23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether he will state why a satisfactory contract cannot be made with a supplier of milk so as to ensure that that food is provided for the pupils attending the Ogmore State School, Queensland. Until a satisfactory contract is made, will the Minister supply each child at the school with one pint of ice cream daily?
– The honorable senator’s question stems from one that he asked previously in this chamber. Quite recently, I gave him the Minister’s reply, which was to the effect that it was indeed the Government’s policy to ensure that, wherever possible, school children received free milk each day. I believe that that policy has been of great benefit to the school children of Australia over the years. I consider it one of the great things that this Government has done, and I feel sure that the Minister will conclude a satisfactory contract as soon as he can possibly do so. I do not know the location of the school in question.
– It is on the main line between Mackay and Rockhampton.
– If that is so it is apparently accessible, and there must be some valid reason why a contract has not already been made for the supply of milk. I do not know what that reason is at the moment, but the Minister has indicated that he will conclude a satisfactory contract at the first possible moment. I think that the honorable senator knows full well that it has indeed been the policy of this Government to supply free milk to school children, and that the provision of ice cream, oranges and the other foods that have been suggested from time to time, does not fall within the scope of the present scheme. I shall refer the matter to the Minister yet again. I assure the honorable senator that the Government intends to complete a satisfactory contract as early as possible. The Government’s policy is to see that every school child gets his due portion of milk because the scheme has proved of great benefit to Australian school children.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. It refers to the current proceedings before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in Melbourne, in which, I believe, the Commonwealth is represented by counsel. I ask the Minister whether the submission made on behalf of the Commonwealth Government is available for perusal by members, and whether he is in a position to table it.
– If the honorable senator will put that question on the noticepaper, since it has a technical and legal overtone, I shall bring it to the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service and ask him for an answer.
– I ask the
Minister for Repatriation whether it is a fact that an increasing number of returned servicemen are going down to heart complaints which, apparently, are not recognized as being caused by war service, because the soldier applicant has no medical history of heart trouble during service. The Repatriation Department is continually refusing to grant pensions to these applicants. Will the Minister examine the position with a view to recognizing this complaint for the payment of a Repatriation pension?
– I think it is correct to say that a number of ex-servicemen apply to the department for the recognition of heart complaints as a war-caused disability. I should say that the majority of those applicants are returned servicemen from the 1914-18 war.
Pension for a disability is payable only if the disability is accepted as being caused or aggravated by war service. The method of obtaining the pension is to submit an application to the branch office of the department in any capital city requesting that the disability be accepted as being due to war service. Many returned men from the 1914-18 war, and from the 1939-45 war, who are suffering from heart trouble in the later part of their life have asked that this complaint be accepted as being caused by war service.
The application is considered by a repatriation board on which there are three returned soldiers, one of whom is selected from a panel of names submitted by soldiers’ organizations. If the application is disallowed by that board, the applicant may appeal to the Repatriation Commission on which, again, there are three returned soldiers, one of whom is selected from nominees recommended by returned soldiers’ organizations. If the applicant is still unsuccessful, he has the right of further appeal to an entitlement appeal tribunal, which, again, is a body of three returned soldiers, one of whom has been selected from a panel nominated by soldiers’ organizations.
I stress this fact to show that right through the proceedings all the people who decide these matters are returned soldiers. Further, I emphasize that the members of the board, of the commission and of the appeal tribunal have access to an applicant’s file and enjoy the advantage of the best medical opinion available from specialist and other sources in Australia.
A further point to remember is that many of the applicants for recognition of heart trouble as a war-caused disability make their applications after reaching 50 or 60 years of age. Heart trouble is common in people of those ages, whether they be civilians or returned servicemen, and it is possible that the cases which the honorable senator has in mind relate to men who served in the 1914-18 war and who are perhaps 60, 65 or 70 years of age. If the disability of those applicants is found to he due to war service, even though the application is made 40 years after the war, a pension will be paid. Such persons are ex-servicemen who make application to the board 40 years after the war, and who may not have any medical evidence to show that, say, five years after discharge they were suffering from heart trouble. Naturally, the applicant’s medical file contains nothing to show that he suffered from heart trouble during his period of war service, or that he had approached the commission until about 40 years after the end of the war. However, after even that lapse of time the applicant’s case is very carefully considered and, if any link-up can be made between the complaint and the applicant’s war service, the claim is accepted. However, if the applicant’s medical file contains no information at all to show any connexion between his existing disability and his war service, then, naturally, the claim is not accepted.
– 1 preface my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by stating that a number of Western Australian citizens are looking forward to seeing the new Electra aircraft when it arrives at Guildford airport on Saturday, 18th April. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the Electra flight to Perth scheduled for Saturday, 1 8th April, has been cancelled.
– My memory of the announcement made by AnsettA.N.A. is that the first flight to Perth will take place on 20th April, and not 18th April, as the honorable senator has stated. However, my memory may be at fault. I have no knowledge that the original arrangements, whatever they were, have been altered. I shall make inquiries and inform the honorable senator further. Certainly, I shall take steps to see that the public is properly informed of the date of the proposed flight.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that student trainee nurses, during their period of training, purchase a number of expensive text-books? Will the Minister recommend to the Treasurer that, in preparing the Budget, he make provision for the cost of those text-books to be an allowable deduction for income tax purposes?
– I shall bring the matter to the attention of the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. For the twelve months period ended 31st December, 1958, how many applications for pensions and/ or medical treatment have been made to the Repatriation Commission? How many of those applications have been rejected? How many appeals have been lodged with the appeal tribunals, and how many of those appeals have been disallowed? What was the average time lag between the submission and finalization of each application submitted in the period 1 have stated? I might add, Mr. President, that 1 desire this information for the record, and should like to receive it as soon as possible.
