in each electoral division and the opposing party won only two seats. If the political parties to> which honorable senators opposite belong were capable of inculcating sufficient enthusiasm in the country it would be quite possible for them to win five out of the seven seats in each State. Whatever the result of the forthcoming elections for the Senate may be, the minority party, or parties, will at least be ensured of adequate representation, which was quite impossible under the antiquated system which we have tolerated for so many years.
I trust that members of the Opposition will refrain from attempting to bolster a weak case by suggesting to the people of Tasmania that that State will suffer if these proposals are adopted. Because I have to attend an important deputation in connexion with barley, I have not time to deal with this aspect of the matter at any great length. As to the fairness to Tasmania of the system proposed to be adopted, I content myself with pointing out that under the present arrangement New South Wales will have 57 representatives in both chambers of the Parliament, but if it were represented on the same basis as that applied to Tasmania it would have approximately 180 representatives in the Parliament. A similar comparison may be made in regard to the representation of other more populous States. I trust that that fact may be sufficient to satisfy any one who may have been impressed by the contention of the critics of the Government that Tasmania will be unfairly treated by the Government’s proposals. I support the bill.
– I congratulate the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) on the able manner in which he presented the measures now before the Senate. His speech which contained some illuminating information furnishes ample justification for the Government’s decision to increase the size of the Parliament in order to overtake the increase of population. The Minister put the matter in a ‘ nutshell when he pointed out that during the half-century which had elapsed since federation the population of Australia had more than doubled. It is evident, therefore, that the time has arrived for a review of the representation given to States in the National Parliament. Furthermore, it is important to note that the National Parliament has fewer members than the Parliament of one State, and only slightly more than that of another State. New South “Wales, which is represented by 34 members in the National Parliament, has 150 members in its own legislature, whilst Victoria, which has 26 members in the National Parliament, has a legislature of 99 members. The Minister also furnished statistics of the present ratio of parliamentary representation in comparison with that which obtained when the Parliament was established. He said -
The proposed enlargement of the numerical strength of the Commonwealth Parliament which the passing of this hill will permit is regarded as both necessary and warranted. Since the establishment of the Commonwealth, the population of Australia has more than doubled. To be exact, it has increased from 3,705,339 in 1900, to T,5S0,820 in 1947. At the Senate elections in 1903, 1,893,580 electors were enrolled. To-day the number is 4,780,334, or more than two and a half times as many. In 1903, in the aggregate there was one senator for every 52,59G electors. To-day the ratio ia one senator for every 132,787 electors.
I commend the remaining portions of the Minister’s speech to any honorable senator who requires further evidence that an increase of the size of the Parliament will serve the best interests of the nation.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) said that because the Parliament had functioned satisfactorily for 47 years there was no need to make the proposed changes so quickly. I do not consider that any honorable senator has any cause for complaint as to the way in which the Parliament has functioned during that time, but we do complain of the procastination which has characterized various governments since federation. The present Administration is to be commended for being a government of action, which has taken positive steps to advance the interests of the community. In spite of all the propaganda disseminated by the Government’s opponents it has continued to implement its programme. The Leader of the Opposition declared -
The urgency of the change comes from the fear of defeat at the next elections. The political pendulum is rapidly swinging against the Government.
I heard some honorable senator interject that that remark was simply an example of wishful thinking. Moreover, the Leader of the Opposition did not attempt to tell us the extraordinary nature of the shortcomings of the Government which would warrant such a remarkable swing of the pendulum. Since he introduced the record of the Government into the debate it is not out of place to examine that record briefly. Only twice in the history of the Commonwealth has Labour been entrusted with the government of the country, and, strangely enough, each of those occasions was a time of national crisis. Under pressure of circumstances during World War I. the people of Australia, for the first time, returned Labour to office. That Government would have endured but for the rock of conscription on which Labour split. However, supporters of Labour have always been consistent in adhering to the principles of their party, and they preferred to remain out of office than prostitute their convictions. Like the tortoise in the fable of the tortoise and the hare, the Australian Labour party went along slowly, but ultimately it won the race for public support. When the greatest calamity of all overtook this country a few years ago the members of the anti-Labour Government of that time were wrangling amongst themselves “while the enemy was approaching our shores. Although the anti-Labour parties had a majority of supporters in the House of Representatives they preferred to abdicate in favour of the Australian Labour party, which was led by the late Mr. Curtin. As the head of the war-time administration Mr. Curtin did such a wonderful job that members of the Opposition were almost annihilated politically at the elections held in 1943. Those of us who were members of the Parliament during the recent war know the magnitude of the efforts made by members of that Government to steer this country out of the troubled waters which were threatening it. However, with the end of hostilities one of the greatest difficulties of our national history was presented by the necessity to change our war economy to a peace-time basis almost overnight. At that time our industries were engaged in war production, and every worker was keyed up to full production for war purposes. It will stand to the ever-lasting credit of the Government that it effected that colossal changeover from a war-time to a peace-time economy without any economic disturbance whatever. In that transition not one person lost his, or her, employment.
– But the Menzies Government laid the foundation for that transition.
– Apparently, the truth stings the honorable senator. The Menzies Government laid many foundations, but every structure erected on them collapsed. For that reason the Liberal party has yet to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the Australian people. I know of nothing that could justify the optimism of members of the Opposition parties that the Government will be swept from the treasury-bench at the general election next year. No one who calmly reviews the Government’s record can find any basis for the prediction of honorable senators opposite that the electors will throw it to the wolves. Are they likely to - do so because the Government has had the courage to do what it believed must be done in the interests of the nation, or because it has effected the speedy rehabilitation of our people, both civilians and soldiers? The Government’s success in rehabilitating this country since the cessation of hostilities has not been equalled in any other country. Nobody will deny that fact. Surely, therefore, no ground exists for the view that the people will throw the Government to the wolves.
