22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Customs Tariff Bill 1957.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1957.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill 1957.
Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Bill 1957.
Gift Duty Assessment Bill 1957.
States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill 1957.
States Grants Bill 1957.
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1957.
Coal Industry Bill 1957.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill 1957.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1957.
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill 1957.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the Government has sold the machinery and equipment which were used by the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool at the ports of Cairns, Townsville, Bowen, Mackay and Port Alma. If so, were such machinery and equipment sold to the persons who submitted the highest tenders? To whom were the sales effected? Are the machinery and equipment, which are now at Brisbane, about to be sold by private negotiation, though tenders for their sale have been called?If so, with what companies is the Department of Shipping and Transport endeavouring to negotiate sales?
– As the honorable senator will probably remember, some time ago tenders were called for the purchase of this equipment in agency or State lots. The equipment at a number of ports as separate agency lots was disposed of to the highest bidders. In all cases the highest bidder was the harbour authority concerned. I speak from memory when I say that the agency equipment at neither Townsville nor Mackay was sold. At Mackay the harbour authority was not interested because new loading facilities had already been erected, and 1 do not think that the harbour authority at Townsville submitted a tender. I believe that the equipment from those two agencies has not yet been disposed of.
I shall now inform the honorable senator of the position regarding the equipment that remains, that is, the equipment at Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and the bits and pieces - if I may so refer to them - that were not disposed of to the harbour authorities. I gave the Senate some information on this matter in reply to a question asked some time ago, and the position has not changed. Consideration of the tenders submitted is still proceeding, and negotiations are taking place with those people who tendered. It may be of particular interest to the honorable senator to know that one of the tenderers with which negotiation is taking place currently is the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool Co-operative.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the Bureau of Mineral Resources has submitted tenders for drilling stratigraphic holes in Western Australia? Can the Minister advise me in what areas the holes are to be drilled, and whether oil-drilling companies in Western Australia will have an opportunity of tendering?
– I think I had better ask the honorable senator to put the question on the notice-paper. It is my recollection that the Bureau of Mineral Resources has not called tenders for stratigraphic drilling in Western Australia, but the bureau contemplates doing some shallow bore drilling to aid its geophysical and geological surveys. The matter is of some little public importance and interest, and therefore I ask for the question to be put on notice and I will get the correct information for the honorable senator.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister who administers the War Service Land Settlement Scheme by saying that recently, at a public meeting at Horsham, it was stated that soldier settlers on the new Drung estate wereincensed because the Commonwealth Government had failed to honour a promise to make available finance to the Victorian Government for the installation of a pasteurization plant to treat milk from the settlement. 1 therefore ask the Minister whether it is a fact that Victoria is a principal State under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme and that the State Government is solely responsible for administering soldier settlement. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government, by agreement with the Victorian Government, makes moneys available only for the purchase of land? Has the Minister any knowledge of any alleged promise made to the Victorian Government that a special grant would be provided to install pasteurization plant at Drung?
– It is a fact that Victoria is a principal State, and that the Victorian Government is solely responsible for administering the soldier settlement scheme inthat State. For the past two years, advances have been made to the Victorian Government on the basis of £1 for each £2 allotted by the State from its own funds. Money advanced by the Commonwealth can beused for acquiring and developing land and making advances to settlers fortheir holdings.
The honorable senator was good enough to informme that he intended asking a question about the installation of pasteurization plant at Drung. I have made inquiries of my colleague, the Minister acting for the Minister for Primary Industry, whohas advisedme in these terms: -
Although I have no detailed knowledge of the plans for the pasteurization of milk in this district, I believe that a. co-operative society was to be formed to install and operate plant at Horsham. I understand that the Victorian Soldier Settlement Commission did intend to advance £500 to each settler under the war service land settlement scheme, to, buy shares, but I do not know what has actually transpired.
I regret that I am unable to give the honorable senator any further information as this type of activity is entirely outside the Commonwealth’s sphere of jurisdiction.
– Idesire to ask a ques tion without notice of the Minister for National Development, and if he cannot give me the information immediately, I am prepared to place the question on the noticepaper. In the “ Australian Mineral IndustryReview” for 1956, it is reported that theBureau of Mineral Resources has discovered iron ore deposits in the Constance Rangearea of north-west Queensland, and it is stated that these deposits are being extensively tested by drilling by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Is the Minister in a position to tell the Senate anything about the results of this prospecting, in view of the great importance to this country of further suitable iron ore deposits?
– There have been Some very interesting developments which have provided knowledge of resources additional to the rich mineral resources already known to exist in northern Queensland. Thehonorable senator asks for information which I am sorry I cannot give” him offhand, but if he puts the question on notice I shall lethim have a reply as soon as I can.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Has the Minister noticed an article in the issue of “ Canberra Comments “, of 15th November, dealing generally with the subject of tariffs? In the article this comment appears - the urgent need for comprehensive review and a clearer declaration of Australian tariff policy and the machinery to give effect to such a’ policy. But equally, if not more urgent and important- because of the relevancy of the economic fact’s- is the need for expert examination of the effects of the tariffs on the National Economy.
I remind the Minister that six months ago’ I asked him whether the Government had considered setting up some body to consider the effects of tariff policy on the economy. As this suggestion comes from the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, I ask the Minister whether the Government has advanced its thinking on the subject of tariff policy to the extent of being able to announce whether there is to be such an inquiry.
– I well remember the honorable senator’s previous question on this matter, and I appreciate his interest in it. This is a matter of such importance that it has been the subject of consideration by the Government from time to time. I know that my colleague, Mr; McEwen, is not yet in a position to make a statement of the kind that the honorable senator requests, but I assure the honorable senator that although the time is not yet opportune for making a statement, the matter is under close examination and a good deal of thinking is being done on it.
– I direct to the
Minister for National Development a question concerning the proposed inquiry by the Tariff Board into the copper-mining industry. In view of the serious situation that exists in that industry, can the Minister inform the Senate when he expects the Tariff Board report to be available? Also, would the Minister consider taking the necessary steps to place before the Tariff Board a request for similar investigations Of other base metal industries that are now facing, perhaps, a serious depression, in view of the extremely low prices for base metals in Australia?
– The position of the copper-mining industry is causing us all some anxiety. I had hoped that the Tariff Board report would have been available ere this. The Tariff Board has a big task in examining the copper-mining industry in all its ramifications. I cannot tell the honorable senator when the report will be available, but I do know that my colleague, Mr. McEwen, has made representations aimed at getting the information as soon as is practicable. As to the reference of other base metal industries to the Tariff Board, I remind the honorable senator that the usual procedure- and, I think, the statutory procedure- is that a request for such a reference is made first to the Minister by the industry or the company concerned.
– When will the Minister for Civil Aviation be in a position to make a statement to the Senate as to when the new air terminal lounges &c., at Llanherne Airport, Hobart, will be ready foruse? Will amenities to be provided include a buffet such as is available at most other important airport terminals? Can repairs be effected to the tarmac leading from the terminal buildings to the aircraft in order to overcome the discomfort caused to passengers by deep puddles that cover a wide area in wet weather?
– I am not aware of the details of Work, if there is any, which the department has in prospect for Llanherne Airport. I shall make inquiries of the department and let the honorable senator know what is in prospect.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice-
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer:- 1 and 2. In recent months the Government has receiveda number of suggestions for introducing a system of decimal coinage into Australia and all of these are being carefully examined. In addition, detailed reports are being received oil developments overseas in this field, including current investigations by official committees in New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, and on the arrangements made for the recent introduction of decimal coinage in India. The Government is aware of the interest being shown in this matter by manufacturers and operators of electronic computers and other business machinery, but it has not yet taken any decision whether or not a decimal currency system should be introduced in Australia.
– On 31st October, I asked the following question: -
Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate discuss with his colleague, the Minister for Trade, the proposed importation of prawns from Hong Kong, with a view to ensuring that these prawns do not include Japanese prawns rejected by the American market?
I understand that the Leader of the Government inthis place now has the answer to this question.
-I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Trade. The question of whether imported prawns are suitable for the Australian market is one for determination by the Department of Health. I know that quite recently consignments of prawns from Hong Kong and from Japan were landed at Sydney, where they were immediately subjected to bacteriological test. I understand that this test revealed the prawns complied with local health regulations.
– Is it desired to alter or re-arrange the business?
– Under this heading, I should like to put before you, Mr. President, a matter affecting the order of business and the placement of business in the Senate. On inquiry I learned from the Clerk that a message was transmitted from the House of Representatives yesterday in relation to a bill known as the Reserve Bank Bill 1957. It came from the House of Representatives to the Clerk Assistant, at his office, at about 7.35 p.m. yesterday. It sought the concurrence of this chamber in the measure.
The message was not communicated to the Senate last evening, and I raise the matter at this stage to draw attention to a standing order which, I consider, governs that position. I refer at once to Standing Order 189, which appears on page 23 of The Senate Standing Orders. It reads -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend, the Question “ That this Bill be now read a First time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without Amendment or Debate.
Reviewing that briefly for a moment, if I may, the first point I wish to make is that that standing order, on its face, refers to all bills coming to this chamber, whether from the House of Representatives or originating in the Senate, with only one exception. That exception is a bill which may originate only in the House of Representatives and, as the standing order indicates, may not be amended by the Senate. So my first submission to you, Sir, is that Standing Order 189 applies in relation to the particular message which arrived yesterday and which has not yet been presented to the Senate. While I am completely confident that that is the proper and only possible interpretation of that standing order, if there were any doubt about the matter, it is completely resolved by Standing
Order 231. The relevant portion of Standing Order 231 is contained in the opening sentence which states -
Public Bills coming to the Senate the first time from the House of Representatives shall be proceeded with in all respects as similar Bills presented in pursuance of Orders of the Senate;
I believe that I have established the first point that Standing Order 189 has application to the particular measure that I am considering. The next point is that there is a duty imposed on you, Sir, as President, and on nobody else. My further point is that that duty is mandatory. The wording of Standing Order 189 is - the Question “ That this Bill be now read a First time “ shall be put by the President . . .
So I contend, Sir, that in the terms of the standing order, there is an inescapable duty upon you to read the message and immediately to put that question in those terms. My next point is that you are to do so immediately after the bill has been received. So I claim, Sir, that it is your duty - that it is compulsory for you and obligatory upon you - to act immediately the measure has been received.
It is completely clear that the measure to which I am referring was received in the terms of that standing order when, yesterday, at 7.35 p.m., it was delivered through the Clerk-Assistant to the Clerk of the Senate. I point out that in the capacity of recipients, the Clerk or the ClerkAssistant are, in those circumstances, your agents and the agents of this chamber. They receive measures not in their individual capacities but in their representative capacity. The point I make is that receipt by the Clerk or the Clerk-Assistant is receipt by you, Sir, and is receipt by you on behalf, not of the Government in this chamber or of the Executive as represented in this chamber, but of the Senate.
The next matter to which I believe I should make some reference in order to lay a foundation for a discussion on this matter or, I should say, for your consideration, is Standing Order 337. It deals with communications between the two Houses, to which a complete chapter - Chapter XXV. - has been devoted. Standing Order 337 reads: -
Every Message from the House of Representatives shall be received without delay by the ClerkAssistant at the Bar while the Senate is sitting, and be reported by the President as early as convenient, and a future time named for its consideration; or it may, by leave, be dealt with at once.
The important aspect of that, Sir, is that already we have in Standing Order 189 a particular provision in relation to a bill that is received from the House of Representatives, whereas here we have a general provision. The only possible interpretation and reconciliation of those two standing orders is that the first one stands simpliciter as it is unalterable, and that the second one refers to messages of a type other than in relation to bills received from the House of Representatives, provision for which is made very clearly in Standing Order 189.
I am fortified in my opinion by what is recorded in the publication, “ Australian Senate Practice “, which is well known and respected in this chamber, at pages 205 and 206 where, in considering Standing Order 337, the author said -
If the Senate be not sitting, it is the practice for Messages from the House of Representatives to be delivered to the Clerk of the Senate, and such delivery is deemed to be effective delivery.
While the Senate is sitting, Messages from the House of Representatives are received without delay by the Clerk-Assistant at the Bar. A Message is received in such a manner without any interruption to the Business of the Senate. The Clerk-Assistant, having taken delivery of the Message, hands the same to the Clerk, who in turn informs the President of the receipt of the Message. The Message is read to the Senate by the President at any stage when other Business is not before the Senate. Actually, there is some liaison work performed here by the Clerk, who keeps the Leader of the House posted on the Messages received and also ascertains from the Leader his proposals regarding the conduct of the Business of the Senate. This does much to further orderly despatch of Business.
These are the words to which I particularly invite your attention, Mr. President -
But Messages, however, are communications from the Speaker to the President, and vice versa, and are not strictly under the control of Ministers until reported, when motion must be made for dealing with them.
Then in the following paragraph the author adds this relevant observation-
– On your argument, they would not then be under the control of Ministers. Your argument is that the President perforce, if that is the right word to use, must put the motion, “ That the bill be now read a first time “.
– Yes, he must perforce do that, and then the matter is before the Senate. Motion must be made. The motion might be in the form of any of those that the honorable senator employs from time to time. The motion might be “ That the Standing Orders be suspended “ or “ That the bill be now read a second time “. The Minister concerned would receive the first call in those circumstances.
– The honorable senator said that the President would put that question without any motion having been submitted.
– Immediately the President recounts the message transmitting the bill, he should put the question, “ That the bill be now read a first time “. There is no denying that that is the express provision of Standing Order 189. I shall deal in a moment with what the practice has been. But I repeat that clearly there can be no denial of what the standing order says. Let me continue with the comment of the author of the publication from which I was reading. He says -
When a Message has been reported, which means being read to the Senate by the President, a future time is named for its consideration; or it may, by leave, be dealt with at once.
Now this is the important part - (Exceptions to this rule are Messages with respect to Bills, for which special provision is made . . . For example, the Standing Orders provide that, with respect to bills coming the first time from the House of Representatives, the Question - “That this Bill be now read a first time “ - shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received (by Message).
– That is the first time the author has been wrong.
– I do not think he is wrong, and I am sure that the Minister, by the smile on his face, is merely being facetious when he makes that suggestion. I am sure he shares with me a very deep respect for the opinion of the author of this publication. I acknowledge that that practice has not been observed. It has been the custom all the time that I have been in the Senate for the President to announce the receipt of a message and for a Minister then to move immediately either that the bill be read a first time or that the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the bill to be dealt with without delay. The bill is then dealt with accordingly.
It is clear that the standing order was not designed to do that type of thing at all. The practice, when one is forced to examine it, is, in my view, a little silly from one viewpoint. The usual practice followed here is that immediately the message is announced, the Minister moves that Standing Orders be suspended so that the bill may be passed without delay. That is obviously silly, because the practice can have no application to Standing Order 189, which enjoins the President immediately to put the first question. Therefore, the suspension of the Standing Orders in their application to the first reading is completely unnecessary. It is rather stupid for the Senate to employ that method. That is the first consideration.
The second consideration is that it is entirely wrong in principle for the Executive in this chamber to initiate the flotation of a bill. Everybody concurred in the practice, because nobody saw that any evil, harm or harshness could possibly result from it. One could point to numbers of standing orders which have been disobeyed and the disobedience of which has hardened into a practice that has become so firm as to be accepted as a rule of the Senate. I point, for instance, to the requirement under the Standing Orders that every motion proposed in the Senate must be seconded. The practice has grown up that in the case of Ministers, leaders of the Opposition and deputy leaders of the Opposition, a seconder is not required. There is a commonsense and practical understanding that if people speak at that level, they must be assumed to have the support of their followers and, therefore, that their motion is automatically seconded. In that case the procedure obviously is a beneficial or beneficent extension of the rule. It is liberal; it does not hurt anybody; it is a rule of common sense and convenience. It has hardened into a practice that really is a complete variation of the standing order.
My submission to you, Sir, is that when it is found that a practice - no matter what the practice has been - can be used harshly or undemocratically, the Senate must disregard the practice and return immediately to the rule. I confess that until very recently my mind never adverted to the purpose of the rule that was put in there.
– I bet it didn’t!
– There was no occasion for it. There was a time when the Opposition was told what business was to be brought on. There was a time when there was an understanding regarding these things. There was a reasonable co-existence, which the Government terminated on Thursday of last week.
There are several other considerations I want to put to you, Mr. President. The bill in question, which is the subject-matter of the message to which I am addressing my remarks, was declared an urgent bill by the Government in another place. It was guillotined to a certain time-table, and all Australia knew that that time-table ended at 6 o’clock last night. It is an urgent bill. I submit that in any circumstances this rule is designed to ensure, as a matter of courtesy to the other place, that messages from it will be, without delay, taken into consideration. A. fortiori, how much more promptly should a message regarding a bill that the House of Representatives has publicly announced to be urgent be taken into consideration by the Senate? If the Senate fails to do that, is it not an obvious discourtesy to the House of Representatives? I suggest that that is one reason why the obligation on you, Mr. President, has been made mandatory under Standing Order 189.
There is another aspect of the transmission of the bill to you. The Senate was conceived, and perhaps still is thought of to a small extent, as a States’ House, but you, as their chief officer, their impartial arbiter, are the proper person to receive such a message, not on behalf of one party, not on behalf of a government - or of the contending factions before you - but on behalf of every honorable senator in the chamber. There are mounting reasons for the wisdom of that rule - the matter of courtesy and so on - but, of course, recent events have obliged the Opposition to look at the basis of the rule, and the harsh conditions that may operate if it is not strictly observed. One cannot help but be impressed with the wisdom and foresight of those who, long ago, designed that rule, because it is now clear that this position could arise under all normal circumstances: An honorable senator who is away from the Senate ill would know when a particular measure is due to reach the Senate. He is entitled to know that the bill will be put into the arena by the President immediately it is received. He knows the time by which he has to be here. He may be desperately ill, but may feel that he should be present to record a vote on something about which he feels very strongly. If it lies in the hands of the Executive to keep the bill away until such time as his illness develops, he will be -denied his democratic right as a senator to vote on the bill. That is the main purpose in making it obligatory to deal with the matter immediately - so that every member of this chamber will know when he has to be here, I thought that a proper interpretation of that sort would have required you, Mr. President, when there was no business before the Senate-
– No business?
– Perhaps the Minister will allow me to finish the sentence. An interpretation of that sort would have required you, Mr. President, immediately after prayers, when there was no business before the Senate, to refer this important message to the Senate, and to put it in issue by way of a motion from your own lips, “ That the bill be now read a first time “.
The contrary opens the way to evils, to harshness, to coercion of senators, and to a situation that can be completely unfair and very harmful to the well-being of many honorable senators. The rule is well based. It is exceedingly well conceived. Fortunately only recently it has become apparent how necessary it is to observe it strictly, and bow unnecessary and even dangerous is the practice that we have allowed to develop. In the view of the Opposition - and I speak for all of my colleagues - we consider that you should return to this rule. I ask, at this stage, whether you, Mr. President, are prepared forthwith to put the message in issue in relation to the Reserve Bank Bill before the Senate now, and to comply with Standing Order 189. I should be grateful if you could give an indication of your attitude in that matter at the moment because, if you are not prepared to accept my submission, I must take another course.