Naturally, I cannot give the honorable senator immediately the information he seeks. A short time ago information was collated by my department as to the number of applications for pensions submitted since the commencement of the pensions scheme in 1916, and I am happy to inform the honorable senator that 86 per cent, of those applications have been accepted. That is a remarkably high figure. However, I shall obtain the information the honorable senator seeks and shall let him have it as soon as possible.
– I believe that in special cases years spent in another Commonwealth country can be counted as a part of the period of residence necessary for naturalization purposes. I do not state categorically that that is so, because I am not fully aware of the position. If the honorable senator will put her question on the notice-paper, I will obtain full information for her from the Minister for Immigration.
– I wish to direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. My question relates to the trade war in Europe. During the past eighteen months I have been trying unsuccessfully to get some authoritative in formation concerning the Government’s attitude to the European common market, and some news about important changes in the economic structure of Europe. During that time the Government has received copious reports from its trade and diplomatic representatives, and nearly every Minister has been to the battle-scarred area to inform his mind. The Prime Minister has indicated his dissatisfaction with all this ministerial inactivity, and he is leaving shortly to see for himself what it is all about. I want to ask the Leader of the Government
– I hope the question is more relevant than the preface.
– It will be.
– I hope it is more accurate, too.
– It will be, as far as the primary producers of Australia are concerned. I now ask the Leader of the Government: Before the Prime Minister leaves for overseas, will he see whether it is possible for the Government to tell the nation how this European common market is going to affect Australian exporters, and especially whether it will have the serious effect of further worsening Australia’s adverse trade balance, particularly in the light of the significant change which is taking place in the pattern of world trade and the shift of economic power due largely to surprising gains by West Germany? 1 hope that is to the point.
– It might be to the point, but I suggest that the honorable senator would be better advised to read the series of statements that have been made on this matter by my colleague, the Minister for Trade, and to devote a little of his time and attention to the journal issued by the Department of Trade at regular intervals - I think once a month - which reports the proceedings of the various conferences that are held. He might also look at some of the comments that appear in the newspapers and at some of the articles that have been written on the topic. I have said previously to the honorable senator that there is a wealth of information upon this matter, which is one that it is not easy to deal with in terms of questions and answers. It is best to sit down, relax and talk about it over a considerable period of time.
No one denies the increase in the trading strength of West Germany, but it is not right to jump to the assumption that the European common market will necessarily prejudice Australia. We sell a good deal of our agricultural primary products and metals on European markets, and strenuous efforts are being made to protect those markets. In that we have the support of the arrangements made by the British Government. No one denies the seriousness of the situation, but I do not think we are bound to jump to pessimistic conclusions about the outcome. I think the honorable senator should possess himself in patience and look forward to the future with a little confidence, taking comfort in the thought that Australia is well served in having a very capable Government at the head of its affairs and a very capable Minister handling the Department of Trade.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. When an ex-soldier pensioner has an appeal for up-grading to the totally and permanently incapacitated classification turned down by an appeal board, he is merely informed of that fact. No reasons are given. Is it permissible for the man to be informed why the appeal board has made its decision? Is he allowed access to his file?
– The question asked by the honorable senator deals with the case of a man who has appealed against a decision of the Repatriation Commission by going to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal which, as I have said before, is an independent tribunal that has nothing to do with the Repatriation Department except that it has access to all files and is given a summary of the reasons why the commission has rejected the application. It is the duty of the tribunal either to agree or disagree with the decision of the commission.
As a rule, a man who is appealing to the tribunal has the assistance of an advocate who is provided by the Legal Service Bureau, the returned soldiers’ league, the Legion of Ex-servicemen and Women, or some other ex-servicemen’s organization. That advocate is given a full summary of the reasons why the application has been rejected by the commission, so a summary may be shown to the appellant. If the claim is rejected by the tribunal, the reasons for its rejection would be similar to those for its rejection by the commission, because the tribunal only either agrees or disagrees with the action of the commission. So the appellant has an opportunity straight away of knowing why his application has been rejected by the commission. As I said, the full reasons for the rejection of a claim by the tribunal are not given, because the tribunal either agrees or disagrees with what has been done before. In practically every case, I presume, as I indicated before, the ex-serviceman is shown by his advocate a full summary of the reasons for the rejection of his claim.
As to an ex-serviceman seeing his file, the procedure is that the applicant may write to the department and ask to see his file. He may go to the department and, though he cannot take the file away, may peruse it with a senior officer of the department. An ordinary layman would be at a loss to know what to look for in his file, because it is more or less a medical file. It is for that reason that the department supplies a senior officer to go through the file with him and give him all the help that it is possible to give. There may be something on a man’s file which, if shown to him, would be detrimental to his health, or a reference to some disease which it may not be in his best interests for him to see. So things of that kind are not shown to him. He may have access to his file, but he must go through it at the branch office of the department - with, as I have said, the assistance of a senior officer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development, as the Minister in charge of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Despite the assurances to the contrary of various experts in the United States of America and other places, it is being slowly but surely recognized that radio-active accumulations exist in the atmosphere in increasing quantities, and although it is claimed that the present incidence of radioactive fall-out has not yet reached a level that is dangerous to human life, this level could be reached if the accumulations continued. Will the Minister assure the
Senate and the people of Australia that the Commonwealth Government will give most serious consideration to the proposal of Professor Baxter, the Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, for Commonwealth-wide control of radiation similar to that accepted by the New South Wales Government? Further, as this new, potent hazard to human life was not contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, will the Minister see to it that this subject is referred to the Constitution Review Committee of the Parliament when it next meets, which I trust will be in the not too distant future?