A remarkable feature of its record is that notwithstanding the limited period available to it in which to change from a war-time to a peace-time economy the Government, at the same time, was alive to the fact that as a member of the United Nations it must implement the principles of the Atlantic Charter, including the Four Freedoms. Therefore, it ensured that the people of this country who were led to believe that they fought the recent war in defence of freedom would never again be required to stand in dole queues but would be treated as human beings should be treated. The Government has done everything within its power to implement that policy. Some people, who point to the fact that there is still trouble overseas and to the threats of war ask how that claim can be made on behalf of the Government. The first of the Four Freedoms, freedom from fear, was construed to refer not to freedom from fear of an enemy’s bullet, but to fear of the employer’s right to give the workers the “ bullet “ - the fear of unemployment and starvation. The Government has succeeded in removing that fear from people in thi9 country. It has placed upon the statute-book legislation which ensures economic stability to every man, woman and child in Australia so long as it can control the nation’s finance. After ensuring the welfare of mothers by the provision of maternity allowance, the Government increased the rate of child endowment. The mean9 test is not applied in respect of either of those social benefits. Later, the Government provided sickness and hospital benefits and ensured the welfare of every child. It also provided liberal unemployment benefits and pensions to widows, and, at the same time, it increased the rate of invalid and age pensions. Bearing those reforms in mind, how can the Leader of the Opposition prophesy the downfall of the Government at the next general election on the ground that it has failed the people? If he really believes that, he is a superoptimist; but in his heart of hearts, he does not hold that belief. His optimism arises from the fact that he belongs to a political party which has more pounds than the Labour party has pence to expend in trying to lead the people to believe that this Government has failed them. Every measure passed by the Government has been attacked by the interests which the Opposition parties represent in this Parliament. It has been attacked in the press-, and over the air and in every conceivable form of propaganda which money can provide, whereas the Labour party having only limited funds with which to finance election campaigns must rely mainly upon this Government’s achievements. Labour candidates and supporters cannot afford substantial radio publicity. We must rely mainly upon street corner meetings in order to put out case before the people. However, we are secure in the knowledge that our cause is right, and, therefore, we need not fear the propaganda which is engineered against us.
Due to the failure of the Lyons Government to deal effectively with the housing problem, this Government, has utilized the whole of its resources in cooperation with the States in overcoming Ihe shortage of homes. Was the outbreak of the recent war the cause of that shortage? Of course not. It arose as the result of the failure over a period of years of previous governments to appreciate the need to provide adequate housing. The problem became greater during the six years of depression that occurred between the two world wars when antiLabour governments were in office. At that time, the Lyons Government would not proceed with an adequate housing programme because it claimed that sufficient money was not available for that purpose. The people accepted that excuse because at that time the Australian Government could not obtain sufficient money from the private banks and financial institutions even for the purpose of providing a decent standard of food relief during the depression years. But the .scene changed almost overnight. Boys who had not been allowed to earn their livelihood in this country were called to the colours, and obtained the first job they !had ever had in carrying a rifle. Then, for six years the country was at war. During the depression we could not obtain money, but man-power and materials were available in abundance; during the war we had an abundance of money hut could not spare materials, or manpower., for the building -of homes. Thus, the present shortage of homes is a legacy from six years of war and six years of mismanagement by previous anti-Labour governments. To-day, the press and vested interests are clamouring that the Government should provide homes immediately.
– I have allowed the honorable senator a good deal of latitude. I ask him to confine his remarks to the measure before the Chair.
– The Parliament, when enlarged under these proposals, will be better enabled to maintain a stable economy in this country. I am confident that the great majority of the members of the Parliament who will take their seats under the new system of representation in both this chamber and the House of Representatives will be supporters of the present Government. Thus, the Government will be enabled to advance still further in promoting the welfare of our people as a whole. Whilst the increased responsibilities of the National Parliament are sufficient justification for the enlargement of the Parliament, the Government is to be commended for providing for the election of the Senate under the proportional representation system. This reform will broaden the basis of representation in the National Parliament because any candidate of any other party who obtains the requisite quota of votes will secure election. This broadening of representation will be a good thing, and is preferable to the present system under which parliamentary representation is practically con- fined to members of the three largest political parties. Therefore, this reform is in keeping with democratic principles. It is long overdue. Although it had been promised by previous governments, antiLabour parties did not seriously consider it until they suffered overwhelming defeat at the polls in recent years. This legislation will ensure that each of the major political parties at least will be adequately represented in the Senate. With that we all agree. It is only fair that the parties which represent many thousands of electors should have adequate representation in the Parliament ; but I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition because procrastination in this matter will not .be of any value at all.
The honorable senator has implied that there has been political engineering associated with the introduction of these measures. That charge is made in respect of almost every piece of legislation that the Government introduces into the Parliament. The people of Australia must be thoroughly disgusted with these tactics. I emphatically deny that these proposals have been advanced by the Government to save the skins of members of the Labour party. If the Labour party cannot stand four-square on its achievements as a government, it will be prepared to relinquish its control of the treasury bench. “We do not require political engineering to safeguard our seats in the Parliament. “We are confident that the accomplishments of the Labour Government have been sufficient to retain the confidence of the people in the Labour movement. I cannot believe that the reputation of the Labour Government has been destroyed in the eyes of Australian citizens merely because it has endeavoured by nationalizing the banks to ensure the provision of the finance necessary for the many beneficial social service measures that have been passed through the Parliament during its term of office. No longer are the private financial institutions to be permitted to control the nation’s finances. In its efforts to secure for the people of this country freedom from fear, and freedom from want, the Government has committed itself to a huge annual expenditure on social services alone, and the only method by which it could safeguard these benefits was to obtain control of the nation’s finances. I have no fear that a government of the character and reputation of that led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) will be swept from office for that action. I commend the Government for introducing the measure now under discussion. I trust that the hills will be passed and I hope to see the day when we shall have not only an enlarged Parliament, -but also a substantially increased population. Then we shall be able to go forward as a nation, depending less and less upon overseas markets for the disposal of our manufactured goods and primary products. “We cannot revert to the dark ages. The Leader of the Opposition would have us turn hack the clock and say, “ This was satisfactory 47 years ago in the days of our grandfathers; it should be satisfactory to us to-day “. But the Labour party is a progressive party. We shall advance and we shall carry the people of Australia with us. I hope that the day is not far distant when we shall have the pleasure of seeing in this chamber additional senators representing the six States of this glorious Commonwealth.
