19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Eon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address the following questions to the Minister representing the Prime Minister: - 1. Have the advertisements appearing recently in the press inviting applications from exservice men and women for entry to the clerical division of the Commonwealth Public Service on possession of the intermediate certificate and without examination, resulted in a good response? 2. As an ex-serviceman myself, I fully agree that some consideration is due to exservice personnel, hut if the response to the above-mentioned advertisements is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Public Service, could favorable consideration be given to the question of admitting permanent fourth, or general, division male and female personnel who were manpowered during the war years, and thus unable to enlist, to the third, or clerical, division on the same terms as ex-service personnel? 3. As it is considered that examinations are often a test of nerves and not a test of ability, could sympathetic consideration be given to permitting the entry into the third, or clerical, division, without further examination, of those male and female permanent officers now in the fourth, or general division, with’ fifteen or more years’ satisfactory service, which service has been given unstintingly, particularly during the strenuous war and post-war years?
– I have not seen the advertisements to which the honorable senator has referred, and I have no idea what response, if any, there has been to them. However, if he will place his series of questions on the notice-paper I shall have inquiries made and furnish him with a reply in due course.
– In view of. the statement made during the general election campaign by the Prime Minister that he would review the whole of the Public Service, with a view to reducing its numbers, would the Minister representing the Prime Minister state how many fewer public servants are employed now compared with the number who were employed when the present Government took office?
– I am not aware that such a statement was ever made, but the question of the staffing of the Public Service is being considered by the Government at the present time and at the appropriate time a statement will be made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers : -
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the Senate whether he was correctly reported as saying that the provision of social services is costing Sd. a day per head of population, and further, that the Government was considering a contributory social services scheme, as a result of which it was hoped that the means test would bo abolished? If he was correctly reported, will the Minister inform the Senate what the Government has in mind in relation to the new scheme for the provision of social services?
– The” answer to the first part of the honorable senator’s question, relating to social services costing 8d. a day per head of population, is “ yes “. “With respect to the second part of his question, I stated during a broadcast address that, in my opinion, the only really satisfactory basis for the- provision of social services was a contributory scheme.
– Is that government policy ?
– That was set out in the joint policy speech of the parties in office. No such scheme has yet been approved by Cabinet.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen a statement, reported to have been made by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), and supported by the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack), in the House of Representatives, that pensions are to be increased almost immediately? Was the honorable member for Bennelong speaking on behalf of the Government? If not, in view of the fact that each week the income of pensioners is worth less and less under this Government’s policy of putting value back into the fi, when can the Senate expect an authoritative statement on this most important matter?
– I have not seen the statements to which the honorable senator lias referred, but it is the practice for announcements of government policy to be made by members of tho. Government. The Opposition, appears to be somewhat disappointed to find that the Government i3 approaching the problem of invalid and age pensions in a live, sympathetic, and energetic maimer. I have no doubt that the pensioners will be thoroughly satisfied with what this Government proposes to do for them.
Senator AYLETT (through Senator
Finlay) asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– As at the 27th May - the most recent date for which statistics are available - the numbers of unemployed in each State drawing unemployment allowance were as follows : - New South Wales, 166;. Victoria, 64; Queensland. 542; South Australia, 3; Western Australia., 56; Tasmania, IS.
Unemployment benefits under the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947- 1949 are not paid to unemployables.
– I desire to inform the Senate that Field Marshal Sir William Slim, G.C.B., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., Chief of the Imperial General Staff, i.s within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the Senate beside the President’s chair.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
Field Marshal Sir William- Slim thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– In view of the fact that bicycles are coming to be regarded more and more as the working man’s means of transport, will the Minister representing the Treasurer bring that fact to the notice of his colleague, with the request that when consideration is given to reducing taxes special consideration be given to reducing the sales tax on bicycles and bicycle parts?
– I shall place the honorable senator’s views before the Treasurer.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether any decision has been reached concerning the allocation of dollars for the importation of newsprint from Canada? If no decision has yet been made, can the Minister indicate when the Government’s decision will be announced ?
– The Government has given consideration to the matter, and an announcement of its decision will be made in due course.
– I preface a ques-tion to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by saying that although Western Australian, meat is exported to Singapore and Malaya from ports along the west coast from the far north to as far south as Geraldton, paradoxically during the last couple of weeks practically no meat has been available in Carnarvon. Will the Minister request his colleague to direct the Australian Meat Board, which has a representative in Western Australia, so to” regulate the export of meat that supplies will be available for local consumption in ports in Western Australia?
– I undertake to convey the honorable senator’s request to the Minister for Commerce and Agri-culture.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate : 1. Whether it is a fact that the British Medical Association has deregistered Dr. Van de Hope, a wellknown specialist who practises in Collinsstreet, Melbourne, because he permitted a refugee doctor to practise medicine as his assistant? 2. Can the Minister also say whether it is a fact that Dr. Van de Hope supplied, under the provisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, the largest number of medical prescriptions of any doctor in Melbourne, if not in Victoria? 3. If the Minister is unaware of the matters that I have mentioned, will he have inquiries made to ascertain whether the facts are as stated, and inform the Senate of the result as soon as possible ?
– I am not in a position to answer the honorable senator’s question offhand, but I can assure him that I will bring it to the notice of the Minister for Health and obtain a reply from him as soon as possible.
– In view of the numerous requests that have been made by honorable senators for information about the Government’s proposals for a national health scheme, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health say whether he proposes to supply any information to honorable senators before the Senate rises for the winter recess?
– I am unable to say whether the Minister for Health will bring his national health scheme before the Parliament during the current sessional period. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister, and I hope to obtain an answer before the sittings of the Senate conclude.
– In view of the Government’s complete inability to introduce a national health and medical benefits scheme, does the Government intend to continue to tax the people for a service that is not available to them ?
– The honorable senator’s question is based on completely erroneous premises. I am convinced that not only Government supporters, but also members of the Opposition, and of the general public throughout the Commonwealth, will be completely satisfied with the national health service when it is introduced.
– When the Sydney General Post Office clock was removed during the war, a promise was made that it would be restored at the earliest possible opportunity. When the war ended the replacement of the clock was delayed by the man-power shortage. Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral say when we may expect the clock to be returned to its former position ?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the PostmasterGeneral. I point out, however, that although a Labour Government, of which the honorable senator was a supporter, held office for some years after the war, no attempt was made to restore the General Post Office clock.
– On the 17th May, Senator Amour asked whether it was in accordance with Government policy that an individual who had built up a hire car business in Canberra and was operating two vehicles should be prevented by governmental action from, disposing of that business, notwithstanding that the business is conducted from his private home and that the state of his wife’s health requires that lie should do so.
I am advised by the Minister for the Interior that the individual mentioned by Senator Amour desired to dispose of his home and his two motor vehicles. The Department of the Interior took no action to prevent this sale. The prospective purchaser, however, desired as part of the transaction to take over the hire car licences applicable to the two vehicles. The Motor Traffic Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory provides that a licence granted to ply for hire in respect of a public motor vehicle is not transferable. A similar restriction is operative in New South Wales where under legislation made some years ago, transfers of hire car licences are not permitted unless the licence was acquired prior to the passage of the amending legislation. The principal reason for the restriction is to prevent the holder of a hire car licence from disposing of his licence at a profit to himself. The maximum number of hire car licences available for allotment has been fixed having regard to the requirements of the public. The number of licences was increased recently. There is, however, in Canberra a large number of applicants for this type of licence and if the transfer of existing licences to newcomers were permitted, the chances of applicants already registered obtaining a licence would be considerably reduced. It is therefore not proposed to make any change in the provisions of the Australian Capital Territory Ordinance.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to make any further statement regarding exservicemen suffering from war neurosis who are incarcerated in mental institutions? The Minister has made some inquiries regarding patients in South Australia and his interest is much appreciated.
– I hope to be able to make a full statement regarding cases of neurosis before the Parliament rises. I shall take the first opportunity to do so.
– As the press of Victoria is referring to the apparent injustice meted out to Dr. J. R, James, of Heidelberg Hospital, is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform the Senate why this doctor’s services were dispensed with?
– A question on this matter is already on the notice-paper and when I have the answer I will give it to the Senate.
– I have received a number of letters from totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and I now ask the Minister for Repatriation if it is the intention of the Government to make a statement on an increase of pensions? Is not that just as important as always attacking the Opposition? A report has been received by the Cabinet. When will the Minister make a statement on the subject?
– I can assure the honorable senator that a statement will be made to the Senate and to the public as soon as the increases in allowances and pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act are finalized.
– As the international situation has recently become more interesting to Australia, if not more serious, and as the Senate has not had an opportunity to discuss the subject for many months, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate give honorable senators an opportunity to discuss this question before the Senate rises ?
– As the honorable senator knows, the Government is in a minority in this chamber with the result that, in spite of the mandate which we enjoy, the Opposition has taken the conduct and control of the business of the Senate out of its hands from time to time.
– If the Minister for Trade and Customs is really sincere in his expressed desire to provide an opportunity for the discussion of foreign affairs in the Senate, the Opposition is quite willing to co-operate by agreeing to the extension of sittings to the whole of next week, if necessary.
– I am delighted at the change of heart among honorable senators opposite, and trust that they will continue to be helpful, not only during the present sessional period, but throughout the whole term of the present Government.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether there is any truth in the press report that thousands of cornsacks are being imported from India, and quantities of jute from Pakistan? Can the Minister guarantee that the quantities being imported will be sufficient to meet Australia’s requirements? Will the distribution of cornsacks be the responsibility of the Commonwealth or of the States? It is desirable that each State should receive a just quota.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has informed me that everything possible is being done to ensure that supplies of cornsacks will be adequate, and he is hopeful that a sufficient quantity will be available at the beginning of the new season. The
Department of Commerce and Agriculture will control the distribution of cornsacks to the States. ,
Senate/ REID asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following information: - 1 and 2. The cornsacks position has been difficult and promised to develop into a most acute problem this year. The Jute Controller, who is an official of my department, recently visited India and Pakistan for the purpose of negotiating the purchase of the maximum quantities of jute and jute goods available and arranging the necessary export quotas and shipping fixtures. The main cause of the shortage of cornsacks and jute goods generally has been the absence of an undertaking between India and Pakistan on the matter of jute supplies. An understanding was reached in April and although supplies of raw jute from Pakistan have not yet been as great as scheduled in the contract, Pakistan has undertaken to provide all supplies promised by 31st July. For its part, the Government of India has assured the Australian Government that adequate supplies of cornsacks will be made available to Australia at such times as to enable shipments to be made to fulfil requirements of cornsacks for the coming harvest. The Jute Controller and the Australian Wheat Board are watching the position closely on my behalf, and the Government is in constant touch with our High Commissioner at New Delhi on policy matters and with the Australian Trade Commissioner at Calcutta on the detailed matters of procurement and shipment of jute goods.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen a newspaper report that Mr. Harry Bridges, a former Australian, has had his American naturalization revoked? Does that mean that Mr. Bridges will now revert to his former nationality? In view of his Communist activities in the United States of America, is the Government prepared to allow him to enter Australia ?
– I saw the headlines of the item mentioned by the honorable senator, hut I did not read the contest. The attitude of the Government to the matter will be determined on the circumstances as, when, and if, they arise. The matter does not concern my department. I expect that it will be handled by the Minister for Immigration, and I am quite sure that the right thing will be done.
– I asked the Minister whether Mr. Bridges would revert to his Australian nationality.
– I refer the honorable senator to the conditions printed on the back of the forms upon which honorable senators place questions. One of them is that questions shall not ask Ministers for legal opinions. I am quite sure that Senator McKenna’s opinion upon the legal position of Mr. Harry Bridges would be quite a worthy one, and well worth heeding. I commend the honorable senator to Senator McKenna for an opinion.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
In view of the landholders’ inability to obtain Australian-made wire netting in sufficient quantities, and the high price charged for imported wire netting, has the Government given any consideration to subsidizing imported wire netting?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has informed me that the matter is at present under consideration by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers: -
. Is it a fact that manufacturers of textiles cannot secure sufficient orders either from within Australia or from overseas to keep their factories’ in full production?
If so, will the Minister ascertain whether other markets are available to enable factories to produce at full capacity, and so avoid the large scale dismissals of employees that are now taking place in Tasmanian factories?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
In committee : Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments resumed from the 15th June (vide page 4377), upon motion ;by Senator Spooner -
That the amendments (vide page 4358) be agreed to.
– I regret the attitude that has been adopted by the Government in connexion with this measure. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner), has stated that no good whatever would arise from a conference with relation to it. That indicates that the Government lacks the spirit of co-operation necessary to resolve the differences of opinion between the Government and the Opposition. It is evident that the Government has no desire whatever to understand the point of view of the Opposition in relation to the two issues that have emerged, namely, a direction to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to ignore child endowment when determining the basic wage, and an increase from 5s. to 10s. a week endowment for the first child in every family under the age of sixteen years. I recollect that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) recently declared, “ We are the Government “. The implication of such a statement is that the Government is not prepared to give any consideration whatever to constructive suggestions by the Opposition. Added significance attaches to the Opposition’s contention that there should be a direction to .the court because of an application that was made to the court only a few days ago for social services benefits to be taken into consideration by the court in determining the basic wage. It seems to me that if the Government adopts the attitude that it is not concerned about any representations made by the Opposition in connexion with this measure it is not concerned about doing justice to the working people of Australia, whose wages are determined by the properly constituted authority, which is the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We must be careful to ensure, as far as we can, that any determination made by that court will not be influenced by the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child, because if that court takes endowment for the first child into consideration the income of many thousands of workers will be reduced accordingly. Any reduction of the basic wage at the present time would have a most serious effect because of the present high cost of living. During the course of the debate last Thursday the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) said in a snide manner that the proposal made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by the employers’ representatives during the hearing of the basic wage case that the basic wage should be reduced by an amount corresponding to the rate of child endowment paid in respect of the first child of every family was merely a sub- mission made by junior counsel. I suppose that the junior barrister concerned has, like juniors in any other avocation, to make a start. Actually, it does not matter whether counsel who made the application has the status of junior or senior counsel; the fact is that such an application was made. Of course, we all realize that the barrister concerned was merely acting as the mouthpiece of one of the .parties in the case. The submission which he made on behalf of the interests whom he represented proved that the representations made by the Opposition throughout the debate that has taken place on this measure are not without foundation. Furthermore, it is known that the proposal to reduce the basic wage by an amount corresponding to endowment paid in respect of the first child has been discussed in the court during the hearing of the basic wage inquiry, and the facts that I have mentioned amply justify the attitude adopted by the Opposition in this matter.