– Any one who did not know Senator McKenna as well as we do might think that he was serious in his utterances this afternoon. What an amazing change of attitude! Senator McKenna says that the submission that he is urging is -the only proper interpretation. In fact, it is an interpretation that has never been followed in this chamber. Before getting on with a discussion of some of the points which he has raised, may I ask him this question: Do I understand that there has been another change on the part of members of the Opposition and that, despite what was said by their colleagues in another place last night - that the “Opposition was going to hit this measure on its first reading, and immediately it was put before the chamber - they are now anxious to debate it? We will be only too pleased to give them an opportunity to debate it in due course. We still have quite a number of very important matters on the notice-paper.
Senator McKenna quoted the Standing Orders somewhat out of context. He did not quote the headnotes. For instance, Standing Order 189 is under the chapter headed “ Public Bills “. This chapter shows how such bills are to be dealt with. Standing Order 337 deals with the subject, “ Communication Between the Two Houses “. There is no inconsistency at all between those two standing orders. I shall deal first of all with communications between the two Houses. Standing Order 337 provides -
Every Message from the House of Representatives shall be received without delay-
I invite honorable senators to mark these words - by the Clerk-Assistant at the Bar while the Senate is sitting, and be reported by the President as early as convenient, arid a future time named for its consideration; or it may, by leave, be dealt with at once.
That is the way in which communications are passed from one House to the other, and the way in which they are dealt with. I emphasize that the standing order relates to every message.
Senator McKenna also referred to Standing Order 189, which is in the chapter headed “Public Bills”. The chapter tells us how public bills, whether initiated by the Senate itself or received on message from the House of Representatives, are dealt with in the Senate. Standing Order 189 provides -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend, the Question “ That this Bill be now read a First time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without Amendment or Debate.
If Senator McKenna’s contention were upheld, it would mean that whenever a message came from the House of Representatives - and sometimes we receive as many as 30 a day - the debate then ensuing, no matter how important, would be interrupted. It is suggested - if Senator McKenna is serious in his contention that you, Mr. President, and not the Minister in charge of the bill, would put the question, “ That this bill be now read a first time “. That is a fantastic suggestion. The only person who can move the first reading of a bill is the Minister in charge of the bill. Never, since federation, has such a motion ever been put in the way suggested. The question must be raised on motion by the Minister. The question does not emerge uninspired from the President himself. The President has nothing whatever to do with the passage of bills through this chamber. Every bill, whether it is initiated in this chamber, or comes here on message, is the responsibility of the Government, and is in the charge of a particular Minister. That Minister alone may move that the bill be read a first time. The question is propounded by the Minister himself.
That then is put by the President on the motion of the Minister in charge of the bill, otherwise the position would be completely absurd. As I say, if you, Mr. President, every half-hour or hour during an important debate in this chamber receive messages from the House of Representatives, are you, not knowing anything about the relevant bills and having no responsibility for the carriage of them, to interrupt the debate by saying, “ Honorable senators, I have received a message from the House of Representatives, and I move that the bill be read a first time “? What fantastic nonsense that would be! So I submit there is no conflict at all, particularly in view of the provision for dealing with public bills by the Senate and the provisions in respect of communications between the two Houses as set out in Chapter XXV. of the Standing Orders.
It is quite obvious that Standing Order 189 means that the motion for the first reading of a bill received from the House of Representatives shall be moved at the convenience of the Minister. That must be done at his convenience, because there may be amendments to be moved in the Senate. It may not always be convenient for the Minister to move a motion for the first reading immediately the bill reaches this chamber from the House of Repre sentatives, and it has never been the practice for such bills to be launched in this chamber immediately after their receipt.
As it happened, the relevant bill was received with a message after dinner last night. We had then, and we still have, a considerable number of measures on the notice-paper, measures which are supplementary to the Budget, measures which would in the ordinary course of events be dealt with and finished so that the budgetary proposals of the Government could be given effect.
Reference has been made to the illness of an honorable senator. I understand tha: several honorable senators are not well. In that regard, the Government is very concerned and very sympathetic, but I would have you know, Mr. President, that it is not the Government that has been responsible for bringing these senators here. It is entirely the responsibility of a ruthless machine that has brought them here.
– As a matter of parliamentary privilege, why was not the sick senator granted a pair?
– It is all very well for Senator Sheehan to talk about parliamentary privilege. He was a member of a party which repudiated the granting of a pair to a man who was fighting overseas - repudiated a pair solemnly given. I remind Senator Sheehan that he has raised this matter, not me.
It has been said that this measure was declared an urgent measure in another place. It must be borne in mind - and this is public property - that the Leader of the House had a firm arrangement with the Leader on the Opposition side providing for an orderly debate on this very important banking legislation. That arrangement was repudiated. Subsequently, shocking delays occurred last Thursday evening, when more than twenty divisions took place, wasting in all over three hours of debating time. Apparently the Opposition was not really sincere in its desire to debate the measure. It was only because the Opposition in another place gave ample evidence that it was not concerned at all about debating the merits of the bill that the Government was constrained to use the “ guillotine “. Mr. President, in due course, when other matters that we consider to be important have been dealt with-
– That is parish pump business.
– The Budget is anything but parish pump business. There are some very important budgetary measures to be dealt with. When the Government deems it convenient and fitting to do so, it will afford to the Opposition an opportunity of debating the banking legislation. In the meantime, and as a matter of idle interest, I should like the Opposition to indicate whether or not it is prepared te debate the measure. I should like to know whether honorable senators opposite have changed their minds again. Last night it was clearly indicated that the Opposition had no intention whatever of debating the legislation; and to-day honorable senators opposite have stated, with a display of crocodile tears, that the Government is not giving the Senate an opportunity to discharge its functions. Fancy this charge being made by a party that is pledged to destroy the Senate, because that party regards it as an anachronism which stands between the wishes of the people and their elected representatives in another place! Yet, less than two years ago, this Government was returned with a majority of 27 in the House of Representatives. In this Senate, less than two years ago, the Government won seventeen out of 30 vacancies, yet the Opposition, the champion and the bulwark of democracy, socalled, is prepared to thwart the wishes of the majority of the people of Australia so recently, so clearly, and so convincingly expressed. If honorable senators opposite want the Senate to be destroyed, they could not go about it in a better way. They are holding the Senate up to ridicule. They are betraying the trust that has been reposed in them by the people who sent them here to serve.
So much for that. I return now to the points that were raised by Senator McKenna. I. submit that if the interpretations that have been placed by the honorable senator upon Standing Orders 189 and 337 are accepted, the effect will be to make a complete farce of the working of the Senate.
– I regard this discussion to-day as only a further act in a very macabre and horrifying drama in this place and one which, as time goes on, is disturbing the sensibilities of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. Where the responsibility for that may lie is a matter for discussion and dispute between the Government and the Opposition. There is at least one thing that can be said, so far as I am concerned, and that is that I am not responsible in any way for the presence of the honorable senator whose condition is the cause of such concern, nor am I responsible, on the other hand, for keeping him here. Therefore, if I intrude in this debate it is for the purpose of trying to bring to some conclusion as early as possible this situation which is now causing all of us so much concern.
Having said that, I direct attention on the technical side to the submissions of Senator McKenna, and more particularly to Standing Order 189, when compared with a similar standing order of the House of Representatives. Senator McKenna, in a brief reference, indicated that the Senate stands in an entirely different position from another place in relation to the Constitution. The Senate was originally constituted as a States’ House; a House without any definite party affiliations; a House which was to function under the Constitution in protection of the component States of the federation, if necessary; a House divorced from the executive government of the day, and a House where strict party divisions were not contemplated. The presence of yourself, Mr. President, in the chair, with a preliminary but no casting vote is an indication of the desire and the necessity to preserve complete parity between the six States in the deliberations of this assembly. Therefore, it is only to be expected that the approach to the passage of legislation by the other House under its Standing Orders is different from the approach to the passage of legislation by this chamber under its Standing Orders.
Senator McKenna submitted that the bill having been received, the responsibility then of presenting it and moving that it be read a first time was imposed on the President and was apparently divorced from the executive government. Whatever may be the practice that has grown up in this chamber, that does not necessarily justify any departure from something which is specific and mandatory, if it is to be read that way, and something which is specific and mandatory because it was intended to carry into effect the very purpose of this chamber itself.
– That is your opinion.
– lt is my opinion that 1 arn submitting to the President. I draw attention, therefore, to the terms of our Standing Order 189, under the general heading “Public Bills, First Reading”. It states -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend, the Question “ That this Bill be now read a First time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without Amendment or Debate.
The corresponding standing order in the House of Representatives reads -
On motion being made, the Question “ That this Bill be now read a first time “ shall be put by the Speaker. . . . lt states, “ On motion being made “. That is a completely different standing order from the one which affects our deliberations. Nobody can conclude that we must read our standing order, either in law, in strict interpretation or in terms of the con* vention Which has developed, as if it were written in the terms in which the standing order applying in another place is expressly written.
I suggest that our standing order has been severely departed from in practice and convention. That is a departure which normally is tolerated, but which becomes inexcusable in circumstances such as those which have now arisen. In the last fortnight or three weeks, we have had a similar debate on a standing order of the Senate, from which the conclusion emerged that the standing order itself was difficult to operate and was, perhaps, almost indefensible. That was not the point. I do not wish to reflect on a decision of the Chair, but one honorable senator of the Opposition subsequently suggested,. I think, that the standing order should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee, because in its strict terms it would create a difficult, if not an impossible, position. But it was not the function of the Senate to depart from it merely because of that. The standing order had to be obeyed. If it could not readily and wisely be obeyed, it had to be altered.
I submit that this is the same type of proposition. The same type of problem arises in relation to this standing order. If it is not workable, as Senator O’sullivan suggests, and might involve repeated interruptions of the proceedings of the Senate, that is a matter to be rectified in another way, but while the standing order is here - specific, determined and mandatory - I feel that we have no alternative but to obey it and abide by it strictly.
It is a horrible situation in which we-, discuss this proposition coldly and academically. I suggest that in these circumstances the Senate should come down on the side of the strict observance of the standing order, particularly as that would resolve a situation which otherwise would be come more and more difficult. We do not do anything for democracy by merely obeying the forms of democracy. When there is an honorable senator who substantively is present, has a right to vote, and, therefore, is armed with a mandate to participate in these deliberations and in any decision, no government or party is entitled by any type of subterfuge to avoid the obviously declared will of the electorate by in any way postponing, in the most unrealistic manner and terms, an opportunity for that honorable senator to declare himself and to vote. For those reasons, I suggest that Senator McKenna’s submission should be upheld.
– Senator McKenna has raised a matter of fundamental importance to the Senate. He argues that Standing Order 189 provides, in effect, that except as to bills that the Senate may not amend, the initiation is made by the President himself, automatically, without any other machinery being put into effect. I join issue with Senator McKenna on his interpretation of Standing Order 189, but before I argue that aspect of the question I invite the Senate’s consideration of the consequences of accepting his proposition. Senator McKenna is, in fact, saying that except as to one class of bill - that which the Senate cannot amend - the President puts the motion for the first reading. The standing order, of course, does not refer to the procedure to be adopted in relation to the other class of bill, a bill that the Senate may not amend, and one can only assume that so far as that class of bill is concerned, another procedure should apply. I invite the Senate to a consideration of the foolishness of the consequences of accepting this proposition.
Apart from that, one must turn to the actual words of Standing Order 189. With the greatest respect, I think that Senator McKenna is not interpreting the standing order correctly. My interpretation is that what the Government has done is in accordance with the standing order. It states -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend, the Question “That this Bill be now read :a First time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, . . .
The important words are “ the same “. They, refer to the question, not the bill. The standing order provides that the question “ That this bill be now read a first time “ shall be put by the President immediately. The motion originates from the Minister and from no one else. I suggest that the words “ after the same has been received “ relate entirely to the question. The standing order really means that, except as to bills which the Senate may not amend, the question shall be put by the President immediately it is received by him, and shall be determined without amendment or debate.
My argument is fortified, I think, by the final words of this standing order, which are - . . and shall be determined without Amendment or Debate.
Those words relate to the question, not to the bill. With great respect to Senator McKenna I think that the words “ the same “ and “ shall be determined without Amendment or Debate “ relate back to the substantive part of this standing order, namely, the question. That question is “ That this bill be now read a first time “. The words do not relate to the bill being received. 1 suggest that Senator McKenna is confusing the question.
– Wait till the President reads the message.
– Don’t be silly. We cannot get a motion from the House of Representatives.
– Senator Gorton hit3 the nail on the head. The question before the Senate is not that the message shall be received, but “ That this bill be now read a first time “. This standing order relates entirely to that question; it does not relate in any way to the receipt of bills from -the other place.
I am fortified in this argument by my suggestion that Chapter XIX. relates entirely to the procedure of the Senate in the initiation of bills and the debating of them. It does not refer at any point to the receipt of messages from the other place. I suggest that we are not reading the standing order as it is intended to be read if we interpret as referring to the receipt of a message the words -
I suggest that the procedure that the Senate has followed for the last 50 years is entirely in accordance with Standing Order 189. As soon as a motion is moved by the Minister - and he alone can move it - the President should, in accordance with the standing order, put the question. I feel that Senator McKenna may have unwittingly misread this standing order for the purpose of his argument. If we accepted his view, we would get the most preposterous position that the President is charged with responsibility for deciding when a bill, an executive act, shall be read. That is entirely contrary to the principles of responsible government, and, if Senator McKenna is arguing on those lines now, I shall be most interested to learn what will happen if - I repeat, if - he ever gets on to the treasury bench.
– I wish to offer a few observations on this matter because the question, as submitted by Senator McKenna, involves the interpretation of the Standing Orders. A problem submitted in this way allows little room for consideration. I do not know what consideration preceded Senator McKenna’s speech to the Senate, but I do suggest, especially in view of what he said, and in view of the technical opinion put by Senator Byrne, that if some attention were given to the way in which the Standing Orders were compiled, it would appear in this light: Chapter XXV. deals with communications between the two Houses, and that chapter contains Standing Order 337. Chapter XIX. deals with public bills and is primarily addressed to bills initiated in this place. That contains Standing Order 189. Senator McKenna obviously found difficultly in reconciling the two standing orders and, as I understood him, he suggested that it would be unnecessary and stupid to seek to employ Standing Order 189. I may be doing the Leader of the Opposition an injustice, but that is the note I took at the time.
– I was speaking of the practice, and not of the operation of that standing order.
– I understood the Leader Opposition to say that the practice had not been in accordance with his interpretation of Standing Order 189 and that the practice had developed because his interpretation would make Standing Order 189 unnecessary, and that it would be stupid-
– No. I argued quite the reverse. I said the practice was unnecessary and stupid in a particular. I did not apply those remarks to this standing order at all.
– Then let us forget my reference to those remarks entirely. I do not wish to misconstrue them in the slightest degree. I do not want to say that Chapter XIX. deals with bills initiated in this place, and I refer to Standing Order 23 1 . Here let me say that I think, looking al the Standing Orders, that he would be a venturesome man who would lightly undertake their revision, although, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, I have invited it in recent months. Standing Order 231 says -
Public Bills coming to the Senate the first time from the House of Representatives shall be proceeded with -
Note the words “proceeded with “ as distinct from the word “ initiation “ at the beginning of Chapter XIX. The bills are “ proceeded with “ in the same manner and - in all respects as similar Bills presented in pursuance of Orders of the Senate.
The expression is “ presented in pursuance of orders of the Senate “. Communications between the two Houses are to be done by message, conference or by select committees. That is provided for in Standing Order 334. In this instance, the communication is by messenger and the relevant standing order, I suggest to all those who are minded to give technical construction to these things, is that -
Every Message from the House of Representatives shall be received without delay by the ClerkAssistant at the Bar while the Senate is sitting.
It goes on - and be reported by the President as early as convenient.
So far as that is a parliamentary obligation on the President, I could not agree more with Senator McKenna’s submission that there is a right in every member of this Senate to have you, Mr. President, report that message to the Senate “ as early as convenient “ having regard to the business of the chamber and the dignity of the office, and having regard to the performance of your duty in a parliamentary manner. I shall refer in a moment to the proper respect of the House of Representatives which Senator McKenna makes as a further basis of his submission.
Standing Order 337 goes on to provide, Mr. President, that you, having reported the message to the Senate as early as convenient, a future time is named for its consideration. That is, for the consideration of the message, not the bill. It is for the consideration of the message that transmits the bill. The standing order then says - or it may, by leave- that is obviously leave of the Senate, and one dissentient vote can deny leave - be dealt with at once.
Again that refers to the message. So clear is that standing order as to leaving in the control of the Senate the time and the programme of the consideration of the message that it is a little iniquitous - honorable senators will note the syllable “ niq “ - to advance an argument that the bill must be received for consideration and the first reading proposed immediately on receipt of the message, when the proponent of that proposition, as I understand him, means to take advantage of a standing order that precludes debate on the first reading and means to deny to any honorable senator the right to offer his views on one of the most important bills that the national Parliament has had to deal with in a decade.
– You are assuming that.
– If the honorable senator is denying that that is the course the Opposition means to pursue if Senator McKenna’s interpretation were to succeed, then those who consider the spirit of Parliament and democracies might have a further look at it.
But when technicalities are advanced, it is always a good rule that one technicality can always be appropriately met by another technicality so long as that second technicality is a good one. When we look at Standing Order 337, we see that it deals with the specific subject of communications between the two Houses. The message from the Speaker announces that the other House transmits to us a bill, and requests the concurrence of the Senate therein. That is a message, and the standing order says that the message shall be received without delay. Of course, we do not keep the representative of the House of Representatives waiting at the bar, nor do we turn him away churlishly and ask him “ to come back to-morrow “. We send our Clerk-Assistant to meet him. He has a standing obligation under the Standing Orders to wait upon the messenger and, ministerially, convey that message to the table of the Clerk, and then, I agree, the President is under a parliamentary obligation to every honorable senator to report the receipt of the message as early as convenient.
Opposition Senators. - Hear, hear!
– And those who say “ Hear, hear! “ should hearken, because the next thing is that the Standing Order obliges the Senate to name a future time - not a present, but a future time - for the consideration of the message. That Standing Order states - . . and a future time named for its consideration; or it may, by leave, be dealt with at once.
Nobody has asked for leave, but a future time is to be named for its consideration. Although Standing Order 231 states that bills shall be proceeded with in the same manner in all respects, whether they are initiated here or transmitted from below, if honorable senators revert to Standing Order 189 which, as I pointed out, is in the chapter dealing with bills originating in the Senate, they will find that it states - the Question “ That this Bill be now read a First time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received . . .
I direct attention to the phrase “ after the same has been received “. If honorable senators examine Standing Order 185, they will note that a bill is not received into this chamber except by a motion for a committee of not less than two senators, or a motion for leave to bring in a bill. So these wheelbarrow technicalities are beginning to creak a little. I hope that the business of this Senate will not be concerned with such insupportable technicalities.