– I should like first to endorse some of the remarks made by Senator Lamp in regard to utterances which apparently have been made by members of the House of Representatives. It is rather unfortunate that such prominence was given to these statements. The remarks were quite unwarranted, and a great disservice has been done to the dignity and reputation of the Senate. The position in which the Senate finds itself to-day is one at which, I am sure, the framers of the Constitution would be horrified, were they able to see it from their places of rest. The responsibility cannot be laid solely at the door of the Labour Government. Since federation the anti-Labour parties have been in office sufficiently often and for sufficiently long periods to have both seen and appreciated the need to remedy a state of affairs in which three members of this chamber of 36 are expected to represent 48 per cent, of the ejectors of the Commonwealth. The neglect of the past cannot be too strongly condemned, but I do not wish to get into the habit that some honorable senators opposite have acquired of living entirely in the past. Rarely does any matter come before this chamber without references being made by Government supporters to those very wicked days of long ago. The party that I represent is blamed for everything from the penal laws that existed in the early part of the last century down to the last piece of iniquity that has been inflicted upon mankind. This time, I could get in first and accuse the Government of having been responsible for those shocking penal laws of a century ago and my accusations would have just as much historical truth and foundation as there is in some of the charges that one hears hurled to this side of the chamber; but that would be futile, and I do urge members of the Government to dwell less on the past and cast their minds ‘and eyes to the future. No good can come from raking up old injustices of which the antecedents of honorable senators, both on this side of the chamber and on the other side, were victims rather than perpetrators, and this continual harking back oan have no effect other than to perpetuate class bitterness when neither justification nor substance for such bitterness does, or should, exist. I look to the day when there will be an appreciation by all Australians of the fact that we have one tradition, one flag and one common destiny. The sooner our efforts are directed towards the accomplishment of that destiny, the sooner will our people enjoy that degree of happiness which should be theirs.
No good reason has yet been advanced by the Government for increasing the membership of the Senate in the manner contemplated in this bill. Whatever merits, there may be in increasing the size of the House of Representatives - and excellent reasons could be adduced at the appropriate time for such an increase - no sound reason has been offered by the Government for an increase of the membership of this chamber. It has been said that, under section 24 of the Constitution, membership of the House of Representatives must be approximately double that of the Senate.
– How would the honorable senator get over that?
Sena! or O’SULLIVAN. - In the same way as any other constitutional difficulty can be overcome, namely, by holding a referendum. If the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), who represents the Attorney-General in this chamber, can show that there are practical difficulties in the way of such a procedure, my opinion of the Government’s legal advisers will be greatly enhanced.
– From the point of view of the States, does the honorable senator not see any difficulty in keeping membership of the Senate at its present figure whilst increasing membership of the House of Representatives?
– No difficulty at all, provided the representation of the
States in the Senate remains equal. I see no reason why the membership of the States in the Senate should not be reduced even to two, if such a course were thought desirable, provided that the representation of each State was the same.
The remarks to which I have taken exception, emanating from the House of Representatives. give us food for serious thought, because we must realize that they would not have been uttered had the dignity of the Senate not already been considerably impaired. If the Senate were fulfilling the functions for which it was designed there would not be any occasion at all, even mistakenly, to give utterance to those sentiments. So, we might examine our collective conscience, and also the doings or misdoings of those who have preceded us in this chamber, to see whether there is anything that we can do to rehabilitate the prestige of the’ Senate. I submit that the lack of appreciation of the dignity of the Senate has been contributed to largely from time to time by some members of the Government. Too often, in reply to courteous and intelligent questions, we on this side of the chamber get smart answers* - and I use the word “ smart “ as distinct from clever or wise. These “ smart “ answers receive the servile approbation of certain Government supporters such as the leader of the “ push “ of poetic fame would expect from members of his mob. I could not care less about the personal attitude of member to me, but that is not the point. The -point is that I am one of three senators who represent 48 per cent, of the electors of the Commonwealth, and if I submit a reasonably topical, courteous question I expect an enlightened and courteous reply. That has not always been given. Another matter which I think has contributed vastly to the deterioration of the prestige and standing of the Senate, is its tendency, in the last 30 years, to become a mere rubber stamp for the House of Represent,atives. We have lost the character of an independent chamber. The Senate is no longer a. council of States and the champion of State rights. It has become merely an echo of the lower house, and so long as that state of affairs continues I defy any honorable senator to advance a satisfactory reason for its continuance. Unless we can assert our rights and endeavour much more effectively to fulfil the role designed for us by the framers of the Constitution, we shall have great difficulty in justifying the existence of this chamber to our electors. Let us consider what has caused this state of affairs. I shall quote a few passages from the proceedings of a Senate select committee, as recorded in the Journals of the Senate, Volume 1, 1929 to 1931. They consist of evidence given by former Senator Keating, who was a member of the first Senate, and are apropos of my suggestion that the time when the Senate split itself into a party house, was the beginning of its decline in prestige, vigour, and usefulness. The following evidence was given by former Senator Keating -
The Labour party was the only one that met as a party. When the tariff came on in the Senate, which was some considerable time after the assembling of Parliament, the free-trade Opposition made a point of meeting, and they decided exactly how far they would allow the business to proceed each day. The first time that regimentation and organization of parties other than Labour began in earnest, so far as I can remember, was after the establishment of the fusion party, after the Fisher Government came in, in 1908.
In the early days of the Senate its members were less regimented, less ordered, and less whipped into parties than they are now. If the Senate has lost its “ punch “, it is partly due to the fact that it has become a party house.
That is sadly true. Having regard to our functions as representatives and guardians of the States, I draw attention to the following statement by former Senator Colebatch -
Another thing that lias affected the status of the Senate in the estimation of the public is this: Until 1005, there had been no such thing as a Premiers Conference attended by any responsible Minister of the Commonwealth. When Sir George Reid came into [lower he called a Premiers Conference at Hobart and repeatedly then, and since State Premiers have put before those conferences, and through those conferences to Commonwealth Ministers attending them, matters that should have emanated from the State’s represenatives in the Senate.
I therefore hope that in our time steps will be taken to restore to the Senate the powers and functions properly designed for it by the framers of the Constitution.
In considering this bill it is fitting that we should bear in mind the provisions of the Constitution of the Senate of the United States of America, upon which the constitution of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia was substantially modelled. Honorable senators will remember that it was originally specified in the first draft of the Commonwealth Constitution Bill that the senators should be nominated by their respective legislatures. That was copied from the provision existing then - although it has since been changed - in the constitution of the United States of America. The Senate of the Commonwealth, however, was not clothed with anything like the far-reaching powers enjoyed by the Senate of the United States of America, which has great powers. No foreign treaty can be made binding on the United States of America without the approval of the Senate, which has the right of vetoing appointments made by the President, and in the Senate is vested the exclusive right to try and determine an impeachment for offences against the Constitution and against the State. The United States of America Senate has complete power in regard to the introduction of any bill capable of being introduced by the members of Congress. I emphasize the functions, powers, duties, and obligation of the American Senate, as I shall later compare the number of senators in the United States of America, in terms of population, with those contemplated by the bill under discussion.