I pass now to the second ground of disagreement between the Government and the Opposition in this matter, and that is the amount of endowment to be paid in respect of the first child of every family. Why should there be any differentiation between the rate of endowment for the first child of a family and that provided for subsequent children? Why cannot some agreement be reached between us on this matter? Honorable senators will recollect that when the Minister introduced the measure he placed particular emphasis on the expenditure incurred by parents in providing for their first child. In fact, he elaborated that point considerably. It seems to me,’ therefore, that there is no logical reason for differentiating between the rate of endowment to be paid for the first child and that for subsequent children of a family, nor has the Government adduced any sound reason to support its attitude. The bill has been returned to this chamber by the House of Representatives substantially in the form in which it was originally introduced to this chamber. In other words, the amendments inserted by the Senate have been completely disregarded. My attitude is that the bill should be returned to the House of Representatives in the same form as it was when first sent to that chamber. If the Government refuses to have a conference between the two Houses on this matter, the responsibility for the failure of the legislature to provide the proposed child endowment must rest entirely upon the Government.
During the debate that took place on this measure last Thursday, night, the Minister twitted us that we had not the courage to vote on the amendments to the bill proposed by the House of Representatives, and his remark was applauded by the “ yes men “ opposite, who expected that the outcome of the New South “Wales election would be very different from the actual result. Honorable senators opposite hoped to stampede the Opposition into taking action that would enable the anti-Labour parties in New South Wales to go to the electors of that State and say, “ The Labour party has refused you the right to receive 5s. a week child endowment “, and they intended to make great political capital out of it. Unfortunately for them, all their plans went astray. I say emphatically that Labour is not opposed to child endowment being extended to cover the first child; but we want the proposed payment to be safeguarded, and we put forward concrete reasons why the payment should be safeguarded. We also say that there should be no differentiation between the rate of endowment for the first child and that for subsequent children. The Government showed its hand last Thursday night. 1 was surprised at the manner in which the Minister for Social Services reacted when he saw that this bill was not likely to reach finality in this chamber on that occasion. He could contain himself no longer, and he let the Opposition know in plain terms what he thought of it. We did not mind that, of course, because we are fighting for a principle. We are fighting to ensure that the benefits that will accrue to the people from this measure shall not be filched from them. In to-day’s press I read something about boarding houses in Canberra. Apparently there has been a decision to charge couples who have children an additional 5s. a week for hot water. Thus, by that one extra charge alone, the benefit that will accrue to a family by the extension of child endowment to the first child will be completely offset. Other social services benefits have met a similar fate. Therefore we believe that we should do everything possible to ensure that the money payable under this legislation shall be an ex gratia payment, and shall be safeguarded from trafficking. There is still plenty of time for an agreement to be reached between the Government and the ^Opposition on this legislation. Although the scheme is scheduled to operate as from to-day, the first payment is not due until the 18th July. If the Government is not prepared to confer with the Opposition, it is clearly insincere.
– ‘Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- This bill should be above party politics because its benefit will be available to every mother who has a child under sixteen years of age. The payment will bc made, without discrimination, to all sections of the community. The bill is not even tinged with “red” propaganda. When it was first introduced into this chamber, I said that attempts would be made to cite the endowment payment for the first child of each family as a reason for a reduction of the basic wage. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) replied that nothing contained in this bill would affect the basic wage. I dealt with the matter again last week, and even as I was speaking the very argument to which I was referring was being advanced by representatives of the employers at the basic wage hearing in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitra - tion. The Melbourne Herald printed the following report of those proceedings: -
Child endowment, and other social services payments, were relevant in considering any increase in the basic wage, Mr. A. P. Aird (for certain employers) told the Full Arbitration Court to-day.
The Court is hearing an application by the Australian Council of Trades Unions for a £10 basic wage.
Mr. Aird handed to the judges and counsel copies of a Social Services Department brochure outlining entitlements in maternity allowances, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, widows, age and invalid pensions, and hospital benefits.
The weight of those services and their expansion, he said, were relevant in considering both needs and economic capacity.
Social services were expanding, not contracting, having reached £80,000,000 a year.
Every time child endowment has been a political issue either in the State or the Commonwealth sphere, there have been repercussions on the basic wage. Child endowment has always been used as an argument for a reduction of the basic wage. We on this side of the chamber do not represent only the labouring classes in the community. We represent almost every section of the community, and our supporters constitute at least half of the electors of the Commonwealth. I believe therefore that it is our bounden duty to do what we possibly can to ensure that the benefits of this legislation shall not be offset in any way. As Senator McKenna has said, the Government’s attitude indicates a lack of sincerity in its approach to this problem. Because of the Opposition’s insistence upon the insertion in this measure of some safeguard against a reduction of the basic wage, we on this side of the chamber have been accused of stone-walling. Senator McKenna has suggested that the Government and the Opposition should confer in an endeavour to reach agreement so that the people of Australia might receive the benefit of this legislation at the earliest possible date. I remind honorable senators of the similarity between happenings in 1940, and in 1949. On both occasions, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration adjourned the hearing of wage claims pending the outcome of a political controversy about child endowment. Clearly there is a definite relation between child endowment and the basic wage. The Government should not adopt a “ stand and deliver “ attitude on this matter. According to press reports, honorable senators opposite were hurriedly summoned to meet in Canberra this morning, no doubt so that they could be toughened up to fight the Opposition on this bill, which, as I have said, should be above party politics. It is a question of doing something for the motherhood of Australia. I realize that party tactics necessitate one side or the other saying that the endowment should be 5s., 10s. or 15s., but, in the meantime, the mothers of
Australia, and not the members of Parliament, will suffer unless something is done. It may be suggested that if one side adopts a certain attitude and remains adamant, there may be an election in the near future and one side or the other will suffer. Whether that is so or not, the mothers of Australia should not be made to suffer because of differences in this chamber regarding the application of child endowment.
– It seems incredible that the Government, which is expressing so much concern for the children of Australia should not accede to the request of the Opposition to safeguard endowment for the first child against any alteration of the basic wage. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are genuinely concerned about the possibility and even the probability that the payment of endowment on the first child will be taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. During the general election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that if the 5s. endowment was taken into consideration in fixing the basic wage, the Government would increase the amount to 10s. That statement, which has been repeated in this chamber by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Spooner), is too stupid for words. If the court is going to ‘ take 5s. into consideration, why should it not take cognizance of a payment of 10s. at the next application which would soon follow the higher payment?
The attitude of honorable senators on this side of the chamber is fortified by the report that representations were being made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to take these amounts into consideration. In its obstinacy, the Government claims that if it gives any direction to the court in this bill, it will render the measure unconstitutional. Its inconsistency is apparent from the fact that the Governments of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, which are of the same political colour as the Federal Government, is asking that these payments should be taken into consideration. The Government cannot have it both ways. The Opposition is genuinely apprehensive about the dangers that are inherent in this hill unless some safeguard is inserted to prevent it being taken into consideration by the court. To say that the Opposition is stonewalling is just stupid. The Opposition does not want to deprive the mothers of Australia of 5s. a week. It believes that the endowment should be 10s. instead of 5s. Adequate safeguards should be provided. Distinct dangers will exist if this bill is allowed to pass without the Government making its intentions known to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
Last Thursday, honorable senators saw an exhibition by the usually placid Minister for Social Services that they had not deemed possible. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber felt rather concerned for him because he seemed likely to burst a blood-vessel. Because honorable senators on the Opposition side did not surrender meekly and abjectly to the Government, the Minister went off the deep end properly. There is a very real danger to the basic wage structure in Australia. If payment of 5s. is made for the first child, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 families, excluding rural workers, will benefit. The aggregate number of salary and wage-earners in Australia is between 2,500,000 and 3,000,000, excluding rural workers. It is perfectly obvious that if 5s. endowment is taken into consideration by the court, about 1,500,000 salary and wageearners will have the basic wage. reduced but will derive no benefit from the new child endowment payment. The danger is so apparent that honorable senators on this side cannot understand why the Government, if it is sincere, is not prepared to insert this safeguard in the bill. The Opposition wonders whether the continued refusal of the Government to do so indicates that the motive behind the bill is a .concealed attack on the basic wage. That probability cannot be dismissed. Honorable senators are continually being reminded about the high wages in this country and the effect that they have on prices. Again, that suggests the motive behind the Government’s attitude. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Services must have some idea that this payment will be considered by the Com monwealth’ Arbitration Court, because they have given an assurance that they will consider making it 10s. if the courttakes the 5s. payment into account. I cannot understand why the Government is so obstinate in its refusal to insert a safeguard which would satisfy everybody. It is wrong to charge the Opposition with stone-walling when it seeks that safeguard. What possible advantage can the Labour party obtain by “stonewalling “ the bill ? It is only because we represent the salary and wage earners-
– The Labour party claims to represent them, but they vote for us.
– As I was saying, it is only because we represent the wage and salary earners of the country that we are on our guard against any attack, direct or indirect, on wages. There is evidence that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had this issue in mind when it suspended the hearing of the basic wage claims in 1949 until after the general election took place. There is nothing to stop the Government from putting in the bill the safeguards for which we have asked. If it does so the Opposition will accept the measure without delay. We still maintain that endowment for the first child should be 10s. a week instead of 5s., because there is no doubt that it is more expensive to keep the first child than subsequent children. If this bill does not represent a covert attack on the basic wage, there is no reason why the Government should not accede to our request.
– I cannot understand why the Government will not accept an amendment which is designed to protect the basic wage. When the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, an assurance was given on behalf of the Government that if the basic wage issue were found to be affected by the endowment of the first child, the Government would reconsider the position. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner), when introducing the bill in the Senate, repeated the assurance. Members of the Opposition are, perhaps, more closely concerned with this matter than are Government supporters. Many Opposition members have played an active part in trade union affairs, and have represented unions in the hearing of claims before arbitration tribunals. Over the years, we have noted repeated efforts by employers and anti-Labour governments to induce arbitration tribunals to take social service benefits into account when fixing wages. This has been particularly noticeable during the last ten or twelve years. Members of the Labour party have good reason for their fears in regard to this measure, and even the Government itself must have entertained some doubts when it announced that the position would be reconsidered if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, when assessing the basic wage, took into consideration endowment for the first child. Only last week, one of the lawyers representing the employers at the basic wage hearing in Melbourne asked the court to take into consideration, not only the amount of child endowment, but also amounts received by the workers in the form of social service benefits generally. The Minister for Social Services assured us that the claim was made by a very junior counsel, but the fact remains that it was made, I cannot see that the Government would be humiliated by accepting our proposal that there should be inserted in the bill a direction to the court not to take child endowment into consideration. At any rate, the Government should at least meet the Opposition in conference to discuss the matter. Ever since the bill was introduced, events have occurred which prove that the fears of the Opposition are well grounded. Senator Guy claimed that the court had never yielded to claims that social service benefits should be considered in the fixing of the basic wage. That may be so, but the pressure on the court will become greater because social service benefits have become greater. Both Labour and antiLabour governments have been responsible for the introduction of measures to increase social service benefits. The Labour party does not deny that anti-Labour governments sponsored some very fine social service legislation in the past.
– Under heavy pressure.
– I do not wish to detract from the credit that is due to the governments responsible for it. I am prepared to award the present Government parties full marks for the part that they played in securing the passage of that legislation, but I shall be compelled to alter my opinion if I am forced to the conclusion that they acted with the intention to take away what they had given to the people in the form of social services by championing, at some future date, the cause of those who want social services to be taken into consideration in the computation of the basic wage. I regret that the Government has considered it necessary to differentiate between the first child and other children in a family. I was the oldest child in my family. I do not know what I should have thought, when I was old enough to realize what had been done, of a government that said that, because I was the oldest child, I was worth only 5s. a week while my brothers and sisters were worth 10s. a week.
The fears of the Opposition and the fears that the Government must have entertained when it introduced this legislation have been proved not to be groundless fears. The Government must have envisaged the probability of this endowment affecting the basic wage adversely; otherwise, it would not have said what it was prepared to do if that happened. I believe that it would be in the best interests of the mothers of Australia if the Government agreed to insert in the bill a provision that the endowment shall not be taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in assessing the basic wage, or, at all events, to hold the conference that has been suggested, at which the matter could be discussed in accordance with the best traditions of the Parliament. It cannot be denied that the fears, of the Opposition regarding the probable action of the court have been justified by the actions of the employers’ representatives, whether they be junior or senior, in the basic wage case. I sincerely trust that, even at this late stage, the Government will reconsider its position and, if it cannot accept the amendments that were made to the bill in this chamber, at least agree to the proposal that a. conference shall be held.
– I wish to reply to four honorable senators opposite who have spoken upon this motion, because I believe that each of them, to some degree, lost his bearings in approaching this matter. Senator Nash said that the Government had no desire either to understand or to give consideration to the view of the Opposition. The -Opposition’s argument upon this matter can be divided into two parts - that which is genuine and that which is not genuine. The Government” understands the part of the Opposition’s argument that is genuine and has given careful consideration to ‘ the question of whether it can, in some measure, meet the Opposition in order that, the bill may be passed. However, it is faced with an insuperable difficulty. It cannot accept the legal view that has been advanced on behalf of the Opposition. It must rely upon its own legal advice, which is directly contrary to the view advanced by the Opposition.
– What is it?
– The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has explained it at length. Honorable senators opposite may say that the legal advice received by the Government is inaccurate, but I point out that lawyers often differ. I. suggest that, in these circumstances, it was entirely wrong to charge the Government with having acted in an arbitrary way in this matter. It has given full consideration to the Opposition’s view. I wish to make it quite clear that when I referred to Mr. Aird as a junior counsel, I did not use that term in a derogatory sense. I do not know Mr. Aird, but I am certain that he is of high standing in his’ profession. Otherwise, he would not have been briefed in an important case.
Senator Katz made an appeal that this matter should not be dealt with in a party political way. I say, with respect, that the day has passed when an appeal of that kind can be made with any justification. During the last two general election campaigns the present government parties said that, if they were returned to power, they would ensure that child endowment was paid to the first child of every family. That proposal was opposed by the Labour party during those campaigns. When a measure designed to implement it was introduced into the Senate, honorable senators opposite retreated from the stand that they had taken previously and, instead of opposing’ the measure, as one would have expected them to do, having regard to what they had said, proposed an amendment that would have had the effect of increasing ibc rate of the endowment from 5§. to 10s. a week. That was party politics. Therefore, it is no longer competent for honorable senators opposite to make the plea that was made by Senator Katz.