– I advise the honorable senator to keep both feet firmly on the ground. I do not think that we make any great contribution to the solution of the problem if we adopt unduly alarmist views. A great deal of scientific investigation is being undertaken. My recollection is that the United Nations has established, for this purpose, a specialist organization, which has had a long series of meetings and has made its findings public. Those findings certainly deserve consideration by thoughtful people, but there is nothing in them which would create or give ground for alarm. So far as the Australian scene is concerned, long ago the Government set up an advisory committee, composed of distinguished scientists, so that we would be well advised and have information continually before us. Professor Baxter, as Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, is one of the members of that advisory committee. The information that is made available to the Government indicates that in Australia, of all places, there is no cause for concern or alarm about the position as it now exists.
Events have pressed somewhat heavily on me this morning and I have not read the newspapers with the care and attention that I usually devote to them, but I did glance at the headlines. What I think Professor Baxter was advocating was the advisability of establishing an Australiawide organization, rather than that each State should deal with the matter piecemeal. That is a view that I know he had held for some time. I think that the honorable senator himself puts his finger on a pertinent matter when he says that it is doubtful whether the Commonwealth has constitutional authority to go into this field. It may well be that there is no need for constitutional authority to do so. The problem could well be handled, perhaps, by separate legislation in each of the States, because over the wide area of Australia the radiation or fall-out problem differs from State to State, as do so many other problems within Australia.
The Atomic Energy Commission has a fund of scientific knowledge on the matter. There are other funds of scientific knowledge, of course, particularly in the defence services. I assure the honorable senator that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, all those funds of knowledge are to-day correlated. The Government has adequate and proper advice on the matter. It is of interest to see that New South Wales has made the first move in Australia towards introducing appropriate legislation. That is understandable, because it is within the boundaries of New South Wales that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s research establishment is erected, and therefore the matter is more under the notice of people in New South Wales, although the fact that the establishment is in that State does not add in any way to the problem. The New South Wales problem is no greater because the research establishment is in the State, as adequate care is being taken to provide reasonable safeguards. I think that is the best answer I can give the honorable senator.
– I should like to address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the extended term of office of the Governor-General, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, will expire this year? In view of the outstanding service in this office that has been rendered by Sir William Slim, and also in view of the undoubted esteem in which he is held by and the popularity that he enjoys with the Australian people, will the Government give consideration to again extending His Excellency’s term of office in Australia? Does not the Government agree that it will be hard to find any one to carry out the duties of Her Majesty’s representative in Australia as effectively as Sir William Slim has done?
– I am glad to hear the remarks of the honorable senator. I think that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber agree that the present Governor-General has earned our great respect for the way in which he has carried out his important responsibilities. As to the question of a renewal of his term of office, that is a personal matter and I would not care to embark on any expression of opinion about it.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior by stating that, in reply yesterday to a question I had asked upon notice, in which I sought an assurance that the Government would not act upon the report which recommended that the News and Information Bureau Film Unit should be reduced considerably, the Minister stated that the report had not yet been considered by the Government. I now ask the Minister whether he will give an assurance that he will not make any final decision reducing the unit until the Parliament has had an opportunity to discuss the matter.
Naturally, Mr. President, T could give no such assurance myself, but if the honorable senator desires to place the question on the notice-paper, it will be brought to the attention of the Minister for the Interior.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, relates to fees charged by registered chiropractors, which are not permissible income tax deductions. I understand that the reason for this is not unrelated to the attitude of the British Medical Association. In view of the splendid service that is being rendered to suffering humanity by chiropractors, will the Minister ask the Treasurer to consider this tax anomaly when he is preparing the 1 959 Budget?
– If I may say so.
I appreciate the great forethought that is being shown by the honorable senator in relation to the forthcoming Budget. On two successive days he has directed questions to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer, asking that consideration be given to certain matters when the Budget is being prepared. I repeat, in substance, what I said yesterday in answer to his earlier request: 1 shall have pleasure in placing before the Treasurer the request he has just made.
– I should like to preface my question to the Minister for Repatriation by saying that I have had the privilege of examining the files of some returned soldiers whose appeals have been turned down by the tribunal which the Minister mentioned earlier. As a layman, I had no difficulty in understanding the files, but I did have grave difficulty in finding the reasons why the tribunal had not upheld the appeals. Having been successful in getting one returned soldier a special T.P.I, pension after he had been turned down by the appeal tribunal, I ask the Minister whether it would encumber the tribunal greatly if it wrote out the reasons for its findings, so that they could be pinned to the file for future reference. It would then be quite simple for any layman to find out why an appeal had been rejected or upheld.
– This matter has been investigated thoroughly by my department. We have come to the conclusion that it is not necessary in every case to state in writing why an application has not been successful. That would involve additional secretarial work for the tribunal. The various opinions of the medical people would have to be summarized, and so on. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, the advocate is entitled to ask for a summary of the whole case put before the commission. If the appeal is successful it is not necessary to give reasons for the commission’s rejection, but if the appeal is not successful the advocate may ask for a summary of the evidence and the full reasons for rejection.
– That is not done. I have looked at some of these appeal files.
– I repeat, the advocate can ask for a summary of the evidence, and a statement of the reasons.
– On most files there is an indication of rejection; nothing more.
– The appellant may be told that his appeal has been rejected, and his advocate may ask for the reasons.
– Suppose he has no advocate?