Originally in 1789, the United States was comprised of thirteen States and there were two senators representing each State. Now, with 48 States, there are 96 senators. They, like our senators, hold office for a period of six years, in order to allow them the continuity which was designed in our Constitution. Although they have only 96 senators, they have 435 members of Congress. So that, whereas the population of Australia is only roughly one-twentieth of that of the United States of America, we shall under this legislation have more than onequarter of the number of their representatives in the House of Representatives, and nearly two-thirds the number of their senators. In some of the larger States, the position is as follows: New York has 45 members of Congress, and only two senators; Pennsylvania 33 members of Congress, and two senators; Illinois, 26; California and Ohio 23 each ; and Texas 21 members of Congress - each having two senators. I come now to the numbers of electors that those senators represent. According to the 1940 figures a Congressman in the United States of America represented on an average 304,000 electors. The leading senator, who received the greatest number of votes in the State of New York, was voted for by 2,559,363 people. Coming down the scale, it is found that 572,556 voters elected one senator in the State of Missouri. Under the bill as introduced Australia will have one. senator for 83,000 people. At the present time the representation in Australia is one senator for 132,787 people. Those figures, I suggest, compare almost microscopically with the number of people whom a senator in the United States represents. Moreover senators in that country have duties vastly more onerous than those discharged by or entrusted to honorable senators in the Australian Parliament.
I shall make a few comments in regard to the second-reading speech of the Minister, and shall deal first with his reference to section 24. That is the section which provides that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be,, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators. I challenge the Minister to inform the Senate whether or hot that section could be altered by a referendum. There is nothing particularly sacred about making the House of Representatives twice the size of the Senate. The United States of America is a mighty and prosperous country, and the figures I have furnished regarding its Senate representations provide ah interesting comparison. The section of theConstitution which has been handed down to us by those who framed it, and which we are continuingto observe without any rhyme or reason, does not carry any particular magic, and there is nothing to prevent theGovernment from submitting to areferendum a proposal whereby the existing arbitrary relationship would be abolished. For that reason I heartily support the amendment moved by the
Leader of the Opposition. The duties of this Senate can be effectively discharged by the present representation of six senators for each State. Honorable senators have not the detailed responsibilities of members of the House of Representatives; we are accorded time tostudy fully the bills which come beforeus, and we are likewise accorded the necessary time to travel around our electorates - which are vast in Queensland - and inform ourselves personally of the requirements of the various areas which we represent. There is no warrant or justification for nearly doubling the number of senators.
The Minister claimed that authority for the proposals contained in the bill is provided by sections 7 and 14 of the Constitution which set out, inter alia, “Parliament may make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State “. I contend that that section is not an authority for the proposals of the Government. It is merely an authority for the machinery proposed to be used by the Government, and that is something vastly different. Referring to the Senate elections in 1903- the Minister said -
At the Senate elections in1903, 1,893,586 electors were enrolled. To-day the number is 4,780,334, or more than two and a half times asmany. In 1903, in the aggregate there was one senator for every 52,5995 electors. To-day the ratio is one senator forevery 132,787 electors. If the number of senators is increased to 60 as provided in this bill, the ratio at the next elections will be one senator to approximately 83,000 elector’s, which is less, proportionately., than in 1903.
That proves precisely nothing because on the basis of the population of Tasmania being approximately 250,000 people, there will be ten senators representing each 25,000 people, which Ithink is absurdly low. , Perhaps the honorable senators from Tasmania may be slow in getting about, and perhaps not energetic, but I say that 25,000 electors to every senator is absurd in the face of comparisons with other countries. A case in point is the State of New York, where two senators represent nealy 3,000,000 people. Here, the Government proposes to have ten senators representing a State which can send only five members to the lower House. Each one of those senators will represent approximately 25,000 people. I consider that the comparison submitted by the honorable senator proved precisely nothing because there is not, and never was intended to be, any equality of representation on a per capita basis. The whole intent was that there should be equal State representation, and, as long as that is maintained, justice will be done. In another part of his speech,’ the Minister stated -
The Parliament of Canada, which dominion comprises an area roughly one-fifth larger than that of Australia and has a population of about 12,000,000, provides probably the best parallel with Australia, and consists of a Senate of !)(i members and a House of Commons of about 250 members.
I submit that Canada is probably the worst possible analogy that the Minister could have chosen. I am sure the honorable gentleman is aware that senators in Canada have a great sense of security not enjoyed by Australian senators. The Canadian senators, as ‘the Minister probably knows better than I do. are appointed for life by the GovernorGeneral in Council. They must satisfy a. certain property qualification prior to appointment. The powers of those senators are not comparable to any great degree with the powers of United States senators, nor are they co-extensive with those of Australian senators. Even so, it must be borne in mind that the dominion government has extensive residiary powers and that the Canadian States enjoy and exercise only those powers which are not claimed by and vested in the dominion government. Even courts of law in Canada are dominion instrumentalities, not State instrumentalities. This throws a heavier duty and responsibility upon the dominion government than are thrown upon the Australian Government. Another significant fact is that there is no limit to the number of senators in Canada, The present number is 96, but there is no constitutional limitation upon the number that may be appointed from time to time. As I have said, those senators hold office, during good behaviour, for life.
Proportional representation, as a general principle, is much fairer than the “ first past the post “ or so-called preferential system which has been in operation in Australia since 1918. Under such proportional representation as is contemplated in this legislation - I reserve the right to discuss that matter in the committee stages - the comparative farce of from 4S per cent, to 50 per cent, of the people being substantially disfranchised will not occur. But there is a time and place for every proper act of good government. Some honorable senators have been very loud in their protestations that there is nothing sinister about the introduction of this legislation. No such allegation has been made from this side of the Senate. Yet we have had the example of two honorable senators rising and declaring to the world that this scheme is not a reward for faithful service and that it is not intended specifically to give them security. Who said that it was a reward? Are their consciences uneasy about it? Now that the matter has been mentioned, I suggest that their protestations would have been rendered quite unnecessary and their consciences would not have been disturbed at all had the matter been dealt with in the way in which constitutional .alterations, particularly those of a major nature, should be handled. It has been said, very truly, that we have not been particularly busy in this chamber. Most of us have been busy in the States which we represent,, but, as far as legislative work in the Senate is concerned, we have not been particularly busy since last -December. If this matter was in mind then, there was no reason why the matter should not have been submitted to a committee of the Senate for the purpose of making suggestions as to ways and means of altering the Constitution, not only in connexion with the matter indicated in this bill but in other matters as well.