I have two complaints to make of Senator Sandford. First, he suggested that the Government was, by introducing this measure, attempting to attack the basic wage in some way. That was a most unfair accusation. In the course of my second-reading speech, I made it plain that the Government stands for the highest possible standard of living in this country. lt was nasty to accuse the Government of wishing to attack the basic wage. The accusation was entirely unwarranted and did not reflect credit upon the honorable senator who made it. The second complaint that I make of Senator Sandford relates also to Senator Critchley. They quoted incorrectly the policy speech that was delivered on behalf of the present Government parties. They are both under a misapprehension regarding the Government’s approach to this matter. They said that if the court took endowment of the -first child in every family into consideration the Government stood committed to increase the amount from 5s. to 10s. a week.
– Did not the Prime Minister say that?
– One feels impelled over and over again to try to make the point that the Government did not come into this matter in any haphazard way. There was, in the right honorable gentleman’s policy speech, clear recognition on the part of the Government that child endowment and the basic wage are closely related. The Prime Minister specifically referred to the contingency of the court fixing the basic wage on the needs of a man and his wife.
– That is the same thing.
– It is quite a different thing. The right honorable gentleman said that in that contingency the amount would be increased to 10s.
– That is a distinction without a difference.
– It would be a very different set of circumstances if the court announced a basic wage for a man and wife. If we leave to one side Senator McKenna’s professional approach to the matter, I contend, with respect, that almost every member of the Opposition has shown confused thinking about the issues. The following portion of my second-reading speech on this measure expresses the Government’s views as clearly, concisely, fairly and squarely as possible : -
The determination of the basic wage is left entirely to the Arbitration Court. There is no appeal against its finding. It is not found by its own precedents. There is no certainty upon what basis the court will reach its determination. On each hearing, those interested - employers, employees and governments - express their views upon the method upon which they submit the basic wage should be computed and the amount which they submit should be awarded.
I repeat now what I said last Thursday night, that the Opposition has adopted a most unfair approach to the debate by quoting what the employers’ representatives are now saying in the court. Obviously they are going to make out the best case that they can for themselves. When the employees’ representatives appear before the court they, also, will make the best case from their point of view. To use the vernacular, I believe that we should be “ sunk “ if we got to such a stage that the political parties determined the basic wage and all other matters that are decided by the court. The paragraph continues -
The court is practically untrammelled in its approach to the matter. It hears the views of those who are interested and reaches its decision. I emphasize this point. Those who dogmatically state that endowment of the first child will actually reduce the basic wage do so either in ignorance of the procedure or with the deliberate intention to falsify the Government’s intentions. I will add only this : The Government has already made clear what it will do .if the court alters the principles of computing the basic wage and takes as the foundation for calculation the needs of a married couple without children. In that event the Government will bring down an amendment to provide uniform endowment of 10s. for all children. If, on the other hand, the court adopts some new principle altogether for computing the basic wage, the Government will reconsider the matter in the light of the new circumstances. But it is idle to speculate on these possibilities. The basic wage, and the principles on which it is computed, are matters for the court to decide, and this Government will not make the slightest attempt to influence the court in its deliberations.
If this were the summing up - which I hope it is - although it may not be-
– It may be a rehearsal.
– If we were summing up in that way, and were putting politics to one side-
– The Minister did not disregard politics last Thursday night.
– Nor is the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) disregarding politics now; nor will he disregard them to-morrow and the day after to-morrow. We believe that if the first child in each family under the age of sixteen years is to be endowed, this measure provides the best way to approach the matter. The Government has not dealt with the matter in a light, offhand way. The Government believes that if it were to approach the matter by the path that the Opposition advocates,, confusion would become even worse confounded. Our legal advice is that the payment itself would be subject to attack, and, by pulling down the pillars of the temple we should become involved in the basic wage finding, which, when delivered, may itself become the basis of another law suit. That is where we stand.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I shall comment on two rather extraordinary happenings in this debate. The first is the entire absence of Government members from the debate, apart from the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) himself. Apparently there is some conspiracy on the Government benches not to venture on this debate. The second feature is the speech that’ the Minister delivered in this chamber on Thursday evening last. Therein lies the Opposition’s doubt whether the
Government understands the points that it is pressing. The Minister stated that the first point of our criticism was that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had made a misstatement. Our criticism in that connexion was merely a criticism of that particular fact. Yet the Minister has selected that as the main point of Opposition criticism. He stated that the other point of criticism arose because a junior counsel in the basic wage case had suggested a new formula for determining the basic wage. That, also, was incidental. I made it exceedingly clear in my contribution to the debate that what we were concerned about was that that counsel - whether junior or senior was immaterial - was supporting my argument, because the written submissions of the three State governments and of the employers requested that child endowment should be taken into account in determining the basic wage. The Minister completely overlooked, first, that there was the great danger and the great probability of the court taking child endowment immediately into account; secondly, our argument that there was ample constitutional power, which I developed at great length; and, thirdly, that a clause directing the court to ignore child endowment in assessing the basic wage would be severable, and could be taken out of the legislation. Although I raised those points on behalf of the Opposition, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) stayed out of the debate. Furthermore, the Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator O’Sullivan), who is also a lawyer, stayed out of it. “We cannot help feeling that they lack faith in the advice that they tendered to the Government. I should be amazed if the Minister could tell the Senate that the point of view that has been expressed by the Government has the support of the non-political advisers of the Government in the Attorney-General’s Department, although I know nothing whatever about their advice. The new power over child endowment not only enables the Parliament to provide endowment, but also goes a step further, and empowers it to see that nobody takes away that benefit. That is a concomitant part of that power. What would be the use of a power that enabled something to be provided, but did not also empower the Government to prevent somebody from taking it away? That would be a completely absurd position. I believe that its power in relation to child endowment enables the Parliament to say, in effect, to the industrial tribunals of Australia - whether Federal or State - “ It is Parliament’s intention to grant child endowment. We do not want you, in your calculations, to reduce the award that you otherwise would give, or hold it stationary. We want you to forget all about it, because it is a matter that we put in a separate compartment “. I have a very strong belief that that is well justified, as a point of view.
I shall refer briefly to the pharmaceutical benefits legislation. Power over pharmaceutical benefits was written, into the Constitution in 1946, at the same time as power to provide child endowment was specifically written into the Constitution. The Parliament’s power to provide pharmaceutical benefits had been questioned in 1945, and what the court then said about pharmaceutical benefits can be compared with what we claim it would say now about child endowment. I refer particularly to a passage in the judgment delivered by Sir John Latham, the Chief Justice, in Attorney-General (Victoria) v. The Commonwealth, which appears at page 258 of volume 71 of the Commonwealth Law Reports, and is as follows : -
The question therefore is whether the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act falls within the sphere of Commonwealth legislative power. If it is an Act for the appropriation of money, s. 51 (xxxix.) of the Constitution would authorize the inclusion in the Act of provisions to prevent the use of money for purposes other than those declared by Parliament.
I particularly invite the attention of the Minister to the last sentence of that passage. Surely the case put forward by the Opposition is supported by the view expressed by the Chief Justice? We ask the Government to include a provision in the measure to, prevent the appropriation being used for purposes other than those which the Parliament declares. The case which I have cited is authority for the proposition that the powers of the Commonwealth are not confined to those specifically set out in the Constitution. It decided that the powers of the Commonwealth are whatever the Parliament determines they shall be. In appropriating money and dispersing it the Parliament is not confined to the specific matters mentioned in the Constitution. In support of my contention I shall quote a further passage in His Honour’s judgment, in the course of which he states -
For these reasons, in my opinion, the provisions of s. 81- that is the appropriation clause of the legislation that was then in question - can fairly be read as intended to mean that it is the Commonwealth Parliament, and not any court, which is entrusted with the power, duty and responsibility of determining what purposes shall be Commonwealth purposes, as well as of providing for the expenditure of money for such purposes.
This conclusion, however, relates only to laws providing for the expenditure of money. It does not follow that the Commonwealth Parliament, because it can, as it were, subscribe towards the support of what it considers to be worthy objects, can take legislative control of matters relating to any such objects in respect of which there is no other grant of legislative power . . .
His Honour pointed out that although a company may have power to subscribe to a hospital or to a football club it does not follow that it possesses the power to control the particular hospital or football club concerned. He gave a number of illustrations of the expenditure of public funds upon objects, which are not set out in the Constitution. He mentioned that it had been held quite proper for money to be appropriated for antarctic exploration, medical research, literary grants and pensions, subscriptions to international organizations, public health and assistance to distressed Australians abroad. It is clear, therefore, that the viewpoint expressed by the Opposition is supported by the view held by the Chief Justice. It is equally clear that the viewpoint which we expressed last Thursday is still not understood by the Government. As Sir John Latham points out, there is a duty and a responsibility upon the Parliament to declare its purpose. His Honour has, in effect, invited the Parliament to declare its purpose in this legislation. The attitude adopted by the Minister in this matter has been consistent. He repeated to-day what he said in his second-reading speech. I think that the Government has made it clear that it does not want the grant of child endowment to prejudice the basic wage; but that is exactly the attitude adopted by the Opposition. We say -to the Government : “ Join with us in a declaration of the intention of the Parliament so that the court will not be in any doubt “. Then we go further and ask the Government to take the consequential step of saying, in effect, to the court: “We direct you not to take child endowment into account in determining the basic wage “. We ask the Government first to make the declaration, and secondly, to translate the declaration into effective terms by including in the bill a positive direction to the court.
The Minister said that he thought it was unfair to cite what Mr. Aird had submitted to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on behalf of the employers’ organizations during the hearing of the basic wage inquiry. However, I point out that as recently as last Wednesday Mr. Aird asked that child endowment be taken into account, and later presented to the court a copy of an official booklet containing particulars of social services and asked the court to take all social services into account in determining the basic wage. After all, Mr. Aird was the mouthpiece of the employers, and he was endeavouring to substantiate the submissions made by the employers’ organizations in various States. The arguments which he urged upon the court were not mere verbal assertions but submissions which had been placed before the court in writing. Amongst those submissions is one asking the court to take the value of social services into account in determining the basic wage; and I remind honorable senators that the court must deal with that submission. The views expressed to the court by the employers’ representatives were not expressed airily or lightly, hut were supported by serious argument. The pleadings are in writing, and the point that we are now discussing has been hotly contested before the court. Therefore, I say to the Minister, with all respect to him, that we feel that the Government still does not understand the point made by the Opposition. We are disappointed that the Government has not attempted to answer our arguments on the legality of the proposal to include in the measure a certain direction to the court. The Government has contented itself with saying, in effect : “ Our legal advice is soandso “. However, the legal advisers of the Government are conspicuous by their absence during this debate, and no real attempt has been made to substantiate the correctness of the advice that they tendered to the Government. The Opposition feels, therefore, that the Government is not seized with its viewpoint in this matter.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should not have taken part in this debate but for the attitude adopted by some members of the Opposition, which is quite unjustifiable. There is no justification whatever for suggesting that the submission made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by certain interests concerned in the basic wage inquiry will be accepted by the court. It is true that those interests have suggested that child endowment should be taken into consideration in assessing the basic wage. However, it is also true that the employees’ representatives have suggested, or will suggest, that it should not be taken into consideration ; and honorable senators on this side of the chamber could, with equal logic, urge that the employees’ representations will be accepted by the court. It is quite wrong for us to canvass in advance the decision of the court, which will make its finding in the light of all the evidence submitted to it. Furthermore, I remind honorable senators that the court has never previously taken social service payments into consideration in determining the basic wage. Even the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has definitely stated that the court does not take such payments into consideration, but is concerned solely with the ability of industry to pay a particular wage. The right honorable gentleman was not alarmed by the suggestion made by his colleagues in this chamber that the court might take social services into consideration in fixing the basic wage. I am not qualified to express an opinion on the constitutionality of such a direction as that proposed by the Opposition, but, in any event, I accept the advice of the Government’s legal officers, who have stated that the inclusion of such a direction to the court would be unconstitutional. Apart from the constitutionality of such a procedure, in my view it would be quite improper for the Parliament to instruct the court what it should or should not take into consideration. If the present Parliament were to instruct the court to take a certain factor into consideration in determining the basic wage, what is to prevent a succeeding parliament from issuing a contrary direction to the court? The issue of directions to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would open up the way to all sorts of irregularities and injustices. The Parliament might, for instance, say to the court : “ You must fix a basie wage of £20 a week “. If we are not prepared to trust the court to do the right thing and to accept its findings, then it would be better for us to abolish it. I say that we should leave the court to deal with the matter as it thinks fit.
Members of the Opposition have also contended that the proposed payment of 5s. a week is not sufficient, and that it should be increased to 10s. a week. Of course, that contention undermines the Opposition’s argument that the basic wage may be reduced by the amount fixed for child endowment for the first child of a family, because, if the Opposition’s contention on that aspect of the matter is correct, the increase of the proposed payment would have the effect of reducing the basic wage by 10s. a week.
– The Opposition proposes that a proper safeguard for the basic wage should be included in the bill.
– The proposed safeguard is not necessary. No such provision has been included in previous legislation, and it is not necessary to include it in this measure. The Opposition is not justified in suggesting that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will accept the submission made to it on behalf of the employers that it should include the value to the individual of social services in fixing the basic wage. I remind them that only a few years ago members of the non-Labour parties in this chamber endeavoured to provide for the payment of child endowment for the first child of every family, but the then Labour Government rejected the proposal. No suggestion was made at that time by Labour that any direction should be issued to the court iri order to assist it to determine the basic wage. The conclusion is irresistible that if Labour is sincere in its attitude ‘now, it was insincere in the attitude that it adopted on that occasion.
No one can deny that we have a mandate from the people to legislate to provide child endowment for the first child of a family. In his policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that he would introduce legislation to provide for the payment of child endowment of 5s. a week. That is the mandate that we received, and it was in accordance with that mandate that we introduced this bill. Honorable senators opposite, during their eight years of office, never once suggested that child endowment should be extended to the first child of each family, notwithstanding that they were urged to do so. Indeed - again speaking subject to correction - I believe that they actually opposed such a proposal. It is rather amazing therefore, that they should now come along with the suggestion that the payment should be 10s. instead of 5s. The Government is obliged to adhere to the terms of its mandate. I am opposed to any interference with our courts. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should bo unfettered in the judgments that it makes after hearing evidence from all the parties concerned.