The message, I submit, should be reported as soon as convenient, and then a future time should be named for its consideration. Honorable senators may please themselves how they do that, but if it is to be by the vote of the Senate, I hope that the Senate will vote. If it is to be by arrangement between the party leaders, I hope that they will have regard to the purposes of democracy and the higher methods by which we can express democracy. The procedure will be, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, with due respect to the House of Representatives. I emphasize that I have said “ due respect “ and not “ undue respect “. Members of the House of Representatives do not vote in this chamber, but we shall not be paying due respect to them if this bill is not taken into consideration by this Senate and properly debated, and if every member of the Senate is not accorded his right to speak and vote on it in accordance with the authority that the people have entrusted to him.
– I wish to refer to some observations that have been made by Senator Byrne in support of what appears to me to be a very strange interpretation of the Standing Orders that has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. He spoke of this assembly as a “ States’ House “. He said that the position of Ministers here was evidently intended to be different from that of Ministers in the other House. I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to what the Constitution has stated about this chamber. All that is stated under the heading “Chapter I. - The Parliament “ is this -
The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives. . .
The Constitution does not state that the Senate is different from the House of Representatives. Those who have read the Constitution know that, with one or two exceptions - one or two things we are forbidden to do - we have equal legislative power with the House of Representatives. The position of Ministers is laid down in the Constitution under section 64, and, curiously enough, no distinction is made between Ministers in this chamber and Ministers in another place. Section 64 states in that connexion -
The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish. . . They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State to the Commonwealth.
After the first general election, no Minister of State shall hold office for a longer period than three months unless he is or becomes a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
There is no implied or stated inferiority or difference. I take it that the Minister in this place has exactly the same function and relation to this House as has a Minister in another place.
There is one other reference in the Constitution to Ministers which I think puts beyond all doubt how we should regard our attitude to them. Many people seem to think of this House as a kind of upper house, something like the legislative councils or even the House of Lords, but it is not. I have read the debates of the conventions which preceded the formulation of the Constitution, and some of the members of those conventions absolutely denied that this place, which they were setting up, was an upper house in any accepted meaning of the world. The Senate of Australia was to be a body equal with the other body and a unique kind of institution. Section 49 of the Constitution states -
The powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committee of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
There is no reference to a second chamber or to an upper house. This Senate is a body elected by the people. The relation of the Executive to it and its importance are the same as in the other place. I regard it as preposterous that anybody should put forward this strange, ridiculous suggestion that you, Sir, should introduce a bill without any justification or explanation merely so that it may be thrown out without debate or discussion. That would be the greatest sham that ever happened. I hope the Senate will uphold the interpretation . of the Standing Orders which was so ably given by the Leader of the Government.
– I listened with very great interest to the Leader of the Opposition, and I was amazed to hear some of the statements he made as to what should be done by the Senate. He gave a recital of a number of instances in which the Senate had departed from Standing Orders, but I take it from his statement that he has been in accord with those departures. Because a certain situation has developed, the Leader of the Opposition now desires that we should adhere strictly to the Standing Orders as he interprets them to apply to this particular case. If we are to interpret the Standing Orders as the Leader of the Opposition has interpreted them in one case, we must do so in every case.
As one of the temporary chairmen of committees in this chamber, I clearly recall occasions when I have tried to confine the debate to the strict limits imposed by the Standing Orders and Senator McKenna has pleaded with me to give honorable senators a free run in order to facilitate discussion. I believe that the proper chairing of a meeting of any body is an art and that chairmen should interpret the rules with appropriate leniency to suit the occasion. I do not want to break any confidences, and I will merely say that I know the reasons that were behind Senator McKenna’s requests on the occasions to which I have referred.
The point I wish to make is that it hasbeen good enough for Senator McKenna and his colleagues to accept those departures in practice, I cannot understand how he can claim that the interpretation he gave to-day is correct and that we should now, because of a particular case, revert to the strict application of the Standing Orders. If we are to adhere strictly to the Standing Orders, we should do so always and not only in special cases. That, I think, is the right way for any chamber to conduct itself. Da not let us be elastic just when it suits particular people.
– You do not admit that his interpretation is right?
– I do not admit that his interpretation is right. As a matter of fact, I do not intend to canvass any further the interpretations that have been given by the legal men. I think the relevant points have been dealt with adequately by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. Senator Vincent presented some very good points for consideration; I think he offered a sound interpretation of the Standing Orders. Senator Wright, too, has given an exceptionally fine interpretation of the Standing Orders, and his interpretation accords with the most lofty parliamentary principles. Therefore, it is not necessary for me to go into those points any further.
Because a sick man is waiting to vote, a great deal of play is being made upon the emotions of people; but we must not let that carry us away. I was astonished at the way in which Senator Byrne, who I think most of us recognize as being very fair, spoke in dealing with this situation. The interpretation to be placed on his speech is that, because a vote was not being taken on the measure with which we are concerned, we were holding this man at Parliament House. But to do that would be a negation of democracy. As Senator Wright pointed out, there is no doubt that the Opposition intended to wipe out this bill at the firstreading stage. That would have deprived honorable senators of their democratic right to debate the measure. As my colleague, Senator Pearson, reminds me, we would not even have had the opportunity to hear a second-reading speech by the Minister in charge of the bill. This House has been established for the purpose of enabling debate to take place.
The measure in question is a very important piece of legislation. As Senator Wright pointed out, within the last decade probably no more important bill has come before this chamber. It is suggested by Senator Byrne that, if the measure had been introduced last night, it could have been disposed of then. This bill is of such importance that honorable senators may be required to attend for one week, two weeks, or perhaps even longer; they may even be required to be here for four weeks. When speeches are made with a view to conveying the impression that it is not right for the Senate to keep someone waiting for a day, we have brought to our minds very clearly just what is behind the Opposition’s move.
I agree with the further statement of Senator Wright that deliberation should take place. I know that it is the intention of the Opposition that there shall be no debate; but, as it has thrown down the gauntlet and is prepared to deprive honorable senators of their democratic rights in this chamber, I believe that the Government is acting correctly.
In regard to the particular matter that is now before you, Mr. President, I believe that the interpretations that have been given by honorable senators on this side of the chamber carry with them sincerity and a conviction of correctness. Therefore, I support what my colleagues have said. I believe that the Senate should keep in mind that in no circumstances should it allow such an important measure to come before it and be disposed of without any one having had the right to hear a second-reading speech from the Minister in charge of it.
– I support the case that has been put forward by Senator McKenna. We on this side of the chamber believe that it is obligatory and mandatory for you, Mr. President, to report as soon as is convenient the message that has been received from the House of Representatives. I believe that the speeches that have been made by supporters of the Government, having been recorded, will react to their disadvantage in the future and that those honorable senators will regret having made such contributions to the debate.
The Standing Orders of the Senate have been copied from those of the House of Commons and have been built up over the years. To all intents and purposes May’s “ Parliamentary Practice “ has been followed. For the purposes of expediency and convenience, a very important Standing Order has been turned into a farce. I should like to say, Sir, that if it had not been for certain circumstances you may not have been the presiding officer of this chamber at the present time. Suppose the position had been dealt with by lot and the number of votes cast by each side had been the same, and I, and not you, now occupied the chair. If a message transmitting a bill were received from the House of Representatives and I purposely decided not to allow the measure in question to be discussed, my action would be contrary to the spirit of the appropriate Standing Order which clearly states that the message should be received, that it should have the concurrence of the Senate, and that the measure in question should be placed on the business paper as soon as is convenient. I believe that Senator McKenna has interpreted the Standing Orders very clearly, but that the Government has transgressed them for the purposes of convenience and expediency.
I believe, Mr. President, that you would be acting in the interests of the Senate and of parliamentary democracy if you were to follow the accepted practice and read to the Senate forthwith the message that has been received.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - I shall reply to the Leader of the Opposition. I have followed the practice that has obtained for very many years, that is, when a message is received from the House of Representatives, it is handed to the President by the Clerk only after a Minister of the Crown indicates that he should do so. This practice has been based on the principle that the conduct of the business of the Senate is in the hands of Ministers of the Crown. Indeed, the practice obtained when the Leader of the Opposition himself was a Minister of the Crown. It is well known that sometimes practice may be at variance with the written rule or order.
I have considered whether the question as to whether the Standing Orders should be amended to conform to the longestablished practice to which I have referred should be examined by the Standing Orders Committee, and I propose to include that item in the agenda for the next meeting of the committee. As a matter of fact, it was only during last week that I convened a meeting of the committee for the purpose of discussing a proposal that there should be a complete review of the Standing Orders. The meeting was to have been held this morning, but owing to unforeseen circumstances, it was postponed.
– In the light of your decision, Mr. President, that you will not proceed, at my request, to read a certain message from the House of Representatives, I propose to move a motion arising from privilege. I move -
That the Senate calls upon the President to comply forthwith with the provisions of Senate Standing Order No. 189 in relation to any message received and not yet communicated to the Senate transmitting a bill from the House of Representatives to the Senate for the concurrence of the Senate.
I submit that motion out of a very strong sense of duty. Without beating about the bush, I indicate to the Senate that what the Opposition is concerned about is the Reserve Bank Bill 1957, which was gagged through another place yesterday, which was presented to the Clerk of the Senate quite officially yesterday, but which still has not been put before the Senate.
Four members of the Opposition are ill. The party that I represent pays a tribute to them.
– Why did you force them to come here?
– Just wait a minute. That is the very thing I am about to explain.
– Order! Honorable senators must remain silent while the Leader of the Opposition is speaking.
– The party to which I have the honour to belong pays great tribute to those four senators who, under great stress and difficulty, have come to do their part for themselves as senators and for their party. They feel strongly about one measure. Why pretend that it is anything but the banking legislation? It is that and that alone. They are here to vote against that measure and that alone. Three of them are heart cases. There is tension in this place. They were entitled to expect that that measure would be dealt with as an urgent measure - it was so declared by the Government - on their arrival yesterday, that a conclusion would be reached and that the strain would be taken off them. What an intolerable strain this Government has put on these sick people!
It is obvious that the Opposition is to be told nothing about the order of business, and that the order of business may be changed from minute to minute. The Government is in a position to switch the order of business from minute to minute. It has a right to do so. But what is happening now is completely unconscionable and intolerable for really sick people. I am exempting Senator Arnold for the moment. Under the circumstances, these sick people cannot leave the precincts of this chamber for a moment. If a Government senator is on his feet, he may conclude his remarks suddenly and this measure may be introduced in a matter of seconds, with- the Opposition caught off-guard. The Government is treating the processes of the Senate with contempt and is acting very unfairly to the honorable senators who are known to be unwell.
We have heard arguments advanced to-day that amaze me. Senator McCallum put up some proposition based on what I was supposed to have said about a distinction between Ministers in this and another place.
– I was referring to Senator Byrne.
– I misunderstood the honorable senator. Arguments have been directed to the meaning of Standing Order 189, upon which I based my proposition. It amazes me to hear responsible senators seeking to give no meaning to a rule expressed with such clarity and particularity. 1 ask the Leader of the Government: How can an intervening motion be put by a Minister when the terms of the standing order make it very plain that the question “ That the bill be now read a first time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same - the bill - has been received. The bill is received the moment the message is in the President’s hands.
It interested me to hear Senator Wright seeking to create confusion between bills that are initiated in this place and bills that are received from another place. I say that without doubt the honorable senator knows perfectly well - I know that he knows - the principle of construction that applies in these cases. Standing Order 337 is completely general. Standing Order 189 has a particular application. Nobody knows better than the honorable senator that a particular standing order prevails over a general standing order. Nobody knows better than he that Standing Order 189 refers to two matters. It refers to bills received from the House of Representatives as well as to bills originating in the Senate. The opening words should make that perfectly clear. If they fail to do so, I point out to Senator Vincent that the one exception is dealt with in the next succeeding standing order, Standing Order 190.
How is there room for intervention if one accepts the ordinary sense of the plain English of Standing Order 189? How is there room, as the Leader of the Government has suggested, for the intervention of a motion by a Minister. Let me read the standing order again -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend, the Question “ That this Bill be now read a first time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received . . .
The message is on the table. The moment it is received, the President should put that motion. How can the Minister intervene between the receipt of the message and the putting of the question?
– Are you serious in suggesting that the President should move the first reading of every bill?
– I am perfectly certain that the honorable senator is not serious. If he is, it surprises me.
– Do you say that the President does not put the question, but actually moves the motion for the first reading? What rot!
– The rule says that he shall put that question.
– Who moves the motion?
– The President puts it as a question. He is obliged to do so under the standing order.
– Are you serious in saying that?
– Cannot the honorable senator hear? I have already told him that I am serious.
– I cannot believe it.
– I cannot believe that the Leader of the Government could read that standing order and then say seriously to this chamber that anything could intervene between the reception of the message and the putting of that question by the President.
– Does the President take off his wig and gown, put on a pair of boxing gloves, come down to the floor of the House and fight?
– The honorable senator does not need to make a clown of himself. The standing order is perfectly clear. I point out to the Senate that this matter has been dealt with most objectively and clearly by Mr. Odgers in his book. He directs attention to the fact, dealing with Standing Order 337, that there are different types of messages.
– Do not quote him as an authority for what you have just said.
– Will you keep quiet for a while? When. Ministers behave like this and seek to deny to the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to put his argument, it is a fair indication that democracy is on the way out. It surprises me very little that they are prepared to trample on sick men, taking advantage of their sickness. I shall return to my argument, but while I am dealing with the question of sick men I shall reply to a question asked of me by the Leader of the Government. He asked who was responsible for the sick men being here. In the first place, they came on their own responsibility. In the second place, Senator Arnold, the most sick of all, is here on my responsibility as well, based on medical advice as to the risk he took. I think every honorable senator has full knowledge of the ordeal that Senator Arnold has recently gone through. I do not think anybody is under any illusions as to the seriousness of it.
– Are you prepared to keep him here for a fortnight while the bill is discussed?
– That is a question that I shall pose. He is here for one purpose, and for one purpose only - that is, to vote on the bill at whatever stage he elects to vote. He has a right to vote on the first reading, the second reading and the third reading. Nobody can deny him that right, except the Government. He has got to stay here while the Government plays tricks with the notice-paper, while it retains this message under a practice that has been wrongly adopted in this place down the years. The matter is in the hands of the Government. We have to keep here day and night a man who should be in hospital. The Leader of the Government has a motion on the notice-paper which, if carried, could keep us here right through the night, but we hope to have the numbers to beat any move by him in relation to that matter.
The Government, in short, has declared war without rules on the Opposition. It complains that the Opposition will oppose the first reading of the bill. How can wc meet brutality and lack of consideration other than by the methods at our disposal? I assure the Government that this policy of toughness and lack of consideration for sick people will be met by the Opposition with every weapon it can use. All that the Opposition has are the numbers for the time being. Any trouble that exists could be cured if the Minister would hand the bill to the President and allow the processes of the Senate to proceed in relation to it.
– Will you debate it?
– Do that and I will have no complaint.
– Will you debate it?
– The troubles of our senators will be over.
– Will you debate it?
– You can let them all go home. You can do that one simple thing on a bill that your Government has declared to be urgent.
– Will you debate it?
– You sound like a parrot. The Leader of the Government sits there and asks - I think I have heard him do so 54 times - “ Will you debate it? “
– And you have not answered my question.
– I will ask you a question: “ Will you keep quiet? “ I have stated the position plainly, and have pointed to the predicament of honorable senators who are obliged to stay here, under the tension of this place, for long periods at the dictates of the Government. They are confined to the immediate precincts of this chamber. Surely they are entitled to some consideration. Senator Arnold, above all, is entitled to consideration. We take the responsibility, with him, for his being here. You forced us into it with your toughness.
– What toughness?
– Your toughness in not giving a pair to a man in that condition, and in refusing to give the Opposition any information as to the nature of the business and the order in which it would come forward. You have that much responsibility for his being here.
– You refused a pair to a man who was in the Middle East.
– The honorable senator is going back to 1941. We are living in a modern age. Every member of the Opposition feels, as does Senator Byrne - and he is not a member of our party - completely outraged by the fact that these men are being kept here. The Government, and only the Government, can release them. Let us get on with the banking legislation now, so that I can release them. Senator Arnold can then go back to hospital and our sick people can relax. They can go away free from the fear of not knowing when the Government will spring a surprise. It has reserved the right to employ any trick that it wishes. For the reasons that I have given, and because of the completely and brutally unfair Government treatment of members of the Opposition, I say that any member of this Senate who has in him any element of human compassion will vote for the motion.
– I do not want to repeat at length the arguments already put to the Senate. I would point out again that Standing Order 189 deals entirely with the way in which this Senate treats public bills, whether initiated in the Senate or received on message from the House of Representatives. To make the matter quite clear, I shall quote it again. It reads -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend, the Question “ That this Bill be now read a First time” shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without Amendment or Debate.
Naturally, that means immediately it has been received by you, Mr. President. If one looks further on, to Chapter XXV., “ Communication between the Two Houses “, one reads in Standing Order 337-
Every Message from the House of Representatives shall be received without delay by the ClerkAssistant. . . .
The mere fact that a message comes to this House, and is received by the ClerkAssistant, does not necessarily mean that the matter is before the Senate. There is a clear distinction between a message being received by the Clerk-Assistant, and its being received by the President. Ever since federation it has been customary for the President to receive the message after the Clerk puts it into his hands - not when it is received by the Clerk at the Bar of the House. Senator McKenna suggests that as soon as the message is received it should be handed over to you, Sir, and dealt with. Such a message would refer to a bill giving effect to Government policy, yet Senator McKenna suggests that - without the Minister in charge knowing anything about it - it should be handed to the President and dealt with.
The President might be entirely opposed to the Government. That has happened. We have had presidents who have not been members of the Government party. On one memorable occasion it came about through pairs not being given to a government formed by the parties on this side at a time when we had nineteen members and the Opposition seventeen. One of our senators was fighting with Australian troops overseas, and another senator had on that very day been called away to hospital. We lost our majority and the Labour minority, not having given pairs, was able to obtain for its members the positions of President and Chairman of Committees.
Senator McKenna would suggest that in such a case the President should receive any message that comes from the House of Representatives and should immediately move on behalf of the Government, that the bill be read a first time. Do honorable senators opposite suggest that that could really happen? It is so fantastic that it does not deserve consideration. Obviously, Standing Order 189 means that after the message has been received the Minister in charge of the bill will move that it be read a first time. That is the question referred to in the standing order. The question before the House is that the bill be read a first time, and that question is put by the President, without debate or amendment. It is as plain and as simple as that. If the arguments put forward by Senator McKenna were sustained it would make a complete farce of the proceedings of the Senate.
As I mentioned earlier, no one is more concerned than is this Government about the ill health of our colleagues in the Senate, but I do emphasize that the callous responsibility for their attendance here must be entirely accepted by the ruthless machine which runs the Australian Labour party. If a basic and vital principle were involved and the Government, because of its numbers, were endeavouring to ignore public opinion, 1 could understand that any Opposition with a sense of responsibility, and a consciousness of its obligation to fight and preserve those principles, would regard no sacrifice as being too great. However, 1 repeat, this Government has been returned to office ever since 1949. We have fought and won every election since then. The banking policy of this Government was well known long before the 1955 election, when the party led by the present Prime Minister was returned by a majority never previously enjoyed by any Australian government.