– Then he can obtain a summary himself. If necessary, we will supply an advocate to help him in any appeal. A summary of the evidence is sent on to the tribunal and the appellant can see it if he wishes. There is no reason why the taxpayer should be burdened with the cost of copying out decisions, summarizing doctors’ evidence and so on, when the necessary information id already available. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the advocate is with the appellant, and is putting his case before the tribunal.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport give any uptodate information on the steps being taken to complete the Port Pirie to Broken Hill railway to the requirements of the standard gauge? Has agreement yet been reached between the Governments of New South Wales, South Australia and the Commonwealth, and with the Silverton Tramway Company, on matters preliminary to the commencement of this important work?
– Some time ago an approach was made by the South Australian Government seeking the provision of funds for the purpose of conducting a survey of the line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill. That request was met and an amount of £50,000 was made available for the current financial year. The survey is going forward, but I understand that so far a great deal of progress has not been made. In the last couple of weeks men have been engaged by the South Australian Railways so that the work may be accelerated. Until the survey has been completed it will not be possible to consider the whole matter as a project. Not only are there technical matters to be decided, but we shall need to have firm estimates, based on survey, of the cost so that, if the work is to go forward, we shall be able to budget for it over a period of years. In the circum stances, no negotiations have yet taken place in connexion with the Silverton Tramway between Cockburn and Broken Hill.
– On 19th March, I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether a charter taken with the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission would be a losing proposition for the Australian National line. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the total loss over the whole period of the charter?
– The position, shipwise, has improved somewhat since the honorable senator asked the earlier question, inasmuch as the Phosphate Commission recently chartered a second ship of the line. Estimates have been made of the probable loss, but at the moment both the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and I regard those estimates with a certain degree of caution.
– The position might become better, or it might become worse?
– That is so. The loss might be in the vicinity of between £120,000 and £200,000. If the honorable senator will repeat his question after both charters have been in operation for some time I may be able to give him more precise information.
– Is that the figure for each ship?
– lt is the figure for both.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Repatriation by thanking the Minister for his elaboration of the subject of my earlier question regarding ex-servicemen with heart complaints. As he has stated that it is a question of entitlement, I now ask him whether he will consider the matter further to see whether it is possible - even if a slight alteration of the act is necessary - to provide for entitlement in respect of heart complaints?
– The honorable senator really asks that the death of every returned soldier from heart trouble be accepted as being due to war service.
– Under the act.
Under the act, we can pay a pension only if the disability is accepted as being due to or aggravated by war service. The honorable senator has asked whether the Government can amend the act in order to cover all returned servicemen who have died from heart trouble.
– Will you have a look at it?
– I can tell the honorable senator that invariably the widow of a returned serviceman whose death has been due to heart trouble does claim that the cause of death was due to war service. A great many of these claims are accepted, but, in such cases, there must be something definite to link the heart trouble with the war - to indicate that it was either due to or aggravated by war service.
I can assure the honorable senator that the board, the commission and the tribunal do their utmost to help when claims are made for not only heart trouble, but other ailments. However, we cannot get away from the act. We cannot pay a widow a pension when the cause of death of her husband cannot be shown by medical or any other evidence to be due to war service, whether the complaint be heart trouble or anything else. The only disease which we do accept as being due to war service is tuberculosis. If an exserviceman who has had service overseas contracts tuberculosis at any time - even to-day - that complaint is automatically accepted, under section 37 of the act, as being due to war service, and a pension is paid. The only way in which heart trouble could be accepted automatically as due to or aggravated by war service is to have that ailment brought under section 37 of the act, but we do not think it would be advisable to do so. If we were to accept heart trouble as due to or aggravated by war service, we would be asked to treat mental illness and other complaints in the same way. We can accept, for the purpose of repatriation benefits, only diseases or incapacities which can be shown to be due to or aggravated by war service.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation consider the possibility of separating the question of pensions from that of treatment? I believe that would meet many of the cases that have been mentioned this morning. Will he consider admitting men of advanced years, who are suffering from heart trouble, to full medical treatment without other repatriation benefits?
– I might mention here that in respect of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen - they number 16,000 or more - we accept all ailments, irrespective of whether they are due to war service, as being due to war service, and the person concerned receives the same hospitalization and medical treatment as he would if his complaint were war caused. There are some diseases to which this does not apply, but, as a general rule, those persons who are in receipt of 100 per cent, pension receive free hospitalization and treatment for all ailments, irrespective of whether they be due to or aggravated by war service. Such pensioners may go into any repatriation hospital at any time.
As to the question asked by the honorable senator, I emphasize that my department has this matter in mind continually. In fact, the question is being looked into very carefully now. It is probable that anything we do will apply only to exservicemen of a certain age, and so on, but we hope to be able to do something. It has to be remembered at all times, however, when considering those who are not in receipt of 100 per cent, pension, that although some hospitals have vacant beds, others have not, and our first responsibility is to those ex-servicemen who are suffering from war-caused disabilities. We must be careful to ensure at all times, if we do consider treating other than war-caused disabilities, that we have room in our hospitals for those who are suffering from warcaused disabilities. Some of our hospitals - Greenslopes in Brisbane is one - have very little extra room at all. There is no extra room at Hobart, although additional wards are now being built, but at the moment, we could not take in any cases of non-war-caused disabilities. The problem is not so simple as would seem on the surface, but we are going very carefully into it.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that throughout Australia, due to the prolongation of life expectancy as a result of the contributions of medical science in lifesaving drugs, vaccines and other treatment, the capacity of aged people’s homes, hostels and hospitals is inadequate to meet the demand, and the States are finding the problem of providing accommodation for cases needing closer medical care a very pressing one and are obliged to use portions of their mental hospitals to cope with the most advanced of the senile cases? Is the Minister aware that old folk who unfortunately are housed in mental hospitals come under a mental hospital agreement arranged between the States and the Commonwealth and are thereby excluded from receipt of an age pension? Will the Minister have a report made on this growing problem with a view to giving many of these people, who are justly entitled to it, a pension, as they would receive it if they could be accommodated in proper surroundings because they have paid, over the years, sufficient in taxes to entitle them to a pension?