– The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) has not allayed the Opposition’s fear that, in the absence of some safeguard, the extension of child endowment to the first child in each family will result in a reduction of the basic wage. We are most fearful of the repercussions that this measure would have on the basic wage if it were passed in its present form. If any justification of our fears be required, it is to be found in the fact that, when the present Government parties announced prior to the last general election that, if returned to office, they would endow the first child of each family, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration immediately announced, through the Chief Judge, that the hearing would be suspended, pending a decision by the people of Australia on the child endowment issue. The court went into recess for approximately throe months. It is clear, therefore, that the court will take child endowment for ihe first child into consideration in determining the basic wage, unless a direction to the contrary be inserted in this bill. The Government has raised constitutional difficulties. I am not a lawyer, but I have had some experience of industrial courts, and that experience suggests that it would be most desirable to insert in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act itself a provision that the court shall not consider child endowment in fixing the basic wage. The present basie wage claim is being opposed, not only by employers’ organizations, but also by , some of the State governments-, and. union representatives are faced by a formidable array of opponents. As has already been pointed out, one of the representatives of the employers has submitted that the court should consider child endowment in arriving at its decision. When, in the course of the 1941 basic wage hearing, a certain formula for the fixation of the basic wage was suggested, it was made clear that child endowment would be taken into account in determining the basic wage. The court then proceeded to fix the basic wage on the basis of the needs of a man, wife, and one child. Delivering the court’s judgment on that occasion, Chief Judge Piper said -
If this Court were to enunciate that the basic wage was based entirely on the needs of a specific family unit, say, two children, the Court, if and when the scheme is put into operation, will, it appears to me, have to take the amount of endowment into some account in fixing the needs wage. But by adhering to its present principle, the Court will take such scheme into consideration only insofar as it, if at all, affects the assessment of the highest basic wage that industry can afford to pay.
It is clear from those remarks that child endowment has a direct relationship to the basic wage. I come now to the Government’s proposal to pay only 5s. a week, instead of 10s. a week.
– A payment of 5s. a week would at least establish the principle.
– We are more interested in the principle of equality. Why should the first child of each family receive only 5s. a week, whereas other children receive 10s. a week?
– The Labour party would not have made any payment at all.
– Simply because we feared a reduction of the basic wage. We still believe that unless an adequate safeguard be provided, endowment of the first child of each family will be offset by a corresponding reduction of the basic wage. The Government has not done anything to remove that fear from our minds.
– The Opposition wants to interfere with the courts of justice.
– We want equal payment for all children. The cost of this legislation is estimated at £15,000,000 a year. We believe that the court will take that sum into consideration in reaching a. decision. Only approximately 1,000,000 wage earners will benefit from this legislation, but 2,000,000 wage earners, who are unmarried, or have no children, will have their wages reduced by 5s. a week. That is how the child endowment bill will be paid. There will be no increase of the national income as the result of this measure. That possibility would be obviated in a constitutional manner if the Government were to accept the Opposition’s proposal that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be instructed not to consider child endowment in fixing the basic wage. The Opposition wants to make this legislation of real benefit to the mothers of this country. If the Government will satisfy the Opposition on that score, the Opposition will be prepared to co-operate by making this benefit available as soon as possible.
– Having listened for hours to this debate, it is clear in my mind, and I am sure in the minds of all Australian women, that the Opposition is deliberately delaying the passage of this measure, and therefore deliberately delaying a payment that would be of great assistance to the mothers of this country. The principles of this legislation were placed before the Aus tralian electors’ on the 10th December last, and the Government secured a mandate for its proposals. This measure is in accordance with that mandate; but what has been its fate ? Honorable senators opposite, who boast of their concern for the welfare of the people, have deliberately delayed the passage of the bill, indicating clearly to me and I am sure to many others, that they have little regard for the welfare of the people. Here is a. bill providing for a payment that will be of great assistance to thousands of families. No means tests will be applied to it. It will be paid in good times and bad times; yet the Opposition has talked about it and around it for days. Again I ask why honorable senators opposite, if they are sincere, did not do something about endowing the first child when they were in office in this Parliament? For eight years the Labour party had a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. Representations were made to it on more than one occasion for a:i extension of child endowment to the first child, but without success. Now, on the pretext that the payment should bc 10s. instead of 5s., honorable senators opposite are delaying the measure deliberately. The women of Australia, particularly the mothers, will know that the delay is the fault of the Opposition in this chamber who have deliberately delayed this legislation. On Thursday last, honorable senators listened to speaker after speaker on the Opposition side delaying this important matter. All honorable senators believe in the importance of family life and the necessity to assist parents. Nothing is more important than home life and the family unit, and this legislation will assist the mothers of this country materially. Yet it is being delayed deliberately. The complete insincerity of the members of the Opposition is clear. If they had been sincere, they would have hastened the passage of this bill. But when representations were made to them during the term of office of the Labour Government they turned a deaf ear. I urge that this matter should not be delayed further, and that the women of Australia should be given the benefit of this payment.
– I believe that- there is still some misunderstanding among honorable senators. The Opposition has no desire to delay this measure. If an application to take social services into consideration had not been made last week to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, as was reported in the Melbourne press, I can assure the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) that there would have been no delay whatever. That application justified the fears that were expressed by the Opposition when the bill was introduced.
– Does not the honorable senator trust the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
- Senator Guy spoke a few minutes ago and his contribution showed that he knew nothing about the subject he was discussing. He had been propped up after the muzzle had been taken off the members of the Opposition. Senator McKenna clearly indicated last Thursday that the new formula was the only matter of concern, to the Opposition. The Minister had five minutes to reply and ho was given nearly a column on the front page of the Sydney Morning Harold to help the political fight in New South Wales. Certainly it was not very effective. I am not blaming the Minister for getting in his political propaganda, but I am disturbed about the injustice of the report. The Minister had referred to the concern of the Opposition regarding the application made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in Melbourne. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) brushed it aside gently by saying that the application was made by a junior counsel. Whether he was a junior or senior counsel, he was the representative of the employers.
– The honorable senator must not blame the AttorneyGeneral for that statement. I said that.
– I am sorry if I made a mistake. It does not matter whether a junior or a senior member of the bar made the application ; he represented the employers and revealed the danger that was foreseen by honorable senators on this side of the chamber that child endowment would interfere with the computation of the basic wage. A further application has been made in regard £0 other social services, but not one word appeared in the Sydney press. There are two morning and two evening newspapers in Sydney. Honorable senators on this side do not want to interfere with the policy expressed in editorials, but they will have to consider which newspapers will get the support of the Labour movement and the industrial movement of the country. It may be wise to support the people who are establishing a newspaper in Melbourne at present and are giving a fair go to both sides. The Minister was justified in trying to get publicity, but not one word was given to the justification for the Opposition’s fears. The Minister ridiculed the earlier statements by honorable senators on this side of the chamber and said that there would be no interference with the basic wage, but an application has been made to the court, and the press of New South Wales has adopted a. “ hush-hush “ policy in an endeavour to help the Liberal party in its State election campaign. Senator Guy has asked why the Labour Government did not take some action on child endowment. Does he not know that the last computation of the basic wage was on a unit of a man, a wife and one child?
– That is not true. It was based on the needs of industry.
– It is true. The unit was a man and his wife and child. There is no doubt about that. There was no need for an application to be made to the court, but when endowment is provided for the first child, the Labour party wants to have the basic wage protected. It wants to ensure that endowment will not cause interference with the basic wage. Nobody can convince me that the court will not give some consideration to the fact that provision is made for the first child when it is considering the basic wage. It is already suggested that there should be a new formula. In dealing with this bill some weeks ago, I said that the formula had dwindled from a unit of five to a unit of three. I claimed then that when provision was made for more child endowment, the unit would be reduced to two. and eventually would lead to an application for wife endowment, thus making for a unit of one and establishing the basic wage on the needs of a single nian. That is indicated in the discussions that have taken place in the court to-day. It was mentioned in Melbourne during the hearing of this case.
Senator Annabelle Rankin has said that the Opposition is delaying the bill purposely. That is not the intention of the Opposition. Because of the paucity of the publicity that the Opposition gets in the press, it has to take every opportunity to ventilate its opinions to try to impress on the Government and the people of Australia the effect of this legislation. The Minister said that it would be interfering with an application that had been made to the court if it adopted the Opposition’s proposals. I reply that it would be very unfortunate for the wage earners and the salary earners of this country if that application gets no consideration from the court because of the provision of endowment, and it is a responsibility which the Government must accept. There is only one answer and that is to provide 10s. for the first child.
– Judged on precedent, it is obvious that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will reduce the basic wage if this bill is passed in the form proposed by the Government. The basic wage was originally based on five units. Immediately child endowment was authorized, it was reduced to three units. Wages are paid on the cost of living factor whereas they should be based on the value created by the labour power of the worker. At present the wage is assessed in terms of commodities. If the bill were passed, the court would say that it was duty bound to take into account the amount of money that was already being paid to the family unit. The court would act entirely on precedent as it has always done. I had hoped that a conference would be held on this matter. I have been engaged in many disputes and I have always acted on the principle that agreement should be reached in a conference if possible. The Government is adopting a dictatorial attitude when it declines to agree to a conference. It would not be committing itself in any way if it agreed to a conference which is the reasonable and constitutional way of settling differences.
The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) was wrong when he stated that the Labour party had always opposed child endowment. Throughout the years the Labour party has endeavoured to secure for families an adequate income in the form of wages and social services. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have repeatedly emphasized that the Opposition objects to child endowment being taken into consideration in the fixation of the basic wage. In this instance the basic wage would be assessed on the cost of living of a man and his wife if it were not challenged. Under that system, compared with the present basis of a man, his wife and child, the new payment would not cost the employers anything at all because the workers have already paid sufficient money into the National Welfare Fund to meet the cost. The Government’s attitude appears to be based on obstinacy and prejudice rather than on sound reasoning. If a conference were held and all aspects were considered thoroughly, the position would be very much different. I feel strongly on this matter, because I see the possibility that in the future a situation will arise in which the purchasing power of the fi will go down and down. Wages may be described in terms of their money value, or their economic value, which is what they will buy in terms of goods. The economic wage to-day is lower than it ever was, whereas the monetary wage was never so high. We propose that a conference should be held to discuss that situation. Unless there is an intelligent approach to these matters it is almost certain that a war of attrition will develop, and eventually the workers will be forced to take up a stronger stand than they may really wish to do. The Government claims that an endowment of 10s. a week for the first child of a family is too much. I point out, however, that the money would not come out of the taxpayers’ pockets. A great deal of it has already been contributed by the taxpayers themselves, and paid into a fund for their benefit. The Minister for Social Services said that the Government favoured the highest possible living standard. I accept; his statement in good faith, hut his attitude towards this issue does not bear out that statement. I have always maintained that wages should be based upon the values created by the workers’ labour rather than on the cost of living. If that were done there would be no need to consider incentive payments, or other expedients to increase production. The workers would know that the more they produced the more they would get, and there would be, incidentally, greater industrial peace than there is to-day. If the Government will not agree that this issue be discussedat a conference called for the purpose, it must reconcile itself to the fact that the issue will be discussed at some time in the future after the workers have been forced into taking strike action, perhaps, or extraparliamentary action of some kind. The Government cannot evade its responsibility. I do not agree with Senator Annabelle Rankin that the women of Australia, and the mothers in particular, will be incensed with the Opposition for the attitude it has taken up. I have addressed a great many more public meetings than has Senator Annabelle Rankin, and the impression I have gained is that women are seeing these issues in a clearer light than ever before. I believe that, instead of resenting the action of the Opposition, they will congratulate us upon having forced the issue. In conclusion, I sound this warning: Unless the Government is prepared to make an intelligent approach to this matter it will find itself beset with many difficulties of its own making.
Question put -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. M. Nicholls.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
– I move -
That Senator Ashley, Senator Cooke and Senator McKenna be a, committee to draw up reasons for the Senate disagreeing to the amendments made by the House of Representatives.
I at first proposed that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) should be a member of the committee, but he preferred that neither he, nor any other member of the Government, should be a member. The Opposition believed that it was in courtesy bound to make the offer, but it was declined.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator McKenna’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- On behalf of the committee I bring up the following report : -
Reasons of the Senate for disagreeing to the A mendments of the House of Representatives -
Because there is an obligation on the Parliament to ensure that the grant of child endowment is not defeated by the action of a body other than the Parliament.
Because an additional family endowment of5s. per week is inadequate.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) put -
That the reasons be adopted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 15th June (vide page 4358), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has stated that the bill before the Senate proposes to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to this chamber, in order to obviate a deadlock after a double dissolution. I do not think that any honorable senator would welcome a double dissolution.
– Or a deadlock, I hope.
– I do not think that there will be any need for it. The Minister has claimed that the need for the alteration springs from deficiencies in the system of proportional representation applicable to elections for this chamber, which came into operation last year. Whatever merit there may be in that claim is entirely lost because there is no provision in the bill to return to preferential voting or any other form of voting for Senate elections. From the Minister’s statement one would think that the fundamental problem to be solved was the method of election of senators. The Government’s reluctance to revert to some other system of voting for the Senate is alone sufficient justification for the retention of the system of proportional representation. On many occasions during the last 50 years inequality of representation has affected both major political parties. The election in 1919 resulted in only one Labour senator being returned to this chamber, although over 40 per cent of the Senate votes cast favoured Labour. On the other hand, even as recently as 1946, only three anti-Labour senators were elected to this chamber. Any problem that is confronting the Government to-day is not attributable to the operation of the system of proportional representation in relation to this chamber. This proposed legislation would result in a permanent perversion of the Constitution in order to allow a political advantage to flow to the Liberal and Australian Country parties. Proportional representation is not mentioned in the Constitution. It was introduced by the former Labour Government with the object of giving major political parties more equitable representation in the Senate. The Minister has stated that the object of the bill is to avoid a deadlock arising after a double dissolution, if Government and Opposition senators were returned in equal numbers. But the scheme of this bill would not prevent the election of equal numbers of the major parties to the Senate. A deadlock could arise after a double dissolution if, in certain circumstances, three States voted in favour of Government senators, whilst the other three voted in favour of Opposition senators.