– What has that to do with this matter?
– The Government has a responsibility to carry out the wishes of the electorate. I am merely pointing out that our policy has been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the electorate. In the House of Representatives the Government enjoys, by virtue of the election in December, 1955, less than two years ago, a majority of 27. In the Senate, which represents the whole of the Commonwealth, the Government at that election won seventeen of the 30 seats, and Opposition members only thirteen. Yet this brutal machine, at the risk of the health, the comfort, and the convenience of these sick senators, is exercising the ruthless domination it has over its members and is prepared, regardless of human pain and suffering to thwart the will of the people as expressed at the last general election, not in order to uphold a principle, but in order to destroy the essence of democracy.
The morbid sentiment was expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that the Opposition was not responsible for this position. I have challenged him time and time again to say whether the Opposition is prepared to debate he bill when it is introduced. Not one member of the Opposition has indicated that he is prepared to debate it. I ask Opposition senators now: Are you prepared to debate the bill, or are you determined to deny to supporters of the Government an opportunity to debate it by “ killing “ the motion for the first reading? Government senators would be only too pleased to have the opportunity to debate the bill and to extend to Opposition sena tors an opportunity to debate it. We have every reason to believe that the Opposition is not prepared to debate the measure; and is not prepared to give Government senators an opportunity to debate it. For the purpose of destroying this very important measure, the Opposition is prepared to subject its sick and suffering members to discomfort and expose them to danger.
The measure was received from the House of Representatives less than twelve hours ago. There is nothing untoward about that. During the time that I, Senator McKenna and Senator Ashley have been in this Senate, measures have lain on the table for considerably longer periods than that until measures already on the noticepaper had been dealt with.
– Not measures that were declared urgent.
– Thank you very much for reminding me of that aspect of the matter. This measure was declared urgent in another place only after the Opposition had shown deliberately and clearly that it had no intention of seriously debating it. The Opposition in another place turned that chamber into a bear garden by calling for twenty divisions within a short space of time, despite the fact that it had previously given a solemn undertaking that the debate would be conducted in an orderly manner. A complete sense of irresponsibility seemed to invade the Opposition.
– Order! The honorable senator should return to the matter before the Chair.
– The bill was declared an urgent measure by reason of the behaviour of the Opposition in another place. I have nothing to add to my remarks beyond saying that the submission of Senator McKenna is completely without foundation and entirely uncalled for.
.- I am surprised that Senator O’sullivan has seen fit to drag into this debate the question of sick men being brought here by our party when it is known that they have been compelled to be here by the ruthlessness of the Government parties. I shall direct my remarks to Standing Order 189. From Senator O’Sullivan’s remarks, I gained the impression that he was stating the case for the Senate being merely a chamber representative of the government of the day. Irrespective of the relationships that have existed between governments and the Senate, in the past, it is obvious that those who drafted the Constitution did not intend the Senate to be merely an appendage of the government of the day.
– What about your ruling on the dead hand of the past?
– I shall rule again now, if you like.
– Your rulings from the Chair were always biased.
– Throughout the period of eight years that I occupied the President’s chair in this chamber I tried to be fair, and after I left the chair I was commended from both sides of the chamber for my fairness.
– The fairest thing you did was to leave the chair.
– Order! If Senator Brown will direct his remarks to the Chair, I will see that the interjections cease.
– I will address you, Mr. President, because I acknowledge that you are very fair. I admit that I was wrong in taking notice of the stupid interjection by the gentleman from Western Australia.
Admittedly, times have changed. Nevertheless we must interpret the Standing Orders correctly. It is not a matter of whether one side or the other can take advantage of the Standing Orders. This Senate is not merely a tool of the Government. In the minds of those who framed the Constitution, the Senate was representative of the whole of the people, not of only one section. The Government is representative of only a section of the Australian people - certainly the majority of the people - but this Senate is representative of the whole of the people, not of the Government. Senator O’sullivan has scornfully stated that Senator McKenna is stupid and cannot believe in the proposition that he has advanced. Standing Order 189 provides -
– What does that mean?
– Wait a minute! The framers of the Constitution clearly intended that bills coming from the other chamber should go directly into the hands of the President, not into the hands of the Government, because it was recognized that this Senate would be not a government House, a “ ditto “ House, but a chamber representative of the whole of the people.
– Did that happen in your time?
– That has nothing to do with the matter. It was a childish, stupid interjection. As I have repeatedly stated in this chamber, it is very stupid to continually play the game of Codlin and Short, certain honorable senators relating what they did in their time and saying, “ We did better than you “ like a lot of young kids. I am submitting that originally the Senate was intended to be a House of the people. Therefore, it was provided that bills sent forward from the other place should go directly into the hands of the President and that he would be obliged to place them before the chamber without any discussion whatever.
– You did not comply with that Standing Order.
– What has that to do with the matter? Surely a gentleman of your age should display some sign of intelligence. Honorable senators opposite can laugh. They have the numbers at the present moment. They are the Government, and what was thought by the federationists or those who founded the Constitution does not matter a darn to them. AH they want to do is to pass their measures. The past does not matter at all.
I know that there has been degeneration in the Senate. I am trying to bring the Senate back to what it was originally meant to be, but when I try to lift the Senate on to a high plane, as being representative of the whole of the people, these people who are causing the degeneration laugh, butt in and try to put me off my point. If honorable senators opposite want the Senate to be the house of the people, they must alter their tactics and cease to be merely the representatives, mouthpieces and “ ditto “ marks of the other chamber.
– I want to make one brief point, because I think it negatives the argument put forward by Senator Brown. If the Constitution had intended that the bill should come to you, Mr. President, and not to the Ministers, why did the Constitution specifically make provision for Ministers in the Senate? There have always been Ministers in the Senate. Many bills begin here. On one occasion, the head of the Government for the time being actually sat in the Senate. I therefore think that the view advanced by Senator Brown is completely contrary to what was intended by either the Constitution or the Standing Orders.
– I do not hope to be able to contribute anything new or fresh to the debate, but I should like to make a brief contribution to it. First, I congratulate the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) on behalf of his colleagues on this side of the chamber, on the way he has put the Government’s views before the Senate and before the Parliament. This is a set of circumstances in respect of which, I say with respect, we have to acquire perspective. We have to stand off a bit, look at the matter, and see what is involved and what is proposed.
Let me make the point that the policy that the Government is adopting is no different from that which it has adopted every day on which the Senate has sat since the last election. There have been no arrangements about pairs between the Government and the Opposition since the election in 1955. The only variation of that policy has been made when a senator from each side of the chamber has gone overseas on a parliamentary delegation, and been granted leave of absence by each party. We are doing exactly what we have done since 1955, when the result of the election in that year made it apparent that to follow that policy was the only practicable way of conducting the business of the Senate, as the electorate returned the two political parties with even numbers to the Senate. In those circumstances it became the responsibility of the political parties to maintain their strength on the floor of the Senate.
That is the first point I make. I think it is the only original contribution that I can make; it is original to the extent that it has not been previously stated. From this point I repeat and adopt what has been said previously from this side of the chamber. To me, trying to keep the matter in perspective, the Opposition’s claim seems a derogation of parliamentary status and procedure, contrary to any system of equity and fair play against the background of what the Senate was intended to be. It is entirely wrong of the Labour party to attempt to reject this legislation. The legislation is of the greatest national importance. It is presented in circumstances in which the Government had sweeping victories at the polls. Everybody knows that banking reform is a basic objective of the Government parties. What is the approach of the Opposition in the Senate to the legislation? Is it the Opposition’s objective to consider, discuss, and amend the bill in this or that way? The Labour party, in the Senate and out of the Senate, has said that it has only one approach to the legislation, and that is to throw it out as quickly as it can. By all parliamentary standards and by every reasonable approach that can be made to the matter, the Opposition has no right at all to view the legislation in that way.
If the Opposition said, “ Our desire is to look at this legislation, and to improve it, amend it, or change it in some way “, that would be reasonable. If the Opposition said that it wanted due and proper time to consider the bill, that would be reasonable. But the Leader of the Opposition in another place has said, “ I want everybody who supports me politically and who can vote to be in his place in the Senate for the one purpose of throwing out this bill “. In the debate in the House of Representatives last night it was said quite openly, “ Let that bill be produced on the table of the Senate and it will not get past the first reading “. In such circumstances, the Government is entitled to take advantage of parliamentary procedures and to adopt what it thinks to be the correct course to place a great measure on the statute-book. Because of the spirit in which honorable senators opposite approach this matter, I only say, man to man, that they have to take every ounce of responsibility for bringing into this chamber in these circumstances those of their colleagues who are in ill health. The meanest and most despicable thing that has been done since I have been in the Senate is the attempt to put on the Government the responsibility for doing that. The Opposition is bringing men here to do things that are opposed to every good parliamentary instinct, to reject legislation of major consequence brought forward by a government with one of the greatest majorities ever gained at the polls. These things are being proposed by a political party which has been discredited to an extent that no political party was ever previously discredited in Australia’s political history. They are being proposed by a party that is carrying out the behests of a political leader who is prepared to sacrifice the health of his own political supporters for his own selfish, personal advantage.
Do not let us mince matters over this question. Of course, we are going to take advantage of parliamentary procedure and to adopt it in the way in which we think best! The responsibility relating to the colleagues of honorable senators opposite rests with them. The only personal feeling I have about it is that we on this side must make quite certain that honorable senators opposite shall take the blame for the lousy action they are taking. Mr. President, I withdraw that remark.
– I rise to order. I take strong exception to that remark by Senator Spooner.
– The remark has been withdrawn.
– I have withdrawn it, and I apologize. Feelings run high, and I am sorry I said it, but that is the way I feel about it.
– Order! The Minister is getting very close to the edge again.
– I think I have made my point, and in saying that I emphasize that I am referring now to my general approach to this matter. The Government is not doing anything different from what it has done throughout the whole life of this Parliament. It is proceeding upon the basis that it is the responsibility of each side of the Senate to have its members on the floor of the Senate at the critical time.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred quite openly to the legislation he has in mind. We know what it is. We know what we are aiming at. This is an issue of national importance. We believe that the separation of the powers of the banks, as provided under the banking legislation, can have the profoundest consequences, and effect a tremendous improvement of Australian conditions. In those circumstances, why should we put the legislation forward when we know that it is not to receive the consideration to which it is entitled?
This is a clear-cut issue. Each side of the Senate intends to use, to the utmost of its skill, the parliamentary procedures. Each one intends to do the best it can. We know that. Let us do away with cant and hypocrisy. Let us stick to the facts of life. The Government will adopt what it thinks is the best way of getting this legislation through, because it believes the Opposition has no right whatever to reject the bill, and because of the mandate that the Government has. The Opposition intends to do everything it can to frustrate and upset the Government. This is simply a question of straight parliamentary tactics. That being so, let us do what we will, but at the same time let us cut out the crocodile tears about the sick, the halt and the lame on the Opposition side of the Senate.
– We have just listened to a remarkable outburst from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I point out to him that whatever may be the health of an honorable senator on this side to-day, an honorable senator on the Government side may be in that unfortunate position to-morrow. Surely we should be sensible enough to realize that we are not, in our own right, the ones who may dictate what shall be the health of anyone or who shall be fit enough to attend to the business of the electors who alone have the right to send us here. I believe it has been a parliamentary practice over the years to grant pairs, especially when it is known that illness prevents honorable senators from attending here.
– Absence overseas does not count, apparently.
– I agree with the honorable senator. I believe that a pair should have been given, that the long established parliamentary practice should have been followed in this instance. It does not make the position right simply because it would appear that in 1941 someone did not adhere to what I would have adhered to if I had the power. I say that as one who has held some responsibility in other places. Little did I dream that men could be so callous as honorable senators on the Government side. Little did I dream that honorable senators on the Government side, who, in season and out of season, have quite rightly criticized what people in other parts of the world have done, would now be refusing to live up to what they claim to be their beliefs.
Senator Spooner said that we want to defeat the banking legislation. Yes, we do want to defeat it.
– Irrespective of how?
– I ask the
Attorney-General not to be a child in this game. I have not been here very long, but I have listened to him replying on behalf of the Government, and I have often felt pleased that I did not have to back him. Of course, we shall defeat this bill, and we shall do so because, at the last election, the Government did not get a mandate in connexion with this legislation. The world knows that this is the price of money at election times. The world knows that the bankers came up here, and it knows also that the leading members of the present Government have stated, within the precincts of Parliament House, that they would be pleased to see the legislation defeated. That is the reason why the Government is subjecting one person in particular to callous treatment. Why, someone on the Government side was so worried over the health of this person that he took the trouble to ring that person’s home. Knowing that honorable senator’s position, the Government still refuses to grant a pair.
– Why should we?
– All I hope is that I am here when the same circumstances apply to a Government supporter, and I emphasize that neither you nor I can tell when that time will be.
– We would not be dragged here.
– I rise to order, Mr. President. Senator Kennelly is not address ing himself to the substantive motion that is before the Chair. He is dealing with pairs, and the question of pairs is not a matter that can be properly debated in the Senate. I refer you to Volume 4, rulings 314 and 315, of the President’s Rulings.
– Pairs are a matter of private arrangement and are not recognizable by the Senate. Obviously, it is not in order to discuss pairs, but this debate has been fairly wide. I ask Senator Kennelly to revert to the subject-matter that is before the Chair.
– Seemingly, it was quite all right for the preceding speaker to speak as long as he liked on the same matter.
– Order! Is the honorable senator reflecting on the Chair and on the ruling I have just given?
– I have no desire, Sir, to reflect on what you have said. If I do so, I certainly will not do it in an indirect way. I should say that the standing order to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred means exactly what it says.
– What does it state?
– If the honorable senator wants me to read it, I shall do so. Standing Order 189 states -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend-
I believe that this is one measure that we can amend - the Question “That this Bill be now read a First time “ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without Amendment or Debate.
So I say that if we have transgressed in the past, and if we have acquiesced in that transgression without bringing it to the notice of the Senate, there is no reason why we should not observe strictly Standing Order 189 when attention has been directed to it. I do not believe that that standing order has been put into operation once in the short time that I have been in the Senate. However, that is not to say that the standing order should not be observed when attention is directed to it. If the standing order is outmoded or interferes with the working of the Senate, it should be abolished or its abolition should be recommended to the Standing Orders Committee. At least, we should be given Standing Orders that are up to date and will permit the Senate to function in the. best interests of the people.
I thank you, Mr. President, for reminding the Senate that this debate has been rather wide. I regret the whole situation. lt is true, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that the Australian Labour party asked Senator Arnold first, and then his medical advisers, to attend the House if it was at all possible. I do not think that there is anything wrong with that. We did that because we could not obtain a pair for Senator Arnold. If we had had a pair for him, he would not have had to come to Canberra. If we could have got one yesterday, Senator Arnold would have gone back to Newcastle the same way as he came here and as quickly as possible. He would go back to-night if we could obtain a pair now.
I am not happy with the situation and I do not think anybody else could be happy about it. After this experience, I only hope that we shall not have any further references to the treatment of the nationals of other countries by their governments in terms that I have heard here before, some of which I have used myself. In particular, I am thinking of Hungary and other countries. I do not think that the Government’s methods of attempting to get legislation through the Parliament, or the methods that the Government has forced the Opposition to adopt, are helpful to the cause of democracy. We do not want the bill. We do not want an alteration in the Commonwealth Bank or its facilities.
– The Opposition does not want to discuss the proposals.
– All that is idle talk, if 1 may say so, because the relevant measures have been discussed at length in another place. I do not know whether the collective wisdom of honorable senators is any greater than the collective wisdom of members of the House of Representatives.
– I would not say that it is any less.
– I am not saying that it is less, but I am not going to say that it is any greater, either. I shall be quite candid and say that the legislation will not be improved by further discussion.
– It might be improved.
– It will not be improved by more discussion.
– Is the honorable senator speaking for the Government side, too?
– Yes . I repeat that it will not be improved by more discussion. That is a statement of fact. ,
– The honorable senator is speaking for the Government as well as the Opposition?
– Yes. However much Government supporters might disagree with the Opposition’s attitude to the bill, I repeat that it cannot be made any better by discussion. The fact is that the bill has been printed.
– We have already had a discussion.
– I hope I am not being unfair when I say that the honorable senator has implied that more discussion will lead to an alteration in the bill. It will not. The Senate cannot improve the bill from the Opposition’s point of view by talking about it. We know the position in this chamber. There are 28 honorable senators on each side. Just as we cannot amend the bill, neither can the Government pass it. I only regret that, knowing that situation as we all do, great discomfort is being caused to a certain honorable senator. I again point out that on this occasion an Opposition senator is affected and, without pointing the bone at any one, that in the not distant future perhaps an honorable senator opposite will be affected.
.- In regard to the motion that has been moved by Senator McKenna, which, I understand, urges you, Mr. President, to adhere to the Standing Orders, I wish to advance the proposition, for reasons which I shall enumerate later, that you are in fact adhering strictly and literally to the Standing Orders as they are set out in the book that is before us.
Before I enumerate those reasons, I wish to refer to some of the statements that have been made by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber during this debate. One of the first matters with which I want to disagree is a statement, or at least an implication in a statement, made by the
Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I refer to the statement or the implication that the Opposition has no right to object to and to attempt to defeat the bill that is in question. I believe that the Opposition not only has the right to object to and to attempt to defeat the bill but also that it has a duty to this chamber and to the people who sent its members here to object to it and to try to defeat it. I have no hesitation at all in saying that, if the unhappy time ever comes, when I am in opposition I will demand the right and accept the duty which I now quite happily concede to honorable members opposite.
Having said that, let me say that the Opposition has no right to expect the Government to help it in its duty to frustrate and defeat the measure. What has emerged from this debate is the fact that the Opposition expects the Government to help it to carry out its task. We have heard impassioned statements that pairs should have been granted to the Opposition to enable it to achieve this end.
– Pairs have not been discussed.
– Pairs have been discussed over and over again by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber.
– The President ruled that they should not be discussed.
– Order! I would not allow Senator Kennelly to pursue the subject of a request for pairs. Likewise, Senator Gorton must not discuss the matter.
- Mr. President, Senator Kennelly pursued the matter after you gave your ruling. Am I still not allowed to refer to the matter?
– Order! The granting of pairs is not recognized by the Senate. Therefore, the honorable senator is not entitled to discuss the matter. The subject was introduced during the afternoon, but I refrained from directing attention to the fact because I thought reference to the matter might be of value to the general debate. However, my attention was directed to the fact that pairs were not recognized. Accordingly, the honorable senator must refrain from discussing the matter.
– Very well, Mr. President, I bow to your ruling; but I shall make a statement upon the matter outside the chamber later, because the whole question has been misrepresented in the press and by the Opposition. However, I assume that I may refer to other matters that have been raised during the debate.