The question of new States is not entirely a dead matter. There are entirely a dead matter. There are people in Queensland and New South Wales who consider that the full development which different parts of their States deserve will not be encouraged unless the States as now existing are divided into smaller sections. That matter might well have been considered by a committee of this chamber. Other alterations of the Constitution would have rendered unnecessary the proposed increase of the number of Senators. Some honorable senators may be able to persuade themselves and the electors that the work now done by six is too onerous and that ten senators are required to do it. However, while they are putting that proposition to the electors and endeavouring to convince them of its validity, I hope, for their own comfort, that they will not be embarrassed by the question : “ What about the Labour party’s platform? Are you not in favour of the abolition of the Senate ? “
– The honorable senator seems to know that platform well.
– I am rather keen on many things in the Labour party’s platform. Its advocates are learning, albeit slowly. In this connexion I was rather impressed by the warmth of Senator Finlay, who spoke with amazing gusto and colossal effrontery about all the meritorious achievements of the Labour party and the iniquities of non-Labour -parties. I suggest to Senator Finlay, and to others who think like him. that a little study of political history would be very interesting as well as informative. Politically speaking, the Labour party is a very recent arrival on the band wagon of progress. There has been considerable progress, even though gradual, ever since the industrial revolution. Long before there was a political Labour party there were social, industrial” and other ameliorating legislative enactments and, either with or without the Labour party, the common decency of mankind would have urged their introduction. I should hate to believe that, with or without a Labour government, we had reached the end of our social development. I trust, even in my lifetime, to see many substantial improvements of the lot of the mass of our fellow men and women. Those improvements will occur whether we have a parliamentary Labour party or not. They will be brought about by the force of decency amongst mankind. Even the most ardent Labour supporters will scarcely claim to have a monopoly of that.
It is unfortunate that the Government is laying itself open to a charge against which, although unmade as yet, its members are defending themselves because matters which interfere in any way at all with the Constitution should not be unduly hurried. . This is essentially a matter in regard to which the Senate should have been able to give a very substantial contribution of wise and considered thought. I have no doubt at all that there are ways in which the Constitution should be amended. My personal opinion is that the time is ripe to increase the membership of the House of Representatives, but I submit that the method proposed by the Government is not the best method. The Government is showing a gross disregard of proper and careful thought and consideration. Its actions leave it open to the suggestion from which some members are already excusing themselves. I disagree entirely with the plan to increase the number of senators. Generally, I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- The Government, in introducing this bill, was perhaps inspired by a desire to accomplish something, not only for the moment, but also for the future of the Australian people. The Constitution under which we are working at present was thought out by men in the latter part of the nineteenth century and I have no desire to detract in any way whatever from the great work that was done by men like Barton, Deakin, Charles Cameron Kingston and .other statesmen of that era. When drawing up the Constitution, they were faced with certain conditions which do not operate to-day. In those days, when a person went from one State to another, he had to encounter a whole staff of customs officials. There was no such thing as free interstate trade. The result was that, side by side with the development of the federation atmosphere, there grew up two main political parties. On the one hand there was the protectionist party; on the other hand there was the free-trade party. Consider the practices of the ordinary commercial world - the banking institutions, for instance- in those days. If a citizen living at Wodonga took a £1 note to Albury across the border, he was called upon to pay exchange upon presentation of that note. Therefore we can realize the magnitude of the problems which confronted the statesmen of that time. When they were attempting to frame the Constitution the conditions of life, including the economic circumstances, were vastly different from those which obtain to-day. The scientific age had not arrived, and the conditions of their time were such that they could not possibly foresee the difficulties of the future. Undoubtedly many of the framers of the Constitution had remarkable vision, but they had to make their decisions in an atmosphere of State jealousy and parochialism which did not conduce to the best possible constitutional arrangements. In consequence, the Constitution which finally emerged was rigid in its provisions, and its outstanding feature was a determination to preserve the interests of the States. Because of that desire, it contained a provision that the numerical strength of the House of Representatives should never be more than double that of the Senate. So anxious were the framers of the Constitution and the citizens to protect the rights of the States that . more than one referendum was required to obtain the concurrence of the people. As an example of the atmosphere which prevailed at the time one has only to recall the controversy which arose over the location of the National Parliament. To resolve that controversy a compromise had to be effected, and that is why we are meeting in Canberra tonight.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) said that two Houses of the Parliament should not take it upon themselves to alter the basis of representation provided by the Constitution. However, the Government desires now. as always, to. comply with the wishes of the people. He admitted that reform was necessary, but suggested that some other method of effecting it should be adopted. His contention overlooks the fact that the Constitution itself provides for the Parliament to determine the numerical strength of its Houses. The honorable senator suggested that an all-party conference should have been summoned to devise some alternative scheme of effect ing reform. He went farther and implied that the Government had not consulted the electors at all before devising forgotten that prior to the last elections the present scheme. Apparently he had the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had declared, on behalf of the Labour party, that if it were returned to office Labour would introduce a scheme for the enlargement of the Parliament. The leaders of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party also advocated the enlargement of the National Parliament during the last election campaign. The Leader of the Opposition also contended that there was no necessity to increase the membership of the Senate, although he conceded that the House of Representatives should be enlarged. He knows perfectly well that, unless we alter the Constitution, it is impossible to enlarge the House of Representatives without enlarging the Senate.