– But the odds are against it.
– In such an event 30 Labour senators and 30 non-Labour senators would be elected. Even with the mathematical adjustment suggested by a number which is divisible by two without remainder, but is not divisible by four without remainder it would still be possible for equal numbers to be returned in the Senate. Under existing conditions 30 members of this chamber must stand for election in 1952 whilst the remaining 30, under normal circumstances, would not go to election until 1955. Of the 30 who would stay in for five years, seventeen are Liberal and thirteen Labour supporters. Unless the Labour party won in every
State of the Commonwealth it could not obtain a majority in the Senate.
– Under the condition that I have explained. The Minister will have an opportunity to reply in due course, and I hope that he will be able to satisfy me that that is not the position. Furthermore, if the Labour party won in five out of six States, it would not obtain a majority in the Senate. I do not think the Minister’s claim in regard to a deadlock after a double dissolution is sound. To date no deadlock between the Senate and the House of Representatives has materialized, although since the general election last year there has been a great deal of speculation in certain quarters about the possibility of a deadlock resulting in a double dissolution. The atmosphere of secrecy in which this bill was originated, and the proposed permanent amendment of the Constitution do not, in the opinion of the Opposition, justify the Opposition’s support for a referendum. In reality the object of the measure is to provide a temporary political advantage to the Government parties on the pretence that it is brought forward to meet problems which arise from the system of proportional representation in the Senate, which was introduced and placed on the statute-book by a Labour government, and given fullest publicity. If a change is needed, the present system could be amended, or there could be a reversion to the system of preferential voting, or to any other system that Parliament determined, but an alteration of the Constitution is not necessary. The Senate is an integral part of the national parliamentary machine, and it was originally intended to be a States house of review. That is emphasized by the provision for threeyear and sixyear terms by the framers of the Constitution. In that connexion, L. F. Crisp, in his book, The Parliamentary Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, states -
The evolution and position of the Commonwealth Senate as a component of the national parliamentary machinery should be studied carefully against the long, learned and some times even heated debates upon its form and powers in the National Conventions of 1891. and 1897-8. These debates, in turn, must be seen against an historical background made up of three elements. First, Convention Members had in mind throughout their debates the constitutions and records of the Upper Houses (Legislative Councils) of the Australian Colonies - Houses which Liberals, loathed as being undemocratic, while Conservative regarded them as “ the only bulwarks against the coming socialism “. Second, the role of the House of Lords in the British Constitution - yet to be more precisely defined by the Parliament Act, I!)ll - was not forgotten. Thirdly, and above all. the model of the American Senate, at that time still indirectly fleeted by State Legislatures, constantly quoted and debated.
Victorian delegates, in particular, brought to the Conventions strong views about Upper Houses, for over a great many years a guerrilla warfare had been sustained between the Assembly and the Council in that Colony, flaring into a bitter battle on more than one occasion. Upper Houses, whether manned on a nominated or property-franchise .basis.’ were anathema to men like Deakin and Higgins. There were, on the other hand. Conservatives like Captain Russell of the 1S91 New Zealand delegation who had lively fears of “ the cyclonic effects of popular gusts of passion “. These sought for the Commonwealth a States House which would also constitute a bulwark for property and the established social order.
From the outset, however, it was plain to delegates that if the Federal Constitution was to receive either the formal approval of thu lasting loyalty of the bulk of the Australian people it could not primarily or indeed in the least obviously serve the economic interests of those who stood against the popular will, wherever that will might lead. This was as clear to the more acute and liberal champions of a Senate with co-ordinate powers as to those who acquiesced in a Senate with equal State representation only because it was an element in the inescapable price of union.
It .is apparent that there were Liberals even in those days, and that the socialistic tiger was roaming about even in the nineties. The Opposition believes that a proposal which is introduced in order to gain political advantage is not worthy of submission to the people. Experience shows that in order to succeed a referendum needs to have the support of the major parties. A number of referendums have failed even when both major parties in this country have supported the proposals. Only four of 23 proposals have been carried in 50 years. Of those four proposals that have been carried by referendum, one, relating to social services, was held in 1946 ; another, concerning the election of members of the Senate, was held in 1906, and the remaining two, which dealt with financial arrangements between the National Government and the States, including the debts of the States, were held in 1910 and 192S. Because of the provisions of the Constitution, it is extremely difficult to carry a referendum even when the major political parties are in agreement on the particular matter submitted to referendum. Those provisions require not only a majority of the people but also a majority of States to favour the proposal before it can be carried. The referendum held in 1937 on the control of civil aviation disclosed the reluctance of the people to alter the’ Constitution. Notwithstanding that the proposal submitted to the people on that occasion was unquestionably sound, that it had the support of all shades of political opinion, and that it would have benefited every State in Australia, it was defeated at the referendum. Subsequently, a special agreement had to be made by the State governments with the Australian Government to empower that government to assume control of civil aviation. I remind honorable senators that the matter referred to in this bill is of small significance compared with such an important matter as civil aviation. I suggest, therefore, that the possibility of carrying a referendum on it is remote, and that the Government is endeavouring, by a subtle political manoeuvre, to turn the Senate into a mere political echo of the House of Representatives, which was never intended by the framers of ‘the Constitution. “Whatever merits might reside in the Government’s proposal, no argument has been put forward by the Government to convince the Opposition that the Government’s proposal has any chance of being carried at a referendum. Claims have been made in the House of Representatives that the Senate should be merely an echo of that chamber. However, I think that members of the Government in the Senate will agree that it was never intended that this chamber should become a mere echo of the House of Representatives. Our history suggests that the Senate was formed because of rivalry and jealousy amongst the States, and it was expected to protect the States. The several State governments agreed to equal representation of all States in the Senate only because it was part of the price that had to be paid for federal union. I am not suggesting that the present Government is solely responsible for the change that has taken place in the prestige or functions of the Senate, but I invite attention to a statement that was made by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) a few days before the last election. The report of his remark appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 8th December, 1949.
– Of what was the Minister speaking?
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who has interjected, should be as silent on this matter as he has been on the Government’s intentions concerning the national health scheme. The report states -
Labour control of the Senate would safeguard the public and protect it from unwanted Liberal legislation, Mr. Holt, M.H.R., said today.
Labour could not lose control of the Senate in the Federal elections on Saturday, he said.
With its majority there, it could block any Liberal legislation from the House of Representatives. The Liberals would then be forced either to drop the measures or force a dissolution of both Houses.
If Labour were returned on Saturday there would be no corresponding safeguard because Labour could control both Houses.
I draw particular attention to that part of the statement which admits that Labour control of the Senate would safeguard the people, and I remind honorable senators opposite that Labour has faithfully carried out its duty, as was exemplified as recently as this evening, when we rejected the Government’s inadequate proposals concerning child endowment.
In referring to the election of a former President of the Senate the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) complained that the Labor party gave nothing away. Apparently, he objects to the Labour party exercising its constitutional rights. On the occasion referred to, we did exercise our rights. The numbers were equal and a draw took place. The anti-Labour parties lost, and they are still wailing about the result of the draw. I remind honorable senators of what occurred in the House of Representatives during World War I. In 1913-14, Sir Eliot Johnson, when he was Speaker, saved the Government several times by voting in divisions during committee. In more recent times, I remind the Senate that a f ormer Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Nairn, and a former Chairman of Committees, Mr. Prowse, who were members of the anti-Labour parties, continued in office for eighteen months after the Government which they supported had resigned. In fact, it was not until a motion of no confidence in the Curtin Government was moved on the 21st June, 1943, that they resigned their offices. In the intervening time they had continued in office while Labour governed the country. I know that this statement is not very palatable to numbers of supporters of the Government, but if the Attorney-‘General had not introduced the matter of the election of a former President of the Senate in the course of his remarks, I should not have made it.
– I did not complain about that.
– Then why did the Attorney-General introduce it?
– To illustrate what can happen when the Senate is equally divided.
– The situation that prevailed when lots were drawn for the election of President of this chamber was unusual, as also were the circumstances when the former Speaker and Chairman of Committees of the House of Representatives, to whom I have referred, resigned. In fact, their action in resigning (for political purposes attracted severe criticism from traditional circles inside and outside the Parliament.
The Opposition does not consider that a deadlock is imminent, and, in any case, it points out that the bill will not prevent a deadlock occurring after a double dissolution has taken place. It is important to bear in mind also that the provisions of the bill will become operative only after a double dissolution has taken place. The proposals contained in the bill seek to change the function of the Senate from that of a house of review to a mere echo of the House of Representatives, and the Opposition is opposed to the measure for that reason. Furthermore, the bill infringes the right of electors to decide the terms of office of members of the Senate. One set of candidates will be elected for three years, whilst another set will be elected for six years. The Attorney-General argued that the electors will have the right to determine the term of office for which a candidate was elected. That is quite wrong. The political parties which endorse candidates will determine the periods for which the candidates are to be elected. If six candidates are endorsed .by the Liberal party for election in 1950, when the next election will take place, if this hill becomes law, three of them will be nominated for a term of six years, and three will be nominated for a term of three years. The parties concerned will determine which of their candidates are to obtain endorsement to seek election for six years, and which are to seek election for three years. The electors will have no say in that. This part of my criticism of the bill applies with equal force to candidates endorsed by the Australian Country party or by the Australian Labour party.
Another matter that is not dealt with in the bill is the filling of casual vacancies in the Senate. I think that this is important, because all political parties will be affected by the occurrence of casualties in their ranks in the Senate.
– Persons are nominated to fill casual vacancies in the Senate by the Parliament or the Governor of the State in whose representation a casual vacancy occurs.
– I know that, and I maintain that it is wrong. If a Liberal senator for New South “Wales is to be replaced in this chamber, and there is a Labour government in New South Wales that Government will probably elect a Labour senator. I do not believe that that is right because it is contrary to the will of the people expressed at the preceding State elections. The will of the people should be respected and when a member of this chamber dies, or resigns, his place should be taken by some one of the same political colour.
– How often has the Labour party assisted to achieve that end.
– I have said that all parties are equally blameworthy. My view is that, as the Government is fiddling with the Constitution for its own political advantage, it should do something practical and make provision in the bill for the filling of casual vacancies to meet the situation to which I have referred. The absence of such a provision is one reason for the Labour party’s opposition to this measure.
The passing of this legislation will make more difficult the task of increasing the membership of the Parliament should such action be considered warranted on some future occasion. Under this system the number of senators would have to be increased by at least 24, and therefore the membership of the House of Representatives would have to be increased by 48. An increase of the duties of members of the House of Representatives may make an increase of say, 20 or 25 in that membership of that chamber desirable, but that would not be possible because the number of senators would then not be in accordance with the provisions of this bill. As I have said, if the membership of this chamber is to be increased at all, it would have to be increased under this measure by at least 24. However, that contingency is not likely to arise, because the Labour party is opposed to this bill. The measure is purely political, and is designed specifically to deal with the position in the Senate at the present time.
– I can agree with one statement that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) has made and that is that nobody particularly wants a deadlock or a double dissolution. There has been only one double dissolution in the history of the Commonwealth, and I have been told that the feeling of the Senate on that occasion was much like that in the Roman Senate when Lars Porsena was marching on Rome -
I wish in all the Senate, there was no heart sip bold.
But sore it ached and fast it beat when that ill news was told.
Having agreed on that point, I can agree with nothing further that the Leader of the Opposition has said. This bill is not designed to give political advantage to one party except on the assumption that victory is certain for one party after the coming double dissolution. Only if the Opposition takes the view that it cannot possibly win the election that will follow the double dissolution can it be alleged that this bill gives an advantage to one party. The truth is that at successive elections the advantage will lie first with one party and then with another. Therefore, the Opposition’s argument on that score has no substance.
I can see the point made by the Leader of the Opposition that no provision is made in the Constitution for proportional representation; but it is also true that the Constitution as at present drawn, does not allow the proportional representation system to operate properly after a double dissolution although it operates quite adequately at ordinary Senate elections. It has been estimated - and no one has challenged the figures because the method of calculation is beyond dispute - that under the present system of voting it will be almost impossible for any political party to gain a majority after a double dissolution. Unless there is an overwhelming vote in support of one party we shall certainly be confronted with an equally divided House. I understand that the number of votes required to obtain a majority of seats is approximately 55 per cent., a figure which, I understand, has never been reached in our history. That an equally divided House is an evil is beyond dispute. Legislation is sponsored by parties. While there may be room here and there for compromise - I hope that there always will be - in the main, a mandate is given to one party, and the Opposition opposes all that party’s main measures. Consequently, if there is an equally divided House, it is quite certain that the mandate given to the Government party or parties will not be implemented. This bill is specifically designed to prevent that one evil.
The Leader of the Opposition has argued that we should not alter the method of electing the Senate unless we are prepared also to make a complete review of the functions of the Senate. It would be futile to attempt to do that. I do not think that public opinion is particularly interested in a complete reform of the Senate, nor do I believe that the Senate could be reformed merely by amending the Constitution. There are many reasons - and they are not to the discredit of any one in particular - why the Senate has not functioned as the fathers of the Constitution intended it to function. The first is that the party system has been too strong for it. However, I can see no way of breaking the hold of the party system. We are all members of parties, and however conciliatory we may be, we realize that without a party, we could not be elected. Consequently, we know that unless some unpredictable change occurs in the public attitude towards politics, the party struggle will continue and, under universal suffrage, both houses will be party houses. Therefore, we must have a means of resolving a deadlock. The method set down in the Constitution provides only for the resolving of a deadlock in relation to the particular bill that is the cause of the deadlock. If the measure is rejected by the newly elected Senate, there is provision for a joint sitting of the two houses, but that solution is not applicable to the rest of the Government’s legislative programme. Consequently, any legal way out of a deadlock between the two houses is legitimate. In British and Australian constitutional history, remedies have been provided for particular defects. When a defect becomes apparent we find a remedy for it. We do not say, “ We shall not apply that remedy unless we can reform the whole institution “. No one suggests that there should be a Utopia. Nothing that the Leader of the Opposition has said has shown that the evil that we are trying to remedy will not be remedied by the means provided in this measure. There is a possibility of. an evenly divided House, but that possibility is much less likely than it is under the procedure at present followed. This seems to be a simple device, and that is what attracts me to it. All that it proposes is that the two elections normally spaced three years apart should be held at the same time.
– What about the number of informal votes ?