I refer, first, to the fact that certain members of the Opposition are sick. I direct the attention of the Senate to what I think the Opposition is submitting to us. Honorable senators opposite are saying, in effect, “ Every time an Opposition member is ill and cannot stand up to the rigours of propel debate on a bill, you ought to help us to stifle debate on that measure by helping us to defeat it at the first-reading stage “. ] think it is fair to say that that is the proposition that is being put to us. I do not believe that any responsibility rests upon the Government to accede to a request of that kind, particularly when, if we did so, we would be helping honorable senators opposite in a way that would reflect upon the usefulness and the proper function of the Senate.
As I disagreed heartily with the remark of Senator Spooner, so now do I disagree with the statement of Senator Kennelly that dis.cusion in this place can do no good and cannot produce any worthwhile result. To make that suggestion is to run completely counter to the responsibility of this chamber as a whole and of both Government and Opposition senators who, in a matter of this importance, are duty-bound to speak in this public forum as representatives of their electorates and disseminate their various viewpoints. It has been stated, by way of interjection, that the bill in question was gagged through another place. Even if that is true, surely it cannot be used as an excuse for gagging the bill through this place without one word of debate. The propositions propounded by the Opposition are that the measure should be put through without any debate whatever, and that the Government should help the Opposition to achieve that end. I reject both propositions.
The whole of Senator McKenna’s submission to you, Sir, has been confined to Standing Order 189 without any regard being had for other Standing Orders which bear upon this matter. Because Senator
McKenna has disregarded those other Standing Orders, he has been able to construe Standing Order 189 in the manner in which he has construed it. The construction he has placed upon that Standing Order is that, immediately a message is sent to this chamber, you are bound to deal with the measure.
– At a convenient time.
– With great respect, the construction Senator McKenna placed upon that standing order was that you, Mr. President, should deal with the measure immediately.
– The word he used was “ forthwith “.
– He said “ forthwith “ or “ immediately “. But the honorable senator can put that proposition to you only if he construes two words in Standing Order 189 in the way in which he wants to construe them - that is, if he construes the words “ the same “ to mean the message or the bill. If we look at other standing orders, it is quite clear that that construction cannot be upheld for one moment. Standing Order 137 says that the measure cannot be dealt with unless leave is given. It is quite obvious that we could not have one standing order saying something and another standing order saying quite the reverse in relation to the same matter. Consequently, it is clear, as I have stated, that the construction that has been placed on the words “ the same “ cannot be upheld and that Standing Order 189 means only that the question shall be put by you, when moved by a Minister in accordance with the orders of the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was directing my remarks to a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition which, by implication, said that you, Sir, were not adhering strictly to the Standing Orders and asked you to act in accord with his interpretation of the Standing Orders. The interpretation placed upon the Standing Orders by the Leader of the Opposition is that when a message is received from the House of Representatives both the message and the bill to which it refers must be dealt with immediately by you. The acceptance of that interpretation, which admittedly runs contrary to the practice of the Senate over the last decade, is sought so that the Reserve Bank Bill can be introduced into this chamber and disposed of immediately without debate.
I have pointed out, Mr. President, that the standing order on which the Leader of the Opposition relies does not anywhere state definitely either that the message from the House of Representatives, when received by the Clerk-Assistant at the Bar, must be dealt with immediately by you or that the bill referred to in the message must be introduced immediately by you. Not only does the standing order on which the Leader of the Opposition relies not require you to do that, but Standing Order 377 specifically prevents you from doing it, since it states that a message from the House of Representatives may, by leave, be dealt with at once.
– Standing Order 337 states that a message “ Shall be received without delay “.
– It states also that “ It may, by leave, be dealt with at once “. The concluding sentence of Standing Order 337 indicates that, without leave, a message cannot be dealt with at once. If it had been intended that a message from the House of Representatives or the bill to which it refers - that is a separate thing - should be dealt with immediately, the Standing Orders would have said so specifically, without any possibility of misinterpretation.
I direct your attention, Sir, to another series of standing orders, commencing at Standing Order 372, which deals with messages from the Governor-General. Standing Order 372 provides that when the Senate receives an announcement of a message from the Governor-General, the business before the Senate shall be immediately sussuspended, and the bearer of the message shall be introduced to deliver the message, which will be received by the Clerk, who will at once bear it to the President. Standing Order 373 states that the President shall immediately read the message to the Senate. That is the position in regard to messages from the Governor-General. If it had been intended that a similar procedure should be followed with messages from the House of Representatives, the Standing Orders would have said so in equally unambiguous and specific language, but they do not say so. Instead, Standing Order 337 clearly states -
That is quite a different instruction from the one in respect of messages from the Governor-General, which have to be dealt with immediately. But forgetting the message itself and moving on to the bill to which the message refers-
– The bill is not in the Senate yet, so how can you discuss it?
– It has been discussed on many occasions during this debate. The debate was initiated in an endeavour to force the Minister to move that the bill be read a first time. Therefore, I suggest that the bill is relevant to the discussion. Moving on to the bill to which the message refers and dealing with the suggestion that immediately the message is received the President should put the question “ That the bill be now read a first time “, I refer you, Sir, to the very cogent argument put forward this afternoon by Senator Wright. He pointed out that there is only one way in which a bill can be introduced into this House. Standing Order 231 clearly states -
Public Bills coming to the Senate the first time from the House of Representatives shall be proceeded with in all respects as similar Bills presented in pursuance of Orders of the Senate; . . .
The way in which bills are presented in pursuance of orders of the Senate is stated in Standing Order 185, which provides that they shall be initiated either by a motion for leave to bring in the bill or by a. motion for a committee of not less than two senators-
– Unless received from the House of Representatives.
– Perhaps I have not made myself clear. There is an interpolation in Standing Order 185 which says, “ unless received from the House of Representatives “. I dealt with that situation by referring to Standing Order 231, which states that when bills are received from the House of Representatives they shall be dealt with in the same way as similar bills presented in pursuance of orders of the Senate. That clearly indicates, Mr. President, that after you have read the message requesting the concurrence of this House in a bill passed by the House of Representatives there is needed, before the bill itself is introduced, a motion. That motion is the basis of the question which you shall put.
Great play has been made by the Leader of the Opposition on the wording of Standing Order 189. Quite clearly, considering the whole context of the standing orders, Standing Order 189 is intended to indicate that when a motion of that kind has been put, you shall immediately put the question and there shall be no debate on that motion. An exception is made of bills which the Senate is not allowed to amend, but we are not discussing a bill of that kind to-day. No motion has been moved. Consequently you have, 1 suggest, adhered completely to the standing orders in this matter.
It has been suggested that you should not have done so. It has been said that because the Opposition is handicapped - and it is handicapped by having some sick members - either you or the Government should have made concessions and allowed the Opposition an opportunity to reject the bill without any debate at all. I reject that proposition as an unwarranted request for assistance by the Government to the Opposition and as an interference with the proper processes of the Senate.
In conclusion, I merely wish to say that in 1955 a message was received from the Leader of the Opposition clearly and unequivocally stating that from that time, in all circumstances, by the wish of the Opposition, pairs were off. Therefore, the Government is merely following a precedent established by the Opposition.
.- 1 have listened with a good deal of interest to the arguments put forward by Senator Gorton. He quoted certain standing orders, but I am afraid that one seemed to cancel out the other. If his contention is correct, there are no standing orders at all. Standing Order 189 was designed to meet a situation such as now confronts us. I think I am safe in saying that during the 57 years for which a federal bicameral system of government has obtained, no other government has attempted to prevent the business of the country from being discussed by the upper chamber. It is true that honorable senators have quoted precedents for the Government’s action, but they will not deny that over the years governments have never hesitated to place business before this chamber. This is ostensibly a house of review. Senator O’sullivan and Senator Spooner this afternoon attempted to make great play on the fact that, since the last election, the Government has had an overwhelming majority in another place and that this majority obtained while it was discussing the legislation with which we are concerned to-night. This Senate was brought into existence by the framers of the Constitution-
– I rise to order. I should like to know what relation Senator Sheehan’s remarks bear to the motion before us.
Iiic PRESIDENT- As 1 remarked earlier, the debate has been very wide in scope. I ask Senator Sheehan to return to the motion as quickly as he can.
– To the discomfort of Senator O’sullivan, I shall return to it very quickly. The Senate is a chamber of review which is governed by Standing Orders. As I understand the matter, those Standing Orders were either borrowed or taken over from the State Parliament of South Australia. The first President of this Senate was a South Australian, and the Standing Orders of the Parliament of that State were adopted here virtually in globo. Possibly, Senator O’sullivan did not know it, or he would not have risen a moment or two ago. The fact that the Standing Orders have been taken over from the Parliament of South Australia proves conclusively that they prevent the very thing that Senator O’sullivan and Senator Spooner were boasting of this afternoon. There would not have been federation if the States had not been protected from a majority of members in another place, who might introduce laws which were detrimental to them. What is the measure before us - or rather, the measure that we would like to have before us? Why is this motion now before us? It has been introduced because we wish to ask the Senate to request you, Mr. President, to proceed with a certain measure, which has now been presented to the Clerk of this chamber. This legislation is of vast importance. It is so important that the Government in another place decided that it was urgent and should not be fully discussed. The Government decided that the Standing Orders should be suspended, and the rights and privileges of honorable members curtailed, so that the measure might be sent forward to this chamber as early as possible.
This important legislation deals with trade and commerce and the whole financial fabric of the Commonwealth. It deals with the banking policy of this country. Could anything be more important, or demand speedier or more effective treatment? This legislation affects every State of the Commonwealth, and the whole economy of Australia. Despite all this, the Government, having passed legislation in another place, will not bring it before this chamber! Its reasons for failing to do so have been whispered about, and we have heard that this or that was going to happen, but certainly the Government is not anxious to introduce the legislation in the Senate. The draftsmen of the Standing Orders for this chamber foresaw the day when a government would refuse to bring to it legislation with which it should deal. These Standing Orders were brought into existence before party government, as we know it to-day, existed. They were designed so that legislation should be dealt with effectively. Honorable senators represent the various States. Theoretically, at any rate, they know no party.
– You had better be careful, or you will not get your endorsement.
– The people are directly represented in another place, but, according to the Constitution and the Standing Orders under which we are working, this Senate is free and independent.
– But not according to the constitution of the Australian Labour party.
– When the argument is going against the Government Senator O’sullivan likes to introduce irrelevancies in the hope of throwing the speaker off the track. This legislation is important and should be dealt with in this chamber. Over the years governments, being in charge of the business of the Senate, were honest with themselves and with the people and were prepared, when messages were brought here, to submit the relevant measure to the Senate. That procedure has operated very smoothly. We do not blame you, Mr. President, for what has happened here to-day, but since you have occupied the chair you will have noticed that day after day, and night after night, when messages have been brought to this chamber, honorable senators speaking have been told to ask for leave to continue their remarks at some other stage so that a certain measure may be introduced. Invariably the honorable senator, following the Standing Orders, has asked for leave to continue his remarks later.
You, Mr, President, would read the message that had just been received and, because the government of the day wanted to proceed with the particular measure, the Minister in charge would rise in his place. You, Sir, would see him, and would allow him to move that the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the bill to pass through all stages without delay and to move that the bill be read a first time. The bill would be read and the debate would be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The Clerk would then immediately call on the business that had been suspended, and off we would go again. That has been the practice in this chamber for many years.
To-day, we are up against a different position. This emergency legislation - so-called - that was guillotined through another place has not been brought before us. Indeed, I understand that a pile of messages from the House of Representatives concerning the banking legislation is now accumulating. Although the Government would not grant sufficient time for the legislation to be considered in another place, all of a sudden, the emergency has disappeared. The President has not read to us the message that has been received from the other place; he has been prevented by the Government from complying with the Standing Orders.
Does this indicate that, at the first sign of danger, the Government intends to drop the bill? Does it mean that, after all, the legislation is not so important as the Government has claimed, and that it was introduced into the other place because the Government was coerced by the financial institutions which provided the money - the sinews of war - needed by the Government parties to defeat Labour at the 1949 general election, after the Labour government had performed so much good work for Australia? Was this legislation introduced into another place merely as a payoff for those institutions, and now the Government does not want to bring it before this chamber? Or is the explanation of the present situation to be found in the fact that certain honorable senators of the Opposition had, unfortunately, and through no fault of their own, become ill, and that the Government, which had intended to get this legislation through by stealth during the absence of those senators, the elected representatives of the States, had suddenly to revise its plans? Has the Government been instructed by those whom it serves that, come what may, it must ensure the passage of this legislation? Is that the position today? Of course it is! Either the Government introduced this legislation in another place at the behest of the financial interests, as a pay-off to them, in the hope that the measures would be passed by this chamber because the voting strength of the Opposition was temporarily depleted due to illness, or the Government was insincere when it forced the passage of the legislation by the other place.
Suggestions have been made that some senior ministers and certain supporters of the Government are against the legislation and that they had to be dragooned into voting for it. Although supporters of the Government chide honorable senators on this side for obeying caucus decisions, certain members of the Government parties in another place were whipped into submission by the powers-that-be and compelled to support the passage of the legislation.
From your previous remarks, Mr. President, in relation to pairs, I know that I would be called to order if I attempted to deal with that subject fully. However, as it was discussed in this chamber earlier, I should just like to say, in passing, that I have been a member of the Senate since 1938. During that period I do not know of an instance in which Labour has refused a pair to an honorable senator on the other side.
– Order! I shall not permit Senator Sheehan to continue in that strain.
– You know, Mr. President, that after a general election certain procedures - I shall not mention the word “ pairs “ - take place in this chamber. In accordance with our Constitution, certain of our number are appointed by secret ballots to various offices. These appointments are not the gift of parties. Due to the operation of the secret ballot system, on occasions members of the minority party have been appointed to certain offices. As far as I know, at all of these elections since I have been a member of the Senate, an arrangement has operated whereby, if an honorable senator of one side is absent, an honorable senator of the other side shall also be absent during those proceedings.
– Except in the case of absence on active service.
– That may be the only time when votes have been taken without a pair being recognized. Honorable senators on the Government side have endeavoured to bolster a weak case in support of their inhuman action on this occasion. They hope that, by attrition, the legislation will be forced through this chamber. It would not be passed on its merit, and if it were debated the Opposition would not be able to get an amendment accepted.
As Senator Kennelly said just before the suspension of -the sitting, Labour is suffering at the moment because of sickness in its ranks, but who knows. to-morrow, or next week, or during the next session, the Government could be refused a pair. But, of course, the Labour party, with which I have been associated for many years, is a human party that endeavours to improve the lot of humanity. I should .be very sorry indeed -if ever the Labour party resorted .to the tactics that have been used by the Government parties during the last few weeks. If that happened, I would be ashamed to be a ‘member of the Labour party.
We have heard a lot of talk about the Government wanting to debate the measure. Why, if it were introduced it could be passed, or defeated, within ten minutes. What notice has the Government taken Of ‘the points that were raised during the debate in the other chamber? What ^attention has the Government paid to the suggestions that were made in an effort to improve the bill? Has the Government paid attention even to the arguments that were advanced by its own followers? When some of the Government’s own followers sought certain alterations, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that their suggestions would be considered. Now the Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator O’sullivan) says that we do not want a debate.
The motion that has been submitted, if implemented, would have the effect of forcing you, Mr. President, to carry out the Standing Orders of the Senate. A message has been received by the Clerk-Assistant, who is your agent, and doubtless he has brought it to your attention. I hope, therefore, that you will rise, as you have done on numerous occasions, and announce that message number so and so has been received from the House of Representatives, transmitting a certain bill, in which it seeks .the concurrence of the Senate. The onus would then be on the Government immediately to bring the measure before this chamber. As it appears that no Minister in this chamber is prepared to bring forward the measure, we respectfully ask you, Mr. President, to carry out a standing order that has been in existence for many years, designed to prevent power-drunk governments from endeavouring to prevent this chamber from dealing with legislation, be it good or bad. According to our Constitution, which was framed by the founders of the federation, this chamber has the final right to say “Aye” or “Nay” to this legislation. If this Government has the interests of the people at heart, it should see to it that this house of review, which will say whether the legislation is good or bad, is given an opportunity to adjudicate upon :the matter immediately. I support the motion.
– The motion asks you, Mr. President, to act in accordance with :the Opposition’s interpretation of the -Standing Orders, not in accordance with the -Standing Orders themselves. The interpretation which Senator McKenna has put on Standing Order $89 is an absurd and ridiculous interpretation. It is one which could not be put into effect in this chamber, as Senator McKenna and other Opposition senators well know. Standing Order 189 refers to public bills and states -
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend . . .
The bill that the Opposition is so interested in does not happen to be in that category- the Question “ That this Bill be now read a First time ‘’ shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without Amendment 01 debate.
Senator McKenna says that when a measure comes to us from the other House, it should be immediately brought in and that the Clerk of the Senate should present it to the President, who should report that a message had been received and move that the bill be read a first time. On occasions we get 20 bills in a day, sometimes 30. Government business has to be debated in the Senate. Are debates on important bills to be interrupted continually by our following this absurd interpretation? It is complete nonsense to say that that should be done. Nobody knows better than the members of the Opposition what utter nonsense they talk when they support this interpretation. Not for one minute would they act on it themselves. If they were put in office to-morrow, do you think that they would abide by this absurd interpretation? They would do what they did years ago. They talk about Chairmen and Presidents giving interpretations. Bless my heart, I sat in the Senate and heard a Labour President say that he was not going to be ruled by the dead hand of the past!
– And I say it now.
– Of course you would. I saw him get out of that President’s chair while one of our lady senators was on her feet and walk out of the chamber, saying, “ The Senate has finished “. That is an indication of how much attention he paid to the Standing Orders when he was President. Tn my opinion, he was the most biased ignoramus ever to occupy the chair. Your memory is short, but I will refresh it. Do not shake your finger at me. I do not take any notice of you; I never have. I want to remind honorable senators of something that took place in 1941, when one of our senators was on active service, fighting overseas.
– Produce the “ Hansard ‘* report showing that he was refused a pair. You cannot produce it.
– Wait a minute; do not get on your bike. I will tell the truth. In 1941 we had a senator on active service, fighting overseas. A Labour government - a government formed by this great, humane party that Senator Sheehan spoke about - had given him an undertaking that he had a pair.
– Order! The Minister may not continue on that line.
– I made only a passing reference to it. I will not refer to it again, except to say that he had been promised the advantage of a certain parliamentary practice - we will put it that way. When a vote came, what happened? The promise that was given to him was broken by honorable senators opposite, and it was the breaking of that promise that put that Labour senator I am talking about into the President’s chair. How short their memories are! 1 want to remind the Opposition of something else. I was tickled pink to hear Senator Sheehan say that the Senate was an independent house of review, and that Labour senators could vote as they liked. We sat here when the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was under discussion and we heard honorable senators opposite speak against the bill and say what they were and were not going to do. Then twelve men outside, the federal executive of the Australian Labour party, told them what they were to do, and they came in and voted for it like lambs.
– I take a point of order. Are we discussing a bill that was previously defeated by a referendum of the people?
– If you were to ask me what it has to do with this matter, I would say that that question might easily be asked of most of the discussion this afternoon. The point of order is not upheld.