– I assure the honorable senator, as I assure all honorable senators every time I rise to answer a question such ,as this, that this Government will continue, as it has done in the past, to give all sections of the community, especially the most needy sections, fair and just treatment. I point out to the honorable senator that the specific detail to which he refers in his question requires close examination, and, for that reason, I shall be quite happy to send his question to the Treasurer for advice. However, I take this opportunity to point out that, in addition to the pension aspect of this matter, which the Government has never failed to face up to, we have taken other steps in connexion with aged people which really have made history. I refer to the particular problem to which Senator O’Byrne has referred - the care of the aged, and the remarkable progress that has been possible in that field as a result of the sponsorship by this Government of the Aged Persons Homes Act.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In the event of the failure of the present negotiations for a loan from the World Bank for the purpose of rebuilding or re-conditioning the railway line between Mount Isa and Townsville, which will increase greatly the production at the Mount Isa mine, does the Minister consider the Commonwealth Government capable of raising a loan in Australia for this purpose?
– The raising of a loan within Australia is a matter for the Australian Loan Council. However, the council has agreed to a loan being raised overseas, such loan to be devoted to the work on the railway line between Mount Isa and Townsville. Negotiations are proceeding between Mount lsa Mines Limited and the Queensland Government. We all hope that those negotiations reach a successful conclusion. In that event, there will be not occasion to seek the assistance of the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
By way of preface to the table hereunder, it is desired to emphasize that only by examination of the many thousands of files dealt with in respect of all Victorian applications during 1958, in both central office and Melbourne branch office, could any complete figures of written representations be prepared. The department is not in a position to undertake such a great amount of work without serious interference with many more urgent matters.
In many cases where written representations are made to the Minister or Secretary of the department, the names of the members concerned have been noted on cross-reference cards. From these the figures given below have been extracted. They are not complete in that (a) telephonic or other verbal inquiries and representations are not usually recorded on the cards mentioned above; (b) pressure of business frequently results in even written representations not being noted on the cards of members. They are of course indexed under the names of nominators.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
From time to time the various unions covering the staff employed by the Post Office and, in particular, the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, submit claims for improved wages and conditions of employment. Some of these claims are discussed with the department and the Public Service Board and are settled during such discussions. For example, last week a claim for increased margins for line foremen and higher increments for cleaners, liftmen and watchmen was dealt with in this way. Although both the department and the board are always willing to discuss conditions of service with the unions, some claims are so wide and far-reaching in their possible effects that they have to be dealt with by the Public Service Arbitrator. The Amalgamated Postal Workers Union at present has claims before the Arbitrator for postal assistants on which the Arbitrator’s judgment is awaited, and for postal officers, mail officers and instructors at linemen training schools on which the hearing has not yet commenced.
– On 12th March,
asked me, as the Minister representing the Treasurer in the Senate, the following question without notice: -
Will he consider amending the income tax legislation so as to allow the residents of north Queensland, whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the recent cyclone, to claim the total cost of replacing or repairing them as a deduction for income tax purposes?
The Treasurer has furnished the following answer: -
The question of Commonwealth financial assistance for relief and rehabilitation work made necessary by the recent cyclone is at present tha subject of correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland. The Prime Minister has advised the Premier that the Commonwealth Government would, as always in such cases, he prepared to contribute with the State Government on a £l-for-£l basis towards the costs of any scheme designed for the immediate relief of personal hardship and distress. He has also advised the Premier that it is the policy of the Commonwealth Government to make a contribution towards the cost of restoring certain public assets in cases where the damage involved assumes the dimensions of a national disaster and the cost of restoration work is clearly beyond the financial resources of a State.
At the same time, the Prime Minister has informed the Premier that it is not the Commonwealth’s policy to assist financially in the restoration of private assets. Private individuals can, of course, provide against the possibility of damage to their property by means of insurance, and it is normal practice for them to do so. As the request that the costs of repairing or replacing homes be allowed as deductions for income tax purposes is similar in nature to a request for ?. Commonwealth grant to assist in the restoration of private assets, I would not be prepared to recommend that the income tax legislation be amended in the way suggested.
I should mention, however, that income tax deductions are allowed for gifts made to public benevolent institutions or to public funds established and maintained for the relief of persons in Australia in necessitous circumstances. Funds for the assistance of north Queensland residents who suffered as a result of the cyclone may well satisfy these tests, though it will be appreciated that the constitution of each fund or institution would have to be examined to see that it satisfies the requirements of the taxation legislation. Although no question was raised relating to the payment of outstanding income tax by persons affected by the cyclone, I should also like to make it clear that, in the collection of tax, full regard will be given to their financial position if they place the facts before the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation through whom the tax is payable.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read s< first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators are requested to consider a bill relating to duties of customs which have been in operation since 20th February, 1959. Most of the amendments now being made are based on recommendations made by the Tariff Board in its reports on -
Almonds in the shell, kernels, paste and meal; and
Cotton piece goods (denims and drills).
Existing duties on buttons and button blanks are being varied to provide increased protection for those which are made wholly or principally of casein or synthetic materials or which are imitations of trochus shell or pearl shell. The new rates on these goods are Hd. per gross for each ligne measurement under all columns of the tariff with a reduction of 12i per cent, ad valorem when the goods are entitled to British preferential tariff treatment. This 12* per cent, reduction under the British preferential tariff is designed to maintain a margin of preference in favour of the United Kingdom. I might mention that a ligne is equal to one fortieth of an inch.