– I do not think that there will be any more informal votes under the proposed system than there are at present. The number of informal votes usually cast at Senate elections is deplorable, but I do not think that voting for a smaller number of candidates and on two ballot-papers, will produce any more informal votes than voting for a long list of candidates on one ballot-paper.
– Probably less.
– I agree. The Leader of the Opposition then spoke of previously badly balanced Houses. Undoubtedly a badly balanced House is an evil, but I cannot accept that as a reason why Ave should not attempt now to secure a well-balanced House. The honorable senator’s argument was based on certain wrongs of the past, which this measure will certainly not revive. Frankly, I see nothing in his arguments at all.
The Opposition’s reasons for opposing this measure may be summed up clearly. “We are told that this one specific measure should not be passed to remedy a particular defect unless we are also prepared to remedy all the other defects that may have become apparent. It is argued that proportional representation is not provided for in the Constitution. I do not think that it would be advisable to provide for it in the Constitution. If we were to revert at some future date to the voting system that obtained prior to the introduction of proportional representation, this legislation would not have any adverse effect. It might not have any positively good result, but at least there would not be any bad result. If we were to revert to the system that prevailed at an even earlier date, again there would be no harmful result. However, I believe that we shall never revert to those earlier methods. Proportional representation, although it rests only on the authority of an act of Parliament, is here to stay because it stabilizes this chamber and prevents a state of unbalance in which nearly all senators belong to one political party or group of parties. For that reason I do not think that any party will attempt to alter the proportional representation system, nor do I believe that public opinion would permit such an alteration. After all, a mere act of Parliament can be just as permanent as a constitutional provision. The British Constitution itself consists of acts of Parliament and custom, and, as the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) pointed out some years ago, the authority by which the present dynasty holds the throne of the British Common wealth is merely an act of Parliament, and an act of Parliament could end the rule of that dynasty.
Dealing with the filling of casual vacancies in this chamber, the Leader of the Opposition raised a difficult and thorny problem. It is true that, under proportional representation, the normal method of filling a vacancy is to ensure that the new senator shall be a member of the party to which the honorable senator whose place he is taking belonged, but, after all, the Constitution lays down the method of filling vacancies. It provides that a casual vacancy shall be filled by the State parliament concerned, or, if the Parliament is not sitting, by the State cabinet. I do not think that that gives any great advantage to one party or th< other. If any party is likely to gain by such procedure at present it is the Labour party, because Queensland has a greater number of senators on this side of the chamber than any other State, and Queensland would certainly return a Labour senator to fill a casual vacancy. My point is that the two matters are quite distinct. The method of filling vacancies is laid down in the Constitution and I cannot see that any injustice will be done to any party under that method, although it is not in accordance with the set rules for proportional representation. In any case, there is no reason why we should wait until that particular evil is remedied before we remedy this one.
Another argument raised against this measure by the Opposition is that a political advantage will accrue to one party. I have shown clearly, as has the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), that there will be no permanent political advantage to any party, and that whatever political advantage does exist will depend on the direction in which public opinion is moving at the time. Another argument that has been raised is that the referendum for which provision is made in this measure will be hard to carry. That is hardly an objection. It is true that proposed amendments to the Constitution frequently are rejected by the people, but I cannot see any reason why the Opposition should make acceptance of this proposal even more difficult. I think that their arguments are so weak that the public will dismiss them. The simplicity of the new scheme and the fact that it obviates the palpable evil of an equally divided house make approval of the measure probable.
The argument that the Senate has become a political echo of the House of Representatives has nothing to do with this measure. This chamber can cease to :be a political echo under proportional representation when there is a fairly evenly divided house with the Government dominating it in the main. It will cease to be an echo when important matters of legislation are introduced in this chamber. Why is it an echo? Not because men of capacity are not elected to this chamber or because debates could not be on as high a level as anywhere else, but simply because most of the matter is thrashed threadbare before it reaches the Senate. That is not the fault of the chamber as it exists at present. If there were a government with a small majority, the Ministers in this chamber would introduce bills relevant to their departments. Certain bills are introduced in the other House now because it is in the power of honorable senators opposite to delay them and virtually do what they like with them if they are introduced in this chamber. Only ft measure which has passed the other House and which this chamber fails to pass or passes with unacceptable amendments can bring about a double dissolution. If there were no question of deadlocks or a double dissolution, measures of major importance could be introduced into this chamber and the initial debate could take place here. That would raise the level of the Senate.
The same end could be achieved also by the initiation of the committee system, particularly with regard to foreign affairs. Having more time than the other House, the Senate could devote some of it to calm consideration of non-party matters in committee. That is the way to raise the level of this chamber to equality with the other place. The Senate of United States of America was not the more important of the two ‘Houses when it was originated. It became so over a long period of time by development, and it is by development and not by reshaping the constitutional machinery that this chamber will become what it ought to be - at least the equal of the House of Representatives. This is a measure designed to overcome a great evil and it will do so. It merely telescopes two elections into one and ensures that there will be a house not so evenly divided as to be useless.
– If it is humanly possible to do something to save a deadlock in this chamber following an election it should be done, but I cannot concede that this bill provides the correct way of doing it. I intend to oppose this bill in its present form for many reasons. In the first place the bill will not warrant the expenditure of £150,000 of the taxpayers’ money or thereabouts to achieve nothing.
– ‘It would cost more like £250,000 to hold a referendum.
– My colleague estimates the cost at £250,000, but I would say that it would be between £150,000 and £250,000. I think I can show the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) where he was slightly astray in his second-reading speech. In the first place he assured honorable senators that under this system it would be impossible to bring about a deadlock in the Senate. He seized upon the idea of some bright boy in Melbourne who set out to inaugurate a system of voting that would not end in a deadlock. Evidently the author of the proposal had not studied the voting systems of Australia. If the votes cast at State elections held in Australia since the 10th December are analysed, it will be found that an election held in accordance with the provisions of this bill would end in a deadlock.
– In, Tasmania.
– I shall tell Senator McCallum something about Tasmania, for apparently he is ignorant on the subject of the Tasmanian elections, and possibly the Attorney-General also has .no knowledge of the effect of the Tasmanian system either. If this proposal would end deadlocks I would support it, but it takes cognizance of only one of a number of anomalies relating to the constitution of the Senate that are embodied in the Constitution. The bill proposes to deal with one anomaly, but honorable senators have not ‘been shown how the broad arrangement will be improved. If the Government wants to eradicate the existing anomalies relating to the election of the Senate it should study all the ramifications of the situation and amend the Constitution accordingly in the one referendum. The whole system of electing the Senate could be dealt with in one appeal to the people.
– Or the Senate could be abolished.
– I should not mind. If there was a referendum to abolish the Senate, I would support it.
– What a brave man!
– The AttorneyGeneral should try me out and see where it would get him. I have said that this bill does not touch all the anomalies. How does the Constitution provide “for a vacancy to be filled if a senator should die or resign? Both houses of Parliament in the State from which the senator came would be approached and they would elect a nominee to fill the remainder of the senator’s term. Only one State in Australia is dominated by one big political party. There is only one State where it is possible to get anybody else but a member of the Government side to fill the vacancy, unless a bargain is struck with some other party. For many years, New South Wales was in exactly the same position as the other four States, and the position there now is only temporary. If honorable senators want to amend the Constitution to bring about more equitable representation in this chamber, why do they not overhaul the whole system and have fair provisions for filling extraordinary vacancies as well as for filling seats at a general election.
Senator McCallum said it was absolutely impossible for a swing to be so much one way as to bring about anything else but equal numbers in this House under the present system. He emphasized that point. I raise it to show how little he has studied the question. In Tasmania, the system of voting is exactly the same as the Senate system, with one exception. A vote is formal in the Tasmanian State elections if the elector votes for three candidates and stops. The vote is also valid if the elector records a vote for every candidate on the card, and in the last State election there were as many as fourteen candidates in some electorates. Under the system of voting for the Senate, the elector is compelled to vote for every candidate on the card.
At the last general election in December, 20,000 informal votes for the Senate were cast in Tasmania. At the State election which followed closely afterwards the electors could vote for three candidates and stop if they desired, or they could vote right through the card, but the majority of supporters of both parties voted for every candidate of the party that they supported and then stopped. With the same number of electors, the informal votes fell from 20,000 at the Federal election to 7,000 at the State election because the system was simpler. Senator McCallum said it was impossible to get anything but an even division in the Senate. In 1942 under this system of voting in Tasmania where there are five divisions with six candidates for each division, the swing was so great to one party . that four out of six candidates were returned in each division. A major swing is needed only in one State and the rest could be even and the result would not be an even Senate.
– I said that it had never happened in the Commonwealth as a whole.
– The honorable senator said it had never happened in Australia and I pointed out that it has happened under this system of voting under which the Senate is elected at present. The Government is now trying to change the Constitution to make it more complicated. The result will be more informal votes than ever. Confusion will be increased when two party cards are presented to one elector with instructions to vote. for a three-year term on one and a six-year term on the other. The 20,000 informal votes in Tasmania would increase to 40,000 under that system. Instead of complicating the position still further, an endeavour should be made to simplify it and achieve the most intelligent vote possible. Under the amendment proposed by the Government an intelligent vote could not be obtained.
If this system is implemented, it will not only confuse the electors but will also result in a less intelligent vote than the present one and it will be just as likely to produce a deadlock as the existing system.
– Steady, steady!
– The honorable senator who interjected shows how little attention he has given to the elections held in recent months. If he had given any thought to the vote cast for the major parties, he would not have made such a stupid remark.
– A number of honorable senators opposite were not elected by proportional representation. They hold preserved seats.
– I was one of those who faced the electors, just as the President and Senator Robertson did, and I venture to say that if all honorable senators went’ out and faced the electors, the result would be more even than it would be under the system that is proposed by the Government. This would be only a temporary measure. The position is such at present that the Labour party would have to win a majority in every State to be on even terms with the parties in this House after the next election. lt is evident, therefore, that this is only a temporary measure. Such anomalies as exist would tend to iron themselves outbetter under the present system than under the one proposed in this bill. If, under the present system, there was a swing against one party over a number of years, as there was against the Liberal party until recently, the other major party would have a majority in the Senate. I do not think that we are justified in wasting £150,000 of the taxpayers’ money to meet a temporary anomaly, with no guarantee that it would achieve its purpose. Members of the Opposition are just as eager to remove anomalies as is the Government, but we do not believe that the method proposed in this bill is the proper way. I suggest that the best way would be to appoint an all-party committee of both Houses of the Parliament to consider every aspect of Senate elections, with a view to simplifying electoral methods, and avoiding the possibility of a deadlock after a double dissolution. All honorable senators agree that there are anomalies. The Labour party tried to improve the method of election, and certainly effected one major improvement.
– Yes, for the Labour party.
– At the declaration of the poll in various centres six years ago, and again three years ago, I heard Liberal candidates for election to the Senate condemn the old method of election as undemocratic. However, when anti-Labour governments were in office, they never did anything to change the system of election, not even when they were represented in this Senate by a majority of 35 to 1. However, when the pendulum swung against them they squealed like guinea pigs. Then thu Labour Government introduced th, system of proportional representation, so that no matter what party obtained a majority in the House of Representatives, the minority party would always have fair representation in the Senate. Now the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) says that we fixed things to suit ourselves. If members of the Liberal party really believed that, why did they not protest at the time? They did not protest because they knew that it was the fairest and most democratic system that has ever been in operation in Australia. I trust that we shall be able to discuss this bill on a non-party basis, and that we shall be able to evolve a method under which there will be fewer informal votes. We cannot hope for better results under the Government’s proposed system.
– I support the bill and, in doing so, I congratulate the Labour Government upon having introduced the system of proportional representation for the Senate.
– We were generous to our political opponents.
– The Labour party was generous to itself, but I agree that the system is beneficial to the Senate as a whole. I have no doubt that a referendum will be held on the Government’s proposal, whether the Opposition wants it or not, and if the people endorse the proposal, deadlocks in the Senate will, in future, be avoided. It is unlikely that every State will return the two parties in exactly the same proportion. There is always a swing at an election, and the swing takes place, not in one State only, but in all States. Senator Aylett admitted that if all honorable senators had been candidates at the last general election, the numbers would be more even in the Senate at .the present time. If all honorable senators had gone for election, and no party received more than 53 or 54 per cent, of the votes cast, each State would have returned five members of each of the contending parties, with the result that there would have been a deadlock. The present Opposition in the Senate, which has been delaying the passage of legislation, evidently wants a double dissolution, and we see no particular reason why they should not have it. However, it would be useless to have a double dissolution if the Senate were to be elected with equal representation on both sides. Under the proposed system, it is most unlikely that the Senate would be elected with thirty representatives on each side. The Government’s proposal is that section 13 of the Constitution should be amended. That section reads as follows : -
As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as .practicable; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of the third year, and the places of those of the second class at the’ expiration of the sixth year, from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall become vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.
As the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) pointed out, it would be possible, under that section, for a party with a majority of only 31 to 29 in the Senate, to give itself all the six-year terms, and its opponents all the three-year terms. It would bc perfectly legal to do that, and the possibility can be avoided only by allowing the people themselves to choose which senators will be elected for three years and which for six years. I have seen how the political machine works, and I believe that, if the Labour party were returned with a representation of 31 in the Senate, while we had only 29 representatives, 31 Labour senators would have six-year terms, and 29 non-Labour senators would have three-year terms. Of course, if the Liberal party were returned with a majority of 31, it would split up the six-year and three-year terms in such a way that each party would get its fair share.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) said that on the Sth December, the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) said that the Labour party would be returned with a majority in the Senate. Of course, matters were so arranged by the Labour Government that whatever happened at the election the Labour party would have a majority in the Senate. The only reason why we have proportional representation to-day is that the Labour party knew that it would lose its majority in the House of Representatives, and that, unless proportional representation were introduced into the Senate, it would have only about half-a-dozen new members in the Senate after the election. The antiLabour parties won five of the six States in the last Senate election, and the Labour party would have had very small representation in this chamber but for the introduction of proportional representation. Unless the Government’s proposal is adopted, there is a danger of constantly recurring deadlocks in the Senate. The Labour Opposition seems determined to force a double dissolution, but. there would almost certainly be a deadlock in the Senate after the ensuing election unless one party polled 57 per cent, or more of the votes cast, and that is most unlikely unless the Government did something so completely wrong that the electors threw it out on its neck. We are notlikely to do anything like that while we are in power, although the Labour party came very close to doing it while it wa.« in power.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the method of voting for which provision is made in this bill would make the Senate an echo of the House of Representatives, and not a States’ house. I contend that it would have the opposite effect.