– T was just pointing out that far from the Opposition being independent, a body of twelve men, the federal executive of the Australian Labour party, told these fellows how they were to vote, although the members of that executive had no parliamentary responsibility whatever. In came honorable senators opposite, and they set down and voted in the way they had been told. Senator McKenna said, “ We have been instructed by our federal executive “. Now they talk about this House being independent! I should think that they would hang their heads in shame.
– I take a point of order. It appears that the Minister is stonewalling on this matter. It would be better for us to reach a decision. I ask whether what he is saying is relevant to the matter under discussion and whether you, Mr. President, are going to tolerate his continuing in that vein.
– The Minister is coming back to the subject matter now.
– That is right. What is their objective? What is the motive behind the action of the Labour Opposition in this instance? They want to get a certain bill into this chamber. It is the Government’s duty, privilege and responsibility to bring whatever measures it thinks fit before the Senate. There are quite a number here now. But the members of the Opposition want a certain bill to be introduced. They have brought all their sick colleagues here. For that, they must accept the responsibility. Do not try to tell us that it is the responsibility of anybody but yourselves. You have brought them here because you want the numbers.
– I rise to order. It is untrue to say, “ They brought all their sick colleagues here “. I came of my own volition.
– That is not a point of order. The honorable senator is entitled to make a personal explanation later, if he wishes.
– They want the numbers here. What for? So they can chuck this bill out on the first reading and deny the Senate the right to debate it. They talk about parliamentary practices, but they are prepared to throw this bill out before they have heard what this side has to say. They would chuck it out without any debate whatever. That is what they want to do. I would be ashamed to belong to a party which engaged in tactics such as these, which tried to throw out a bill on the first reading. That is what they want to do, and because we are not going to help them, they are getting a bit upset. Of course we will not help them. We will take advantage of every proper parliamentary practice to see that they do not deny to the people an opportunity to hear what they have to say against this bill, and what we have to say for it. The people should be able to hear the debate over the air and read it in the press, so that they can judge for themselves. But the members of the Opposition do not want that. They want to deny to the people the right to hear anything. They want to throw the bill out the minute it comes into the chamber, but, as far as I am concerned, they are not going to get a chance to do so. If proper practices of this Parliament allow us, we will ensure that they do not do that. I can quite understand honorable senators opposite getting a little annoyed about this. They have such magnificent advisers. I read in the press a statement by the Leader of the Australian Labour party, Dr. Evatt. In it, he says -
We have a formula. I cannot tell you what it is, but it will force the Government to do this.
He said -
You will see it in the Senate this afternoon.
If the only formula the Labour party has provides for the bringing in of of its sick members in order to deny the Senate the opportunity to debate this bill by rejecting the motion for the first reading so that the people of Australia will be denied the opportunity of hearing our side of the case and Labour’s side of the case, all I can say is that the formula is doomed to failure in the eyes of the people of Australia.
– He said he was taking us by surprise, too!
– Yes, he said he was taking us by surprise. Another matter to which I wish to refer is the statement that sufficient time was not allowed for debating the bill in another place. I point out that it was introduced into that place on 24th October. The other place has had all this time. Yet honorable senators opposite say it has not had sufficient time to debate the bill!
As honorable senators opposite are so anxious to net on with this matter,I move -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Senate calls upon the President to comply forthwith with the provisions of Senate Standing Order No.189 in relation to any message received and not yet communicated to the Senate transmitting a bill from the House of Representatives to the Senate for the concurrence of the Senate.
Those in favour say, “ Aye “; those against say, “ No “. I think the “ Noes “ have it. The Senate will divide.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, and I thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to make it at this stage. As one of the honorable senators involved in all the argument that has taken place to-day, I should like to inform the
Senate that at no time have I been coerced into returning here. Throughout my long illness, my party leaders have been most considerate of me and have shown concern about my health. They informed me that, no matter how important a particular piece of legislation might be, my health was to come first. Indeed, on several occasions they really put their foot down when I wanted to come back to my job earlier.
You yourself, Mr. President, have also been most courteous to me during this time. I should like also to express my thanks to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), who made it very easy for me to return to Canberra, and to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who also gave me every help in getting here, both of them knowing full well, of course, that I was really coming back to vote on the banking legislation. My only regret is that the opportunity is now being denied me, but I should like to express, through you, my deepest thanks to every member of the Senate for his courtesy to me during this period and to repeat that at no time has any coercion been brought on me to return, nor has my illness in any way justified the Government’s attempt to make the Labour party the scapegoat for what has happened in this Senate over the past day or so.
– I now ask the Clerk of the Senate to call on the Reserve Bank Bill 1957.
– I have received from the Speaker of the House of Representatives the following message: -
The House of Representatives transmits to the Senate a Bill intituled “ A Bill for an Act relating to the Reserve Bank of Australia, and for other purposes “, in which it desires the concurrence of the Senate.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– Those in favour say, “ Aye “; those against say, “ No “. A few moments ago, on a different matter, the Leader of the Opposition directed my attention to the fact that nobody on the Opposition side bad called for a division.
– That is so.
– I take it that you ask for a division now?
– Yes. I think every voice on this side was raised to that effect.
– The Senate will divide.
– Before the division is taken, Mr. President, I should like your permission to change my seat for that which is usually occupied by Senator Arnold.
– In the circumstances, there is no objection to that being done.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 0
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I now ask the Clerk of the Senate to call on the Commonwealth Banks Bill 1957.
– I have received from the Speaker of the House of Representatives the following message: -
The House of Representatives transmits to the Senate a Bill intituled “ A Bill for an Act to establish a Commonwealth Banking Corporation and to make provision for the conduct of the business of the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia “, in which it desires the concurrence of the Senate.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time. (A division having been called for) -
– There is no objection to that arrangement.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 0
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 26th November (vide page 1515), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Prior to the adjournment of this debate, I had been dealing for about ten minutes with some of the comments of Senator Armstrong, who referred to the disadvantage that the sales tax measures would bring to the Australian people. I remind the Senate, as I did last night, of the most imaginative step that has been taken by the Government in seeking to have new exemptions included in our sales tax legislation. Some of the most important exemptions relate to products that are used for packaging. I refer particularly to the proposed exemption of iron or steel wire of gauge 19 or lighter, which is a smallgauge wire. It should be remembered that iron or steel wire of gauges 6 to 1 8 is already exempt. I refer also to the proposed exemption of steel strapping of a kind that is used to secure goods for marketing or delivery, and seals for use with that strapping.
A very important exemption is that of the comparatively new chemical hexadecanol and other preparations or materials that are put up for sale for use in the reduction of evaporation of water in reservoirs, dams, channels or streams, and equipment and parts therefor for use in the application of these preparations or materials. It should be remembered that in recent months the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has perfected what is known as the Mansfield appliance for the prevention of evaporation, particularly in our far northern areas. That spectacular phase of development is to be assisted by the exemption to which I have just referred. I cannot understand the sneers of the Australian Labour party in regard to this measure, because it makes provision for, amongst other exemptions, this most imaginative exemption, which is of great national importance.
A very interesting exemption is the £50 per annum exemption that is to apply to the small manufacturer. The memorandum that has been supplied by the Treasurer points out that goods manufactured by a person who satisfies the Commissioner of Taxation that the amount of sales tax which, but for this provision, would be payable by him is not or would not be in excess of £50 per annum is to have complete exemption. Under a similar provision previously in operation, exemption was allowable if the tax payable did not exceed £5 per annum.
I have dealt with the exemptions. I now wish to refer the Senate to some quite important reductions of rates of sales tax. I refer, first, to the group of goods to which a reduction from 25 per cent, to 12i per cent, will apply. Honorable senators will remember that kit bags not exceeding 18 inches in length and attach6 cases, which are more or less school bags and cases, have always been taxed at the low rate of I2i per cent., but that larger bags such as travelling bags, brief bags, and gladstone bags have been taxed at 25 per cent. Those larger bags are now to be taxed at the rate of 12£ per cent. Handbags, evening bags, purses, shopping bags, and such like, Will also be subject to this reduction. At this stage, I point out that in Adelaide there is an extensive trade in the manufacture of handbags. I assure the Senate that this reduction has been received remarkably well in Adelaide, where I believe the largest manufacturers of handbags in particular in Australia carry on their business. Senator Armstrong was inclined to sneer at the reduction of the rate of sales tax on furniture from 10 per cent, to 8i per cent. I assure the Senate that news of that reduction also was received very favorably. 1 should like to point out that the Sales Tax Branch is regarded by the Public Accounts Committee, which investigated its activities, in a very favourable light because of the economical way in which it collects quite a sizeable amount of Commonwealth revenue. I have examined the report of the Commissioner of Taxation, which indicates that sales tax collections are carried out efficiently, and that the amount of outstanding sales tax is really at a minimum.
I make one final plea to the Government in regard to this tax. I understand that a few years ago there were 04.V three rate? of sales tax - 10 per cent., 12i per cent, and 16$ per cent. That was a desirable state of affairs, because the merchant had to cope with only three sales tax markings. I submit that that is as it should be, because then the merchant, the manufacturer, and the trader, would not have to employ clerks and others to make the most intricate calculations that are now necessary. At the present time, goods that attract sales tax come within either the 8i per cent, tax group, the 10 per cent, group, the 12£ per cent, group, the 16J per cent, group, th. 25 per cent, category, or the 30 per cent, category. That adds considerably to the amount of work that is required of people who handle goods which attract sales tax. You will appreciate, Mr. Deputy President, just what that means in some stores, particularly in country areas, which carry thousands of lines that attract sales tax. 1 submit to the Government that, when it is again reviewing the sales tax legislation, it should do all that it can to reduce the number of groups of sales tax for the sake of streamlining procedures and reducing the work that is involved.
Having made those remarks and the comments that I offered last night, I commend the bill to the Senate and compliment the Government upon the imaginative step it has taken. I compliment it in particular for providing some relief to small manufacturers, and also to farmers and others in the drier areas of the Commonwealth by exempting from sales tax new inventions, equipment, and chemicals that are used for the prevention of evaporation from dams and such like.
– Senator Laught, in the last moment or so of his speech, lavished a tremendous amount of praise and congratulation on the Ministers and all concerned with the sales tax provisions, but I am afraid that 1 will not be following in his footsteps. To-night I am here to bury Caesar, not to praise him. I had hoped that Senator Laught who is a South Australian, would make some reference to the imposition of sales tax on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content. I should also have liked to hear him say something about the motor body building industry in South Australia. Its present condition has been brought about to some degree by the high rate of sales tax on motor cars, an impost which the Government is still continuing.
It seems that after the drama of the last four or five hours, the Senate is now almost like a tomb. The Press reporters have disappeared, and the captains and the kings have departed. But I think that there are matters associated with sales tax to which honorable senators should apply themselves. It is worth remembering that in the last full year of office of the Chifley Labour Government, in 1948-49, sales tax collections amounted to £39,000,000. In 1949- 50, during which the Labour Government and this Government had approximately equal periods of office, £42,000,000 was drawn off in sales tax. In 1950-51, the first full year of office of the Menzies-Fadden Government, the amount of sales tax collected rose to £58,000,000. In 1951-52 it jumped to £95,000,000. That is the history of sales tax. The amount collected was only £39,000,000 in the last full year before Labour went out of office, but even as early as 1952, after approximately three years of the Liberal and Country party administration, it had more than doubled.
Before considering the concessions to be given to the Australian public by this bill, let me say that the Opposition is not opposing the bill. Any bill which seeks to give even the slightest measure of relief to the unfortunate taxpayers must of necessity receive the support of the Labour party. I do want to point out the inadequacies of the bill. I desire to refer to the dried fruits industry, particularly in South Australia, and to raise a matter that has been very close to my mind ever since I have been a member of this chamber. Honorable senators on both sides will have no difficulty in recalling that year by year - in fact, on some occasions, more than once in a year - I have said that the dried fruits industry should be assisted by the removal of the 12i per cent, sales tax imposed on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content. It is idle for the Government to say that mine is the only voice that has been raised on this matter.
On occasions when we have not been debating a Budget or matters arising out of a Budget, some honorable senators opposite have been prepared to agree with me that the impost on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content is completely unfair and reacts in a detrimental manner against the advancement of a very valuable primary industry. But it is peculiar that the voices of those honorable senators are quiet when the Senate is debating a measure under which relief could be given to this vital industry. I have heard Senators Pearson and Laught agree with me. I have heard Senator Gorton say that everything I had said on this issue was completely true. However, when the matter comes up at their party meetings, they apparently do nothing about it. It would be difficult for us to believe that they have not some say in framing government policy. The only alternative would be to believe that Cabinet decides policy, without any reference to them. I wonder whether any of them, in their party room, when sales tax is being discussed prior to the preparation of the Budget, give a single thought to the dried fruits industry of Australia. I wonder whether the South Australian senators on the Government side consider the industry in their own State.
– Has not the honorable senator heard of die honorable member for Mallee?
– I concede that the honorable member for Mallee, who sits in another place, has put up a very good fight on behalf of the dried fruits industry. My only regret is that he has not had the support of those of his colleagues who are aware of the disabilities of the industry. They do not have the courage, as he has, to stand up and tell the Government that it is not playing the game with the dried fruits industry.
– What amount would be involved?
– Quite frankly, I do not know. We find, on one hand, that Senator Kendall, who is apparently prepared to have a go at anything, plucks a figure of £4,000,000 out of the air. Senator Mattner immediately disagrees with him and says that only £20,000 would be involved, if I hear him aright. If that is an indication of the accuracy of assessments by senators on the Government side, all I can say is that it is a wonder the Government is able to bring a budget down at all. I am not prepared to say how much this concession would cost, but I am prepared to say that it would not cost more than £100,000. I am prepared to go further and say that the benefits which would flow to the dried fruits industry as a consequence of the removal of this impost would be worth many times that amount. Of course, the benefit that would be reaped by the Australian people would be great.
Again I challenge the South Australian senators in particular, and the Government in general, to demonstrate the sincerity of their concern for the dried fruits industry by displaying some interest in it. Up to date they have done nothing to indicate that they have any interest in it. I have before me a letter from the Australian Dried Fruits Association, dated 12th July, 1957, stating that the association had forwarded to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) a request that sales tax be removed from raisin bread and plum pudding, and that it had made the strongest representations to the Treasurer. Apparently its request was rejected. I hope to have an opportunity, when I travel through the fruit-growing areas of South Australia in the not far distant future, to tell members of the association how little the Government sympathizes with the request they have made that this impost be removed. It is a farcical situation that the ingredients of a raisin loaf, for instance, taken on their own, are not subject to sales tax, but when raisins are added to bread, the Treasurer, by some extraordinary mental process, decides that the product shall become subject to sales tax. It is an unnecessary and unfair impost, and should not be continued. Not one Government supporter will say that I am wrong on this issue. I heard Senator Laught’s speech, and if he made any reference to this matter it could not have been more than a passing reference, and certainly was not an advocacy of the case of the dried-fruit growers.
I come now to another extremely important matter, especially for my own State. I refer to the continued imposition of 30 per cent, sales tax on motor cars used for private purposes. At present, Australia’s motor body building industry is going through something of a minor recession. In South Australia 750 men have been put off in the last month, and there is no doubt in the minds of those who have closely analysed the matter that this has resulted from the continued existence of the 30 per cent, sales tax.
– Last month’s figures for car sales showed a definite improvement.
– I am not concerned with last month’s figures. I have been associated with the motor body building industry all my life. There has been, over the last twelve months, a steady decline in the number of persons employed in the industry. If necessary, I can substantiate that statement. My authority for it is the secretary of the Vehicle Builders Union in South Australia, and union representatives in other States, as well as the employers themselves - in South Australia, in particular. I want to make a special plea for the firm of Chrysler-Dodge-De Soto. I am not so greatly concerned about General MotorsHoldens Limited, because it produces a car that has captured the imagination, temporarily at least, of the buying public. The firm of Chrysler-Dodge-De Soto is in a totally different position. It is producing what may be said to be a middle-class automobile, which is in a somewhat different class from the Holden.
– lt costs £1,895 or £1,900.
– The honorable senator is referring to only one of the cars which this organization makes.
– They produce nothing cheaper.
– The organization produces something that is considerably cheaper, but sales tax adds a great deal to its price. The three cars manufactured by Chrysler-Dodge-De Soto are, as the name implies, the Chrysler, the Dodge, and the De Soto. Most of the men whose employment has been affected by the set-back to the motor body building industry worked for Chrysler-Dodge-De Soto in South Australia. That statement can be verified quite easily. Indeed, if certain honorable senators took more interest in what was happening in that State they would probably have known it before. The firm makes no secret of the fact that, despite all the efforts it has made to produce cars that are 100 per cent. Australian made, it has not had the slightest assistance from the Govern;ment. The percentage is already up to 87, and recently Chrysler-Dodge-De Soto built a factory at Tonsley Park for the purpose of increasing the Australian content still further. This concern has not only spent millions of pounds in building up a valuable secondary industry, but has done What for years we have said all manufacturers should do- it increased to an ever greater degree the Australian content of its product. Despite all this, the firm has been hit to leg. Its cheapest car costs £1,600 or £1,700, and a person who could pay that sum often cannot afford the sales tax which goes on top of it.
– Which car is that?
– The firm is putting out a De Soto at £1,650. I think that the Chrysler Royal costs about £1,875.
– The Chrysler Royal is the only car that the organization is putting out.
– That is not so, but the fact remains that the 30 per cent, sales tax has forced the middle-price car out of the market. People simply cannot purchase it. They are looking for something between perhaps the Holden and the Ford Zephyr. However, I am not concerned about the various makes of car, or about trying to establish the merit of one against that of another. Moreover, I do not wish to advance the cause of one company against another, but a firm that has spent millions in demonstrating its confidence in the future of South Australia is surely entitled to some consideration from this Government. I am concerned about the employment of South Australian workers. Senator Hannaford well knows that the motor body building industry is vital to South Australia. Indeed, if it folded up to-morrow we should very quickly be in a serious position. The continuance for very much longer of the 30 per cent, sales tax would seriously undermine the motor body building industry of this country. The Government, when it tries to extract the last penny from companies which have been doing everything possible to assist Australian development, is not applying its announced policy. Indeed, it is doing the very opposite.
I do not intend to speak at length. I want to establish these two points: First, the Government has let the dried fruit growers of Australia down, and no Government supporter can advance a reasonable case for retaining the 12± per cent, sales tax on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content. Secondly, 1 have put up the strongest possible case for a review of the sales tax on motor cars, which is ‘ having such an impact on the industry in South Australia. I come now to my final point. We are not opposing this bill, but the concessions given under it amount to a paltry £3,000,000 or £4,000,000.
– In the language of the Australian Labour party, that is mere chicken feed.
– To use the honorable senator’s own words, it is chicken feed because this year the Government will gather a far greater amount than ever before. The Government has taken from the Australian people a great deal, and it has given them back half a handful. That is the whole position in regard to sales tax. 1 hope that, even at this late hour, the Government will consider the lot of the fruit-growers of this country, and also of the fast declining motor body building industry, which is so vital to the continuance of our secondary industry.