The honorable senator said that there had been a great deal of criticism of the Senate. That is true, but as we all know, most of the criticism has come from the members of the Opposition parties in the House of Representatives, who have complained that this chamber does not perform any useful function. However, I remind our critics in that time by moving motions for the adjournment of that House which have no possibility of being carried. Why do they do so? They do so simply to delay the passage of legislation designed to benefit the people. Within the Senate there may be members - and I refer to members of the Opposition - who condemn it and criticize its activities. However, it is significant that they did not criticize it until Labour secured a majority in the Senate. They have continually complained that although candidates supported by the parties which they represent obtained 48 per cent, of the votes cast for the election of senators at the last elections they obtained only three seats in this chamber, whereas Labour, candidates, who secured only 52 per cent, of the total votes, obtained 33 seats. Of course, that occurred because of the operation of the present inequitable system of voting, which the Government is now seeking to rectify. At the establishment of federation, electors voted by placing crosses against the names of candidates for whom they wished to vote, and those candidates who secured the greatest number of crosses were declared elected. That system was devised during the era when protectionist and free-traders were contending for popular support, but the economic organization changed, and people with property divided themselves into manufacturing and city interests, on the one hand, and large landed^ gentry on the other. Out of that economic change the Liberal party and the Australian Country party came into existence to represent those respective interests. Those parties realized that they would secure a considerable advantage over the Australian Labour party if some means could be devised for their candidates to ex- change preferences at elections, and that is why the present system was established. However, it has not functioned to the satisfaction of the political parties which designed it, as is evident from the result of the elections held in Queensland for members of the Senate.
Senator O’sullivan said that he did not desire to discuss what he termed the “ idle accusations of the past “. However, I remind him that it was because of the accusations made by the trade union leaders of the federation era and since that Labour was elected to office. I believe that the present proposals will lay the foundations for an economy which will redound to the good of the nation. The honorable senator contended that there was no justification for increasing the number of senators, and said that ,a referendum should be held. “Was he sincere in advocating the holding of a referendum? I need only point to the attitude adopted by members of the Opposition in regard to the Government’s proposals for control of rents and prices, which are to be submitted to a referendum shortly. They have adapted a similar attitude in regard to previous proposals which were submitted to the people. Senator O’sullivan also mentioned that the platform of the Australian Labour party includes the abolition of the Senate. However, he knows that the Parliament can- not, of its own motion, abolish the Senate, and that any such proposal must be accepted by the people at a referendum. If such a proposal were submitted to a referendum, I think that the people might very well decide that the Senate is competent to attend to the interests of the State. But how sincere, really, are the Opposition parties in their criticism of the Senate? The present upper house in the Victorian legislature consists of 34 members, but in the election of those representatives two-thirds of the adult population of Victoria is disfranchised. Because of that fact, Labour members of that chamber can practically be counted upon the fingers of one hand. Every attempt made by the Labour party in the Victorian Parliament to make parliamentary representation in that State more democratic is opposed hy members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country’ party. Recently, the Labour party in that Parliament attempted to give to ex-service personnel the right to vote in the election of members of the Legislative Council. Did the Opposition parties support that proposal? ‘Certainly not. We have no reason to believe that the political predecessors of the present Opposition parties supported adult franchise in respect of elections of the Senate, which emerged from the bargaining which took place at constitutional conventions prior to the establishment of federation.
Honorable senators opposite, in their criticism of this legislation, have not advanced one constructive suggestion. Virtually, all they have said is that it will benefit present members of the Senate. I shall show that that is not so. All honorable senators- elected at the last general election will be at a serious disadvantage when they go to the polls in 1953 under the proportional representation system. It is possible that two Labour senators who will seek reelection at that time will have had a term of three years in the Senate. At the election in 1953, five senators will be required to be elected from each State, but on the law of averages under the proportional representation system, two of the candidates of the party gaining a majority will fail to secure re-election.
I am assuming that three Labour party candidates and two candidates of other parties will be elected. Therefore, Labour senators who were elected at the last general election will be at a disadvantage when they again go to the polls.
– Candidates of all parties will be subject to that disad vantage.
– Yes; but, perhaps, the Opposition parties, having regard to their financial resources, may be better able than is the Labour party to arrange matters in their favour. However, we must face that position. In introducing this legislation the Government’s sole objective is to benefit the nation as a whole. For that reason it is deserving of the everlasting thanks of the Australian people. In any event it can be said that this legislation will be to the benefit of those who come after us in the Parliament. Since the foundation of the Commonwealth nearly half a century ago conditions in this country have changed enormously. Although the framers of the Constitution were farsighted, the provision of the Constitution in respect of parliamentary representation is now outmoded. This legislation will be to the benefit of the nation as a whole and I compliment the Government upon introducing it.
– If we are to ensure effective government of the Commonwealth we cannot avoid making adjustments of the system of parliamentary representation from time to time in keeping with the growth and development of the nation. The present is an opportune time to implement a reform of this kind. The recent census reveals that the population of Australia now exceeds 7,500,000. Whilst this Parliament consists of 36 senators and 74 members of the House of Representatives, the legislature of New South Wales, which is representative of a much smaller population, consists of 60 members in the Legislative Council and 90 members in the Legislative Assembly. The Victorian legislature consists of 34 members in the Legislative Connoil and 65 members in the Legislative
Assembly. Both of those legislatures are larger than this National Parliament, but no one would say that the responsibilities and duties devolving upon them are as onerous as those devolving upon the National Parliament. State legislatures are not concerned with such great problems as defence and overseas trade. The question uppermost in the minds of the people in their approach to thi3 legislation is whether it is really necessary. I believe that their answer will be an emphatic affirmative. The enlargement of the National Parliament is justified because the population has increased since federation from 3,765,339 to 7,580,820. In addition to natural increase, migrants are arriving in this country almost daily. These new citizens are bringing to Australia new ideas, new capital and enthusiasm which will give an impetus to national development. Surely, no one will deny to our people the -right to demand effective service from their elected representatives. Efficient representation can be assured only when it is based on electorates of such area and population as will enable individual members of the Parliament to discharge their duties towards their constituents. Reference has been made to the fact that the electorates of Kalgoorlie, Kennedy and Maranoa are three times the sizes of Victoria. Although it is true that modern means of transport and communication, such as the aeroplane and the telephone, facilitate the work of representatives of extensive but sparsely populated electorates, we must remember that all members of the Parliament have to deal with major problems which confront the nation as a whole. Every member of this Parliament must deal with many problems not as the representative of a constituency but as an Australian. This legislation will enable the Parliament to deal more effectively with such problems.
In 1903 each senator represented on the average 52,596 electors, whereas today each senator represents on the average 132,787 electors. When the number of senators is increased to 60, each senator will represent on the average approximately -83,000 electors. The view is generally held in the Community that the enlargement of the Parliament as proposed under this legislation is justified by the growth of our population and the increase of the responsibilities now devolving upon the Parliament. That opinion has been expressed by members of all political parties. Mr. “W. K. McConnell who was a spokesman of the private banks when the banking legislation was being considered by the Parliament, said, in his capacity as a representative of the Australian Constitutional League -
A bigger Parliament should be a prelude to any increase in powers. The present federal constituencies should be divided into three.