– Then what is the reason for the introduction of the bill?
– It is designed to prevent deadlocks. Unless the method of voting proposed in the hill is adopted, there will be deadlocks in every Parliament. When the political pendulum swings to the left, as it may do in ten or fifteen years’ time, honorable senators opposite will want the present method of voting at Senate elections altered, if it has not been altered by then, so that their party may govern. They must admit that they have not allowed us to govern. They have done everything in their power to prevent us from doing so. Last Thursday night, members of the Opposition spoke one after the other in order that the electors of New South Wales should not realize how dangerous a Labour government is. They put up speaker after speaker, five or six in a row. They did not allow-
– Government supporters could have secured the call.
– We did not want to speak. We wanted to get on with the bill. Then the Minister in charge of the bill rose, and for five minutes he made statements that the Opposition did not like. He hurt honorable senators opposite, and I noticed that many of them looked to see whether the press was taking notice of his remarks. They knew what damage he was doing to them. Unfortunately, he did not do enough damage.
I hope that the Senate will pass this bill, so that we can avoid deadlocks iri the Parliament in future.
.- The system of proportional representation was initiated by the Labour party because the Senate had been brought into public ridicule by reason of the fact that 33 senators were members of the Labour party and only three were members of the non-Labour parties. It seemed peculiar that, in a deliberative assembly such as the Senate, one party should have such an overwhelming majority, when, in effect, one half of the people had voted for the Labour party and the other half had voted for the non-Labour parties.
This is a remarkable bill. On the 13th December the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, in effect, “ If those naughty boys in the Senate do not pass the legislation that the Government requires, we shall send them to the country on a double dissolution “. On the 14th December, the Melbourne Argus published a report of an interview that one of its representatives had with me, in the course of which I pointed out that, under the present system of voting at Senate elections, a double dissolution would be farcical and would result only in a waste of money. The Prime Minister did not open his mouth again on this matter until his “ brains trust “ had met. Three or four months after I made the statement to which I have referred, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made a speech in the House of Representatives. Reports of the speech were broadcast throughout Australia and published under headlines in the press. He said that if a double dissolution occurred, an equal number of Labour senators and non-Labour senators would be elected.
– Everybody knew that.
– The Prime Minister did not send for Senator Guy, who perhaps knows more about this method of voting than do honorable senators who represent States other than Tasmania where the system of proportional representation has been in operation for a long tune. It may be that the Prime Minister was very busily engaged in preparing speeches on other subjects and did not have sufficient time to study this matter. Perhaps that is why it slipped his mind. After the honorable member for Mackellar had made his famous statement, the right honorable gentleman still did not have time to study it, so he put his “ brains trust “ to work in Melbourne. A solicitor evolved this wonderful system under which there would be two sets of Senate candidates upon the ballot-paper, five candidates to be elected for six years and five for three years.
– What would be wrong with that?
– If Senator Scott devoted a few minutes of his time to a study of this problem, he would realize what would be wrong with it. It has been demonstrated by the experience of the last three or four federal general elections.
– Then have two ballot-papers.
– There could be two ballot-papers, on one of which the people could vote for the candidates that, they wished to be elected for six years and on the other of which they could vote for those that they wished to be elected for three years. In Victoria, at the moment it would be a thousand to one on that, under such a system, three Labour candidates would be elected for six years and three for three years. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the same result would be arrived at in New South Wales and South Australia. In those three States, the Labour party would have a majority. How Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia would vote is beside the point. Let us assume that in each of those States a majority of the voters would cast their votes in favour of non-Labour candidates. In those circumstances, the position would be as the Leader of the Opposition stated.
What is the reason for the introduction of this measure? I do not believe that the present Prime Minister, who I have always regarded as a most intelligent man, has any more faith in this system than I have. There must be a reason for the introduction of the measure. I believe it is that the Government is, so to speak, up against it. I do not believe that one honorable senator opposite, in his heart, thinks there is even a million to one chance of the proposed referendum being carried. Something is troubling the members of this Government. It is troubling statesmen throughout the Empire. I refer to the ever-increasing cost of living, which the Government is unable to check. We can visualize why this measure has been introduced into the Parliament.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will let us into the secret. He seems to know why the Government has introduced the measure. Let him tell us why.
– The Government has introduced the measure in an attempt to hide its sins and to persuade the people at large that by introducing a hybrid system of voting that cannot accomplish anything it is trying to do something. The Government knows perfectly well that there is no hope that this scheme will achieve what has been claimed for it. I do not think that anybody who has studied the proportional voting system believes that it will do what has been claimed for it. The systems of voting in elections for the House of Assembly in Tasmania and for the Senate are different. Under the system in force in Tasmania, provision is made for even numbers. We provide for odd numbers, except in the event of a double dissolution. That is why I said on the 14th December tha/t, if a double dissolution occurred, the present- system of voting would result in equal representation of the Labour party and the nonLabour parties in the Senate.
– The honorable senator concedes the truth of our case.
– I am pointing out that this bill is an absurdity. The Government has not the interests of the people at heart, and is not actuated by a desire to maintain the prestige of the Senate. In Tasmania, where a system of proportional representation is in operation, provision is made for the election of candidates to fill vacancies occurring in the Senate. Honorable senators opposite know that men have been bought out of the Senate, and that their successors have been elected, not by the appropriate State parliament, but but by the State government. The Executive of the State concerned has appointed men to take the place of those who have been bribed to resign from the Senate. If the Government is sincere in this matter, it will make provision for the filling of Senate vacancies, because at present we are tied by the Constitution. In Victoria, senators are elected upon the broadest franchise in the world. Every man and woman in that State has the right to vote at Senate elections, but two-thirds of those electors are disfranchised when it is a matter of the filling of a vacancy for the Legislative Council of that State. It is elected by only one-third of the people. Therefore, one-third of the people of Victoria though the Legislative Council in conjunction with members of the Assembly have the right to elect a senator to this chamber, whereas his predecessor had been elected by the whole of the people of that State. This measure is not genuine. Its purpose is not the carrying out of the ideals of the Senate. This chamber is the highest legislative institution in Australia, and should be maintained at that level. 1 have always done my best to uphold the dignity of the Senate. It has been stated that this chamber should be the reflex of only one election, not two elections as provided in the Constitution. That factor, which was deliberately inserted in the Constitution to protect the the interests of the several States, has been overlooked by the Minister. Honorable senators should deliberate to prevent hasty legislation from being placed on the statute-book of this country. On the 10th December last about twenty anti-Labour supporters were elected with less than a combined total majority vote of 12,000. It is quite possible that men elected to the House of Representatives with a small majority could place hasty legislation on the statute-book.
– That is what Labour did in connexion with banking.
– One of the reasons why honorable senators opposite are attempting to have this bill passed by the Senate is to get the matter submitted to the people. I repeat that if I had my way I would send the House of Representatives to the people to test whether the Government has public support in respect of the legislation that it has attempted to bludgeon through the Senate. The measure before us reeks with, insincerity. It has not been submitted to this chamber in the interests of democracy.
– I should like at the beginning of my speech to register my complete agreement with the value of the system of proportional representation that was introduced by the previous Government in order to make this chamber fulfil the function for which it was originally constituted. I regard that as a great step forward, but I also think that it should be stressed that the Senate as at present constituted is not based fully on proportional representation. I do not necessarily blame anybody for that. It may have been rooted in the provisions of the Constitution but I record the fact that at the moment only about one-half of the members of this chamber have been elected’ by the system of proportional representation.
– It would be all right after a double dissolution.
– Yes, we would all be elected properly then. That is why I think there is so much value in the system. The situation that confronts us at the present moment is only an example - perhaps an exaggerated example, because we are not properly proportionately represented - of what the situation is likely to be in the future, irrespective of whether a Liberal government or a Labour government is in office.
– This bill would nol stop it.
– I am concerned with making that point merely to show that the bill is not designed to relieve any difficulties suffered by the present Government and then be useless, but that it is designed for what will be a continuing situation from time to time irrespective of the government in office. Personally, I do not think that it is necessarily an unhealthy situation to have an opposition in this chamber with a small majority, or to have an equally divided Senate. That may well result in the Senate acting even more in accordance with the wishes of the framers of the Constitution. It may result in the Senate initiating more bills. It will certainly result in the Senate being able to give better consideration to the bills that are committed to it, and, after full discussion, to insert amendments considered to be wise. All that is possible with an Opposition possessing a majority, or with an evenly divided Senate. That is not necessarily an evil thing. But it could happen - and on- occasions it very probably would happen - that in that situation an Opposition would become overbearing and arrogant; that it would insist that all of the Government’s legislation should meet with the wishes of the Opposition in every small particular ; that it would, from time to time, take the conduct of affairs out of the hands of the Government and seek itself, in effect, to become the Government of the country; that it would, from time to time, halt the Government’s business and introduce its own measures or other matters that it considered should be discussed at length. By attention to those things, and by abuse of its power, an Opposition of that kind could make the conduct of ‘Government business impossible. The bill has been designed to meet that situation. We have been told that this measure will not, in fact, solve the problem which would then arise. Let us imagine that on a particular question the Government decided that it had had enough, and that the people should have an opportunity to pass an opinion whether the Opposition had been right in the tactics that it adopted. In the present circumstances, even if the Government went to the country, the people would be able to decide only the particular question on which the double dissolution was held. I think it is agreed on all sides that the position is that, barring a miracle, in the event of a double dissolution the Senate would come back evenly divided. Only the one particular question on which the double dissolution was held would be solved, and we should be back in exactly the same position as before, or nearly so, because when the Senate is evenly divided all questions are resolved in the negative. An attempt is being made in this bill to give the people an opportunity, in those circumstances, to pass judgment not only on one particular question but on all kinds of questions. With this measure on the statute-book, if they disagreed with the actions of the Opposition they could then register that disagreement by reducing the Opposition from a majority to a minority. Even under the proposals in this measure if three States voted one way and three another way, it is possible that the situation would not be overcome, but there is very much loss chance-
– Why less chance?
– I say there is less chance because in the present situation it is certain that we should come back evenly’ divided.
– For all practical purposes I contend that that would iba certain. In the situation I have described,
if the people held fairly strong views on the proposals submitted to them, as they certainly would under the conditions that I have described, it is very unlikely that three States would vote one way and three the other. In any case, it cannot be denied that the people would have a better opportunity to meet the position that I have described than they have at present. It may be that that opportunity could be made better still. Something may arise out of this debate which would make it still better. But at this stage the propositions in the bill appear to be the best method to enable the Government to carry on its business in the future. That is the reason why I think this bill is worth supporting. When I say that, I do not mean that it may not well be improved by suggestions from one side or the other in the course of the debate, t do not think that the criticisms that have been offered so far have contained any suggestions whereby the measure could be improved. An honorable senator opposite - I think it was Senator Aylett - stated that at the next election Labour would have to win in every State in order to secure the election of as many Labour senators as anti-Labour senators. Whether that is exactly true or not I do not know, .but it is very close to the truth. Labour would have to win comfortably at the next election to have an even number in the Senate after the election.
– It would need to win in nearly every State.
– That interjection completely disposes of the suggestion that the bill has been introduced by the present Government in order to obtain some temporary political advantage. I hope that before long the Senate will resume its proper place in the legislature. It is idle to speak of it acting as a States’ house, because it is so no longer. However, it is not idle to speak of it as a house of review. I think that under proportional representation, with fairly wellbalanced numbers, the Senate may act effectively as a good house of review, and not as a mere house of rejection, towards which it is now tending. I therefore sunport the bill.
– I have much pleasure in opposing the bill and I agree entirely with the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley), The system of election of members of this chamber has remained unaltered since federation, and the real reason for the introduction of this measure by anti-Labour parties is that they desire to interfere with the present basis of election of members of the Senate because the Senate, as at present constituted, is not favorable to them. They have never previously suggested an alteration of the method of electing members of the Senate, because this chamber was nearly always opposed to the Labour party. Furthermore, I point out that the proposal which is now before us is just as likely to produce a deadlock as are the present provisions of the Constitution for the election of members of the Senate. If this bill were passed and we joined with the Government parties in urging the people to accept the Government’s proposal at the referendum I point out that if a majority of the people in three States voted for the proposal and a majority in three States voted against it, we would still have a deadlock. It is clear, therefore, that the real purpose of the Government in introducing the legislation is not to deal with the present deadlock. By contrast, Labour, which has always been democratic, has put up with the disabilities which confronted it when it had a majority in the House of Repre- sentatives and was in a minority in this chamber. Labour did not “ squeal “ about the constitution of the Senate or seek to alter the method of election of senators. I remind honorable senators that in 1929, when Labour had the greatest majority of supporters ever enjoyed by any government in the Houe? of Representatives, it had only three representatives in the Senate against 38 anti-Labour supporters. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, did not propose to alter the system of election of members of the Senate, nor did he attempt to create a panic by proposing a referendum of the people. Another example of Labour’s adherence to constitutional principles occurred in 1928, when the Bruce-Page Government sought to alter the Constitu tion by abrogating the National Government’s control of certain industrial relationships. At that time Labour knew that the people were whole-heartedly opposed to the Bruce-Page Government’s proposal, but it did not seek to disturb the community or the ordinary processes of government by holding a referendum, ft was content to wait until the general election came.
I point out to honorable senators that if the present Senate continues until the expiration of this Parliament in approximately three years, the representation of political parties will be much more even because if Labour is to continue to have a majority of representatives in the Senate it will have to win a majority of Senate seats in every State.’
– That is not true.
Sentor HENDRICKSON.- I invite Senator Kendall, when he speaks, to explain where I am wrong. The previous Labour Government introduced legislation to ensure that proper representation would be given to all parties in this chamber, and all parties will be fairly represented after the next election. In the meantime the people of Australia are fortunate that Labour has a majority in this chamber. If we did not possess that majority the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, to which the Government found it necessary to make approximately 30 amendments, apart from the large number of amendments moved by the Opposition in both chambers, would have become law with the support of the “ Yes “ men opposite. The people of Australia would have had to put up with that legislation for many years to come. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has made so many promises that he cannot possibly carry them out, and, in fact, he has no intention to do so, because if he implemented all his promises the country would again become bankrupt as it was during the depression.