I could go on for a considerable time pointing out that although certain reductions have been made, and certain exemptions inserted, a degree of injustice remains so far as sales tax is concerned, and that it should be rectified as quickly as possible. 1 suppose that if I went through all of the items that are mentioned here I could weary the Senate for a very long time. I do not intend to do that. I rose mainly to emphasize those two points - that if the Government continues to treat the dried fruits industry as it is doing now, regardless of the fact that honorable senators from this side, and even Government supporters, have agreed with what I have already put, one day the allegiance of some of the dried fruit growers will be withdrawn. It will be well deserved and well merited because of the hopeless lack of consideration that the Government has given to the people who are engaged in this valuable primary industry.
– Quite contrary to the A.D.F.A. opinion.
– According to a letter I have received from the A.D.F.A., that body considers that sales tax should be removed from dried fruits. Surely Senator Mattner does not suggest that the A.D.F.A. does not want it removed. Probably he, also, has received a letter similar to the one I have received.
– I am suggesting that the outlook of the A.D.F.A. is different from what Senator Toohey would have us believe it is.
– I am not speaking on behalf of the A.D.F.A., nor do I claim to speak with its voice, but I do say that I have received a letter from that organization to the effect that it is definitely opposed to the Government’s policy in relation to dried fruits. For the last two years and, indeed, longer than that, I have been advocating a better policy in relation to dried fruits. But Government senators from South Australia, instead of assisting in A practical way, have merely expressed words of approval. I suggest to them that if they want to help, not me, but the State that they represent in this chamber, they should enter the fight actively. As I have said, my main reason for rising in this debate was to bring into sharp relief the two matters that are affecting seriously the State that I represent in this Parliament. I hope that the representatives of South Australia who may follow me in this debate will support what I have said.
– In rising to speak on the bill to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1956, I must say that it is a pleasant change, an enjoyable privilege, for the Senate, as a house of review, to be able to debate a measure that is before it. Tt is evident that any thought of freedom to debate a measure was not present in the mind of the shattered and torn Labour party earlier this evening. The Opposition has not traduced the forms of this chamber in order to prevent a review of this legislation in accordance with our function under the Constitution, as a house of review.
It is a change for a Tasmanian senator to be able to be upstanding in his place in this chamber and express his opinion on certain aspects of the legislation. Fancy being able to say truthfully that it is a change for an honorable senator, in this States’ house, to be able to express a point of view on behalf of the State that he represents! The Labour party believes that the memory of the people is shortlived. I am convinced that the people of this country will remember what has occurred this evening, and that the Labour party will rue the day. It will likewise rue the day when its ranks were not filled - as they could have been - in order to press amendments to the -social services legislation, designed to increase pensions, that it introduced. The Opposition did not muster full strength to support those amendments, because it was hypocritically insincere, and the shattered segments of the Labour party, because of their action to-night in this chamber, will also rue that day. To-day will be known as “ Black Wednesday “ in the annals of the Australian Labour party - the day when the various little offshoots went like a wagging tail with the pig head that ruled it.
Senator Toohey, who has now left the chamber, must have felt it a change to be able to debate legislation because throughout his speech he referred to aspects of sales tax of particular interest to South Australia. He realized that in relation to previous measures the “ doctor in the house “ had said, “ Do not talk; do not put the South Australian point of view “, so he had a free leg on certain South Australian interests.
It is quite a change for me to be able to refer to something that Senator Toohey has said, because I like debating, but usually there is little in his remarks to which one can refer. In this instance, the honorable senator criticized the rate of sales tax on motor cars. At other times - probably during a Budget debate - Senator Toohey and his cohorts will probably criticize the profits of the motor-manufacturing industry and say that the profts are too large, but because we tax it too heavily the industry is sacking people. The honorable senator adopts an unrealistic approach to the matter. Facts and figures prove that the rate of sales tax levied on motor cars has not prevented the public from buying them. The only reason why there was a hiatus in the sale of motor cars in Australia - I am now getting on to my own particular hobby horse - was that this Government introduced its Budget far too late. Prophets of doom, or of confidence, always say prior to the introduction of a Budget, that there will be variations of sales tax on motor cars, refrigerators, washing machines and the like. Such forecasts are not always borne out when the Budget is brought down. However, for this reason, there was a drop in car sales during July and August of this year. I do not deny that the retention of the 30 per cent, rate of sales tax on new motor cars hit the industry, but sales commenced to pick up in October. We were late in telling the people what the position would be in relation to sales tax on motor cars, but when we did tell them, sales increased. I would be prepared to say from any public platform in Australia that I do not believe that we should reduce sales tax on motor cars simply because more vehicles are being manufactured than are sold. It is up to big business to make sure that it does not over-produce. If motor car manufacturers find that they are over-producing for the Australian market, they should show initiative - as I understand the Holden people have done - and look for export markets. By so doing, they will help not only themselves but also Australia’s export trade, and thus assist the balance of payments position. So let us not panic and blame the Government for not reducing sales tax, just because sales may appear to drop at one period. Let vis see whether or not it is because the companies are making big profits. That is where we get the alternating views of the Labour party. At one moment - for instance, at Budget time - they growl at the profits of the combines and big companies. Then they forget that tune they have been singing - not altogether in unison, because, unlike a choir, they have separate parts. When they come to discuss a sales tax bill, they blame the Government for imposing too high a sales tax, which, they seem to work out in some way, allows the companies to make excessive profits. That is all I have to say in respect of Senator Toohey’s contribution to this debate.
I say quite frankly that I am always perplexed by the number and extremely complex nature of the sales tax bills that come before us each year. This is a point to which the Treasurer, under whose jurisdiction the matter comes, and his many and learned advisers, should give some thought in the period of at least nine months - I hope at most - that will elapse before a new Budget is introduced. We know that the sales tax is here to stay. It is like income tax, and is like the Senate - it will be with us for all time. Whether we will always be with the Senate, however, is a matter that history will tell. As sales tax is a continuing tax upon the people, I believe that it is the duty of the Government and its advisers to consolidate’ the legislation. We have some ten bills on the subject, and one needs to be more than a bush lawyer to understand it. Some really hard work ought to be put into the consolidation oi this legislation to make it simpler, not only for politicians, including honorable senators, but also, for business people.
The exemptions provided by the bill we are now considering, are to give effect to the policy stated by the Treasurer in his Budget speech. It is just as well, here in the comparative calm of Senate debates., when the ranks of Tuscany have thinned out somewhat, to realize what these bills do. Rates of sales tax on household furniture and equipment are reduced from 10 per cent, to 8£ per cent. These items include domestic refrigerators-, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. There is a big percentage reduction on. handbags, baskets, travelling bags, and other travel goods. There are. exemptions from sales tax for industrial gases and cylinders, &c. The total cost to revenue of these concessions in this financial year is some £3,000,000, but if the Budget had been introduced earlier, as I feel it should have been, the loss to revenue would have been £4,000,000. That is where I join issue with the Australian Labour party and, once again, with Senator Toohey. They complain about the amount being small. I say that their view of the value of money is out of perspective. There are many measures by which the Government levies taxes on the people. The return to the people of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 per annum is something we can appreciate.
Summing up, this sales tax legislation gives benefit to the householder, and what greater body of people can be helped? Nothing could be more appropriate than that the Government should give tax relief to the householder. The effect is that the family man and woman will receive the benefit. This country needs tourists and travellers, and under this legislation the sales tax applying to their requisites is reduced. Therefore, it must be said that they are being helped. Anything that we can do to help the tourist trade, which is. partly a Commonwealth responsibility, will, assist the economic life of this country.
Briefly, I would say that this legislation is in line with the general measures outlined in the Budget for 1957-58. It fits into tha pattern, which the Government decided on and which the people appreciate, of giving, something to all sections of the community in all States of the Commonwealth. There is some relief in a time of fairly buoyant revenue, but as the economic situation! is threatened by the spiral of inflation, we cannot be too generous by adding too much to the spending power of the people’. I feel that the Government’s general attitude in reducing the incidence of taxation commends itself to the people. The purpose- of sales tax is to take into Consolidated Revenue money from those who desire to spend, it and do spend it on. certain categories of goods.. Because it is a tax on money that people spend,, it is. a comparatively fair. tax. It. is a. tax. that many people do not realise they are paying, and therefore it is. not so unpopular as other, taxes. It takes from people some part of the money that they spend. Therefore,, those who decide not to spend money on goods subject to sales tax do not pay the tax. They save their money and, in that respect, sales tax is a most reasonable tax, because this country needs to restrict inflation and encourage the people to save. Sales tax is a back-handed way of encouraging thrift, which is so necessary in Australia to-day.
For a few moments I may be somewhat critical. I shall be constructive, I trust, but although I am critical I am not worried about it. I am not silenced by some outside junta. I will not be threatened with expulsion or the withholding of endorsement. I will not have a non-member of my party endorsed in my stead, as is happening in the New South Wales State electorate of Wagga. That does not happen to us. Because we are in the Liberal party we can be critical. We are free to speak in this Parliament, and we act as our consciences dictate. I suggest that before the Government introduces any new sales tax legislation, as it presumably will after the next Budget, it has a duty to make taxation laws more simple for the business people to obey. The laws should be made easier for trade and commerce to administer, because we must realize that when trade, commerce and business have to collect tax for a government, they become tax collectors, and it costs them money. The more difficult that legislation is to administer, the greater are the costs to trade and commerce, and costs inflate prices. Naturally, Trade and Commerce do not intend to be benefactors to the Federal Treasury. They will pass on their costs, so that in our desire to lower prices - not the standard of living - let us make our legislation simple of administration. 1 plead with the Government and its advisers to be sure that sales tax is levied fairly and equitably on all sections of the community. I emphasize that it must not become a tax that singles out any one -section.
I regret that, so far as I can see, as a layman, the legislation contains no provision for the simplification of administration. To my way of thinking, this bill makes confusion worse confounded. As there appears to be no effort at simplification, there cannot be any reduction in costs of administration to those people who are the Government’s unpaid tax collectors.
I mention another point to which I hope the Government will give consideration. We propose passing a bill which levies tax under five different headings. This is a most aggravating system. It makes administration difficult for Trade and Commerce, for the retailers and the manufacturers. I suggest that two categories of sales tax which are easy to compute are all that are required. I do not mind how much the Government collects so long as the method of collection is simple. I suggest that 10 per cent, and 25 per cent, are the two most suitable rates to adopt for they strike the mean balance between the five now prescribed. The complaints I get from small, large and very big businesses about the various degrees of incidence of sales tax make me feel that it is important that we look at the position again.
To-day a question was asked in the Senate relating to decimal coinage. I think it almost certain that decimal coinage will be introduced into Australia. Indeed, I think its introduction is warranted, and I suggest that we prepare for its introduction by adopting simple percentages for the calculation of sales tax. In my view, the adoption of 10 per cent, and 25 per cent, would be doing a great service to the business community.
Although I cannot claim to be an expert on these matters, I make what I believe to be another constructive suggestion to the Government. I urge that the Government do not simply brush aside ideas that will be put forward during the debate on this measure, and I ask it to lend an ear to what the business people are saying, for there may be some merit in their criticism. In order to discover whether there is any foundation for that criticism, I suggest that within three months - I choose that period because I know how long it takes to prepare a budget - the Treasurer should call a conference between senior sales tax officials of the Government and representatives of the chambers of commerce, the Retail Traders Association and manufacturing concerns. I suggest that he give those people ample notice of the conference and that he notify them that the business to be considered will be methods of simplifying and cutting down costs in the administration of sales tax legislation. I suggest that he say to them. “ Come to us with your ideas and we will consider them with our experts with a view to giving a boost to business, cutting costs and working in with those people whom we, by this legislation, make honorary collectors of taxes for the Government “. I support the legislation.
– I had no intention of taking part in this debate until my colleague from South Australia, Senator Toohey, made certain remarks earlier. As Senator Marriott has just remarked, it is quite a change to hear honorable senators opposite discussing a measure in this chamber. They have had very little to say about legislation over the last 24 hours, and I welcome the participation of Senator Toohey in the debate on this measure.
– When we wanted to talk, on the Appropriation Bill, the Government gagged us.
– I do not know how Senator Aylett works that one out, because he and his colleagues have just succeeded in stifling debate on two of the most important bills to be introduced into the Senate.
By his vote, he has deprived the Senate of the opportunity of discussing those bills on the motion for their second reading.
I wish to direct a few remarks to the sales tax measure now before the Senate. Senator Toohey, as a South Australian, has referred once again to the fact that he has advocated in the Senate the abolition of sales tax on certain dried fruits used in such manufactured foods as cakes and buns. He was kind enough to say that other members of this Parliament had feelings similar to his on the matter. He referred in particular to a member of another place, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). I did not hear him mention another of my colleagues from South Australia, Mr. Downer, the honorable member for Angas, who I know very well has strongly supported the abolition of sales tax on these fruits. I think it is not untrue to say, too, that other representatives of South Australia on this side of the Senate have also referred to the desirability of abolishing the sales tax on those fruits.
– And he mentioned that you did not have enough influence with the Government to have it abolished.
– Senator Toohey said many things, but he has now left the chamber. He said that the captains and kings, who were here when the rather dramatic proceedings took place earlier this evening, had departed. Looking across the chamber now, I notice that Senator Toohey himself is absent, and I regret that.
– So have many of your colleagues.
– In fact, most honorable senators opposite have departed. The best looking members of the Opposition are still here, but the rest have gone. I am looking particularly at Senator Ashley when I speak of the best looking members of the Opposition.
– If you want a test, we will oblige.
– Apparently Senator Ashley takes exception to my remark. That being so, I withdraw it.
One matter to which I wish to make particular reference is that mentioned by Senator Toohey. I think he has the support of every honorable senator from South Australia in the matter. His suggestion is a good one, but I should like to point out a. difficulty he has not seen fit to mention. I refer to the difficulty of implementing that very desirable suggestion. I think the Treasurer would say, quite correctly, that if thisconcession were given to the dried fruits industry, so that dried fruits used in the manufacture of cakes, buns and so on were exempt from sales tax, the total benefit to the industry itself would not be more than about £20,000. I speak from memory, but I think that figure will be found to be correct.
I am sure every honorable senator who is a practical fellow will realize that it is not possible to exempt from sales tax the actual fruit contained in such foods as cakes and buns; I am sure he will realize that the only way is to exempt the vehicles, as it were - the cakes and buns which contain the fruit. If all those things were to be exempt, a very different amount of money would be involved. The growers of dried fruits would get the benefit of about £20,000, but the loss to revenue through the exemption of what might be called the vehicle for the sale of the fruits would be between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000.
It does not suit Senator Toohey’s book to say that. Perhaps that was due to an oversight. I do not want to be unfair to him, but I wish to emphasize to the Senate that the loss to revenue would be more than a mere £20,000. It would not be the chicken feed to which Senator Toheey referred, but would total about £4,000,000.
– Senator Toohey said £3,000,000.
– 1 am speaking from memory. I believe the amount is approximately £4,000,000 but the value of the fruit involved would be only £20,000. I take exception to a remark that was made by Senator Toohey for the second time in recent weeks. He said that if we South Australian senators knew something about our State, we would agree with him. I claim that I move about South Australia far more than does Senator Toohey, and I challenge him on that statement. I visit parts of South Australia where Senator Toohey is seldom seen. I would not have made that statement if this had been the first time that Senator Toohey had passed the remark to which I have referred, but
I take exception to it when apparently it becomes his custom to repeat the charge.
It is wrong for him to suggest that he knows more about South Australia than my colleagues on this side of the House. One lives in Mount Gambier. I know Eyre Peninsula. Senator Hannaford knows the lower north of South Australia, and Senator Mattner the Adelaide Hills. Between us, we cover more of South Australia than Senator Toohey and his colleagues on the Opposition side. J would not have said that had Senator Toohey not repeated his statement for the second time in recent weeks. I have nothing more to say” on that matter, except to express the hope that my protest will be noted by Senator Toohey if he does me the honour to read the report of my remarks.
I wish to comment briefly on anotherstatement made by Senator Toohey when he referred to the motor industry in South Australia. He implied - in fact, he said definitely - that the sales tax on motor vehicles was a great burden on the industry and was, in fact, producing unemployment, particularly in the Chrysler-Dodge group. From my observations, I believe that the decline in sales of the Chrysler-Dodge products is entirely due to the high cost of those products. That deters buyers who do not want the higher priced vehicles. Senator Toohey admitted that General MotorsHolden’s Limited, makers of the Holden car, was not in such difficulty. That proves my point. People are inclined to buy cars in the moderately priced range, particularly When they have a very good performance record. I am supported in that statement by Senator Marriott who said that sales have been increasing since October and following the introduction of the Budget. I believe that from June onwards, potential buyers hold off in anticipation of a reduction in the sales tax. That is good business and a wise procedure, and it is reflected in the decline in the sale of some cars. I notice that Senator Toohey is now listening to me.
– I have been out of the chamber for only ten minutes of the whole night.
– I hope that Senator Toohey will do me the great honour of reading what I have said.
– Will Senator Pearson assist me to have removed the 124- per cent, impost on goods containing dried fruits?
– For the ten minutes that’ Senator Toohey has been out of the chamber I have been talking about that matter. I will not inflict my views on the Senate again, but I do repeat that probably the slight recession in the sale of motor cars was due to uncertainty at the end of the financial year before the introduction of the Budget. When somebody reminded Senator Toohey that sales of cars were increasing in October, he said, “ That is of no account to me “. Of course it is of no account to him because it did not help his argument. What Senator Toohey and some others want to see is unemployment in Australia, not only in the motor industry but everywhere. He does not want anybody to remind him that things are getting better. That is not good news to Senator Toohey.
– It is not good news to be told that men are out of work.
– I have said that the motor industry had improved business in October and I forecast that the improvement will be progressive during the remainder of this financial year. My forecast has just as good a chance of coming true as has Senator Toohey’s depressionminded thinking. I repeat in Senator Toohey’s presence that he has said twice in this chamber in recent weeks that honorable senators on this side of the chamber did not know the State they represent. I invite Senator Toohey to read the report of my remarks. I hope that he will not repeal that charge. I say to him to his face that I travel about South Australia more than he does and with more success. I support the bill.
– This bill has some very good features because it provides for a reduction in sales tax collections by £4,000,000 in a full financial year and £3,000,000 in this financial year. It is of some interest to note that the sales tax is now 27 years old. It was first introduced in 1930, at the rate of 2* per cent.
– Did we not put it on first?
– I was not going to get down to that level, but as Opposition senators accuse themselves, I have no objection. Senator O’Flaherty has suggested that a Labour government first imposed the sales tax. I believe that a Labour government was in power in 1930-31, but Labour supporters have been trying to dodge the fact that a Labour government was in power at that time. They have always tried to say that a Liberal government was in office. However, we are dealing now with the sales tax measure.
I listened with interest to Senator Marriott, who spoke about the earlier presentation pf the Budget. I agree with Senator Pearson’s views on that point. Whenever a Budget is presented, the effect will be the same. Buyers of motor cars, anticipating a fall in sales tax, will always cease to buy vehicles two or three months before the Budget is presented whether it is brought down in June, July, August, September or October. It is only a matter of delayed action and an early Budget will not cure that. The same caution is found in all classes of trade. A rumour is spread around. The press in particular plays a part, probably more important than it realizes, in unsettling trade. The press flies a kite about a reduction in sales tax on some commodities and sales are immediately dampened down until the Budget is introduced and buyers know what is going to happen.