On metal buttons and blanks, the British preferential tariff is being increased from 17i per cent, to 22£ per cent, but no change is being made in the mostfavourednation rates for these goods. No change is being made in the duties applicable to buttons of animals shell, bone, horn or vegetable ivory, other than to reduce the general tariff rate from 27i per cent, to 22i per cent. The rates of duties on buttons wholly or partly of gold or silver remain unchanged. Other buttons covered by this bill now become dutiable at reduced rates of 22’i per cent. British preferential tariff and 35 per cent, otherwise.
Protective duties have been varied for both shelled and unshelled almonds. The rates comprise a fixed rate per pound subject to a reduction of 75 per cent, of the free-on-board price of the goods. The significant rates are those applying under the intermediate tariff. Using such rates, this type of protection ensures that when almonds are plentiful overseas and the price is low the duty payable on imports into Australia will be higher. However, when the overseas price rises the duty payable will be progressively reduced until, at a price where the free-on-board price for almond kernels is 7s. 4d. per lb. or more, there will be no duty payable on imports. The significant free-on-board price for unshelled almonds at which no duty becomes payable is 2s. 8d. per lb. in respect of imports from most favoured nations.
In regard to cotton piece goods, the two protective items dealing with piece goods of the types principally used, and those ordinarily but not principally used, for men’s or boys’ outer clothing have now been amalgamated. This action has resulted in some increase in duties, mainly in the British preferential tariff, and some reduction in the general tariff rates. In the past the existence of two items for goods identical but for colour has presented serious problems for both importers and customs officers.
An amendment of an administrative nature relates to goods which are imported for repair, alteration or industrial processing in Australia and which, under the terms of the tariff item, are required to be returned to the country from which they were imported. Experience has shown that this provision requiring the goods to be returned to the exporting country is too restrictive. It is therefore proposed to delete this provision and insert instead a requirement that the goods merely be re-exported from Australia. This amendment will simplify administrative procedures.
In the main, the remaining tariff changes are consequent on trade negotiations entered into by the Government. As a result of those negotiations the intermediate tariff rates on gherkins, on vacuum flasks and on piano accordions are being reduced. The bill is commended to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. Deputy President, the bill now before the Senate relates to amendments of the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1958. Broadly speaking, the proposed variations in the bill can be divided into two groups - those arising from recommendations of the Tariff Board and those of an administrative or drafting nature.
The amendments arising from Tariff Board recommendations relate to - Peanuts and peanut oil; fresh frozen vegetables; cotton piece goods for use in the manufacture of bed sheets and pillow cases; metal-working lathes; electric filament lamps; insulating parts for sparking plugs; slide fasteners of the progressive interlocking type; metal clamps; hammers, wholly or principally of metal; thioglycollic acid and its salts; hairdressers’ and opticians’ chairs; rubber and rubber latex; cotton yarns; yarns of man-made fibres; and dental chairs and dental units. Sundry other amendments based on a Tariff Board report tabled in this chamber on 14th May, 1958, are also made deleting from the tariff schedule the references to “ artificial silk “ and substituting the term “ man-made fibres “.
The rates of duty on both shelled and unshelled peanuts are being altered to 5d. per lb. under the British preferential tariff and 8d. per lb. under the intermediate tariff and the general tariff. This represents increased duties of between 3id. and 4d. per lb. insofar as unshelled peanuts are concerned and 2d. per lb. on peanut kernels. On edible peanut oil in vessels exceeding one gallon the proposed rates are 3s. per gallon under the British preferential tariff and 5s. per gallon under the intermediate and general tariffs. This represents an increase of ls. 6d. per gallon under the
British preferential tariff and 2s. 2d. per gallon when the oil is not entitled to British preferential treatment.
Provision is also made for the admission free of duty from all sources of peanut oil. This provision will continue the existing arrangements whereby free admission is accorded to peanut oil to the extent by which the Australian peanut industry is unable to make available peanuts for oil expression purposes.
A sliding scale duty is proposed. on fresh frozen peas and beans. Duty will be imposed only when the free on board price is below ls. 10½d. per lb., and the amount of duty payable will increase as the price of the vegetables decreases below that figure.
Another amendment proposed relates to cotton sheeting of the type ordinarily used in the manufacture of bed sheets and pillow cases. The Tariff Board has recommended increased rates of duty on plain or matt woven sheeting and on twill sheeting. However, the board has further recommended that by-law admission be approved for bleached and unbleached twill sheeting subject to the condition in the case of bleached sheeting that the quantities imported do not exceed four million square yards in the preceding year.
Protective duties of 20 per cent. British preferential tariff and 27i per cent, intermediate tariff are now proposed for capstan and turret lathes. These machines previously have been admissible at nonprotective rates. On other lathes which are now covered by protective item 176 (c) (3), the British preferential tariff is being increased from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent., that is, the rate recommended for capstan and turret lathes.
In regard to electric filament lamps, a by-law item is now created. For British preferential tariff goods, the rate is free and for goods not entitled to the British preferential tariff the rate provided is 7i per cent, ad valorem or ls. 6d. per lb., whichever returns the lower duty. In the report which I tabled in this chamber last October, the Tariff Board recommended that lamps of the types not made in this country should be admitted free of duty irrespective of origin. However, under the terms of our trade agreement with the
United Kingdom, that country is entitled to a tariff preference on electric lamps. Following discussions with the United Kingdom Government, it has been agreed that this preference should be retained. Electric filament lamps which are of the types manufactured in Australia will, of course, continue to pay duty at the existing protective rates of duty.