Under this legislation the Government proposes an increase of only 66f per cent., whereas that gentleman, who can be said to speak for the private banks, advocated an increase of 300 per cent. On the 19th February, the Melbourne Age said -
Most people concede that a larger Parliament to accord with population growth and greater governing responsibilities, is justified. The plan adopted by federal Labour caucus has some acceptable features. One hundred and twenty-two House members would not be too many in view of the work to be done and heavy increases in numbers of electors served by each. The principle of proportional representation in Senate elections can be approved as u means of ending electoral abuses that confer a virtual monopoly of contested seats tin the dominant party and deny representation to the defeated, even though the margin between the two bc very narrow.
On the 19th April, the Sydney Morning Herald said -
The Government’s bill to increase the size nf the Federal Parliament deserves general support. . . . The present move is overdue and should not be made a party issue. Opposition leaders have, in the past, recognized the need for smaller constituencies and more members, and while it is regrettable that such an important reform was not initiated by a representative all-party committee, there is nothing in the Government’s measure to which the Opposition ca:i legitimately take exception.
Neither of those journals can be said to support the Labour party. It is clear that the Opposition is opposing this legislation merely for the sake of opposing the Government. One can come to no other conclusion when one remembers that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives stated publicly that a ease can be made out for an increase of the Parliament. However, he added the qualification, “ But not now “. “Why did he add that qualification? The right honorable gentleman added it simply because a Labour Government happened to be in office, and he would much preferthat a Liberal government should enact legislation of this kind. I am not surprised, therefore, that he should see in this legislation a sinister plan by the Government to remain in office in defiance of the will of the people. But no government which disregards the wishes of the people can long remain in office. A government must face the electors every three years, and the people will not hesitate to throw out of office any government that they believe is pursuing a policy which is detrimental to the nationalinterests. In the past governments formed by the Opposition parties had ampleopportunity to reform the existing representation system; but they are “donothing “ parties. Governments which they supported held office from 1917 to 1929, a period of twelve years,, and again from 1932 to 1941, a further period of nine years, yet they did nothing to reform the existingrepresentation system. They were content to maintain the status quo, and to continue doing things in their own particular way completely ignoring the need for reforms rendered necessary as the result of national progress. They deluded themselves that they had the Labour party down and out, and that they would govern this country in perpetuity. But this is a “ do “ Government. It is always doing something. “We are increasing parliamentary representation because we know that it is in the interests of the country. The Opposition is “ punch- drunk” and reeling from the beneficial legislation that the Labour Government has passed through the Parliament since it came into office. As an indication of the progress that the Labour Government has made with its legislative programme, it will be of interest to honorable senators opposite to know that at a recent Cabinet meeting the agenda contained only six items. Nearly all the outstanding legislation had been dealt with. I arn confident that no anti-Labour government has ever been in that fortunate position.
The Leader of the Opposition has claimed that to increase the size of the Parliament in the manner proposed in “these bills will be unfair to the smaller States, particularly Tasmania. It is -true “that owing to Tasmania’s limited population the representation of that State in the House of Representatives is not :to be increased, but I remind honorable senators that owing to that wise provision in the Constitution whereby Senate representation is specifically related to the size of the House of Representatives, Tasmania will secure an additional four senators. I can tell the Senate why Tasmania’s population has not increased to the same degree as that of the mainland States. For many years Tasmania suffered the rule of somnolent anti-Labour governments. Under a Labour administration its development has gone ahead by leaps and bounds. To-day it is no longer necessary for Tasmanians to seek employment on the mainland. They can easily secure jobs in their home State. Tasmania is also attracting migrants, and I am confident that before many years have passed that State will have a right to additional representation in the House of Representatives by virtue of its increased population. I do not believe in this doginthemanger attitude of opposing legislation merely because Tasmania is not to benefit from it to the same degree as the other States. I am an Australian, and I represent not merely Tasmania but the Commonwealth as a whole. I deplore the parochial one-eyed small-state attitude adopted by many individuals to-day. I do not believe that because Tasmania is not to receive additional representation in the House of Representatives we should sulk. Although the population of Tasmania at present does not allow for additional representation, Tasmanians generally realize that the interests of Australia as a whole will be served by increasing the membership of the Commonwealth Parliament. It was ironical to hear the Leader of the Opposition express concern about Tasmania. When a government of which he was a supporter was in office, Tasmania did not have even one representative in the Cabinet. The Labour Government has two able Tasmanians - one in each House - in its ranks, and, with the assistance of all other Tasmanian members, they are quite capable of safeguarding the interests of that State without assistance from the Opposition.
The system of proportional representation’ is to be adopted in respect of the Senate elections. My experience of this system in Tasmania over a number of years is that it is eminently satisfactory. It is the answer to the criticism that minorities do not have any representation under the present electoral system. I have watched the operation of proportional representation in the minutest detail as a scrutineer at State elections, and I am confident that its application to the Senate elections will be in the interests of the people and of the various political parties. To be consistent, we must support the principle of proportional representation. We send our representatives overseas to fight for the right of the smaller nations and of minorities. By introducing this legislation the Government is recognizing the rights of minorities to representation in this Parliament.
Much has been- said about digging up the past and quoting ancient history. I do not believe in that practice, but I believe strongly in the old saying, “if we rest we rust”. We cannot afford to rest. This country must do things. It may not always do the right thing, but it must do something because it has a destiny to fulfil. The development of Australia should he the theme of all speeches on measures such as this. An increase of the size of the Parliament will mean an infusion of new blood, new ideas and new forces, which will enable us to push ahead with the job of governing this country. Whether the enlarged representation will result iri an influx of members of the Labour party, the Liberal party, or the Australian Country party, I believe that’ the increased membership will be of great benefit to the country as a whole. This legislation is a step forward and I commend the bill to all honorable senators.