– Would you mind giving us the Government’s reasons for continuing the impost on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content?
– My boy, I was dealing with that when you were in your cradle. [ have been in the bakery trade for so many years that I shall be able to tell you all about that matter in a moment or two. I know more about it than you have ever thought of. You have mentioned something that I do know a lot about.
I was dealing with the fact that, for some stupid reason or other, before a budget is presented rumours are spread that there is to be a reduction of sales tax, and immediately the sale of commodities drops. Often great disorganization is caused to business as a result. As I mentioned earlier, sales tax at the rate of H per cent, was imposed in 1930. Since then the rate has been increased and goods have been divided into several categories. I agree with what Senator Marriott said about the number of categories that exist. As far as I can recollect, the introduction of sales tax marked the first time in Australian history that members of the business community became the unpaid tax gatherers of the Government. When mistakes have been made, businesses have been asked to pay the tax that they have not charged and have also been asked to pay tax that they have charged but which really was not chargeable. So the department gets it both ways.
What is the registered wholesaler or trader required to do under the act? His staff is required to examine the invoices, make the extensions, and indicate the goods that fall within the 30 per cent, category, the 25 per cent, category, the 12i per cent, category, the 10 per cent, category, and the 8i per cent, category. When all is said and done, the staff of any business is human, and the human element enters into this work; but every business is liable in respect of mistakes that are made by its staff in the preparation of invoices. I join with Senator Marriott in saying that the preparation of sales tax documents should be made as simple as possible, because the work is done by the staff of the various businesses, which collect and pay the tax. The fewer the number of categories is, the better it is for all concerned. If it were possible to arrive at one overall rate of sales tax that would return the same amount of revenue, that would be ideal.
This measure provides for a number of new exemptions, and for a total reduction of sales tax amounting this year to £3,000,000 and in a full year to £4,000,000. That is not an inconsiderable amount. Honorable senators opposite advance pleas in respect of various items, but I point out that, when a government is endeavouring to grant relief in as many directions as possible, it must look at the overall picture. One feature of the last Budget that has been overlooked by honorable senators is the way in which various forms of taxation were reduced.
I note with a great deal of interest that in the list of goods and commodities that are to be exempted from sales tax fire-fighting equipment and fire-protection apparatus which is used exclusively or primarily in the prevention or combating of fire is included. That has been a step forward. Also included is machinery for the servicing, repairing or reconditioning of ships, boats, other vessels, railway rolling-stock, and parts therefor. The exemption of those goods provides a necessary form of relief. Shipbuilding in Australia is increasing, and any relief in that direction from the imposition of sales tax is well worth while. 1 had the pleasure recently of visiting the yard in New South Wales where the new Bass Strait ferry is being built, and I know that relief from sales tax on machinery purchased will mean a great deal to the people “who are engaged in that activity.
The rate of tax on furniture and household equipment has been reduced. That, too, is a desirable step forward, because young married couples in particular are experiencing difficulty in purchasing for the first time furniture and equipment for their homes. Another exemption, which I think is of great interest to the primary producer, is that of non-alcoholic carbonated beverages containing the juices of Australian fruits. I do not know whether honorable senators have given a lot of thought to this matter, but I remind them that there are many varieties of fruit juices, and that the exemption of beverages containing those juices will greatly assist in the production of these commodities.
One or two anomalies have been adjusted, also. Some little time ago, we exempted from sales tax wire used for the wrapping of cases, but overlooked steel strapping which was used for a similar purpose. That anomaly has been removed. Many items in addition to those to which I have referred have been exempted, and I think that their exemption will be welcomed in particular by those sections of industry that will benefit as a result.
– That is, if the benefit is passed on.
– I think that the benefit is passed on in most cases. I am glad that the honorable senator has raised that point, because I noticed with great interest that, immediately after the Budget was presented, there was much advertising of the fact that new prices were being charged for various goods because of the reduction of sales tax. That is a form of direct assistance to the purchasing public. The £4,000,000 reduction is going direct to the purchasers. I think that honorable senators opposite will agree that to-day, probably for the first time for a number of years, competition is very keen in the cities of Australia, particularly in the retail trade. The retailers are passing the sales tax reductions on to the public.
For a moment or two I desire to refer to a matter that was raised by Senators Toohey and Pearson, of South Australia. It is the sales tax on the contents of vehicles for dried fruits, as Senator Pearson aptly put it. I refer to cakes, puddings, biscuits and buns, which contain Australian dried fruits. Because they contain Australian dried fruits, a plea has been made that they should be exempted from sales tax. I have had very strong representations made to me over a number of years that the whole of that class of goods should be exempted. Honorable senators will agree that great hardship is imposed on the small manufacturers of this class of goods. They have to keep records for the Taxation Branch and pay to the branch the sales tax on the cakes, puddings, buns and biscuits that they make. Normally the small trader in this business is a master baker, who spends most of his time during the day in the bakehouse. He makes a variety of goods, some of which are taxable and some of which are exempt. He has to keep a record of the taxable items which he sells, and this imposes a hardship on him. Many honorable senators have made representations to have this class of goods exempted entirely. I do not think the exemption would benefit the dried-fruits industry very much, because it is such a small item. It is difficult to assess the content of dried fruits used in the manufacture of these products, because one man might put a few more currants in his buns than his competitors put in theirs. There is competition in the trade, and some seek to meet it in that way. As I have said, it is difficult to assess just how much fruit is used. I believe that the proper approach to this matter is to exempt these goods altogether. That would give a great deal of pleasure to a number of honorable senators. To those who have been trying to obtain exemption for these goods, my advice is that they should be able to make out » case if they keep on trying.
– To whom should they endeavour to make out a case?
– We have made out a case to the Government, no matter which party was in power. I am not trying to dodge the issue. What I am saying is that representations have been made to both Labour and Liberal governments.
– I thought your parties were the Government.
– Somehow or other, I think we will still be in power next year. If the honorable senator had been listening to what I said-
– I heard every word the Minister said.
– I thought you would listen, because you are an intelligent young man. I have said before that the exemptions the Government grants in any category must be related to the overall concessions granted in the Budget. If the Government is in a position to grant more concessions next year - I do not know whether it will be or not - I hope that when the matter of sales tax is being considered, the Government will have before it representations for the exemption of goods in this category.
Much has been said about sales tax, but I think it is well worth mentioning that it applies to every type of buyer.- Every person who purchases goods subject to sales tax helps to fill the coffers of the Commonwealth Government. Some people are able to evade the payment of income tax, but they cannot evade the payment of sales tax, because they have to live and they find it necessary to buy goods subject to this tax. When they buy those goods, of necessity they make a contribution to the Government. I am sure that there are a number of people who will say that any tax is bad, but that this tax at least has the virtue of reaching everybody.
– That is about the only virtue it has.
– Somebody agrees that it has that virtue. Included in the long list of reductions in the Statement attached to the bill is a list of goods on which the tax is reduced from 10 per cent, to 8i per cent., from Hi per cent, to 8i per cent., and from 25 per cent, to 12i per cent. Probably one of the biggest concessions, apart from the exemptions, is the reduction of tax on some goods from 25 per cent, to 12£ per cent.
There is one other matter to which 1 wish to refer. It is sales tax as it applies to freight, and has to do particularly with my own State of Tasmania. It is a matter that has been raised on many occasions. I must be fair and say that it is easy to criticize, but it is very hard to find a solution to the problem. Most of the goods coming into Tasmania are carried either by sea or air - two of the most expensive means of transport in Australia to-day. Sales tax on freight means added costs to Tasmanian industry. Two or three years ago, I made an assessment of the added cost on motor cars. I think that sales tax also applying to the freight charged to ship a car from the mainland to Tasmania is of the order of 30 per cent. Because of the tax, a car purchased in Tasmania costs about £75 more than the same type of car purchased in Victoria.
– Is there an easy solution to that problem?
– As I mentioned previously, there is no easy solution to the problem. The combined brains of the Senate have not been able to find a solution so far. I think that Tasmanians should continue to point out to the Government the effect of this tax, in an effort to obtain some relief, if possible. With these few remarks, I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
.- It gives me great pleasure to support any bill whose object is the abolition of sales tax on certain new classes of goods, and the reduction of sales tax on a group of Other goods. I regard any reduction in, or alleviation of, sales tax as a good thing. As Senator Anderson pointed out last night, in speaking of the pay-roll tax, any reduction is good. I believe that that is particularly so in the case of sales tax. I disagree very strongly with Senator Marriott, who said that It was not without merit because a person did not realize he was paying it - in other words, that it was some form of swindle, or confidence trick. That is one of the most offensive characteristics of sales tax. It hits hardest the family man, and is inequitable in its incidence. It is not based on ability to pay. It is not imposed on a graduated scale and, by and large, it can be one of the worst forms of inflationary tax. I say that it can be, because it has a twofold characteristic.
The imposition of this indirect tax has to be watched very carefully. It reminds one of the properties of the oxides of mercury. These oxides may be used to produce calomel, which is a medicament, but may also be combined to produce a deadly poison. So, too, sales tax may be used in accordance with its legitimate function - as a form of revenue-raiser in times of economic emergency, for the purpose of reducing spending power, or by way of a selective and discriminatory impost, during an emergency, on a particular luxury. I suppose that now, in 1957, it is difficult to attack the validity of sales tax as a revenueraiser. At present the tax yields the Government approximately £130,000,000 annually, and the cost of collection is infinitesimal - only £497,000. Therefore, it returns the Government a very good profit. A tax which yields such a large amount cannot arbitrarily be abolished or set on one side, although it is my personal hope that the day will dawn when sales tax will be abolished, lock, stock and barrel.
As Senator Henty has pointed out, in the case of sales tax, the victim applies most of his own punishment. The Government requires a list of five separate categories to be kept, and the additional accountancy services and clerical work involved in maintaining these records is a not inconsiderable portion of the average wages bill, which, of course, finds its way into the cost structure of our consumer goods.
Perhaps one might return, step by step, to the millenium which existed before Mr. Scullin introduced sales tax many years ago. The bill before us releases a large number of essential items from the burden of this tax and the Government has obviously considered it desirable to choose this way of encouraging certain industries and types of production. I note with pleasure that firefighting equipment, and fire protection apparatus, being goods of a kind used exclusively, primarily or principally in preventing or combating fire, are to be free of sales tax. No sane person would cavil at their elimination from the sales tax list, but it is passing strange that, though the equipment used in fighting a fire is to be exempted, radio equipment, which is so frequently used by fire-fighters in combating this national menace, is to be exempt only when operated by country fire boards, or authorities of that nature. I do not think that Senator Wade will take me to task if I say that in very many cases communications are maintained by radio amateurs because the job is too tough for anyone else to undertake. I do hope that, in the fullness of time, some justice will be meted out to these people, who have served the public so well in every form of national and natural crisis, be it fire, flood - perhaps I ought not to say famine. Assistance of this kind is already given to surf life-saving clubs, rifle clubs and fire brigades.
Reference has been made to the imposition of sales tax on motor cars. 1 think that 30 per cent, is a very high tax to be borne by a commodity which, in 1957, can no longer be regarded as a luxury. Every family in Australia aims, at one time or another, to own a motor car. I suppose that the average amount of sales tax on a motor car is about £250. That is a rough mental assessment, made while I am on my feet, and I do not want it to be taken as an accurate figure. That is a very high impost upon an article of this kind. We are long past the day when the motor car was the possession of the privileged few, when it was driven by a chauffeur and - earlier still - when a man with a red flag preceded it. In those days it was something of a novelty, but nowadays one family in every four possesses a motor car.
As we have been directing our attention to sales tax as a weapon against inflation, it might be appropriate to make a passing reference to the importance of adjusted sales tax in combating inflation by skimming off, in selected cases, purchasing power from particular industries. I do not propose to analyse those industries at the moment and simply say that in Great Britain Mr. Macmillan has shown that his No. 1 target for this session is the combating of inflation. He has inherited, of course, the chaos that was produced by the centrally planned economy of the Labour socialist administration which was in office from 1945 to 1950. His task is as hard as ours has been in following Labour’s eight years of rule from 1941 to 1949. Adverting to those forms of economic difficulties which both Australia and Britain have faced, I think if we look back through history and make a careful analysis of the economic aspects of the falls of most civilizations it will be seen that there was a failure of the production of real wealth in the communities involved, and that there was some form of indirect taxation approximating sales tax or purchase tax imposed by the ruling authorities in those countries. The ancient Romans always diverted the masses with bread and circuses. Diocletian, in A.D. 301, used his brutal persecution of the Christian church to distract the attention of the masses from economic troubles. He had no senate to hold up his legislation, or interfere with his views. Diocletian was able to put into effect his own amateur forms of economic correction. He imposed a form of sales tax on corn coming from North Africa, grain from Sicily and timber from the north African provinces. One of the results was that, since most of the producers of wealth were no longer able to remain in Rome, when the barbarians prevented the shipment of merchandise from north Africa and Sicily, the Roman Empire was on the way out because its economy had been strangled from within.
Diocletian’s persecution of the Christian church was not simply the brutal action of a sadist. In persecuting the Christian church, he could at least keep occupied the citizens of Rome who had nothing much to eat and nothing much to do.
– There was no Goon Show in those days.
– That is so. About 160 years later, the Emperor, Justinian, when faced with the same economic difficulties, tried a sales tax. I do not want honorable senators opposite to think that these matters are irrelevant simply because they happened 2,000 years ago. History has a habit of repeating itself, and in applying ourselves to the economic difficulties of the mid-twentieth century we would be throwing away some of the advantages that we possess if we failed to make a careful analysis and examination of the economic difficulties that were suffered by the nations at the dawn of our civilization. The Byzantine Empire was unable to defend itself in the middle fifth century because the Emperor, as the result of his economic measures, was no longer able to pay the mercenaries - the Goths, the Visigoths and Ostrogoths who had formerly been able and willing to defend their interests against the other barbarian hordes.
– The same thing is happening now with the British Empire.
– Perhaps Senator Grant would agree that in the Seventh century the Franks, when faced with economic difficulties, imposed a form of indirect taxation on the men who rendered vassal service to the counts and margraves. Do not think that inflation and economic measures are new! They are not! In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, knights complained about the high cost of armour. They complained about the high cost of shirts, and those shirts were made of chain mail.
Coming a little closer to modern times, 1 need only refer to the economic difficulties in France following the revolution, and of Germany and Brazil in the twentieth century. I think I have said enough to indicate that the attack we are making on economic difficulties through a graduated sales tax has very much to commend it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I just want to make a few remarks that I did not have an opportunity to make at the second-reading stage. I should like to commend the Government for increasing the exemption on furniture, crockery, cutlery and other items that fit into the ordinary household. I was particularly pleased to find that bassinettes and baby baskets are exempted.
– The honorable senator must be a dark horse.
– I fake a grandpaternal interest in these things, which are very important items for young married people. Like Senator Hannan, I dislike sales tax completely. I could add to the historical survey he made the information that Philip of Spain also tried sales tax in the Netherlands. It was one of the worst things he did there. I commend the Government for what it has done and hope that further exemptions will be granted in the ranges of goods I have mentioned.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1957.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 2 1 st November (vide page 1415).
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without requests; report adopted.
Bills read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 1417), on motion ‘by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill ‘be now -read -a -second time.
:[l-0..5ilO- - - 11he :measure now before the Senate makes provision for the distribution of the balance of some £93,000,000 that was realized as profits of the Joint Organization for the sale of Australian wool. AH of these moneys were, under existing legislation, due to be distributed by 17th March last. However, of the £2,500,000, some £300,000 could not be distributed, mainly because the growers to whom the money was due could not be located. There is a prospect that many of them can now be located and there is no authority under the act to make distribution at this day. The remaining £2,200,000 is money that has been, might I say, in chancery, for the last few years, owing to an action that was taken by a wool dealer, one Poulton, who took proceedings on behalf of dealers in an endeavour to have the remaining proceeds from the Joint Organization paid to them and not to the growers. The amount was litigated. It was under threat of appeal until leave to appeal to the Privy Council was finally refused in October of last year. lt is quite obviously necessary now to have legislative authority for that £2,200,000 to be distributed to the growers. It can now, with absolute assurance and without fear of legal threat, be so distributed.
There is a number of minor matters. Moneys have been paid into court. The legislation deals with that matter and provides that if the money remains there by 30th June, 1959, any portion remaining must be paid to the Wool Research Trust Fund. A sum of £10,000 has been put in reserve to meet administrative expenses of the Australian Wool Realization Commission’s activities, and .any balance remaining at 30th June, 1959, will be paid also to the Wool Research Trust Fund.
The real purpose of the bill is to extend until 30ih June, J 959, the time for finding the true owners of the remaining proceeds and to provide that, if any moneys remain undistributed, they shall be paid to the Wool Research Trust Fund. That fund, as the Senate knows, has been established for research purposes for the benefit of everybody engaged in the industry.
The Opposition supports the measure, which is a very ‘proper and necessary one. lt only remains for me >to pay a tribute to those who . handled the Joint Organization activity so very successfully, and to the many distinguished Australians who -.played a major part in the distribution and acted as agents for the Joint Organization. It would be invidious for me to particularize without enumerating everybody. I merely acknowledge, on behalf of the Opposition, the debt of gratitude that Australia and those in the wool industry in particular owe for the magnificent services that they have had from so many distinguished Australians. I have very much pleasure in according the Opposition’s full support of the measure.
.- I rise to express my appreciation of this measure because, like the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) I am bound to say that the Joint Organization wrote a most conspicuous chapter in our industrial history in a time of great national crisis. It was not received, in the first instance, with the acclaim that the sponsors would have desired, but by the quality of its administration it proved that it was playing a great part in the interests of the nation and of the woolgrowers in particular. lt is a matter for some concern that to-day so much of our economy is riding on the sheep’s back. I am afraid that, as a people, we are somewhat inclined to tell ourselves that while all is well with the wool market all is well with Australia. I suggest that that can be a rather dangerous line of thought, because the world to-day is searching for a synthetic fibre than can take the place of wool. Other world powers are expending amazing sums on research into synthetics. I am afraid that we are inclined to suggest that they can never match our product. I suggest that that is a dangerous line of thinking. Only quite recently, honorable senators on both sides have been disturbed to learn that rams sold to the South African Government have been released to private enterprise. It is true that those rams are not pure Australian merinos, as we know them.
– Only one was any good, anyhow.
– That is a matter for a more academic mind than mine. I would suggest, with great respect, that that is a matter that Senator Scott could decide for himself and that I would not be interested in it. That action is an indication of how other world powers, apart from their interest in synthetics, are prepared to go to some lengths to capture the market for better class wool. So I suggest that the remaining amounts in this fund that are going to wool research are going to a very good cause. I know that there are great difficulties in finding many of the growers who, for reasons best known to themselves, whilst J.O. was operating, sold portions of their clips, such as crutchings, and dead wool, to dealers. I can well remember on one occasion listening to a debate between a seller and a buyer.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity 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.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 November 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571127_senate_22_s11/>.