On porcelain insulating parts for sparking plugs, duties of 20 per cent. British preferential tariff and 27£ per cent, otherwise are proposed. These goods previously were admitted under customs by-laws free of duty. The production of these insulators in Australia has reached a satisfactory degree of efficiency and in the opinion of the Tariff Board should be encouraged. The rates of duty which are now provided should enable Australian manufacturers to compete with overseas suppliers.
The existing duties of 174- per cent. British preferential tariff and 50 per cent, general tariff on slide fasteners of the progressive interlocking type, and parts thereof, have been varied to a duty based on the free-on-board value of the goods. In the main, this will represent a lowering of existing duties on high priced fasteners and parts, and increased duties on cheaper fasteners and parts.
On metal clamps, other than “ C “ or “ G “ clamps of malleable iron castings, duties of 27i per cent. British preferential tariff and 374- per cent, intermediate tariff are proposed. Malleable iron “ C “ or “ G “ clamps will be dutiable at the nonprotective rates of free British preferential tariff and 7i per cent, intermediate tariff.
A further recommendation by the Tariff Board concerns hammers wholly or principally of metal. Increased rates of duties are provided on carpenters’ claw hammers and engineers’ hammers at rates of 27i per cent. British preferential tariff and 35 per cent, otherwise. All other metal hammers being hand tools are now specifically provided for in the tariff. Non-protective rates of free British preferential tariff and 7i per cent, ad valorem otherwise are provided for those having a head weight of 4 lb. or more, whilst protective rates of 22i per cent. British preferential tariff and 30 per cent, otherwise apply when the heads are lighter than 4 lb. This change represents a rationalization of the present tariff treatment on hammers and will result in both increases and reductions in the duties previously applying.
On thioglycollic acid and its salts, the Tariff Board has recommended protective duties of 10 per cent. British preferential tariff and 22i per cent, otherwise. The board has pointed out that the local industry is worthy of assistance and that the new duties, if adopted, should have little effect on prices to the consumer.
The new duties on hairdressers’ chairs, opticians’ chairs and dental chairs are designed to provide increased protection against low-priced imports. The existing duties have lost much of their protective value since the time when they were imposed which was in the 1930’s.
The ad valorem duties of 27± per cent British preferential tariff and 45 per cent, intermediate and general tariffs on dental units remain unchanged. The existing alternative fixed rate duties which apply under the intermediate tariff and general tariff have ceased to be effective and are therefore being removed.
Honorable senators may recall that in November, 1957, a bill to give effect to certain recommendations of the Tariff Board on natural and synthetic rubber and rubber latex was examined in this chamber. I stated at the time that the Tariff Board had recommended a greater reduction in the rates of duty on these goods than was actually adopted by the Government. The Government feels that the full reduction can now be made and the duties on rubber and rubber latex, whether natural or synthetic, are being reduced from 4d. to 2d. per lb. regardless of the origin of the goods. A by-law item is also proposed so as to permit duty-free entry of rubber and rubber latex subject to satisfactory arrangements being made for the disposal of the PapuaNew Guinea rubber crop. In effect, so long as the Papua-New Guinea rubber crop continues to be absorbed by the Australian market, rubber from any source will be admitted duty free.
The amendment proposed in respect of compounded rubber and compounded rubber latex fixes the rates on these products at id. per lb. higher than those applicable to raw rubber and rubber latex. The new duties are 2id. per lb. under the substantive tariff item and id. per lb. when the goods are admissible at by-law rates. The action now being taken in respect of rubber is in accordance with the terms of the trade agreement which Australia made in 1958 with the Federation of Malaya.
The existing protective duties on cotton yarns are being varied to give effective protection against low-priced yarns in certain counts, that is to say, of certain thicknesses. At the same time, there is a reduction in the protection given to Australian manufacturers of coarse count yarns. Australian manufacturers are well established in this field and, in the Tariff Board’s opinion, do not need the full level of protection given by the present duties. Protective duties are proposed for the first time in respect of yarns containing more than 50 per cent, by weight of viscose, acetate or viscose and acetate rayon staple fibre.
Considerable drafting changes are also proposed in the textile and yarn items of the tariff to give effect to the suggestion made by the Tariff Board in a report on artificial silk piece goods that the term “ artificial silk “ be replaced throughout the tariff by the term “ man-made fibres “. This change will bring the tariff nomenclature into line with current trade practice. A consequential amendment to the 13th Prefatory Note to the customs tariff is also being made.
As I mentioned previously, there is also a series of amendments of an administrative or drafting nature and these comprise the following: -
Definition of the term “ free on board price “.
Removal of redundant provisions in Item 334 (c) relating to newsprint.ing paper.
Textile spinning frames.
Pattern cutting machines.
Film for home cinematographs.
Drugs and chemicals packed for retail sale, and
Previously, Prefatory Note No. 6 related to a definition of the term “ by-laws “. This is being omitted as redundant, as similar provisions are contained in section 271 of the Customs Act.
As it has been found that the Tariff Board sometimes makes recommendations in which duties are levied on the free on board price, it has been deemed desirable to define “ free on board price “ by prefatory note. As previously “ freeonboard price “ was defined in a number of individual items of the tariff, those items in which the definition was written in are now being amended to delete such definitions as redundant. The items involved are -
Tariff Item 334 (f)(2).
Tariff Item 334 (j).
Tariff Item 334 (o)(l) and
Tariff Item 334 (q).