– To-day, we have before us a. bill for the enlargement of the Australian
Parliament. This afternoon and to-night my colleagues have explained fully our opposition to the measure, and I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). However, as the Government’s overwhelming majority will secure the passage of the bill, the enlargement is inevitable. I deplore the cost that this will involve, but, as the measure is certain to become law, I see in it a challenge to persons who are interested in the affairs of this country and are imbued with a sense of public duty, to offer themselves for election. The government of a country is not the prerogative of the old ; we want within our ranks young and vigorous men and women who will bring to their task freshness and enthusiasm: a vision that will see beyond the immediate scene; and above all, a recognition of the fact that first things must come first. To be a truly representative Parliament, we need a leavening of the younger generation so that we can more readily represent our constituencies which are made up of electors of all ages and varying outlooks and occupations. Not since the first Commonwealth Parliament has there been such an opportunity to enter public life. Never before has there been such a chance for the younger generation to infuse- into public life, new, vigorous thought, and to bring a new approach to to-day’s problems. In the past the number of new senators has been restricted either by the success or failure of the particular political party, or by the number of retiring senators. In this increase of representation comes a hitherto undreamed of opportunity. When the new Parliament meets, it will have 71 additional. members. In this chamber there will be at least 24 new faces and I hope that amongst them, we shall see yoting men and women who have served this country during the war years - men and women who have known hardship, suffering, and the lack of freedom. Particularly do we want men and women who can contrast pre-war freedoms with post-war controls - young people who will develop the Australian ideal and throw off the regimentation and shackles imposed on them in the post-war years. The complex problems of government to-day call for the alert, balanced, common-sense approach of the younger generations which have been conditioned to responsibility by the sacrifices of war. They, by force of circumstances, had to accept, great responsibility and make quick decisions. In the comradeship built inthose years they learned tolerance, and the necessity to see the other fellow’spoint of view with understanding. Arenot all these qualities required in government? Above all, these people know thevalue of freedom, and the dread of oppression. Each generation must train its successors. We do not wish to see parliaments composed of the same men, year after year, getting weary in service. Older members should be ready to sharewith the younger ones their knowledge and experience. When the larger Senate assembles I hope to see the younger members being given a chance to show their worth with the encouragement of the older members. What a wonderful opportunity this is for the younger people of Australia to work and develop this country, to improve ministries by bringing to them that vision which is the very essence of the younger generation, instead of the constant dwelling in the past which we find so disturbing to-day 1
There is also territorial significance in this bill. It is true that a substantial proportion of the increased membershipwill be in New South Wales and Victoria,, and this I regret, but it is certain that the representation of the more remote parts will be almost doubled, and the needs of places like north Queensland and the north of Western Australia will he presented almost twice as strongly. This is most certainly needed.
I urge the Government also to permit the initiation of more legislation in the Senate so that we in this chamber may have more opportunities for initial discussion of bills. This will be particularly desirable when the Senate has been enlarged.
This bill is certain to become law by weight of numbers, and so to-day I appeal to the younger generation to accept the challenge to come forward and help to govern this country; to build a better Parliament; to work for the development of Australia; and to fight for the freedom of its people.
– I agree with, honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber who have said .that legislation to increase the membership of both Houses of the Parliament is long overdue. I understand that a request that - this be done was made many years ago by the Liberal party, but that party’s inaction in the matter was in keeping with other planks in its platform that have never been given effect. It would appear that, at times, members of the Liberal party wish to press certain matters but members of the Australian Country party put the “ britchen strap “ on, and vice versa. Although an enlargement of the Parliament is a plank in its platform, the Liberal party has never had sufficient courage to introduce legislation to give effect to the reform. In the past, it took no acion to remedy the system of voting for the Senate hecause it had a majority in this chamber. I recall that on one occasion there were 35 non-Labour senators and only one Labour senator. Now that the Labour party is endeavouring to introduce a very necessary reform, honorable senators opposite are advancing various reasons why this legislation should not be enacted. I contend that the legislation now under consideration will, 5 approved, enable the people of Australia to have more of their ideas debated in the Parliament. Doubtless, a Senate of larger numerical strength than exists at present will result in better debates although I contend that the debates which now take place in this chamber are at least equal to debates in the House of Representatives and probably are not excelled in any Parliament in the world. Senator Rankin expressed the hope that the enlargement of the membership of the Senate would enable more ex-service men and women, and younger senators generally to he included amongst us, but I remind her that numbers of exservicemen, including a fair proportion of younger men are already members of the Senate.
The Clerk of the Senate has been good enough to furnish me with figures respecting representation in the Senate from its inception in 1901. Although the position of the parties is not clear from the records, the following table shows the results of successive Senate elections: -
Those figures furnish convincing proof that the people of Australia have been satisfied with their representation in this chamber during the last six years. This Government has introduced the legislation now before us with the object of providing better representation of the people. I recall that on one occasion when I had six opponents at an election I suffered defeat by seven votes. That did .not seem fair to the people who supported me. In the uncertain sphere of politics expectations are not always realized, but I am confident that many honorable senators now in the chamber will be returned and will continue to moke worthy contributions to the debates in the National Parliament. Senator Rankin has urged that more business be brought before the Senate, and I support that view, with the exception of measures dealing with money matters. In 1900 the population of Australia was 3,765,339, but by 1947 it had increased to 7,580,820. In view of that enormous increase it is extraordinary that the number of senators has not been increased during that period. Let us consider the position in Canada. That country which has a population of approximately 12,000,000 has a Senate of 96 members, whilst its House of Commons which is equivalent to our House of Representatives has about 250 members. I therefore contend that we have been behind the times. The Government now intends to remove the anomaly: it claims that Australia is just as important as any other country in the world. It is the desire of the Australian Labour party, that the people of Australia shall be adequately represented in the Parliament and this can only be done by increasing the membership of both Houses. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers . were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 -
No. 23 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 24 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 25 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia) and others.
No. 26 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 27; - Australian Journalists’ Association.
No. 28 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Nos. 29 and 30 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments Department-
Civil Aviation - A. W. Doubleday, A. Smallman.
External Affairs - J. L. Allen, A. B. Jamieson.
Post-war Reconstruction - N, C. Carroll, V. E. G. Harris, H. C. Sheath, W. G. St. C. Smith.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Prices) Regulations -
Orders- Nos. 3307-3311.
Overseas Telecommunications Act - First AnnualReport, including Financial Accounts, of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia), for period ended 30th June, 1947.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act-
Ordinance - 1948 - No. 4 - Supply (No. 4) 1947-48.
Senate adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19480505_senate_18_197/>.