Labour has always had a sincere regard for the Senate, and believes that this chamber should function as a house of review to consider all legislation introduced by the Government of the day. irrespective of its political colour. I can cite instances of Labour senators having voted against legislation introduced by Labour administrations. A similar claim cannot be made by honorable senators opposite. If they were sincere in their desire to establish this chamber as a house of review they would introduce legislation to remedy some of the real causes of dissatisfaction with the present method of electing members of this chamber. I, myself, was the victim of one of the anomalies that exist in the election of senators. At the election in 1943, Victoria elected three Labour senators. The gentlemen elected were Senator Keane, Senator Cameron and Senator Sheehan. Subsequently Senator Keane died, and, instead of the Government of Victoria nominating u Labour supporter to succeed him, that Government, which was a coalition of the Country party and the Liberal party, caused an election to be held to fill the vacancy and Senator A. J. Fraser was elected on a two-thirds majority vote of the people of Victoria. If the Government was sincere it would amend such anomalies.
– Much the same happened in the appointment of a representative of Queensland to the Senate.
– A system which permits such things to happen is quite wrong. If honorable senators opposite believed in democracy and not in securing temporary political advantages they would help us to correct those anomalies. Senator McCallum said that if a Labour senator died to-day another Labour representative would be elected to the Senate in his place. I point out to the honorable senator that a Labour supporter would be nominated to the Senate only by the Government of Queensland, because that is the only State in which Labour has effective control of its Parliament. If the Government were sincere it would introduce legislation to correct anomalies such as that to which I have referred, but it is not sincere. The real purpose of the Government in introducing this measure is to cover up the had legislation which it has introduced and which the Senate has failed to pass. Of course, the Government also intends to introduce a lot of “ good “ legislation. For instance, it made certain promises to the bankers. lt has done nothing yet to appease the bankers, who spent money recklessly to discredit the Labour party at the recent election and to support the anti-Labour parties. I remind honorable senators also that the Government has donn nothing yet to restore value to the £1.
– The honorable senator need not bring that up again. We shall look after the bankers, if he will look after his Communist friends.
– As 1 was saying, the bill has been introduced to cover the bad legislation that has been introduced by the Government. Immediately after the election last December, when the flags of the antiLabour parties were flying at the top of the pole, and the press was wildly applauding them, all sorts of threats were made against Labour. The present Government said that if Labour used its majority in the Senate to block any of its legislation it would ask for a double dissolution and thereby obtain control of the Senate. However, since then the attitude of the press towards the anti-Labour parties has changed considerably, and it is evident now that it is not whole-heartedly behind the Government or the legislation that the Government has introduced. We do nol bear so much now about a double dissolution “. I would like the Government to be as adamant now about seeking a double dissolution as it was five months ago and to precipitate a double dissolution, because I believe that the people of Australia will support the stand taken by the Labour majority in this chamber. I am prepared, at all events, to go before the people on the provisions of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill to which Labour has objected, particularly the provision concerning the onus of proof. However, 1 venture to suggest that the Parliament will be prorogued shortly, and that these matters will be forgotten. However, there must be a day of reckoning, and honorable senators opposite and their friends in the House of Representatives must confront the people and endeavour to explain their attitude towards the Commonwealth Bank, child endowment, the Communist party and certain other matters. Of course, I realize that most of them have no say in the formulation of their parties’ policies. Instead of bringing down legislation to provide greater benefits for ex-servicemen and more liberal pensions for war widows, or to put more value back into the £1, in accordance with the Government’s election promises, honorable senators opposite have introduced bills of the kind now before the Senate. The Government knows, of course, that it cannot fulfil its election promises without increasing ta.vos or increasing working hours in industry. The Government is anxious to have this bill carried so that it will be able to appeal to the people of this country not on the real, issues on which it was ejected to office, but on bogys of its own creation such as the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. With a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, the Government would then proceed to introduce measures such as these by which Liberal and Australian Country party governments kept this country bankrupt for 25 years. We on this side of the chamber are the guardians of privileges for which trade union leaders and others have worked for decades. This measure can serve no practical purpose. The Minister’s secondreading speech amounted to nothing at all. He admitted that even under this legislation, there could be a deadlock in this chamber. There are many anomalies in the method of electing the Senate. If the Government is sincere in its desire for reform, let it set up a committee to investigate better methods of electing senators. If that were done, we should co-operate with the Government, but in the absence of more comprehensive proposals than are contained in this measure, we shall adhere strictly to the original intention that the Senate should be a house of review. It is, indeed, fortunate for the people of Australia that members of the Labour party have been in a position to review some of the insidious legislation that the Government has brought down in the last four or five months. The Government knew that the Opposition could not support the Commonwealth Bank Bill because it regards the bank as a monument to democracy in this country. The Government knew also that we could not support.
Sen o /nr Hendrickson. many of the original provisions in the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. Honorable senators opposite are well aware that, over the years, the Labour party is the only political party that has consistently fought the Communists. My record in the fight against communism will compare more than favourably with that of any honorable senator opposite. Knowing that the Labour party would be forced to oppose both the Commonwealth Bank Bill and the Communist Party Dissolution Bill the Government devised this legislation in the hope that by creating hysteria it would be able, by means of a double dissolution, to gain a majority in both Houses of Parliament, and so be able to put into operation legislation to repay the bankers whose support made the victory of the present Government parties at the last election possible.
– We have just listened to a speech which was more conspicuous for its rhetoric than its accuracy. This is not a party measure, and the argument of the Opposition that it is designed to give some particular advantage to the Government is far from the truth. The Opposition must be indeed desperate if it believes that, in the event of a double dissolution, it will be unable to make up the losses it suffered on the 10th December last. The bill does not propose to alter the functions of the Senate in any way. It neither adds to nor subtracts from those functions. It is designed to avoid a deadlock after a double dissolution. Senator Gorton has shown that a double dissolution has the effect of giving to the electors a second choice on a very important matter. No criticism of the proportional representation system has come from the Government at all. We are confining ourselves merely to the arithmetical problems involved. I have before me some figures relating to voting at the last election. Consideration of those figures shows that, in the event of a double dissolution, it would be impossible under the present system to have anything but an equally divided Senate. The figures relate only to Victoria and New South Wales, but they may be taken as representative of all the States. In Victoria, the number of formal votes cast at the last election was 1,173,253. In the event of a similar number of votes being cast at a Senate election following a double dissolution, with, ten candidates to be elected on one ballot-paper, the total number of formal rotes would be divided by eleven, giving a quota of approximately 116,660. In New South Wales at the last election, the formal vote was 1,625,996 so that in recent years the quota in that State would be 147,819. On those figures, a party would have to gain 54.54 per cent, of the total votes to secure the election of six candidates. No party has ever received 54.54 per cent, of the votes cast in the Commonwealth at any Senate election. In fact, the records show that there has never been a difference of more than about 4 per cent, between the two major parties. If five candidates are to be elected in each of two groups as is proposed under this measure, and the number of formal votes is divided by six, the quota obtained is such that only 50 per cent, of the total vote is needed for the election of three members of one party in each group. Clearly, therefore, this bill will solve the deadlock problem. In this country, the margin by which one party or another is elected to office is becoming less and less. That was clearly shown at the last Commonwealth election and at the recent New South Wales election. I do not propose to go into the ethical reasons for this bill, but I maintain that on the evidence of figures, the method proposed in this measure will ensure a better balanced Senate. I support this bill.
.- Superficially, this bill is harmless. It is quite a simple bill designed only to ensure that a deadlock shall be avoided after a double dissolution. A few days prior to the introduction of the bill into the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced with a great fanfare of trumpets that the measUre WOUld conic as a surprise to every one. His announcement indicated that the bill would be of an extraordinary nature. The result was that thousands of people listened to the right honorable gentleman’s secondreading speech, only to find that the mountain had laboured and as usual, had brought forth a mouse. Later, when we came to analyse the measure we found that it was part and parcel of the huge fraud that has been perpetrated on the people of this country since federation. The original system of voting for the Senate operated, apparently quite well, until that great democrat, William Morris Hughes, became Prime Minister of this country. He was a Labour “ rat “ and, therefore, a great man. In the eyes of the present Government parties, Labour men can become great only in two ways. The first is by “ ratting” on their party, and the second is by dying. Mr. Hughes had just had two fights on the conscription issue, and in the second, he had been defeated by an even greater majority than in the first. He decided that he would have to get control of the Senate, and he devised for this purpose an ostensibly fair system of voting, known as “ one in all in “. Under that system if one party obtained even 51 per cent, of the votes at an election, its entire team was elected, whereas the other party which had received 49 per cent, of the votes had no representation in the Senate at all. The people of the Commonwealth were told that that system was necessary so that Mr. Hughes could carry on the war without any impediment from the Tudor Opposition in the Senate. There is nothing wrong with proportional representation. It depends entirely where a start is made. If it is made with a . clean sheet, it is all right. In New South Wales, it was decided that the Lang Government had to be defeated, and that it should never get into office again. Mr. Lang’s opponents agreed that if he were returned, they must ensure that he could not pass any legislation through the Legislative Council. The first step was to get a big majority in the lower house. The upper house was almost equally divided between Nationalists and Labour, and it was decided then to constitute a new upper house. Sir John Peden was associated with Mr. Stevens in working out the system. They were both religious men, but the proposition was not a Christian one. They agreed that both houses should meet, and that the politicians should elect the Legislative Council in four ballots. The old upper house was not elected on a democratic franchise, or in fact on any franchise at all because it was a nominee house. The newly elected members of the Legislative Assembly met after they had gained a big majority. They elected fifteen members of the upper house for twelve years. The next day the same politicians met again and elected fifteen members for nine year?. Then they elected fifteen for six years and fifteen for three years. As the Liberals had a majority in the lower house, and equal numbers in the upper house, they were able to get a seven to three majority. The ballot finished up with 42 Liberals to eighteen Labour members.
– We want to avoid that.
– It is the sort of thing that the Government is trying to get. I am reminded of the familiar lines - “Will you anna into my parlour”. said thu spider to the fly, “ It’s the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy.”
There is another old adage, “ Once bitten twice shy “.
– But how did Donald Grant get there?
- Mr. Stevens was asked that question. A referendum was held about the reconstitution of the no per house. The people did not know who would be in the house, but they were 90 hysterical about the Labour party that they would vote for anything. The people !:.rc cooling down now about the bill to ban the “ Commos “, and the Government wants to bring this in while it has a majority. Mr. Stevens was asked who would be in the new upper house. He replied, “ I do not know who will be in. but I know one who won’t be in it, and that is Donald Grant”. But he was wrong again.
This Government is trying to devise ways and means of getting at the public while it thinks it has the support of the electors. It is true, as Senator Katz has said, that it was obvious before, the last election that a. double dissolution would result in an equally divided Senate. The press said what n wonderful thing it was, and the Prime Minister (Alt Menzies) said, “I have made a wonderful discovery. To-morrow night I will break this peanut with a hammer”. One proposal is to have two different votes on the one ballot-paper. The Government thinks the swing is behind it, and that the vote will result in a vote of 36 to 24 in its favour.
It has been said to-night that the voting may he three States one way and three States another way, and that the result will be a deadlock. That is not very probable, but I invite honorable senators to consider a proposition that the Liberals would have 36 seats to 24. I should say at the subsequent elections, eighteen Liberals and twelve Labour senators would go out. If the swing was to the Labour party the next time, there would be another deadlock and another double dissolution. This bill will not get the Parliament out of double dissolutions, but into them, ft should be called “ the bill for double dissolution:’ “. Senator McCallum made a. very clever speech. I have forgotten most of what it was all about, but it was very good while it. lasted. I think that he was illogical at times, but of course he has to tote his brief. He said that this bill had nothing to- do with parties. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are too hard in the head to believe that. Senator McCallum said this was not a party bill, hut that its purpose was purely and simply to resolve double dissolutions. He does not believe that, nor does he believe that it would be carried if it were put to the people. The Prime Minister cracked his peanut with his steamhammer, but everybody is waking up to Mr. Menzies. His sound and Fury signify nothing. After he made his announcement, I wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald before another letter which was published before mine. The writer of that letter said clearly that this was a bill not to prevent double dissolutions, but to make them more frequent. Do honorable senators really believe that if the Government asked the public to vote to alter the Constitution on a proposition such as this, it would be carried ?
– Of course it would.
– Then the people are more stupid than I thought they were. In the past, when both parties were united, it was almost impossible to get a referendum carried. The Australian Constitution is entirely out of date. There is not a democratic country in the world with such an outmoded constitution.
– What nonsense!
– Which country has the AttorneyGeneral in mind ?
– TheUnited States of America.
– The Attorney General has caught me on the hop there, but it is easier to alter the constitution of the United States of America than ours. New Zealand has no constitution at all, and it does what it likes.
– Shift over to something else.
– I am quite in order. I am showing that we havea backwardConstitution, and I am going to tell the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) what to do about it. There is only one thing to do with the Australian Constitution, and that is to hold a convention and thrash out the proposition thoroughly. This is a young country, with new capital and modern ideas coming into it, and its Constitution is completely out of date. I know that the Government wants to fix the Constitution so that nothing can be nationalized without a vote of the people. We are living in an age when some form of nationalization is inevitable. It is the atomic age, and nobody but a fool would suggest that private enterprise can deal with the things that exist to-day. Australia cannot continue under a system which provides that a referendum must be taken every time something is to be nationalized. Such a proposal would be defeated after months of campaigning. That is ridiculous. The Constitution is so obsolete that the only thing to do is to hold a national convention. We heard a lot about the framers of the Constitution, and what wonderful people they were. I do not think they were wonderful people. I think that in the main they were reactionary judges, who were principally concerned with vested interests. They put’ democratic principles into operation as far as they could.
– They copied the. Americans.
– That is so.In Canada, they have a different constitution from that of the United States of America, and I agree with the Attorney General that the American constitution is obsolete, too.
– Order ! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented: -
Arbitration (Public Service Act) - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1950 -
No. 27 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union, and Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union.
No. 28 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Nos. 29 and 30 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act-
Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - D. B. Elkman, I. T. Perry.
Prime Minister’s - H. R. Berg, G. J Mackrell, T. H. Turnock.
Repatriation - A. E. MacLean, P. E. Matthews, H. J. Scott.
Works and Housing - A. R. Skinner.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (18).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1960, No. 25.
Lauds Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Maroubra Bay, New South Wales.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 26.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 June 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19500620_senate_19_208/>.