Item 334 (c) included provision for an additional duty on newsprint which was to have become operative when the imported cost of newsprint fell below £15 per ton. While the overseas price of newsprinting paper remains at its present level, there is no possibility of the additional duty being brought into operation. Honorable senators may recall that the additional duties on newsprint were associated with the newsprinting paper bounty legislation which has since lapsed. Item 174 (v)(34) has been redrafted to apply to textile spinning frames, regardless of the industry in which they are to be used. At present, the item is restricted to frames for the woollen, worsted and cotton industries, and it will now be extended to frames suitable for spinning nylon, for example. This action obviates the need to make by-law provisions for frames for spinning yarns for use in other industries.
Item 174 (x)(19) is being amended so as to apply to pattern cutting machines for use with dobby as well as jacquard textile weaving machines. This does not involve any change in the existing rates on pattern cutting machines. The amendment of Item 320 (c)(2)(a), which deals with cinematograph film, is intended to make it clear that the item applies only to cinematograph film having a width not exceeding 9.5 millimetres. By administrative practice, Item 320 (c)(2)(a) is limited to film having a width not exceeding 9.5 mm., so that no change of practice is involved in this alteration.
Another administrative amendment provides by-law items enabling the Minister to approve admission, at by-law rates of duty, of certain drugs and chemicals which are imported packed for retail sale. This action is taken to ensure that departmental action is in line with fact. I would point out that prior to the amendment, it had been the practice to regard as not packed tor retail sale drugs and chemicals, even though in small parcels, supplied to dentists and medical practitioners. This general practice, although ensuring that small packages of the drugs and chemicals are made available to the users without excessive costs, debarred local packers in certain instances from the protection which they were entitled to expect. For example, small packs of chemicals for X-ray visualization were being treated as not being packed for retail trade and, accordingly, local packers were unable to compete with imported products. By virtue of this amendment, the Department of Customs and Excise is able to accord the same concession as previously applied to goods generally used by doctors and dentists, but at the same time, the concession of the bylaw can be denied to specific products and thus enable local packers to receive the benefits of the protective duties which apply to goods packed for retail sale.
It is also proposed to reduce the intermediate tariff and general tariff rates on smaller capacity cream separators, from 121/2 per cent, to 71/2 per cent, ad valorem. This action is supplementary to that taken in the Tariff Proposals of 22nd May, 1957. when the preference margins on a wide range of goods were similarly reduced following the signing of the United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement. As the rates of duty on cream separators, whether having a capacity greater or less than 350 gallons per hour, now become the same, it is possible to re-draft the item to apply to cream separators.
The final amendment proposed applies the British preferential tariff rates to goods of Australian origin which are exported and returned to this country. Generally, returned Australian goods which comply with certain prescribed conditions are admissible free of duty under Item 401 (a). In the few instances when the goods do not qualify for admission under Item 401 (a), they are at present dutiable under the appropriate items of the customs tariff at general tariff rates of duty. It is considered anomalous that returned Australianmade goods should be subject to duty at rates higher than those provided for goods qualifying for admission under the British preferential tariff, and this proposed amendment corrects the anomaly. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now before honorable senators amends the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) 1934-1958 by omitting the references in Item 110(a)(5)(c) to “artificial silk “ and inserting instead references to “ man-made fibres “. The alteration proposed in the case of sparking plugs merely amends the item reference number and is consequent on the tariff change being made in respect of these goods in Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1959. I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The tariff changes proposed in this bill are complementary to those contained in Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1959. Item 21 of the Schedule to the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1933-1958 is being amended to provide for the admission of fresh frozen peas and fresh frozen beans, which are the produce of New Zealand, at the same rates of duty as are proposed under the British Preferential Tariff. No change is being made in the rates of duty applicable to other fresh vegetables of New Zealand origin. The amendment of item 24 is’ a drafting alteration only. The various references in the item to “ artificial silk “ are being deleted and the term “ manmade fibres “ inserted instead. No change is being made in the existing duties. 1 commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill reduces from 2s. 6d. per 100 square feet to free, the rate of duty applicable’ to veneers which have a value for duty in excess of 44s. per 100 square feet and which are imported from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This action is consequent on international negotiations in which Australia was permitted to vary the existing tariff margin between the rates applicable to veneers imported from the Territory and those imported from other countries. The tariff changes in respect of rubber and rubber latex are complementary to the alterations proposed in Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1959. The bill is commended to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to extend to the crews of fully commissioned army ships the tariff concession on certain spirituous liquors and cigarettes and tobacco which is at present granted under item 18 of the excise tariff to the personnel of Royal Australian naval ships. The ships operated by the Australian military forces are employed on military maintenance tasks and in the training of crews, and they make voyages to such places as Manus Island, Lord Howe Island and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This amendment is being made on the grounds of equity. I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will no doubt remember that the Aliens Act came into operation in January, 1948. Since that time the Government, as part of its policy of assisting in the assimilation of migrants, has endeavoured to overcome, wherever possible, differences which exist between the requirements of its own citizens and those settlers who, not being Australian citizens and not being naturalized, still remain within the law as “ aliens “.
The bill now submitted to honorable senators is one of five clauses. Its purpose is to abolish the issue of certificates of registration to aliens coming into the country. These, while essential at the time of their introduction, are now regarded as an unnecessary requirement. It is proposed therefore to repeal section 12 and 12a of the Principal act, and to make consequential amendments.
At the present time, all aliens who come to Australia and who have indicated their intention to remain for more than 60 days are required to register and to be in possession of a certificate of registration. They are not required to carry the certificate with them, but merely to be in possession of it and if required by lawful authority to produce it. Experience over the pass years has shown that this requirement serves no really useful purpose. The application for registration upon which the certificate itself is based is a detailed and comprehensive form, and one which all aliens coming into the country for the period stated must complete. This application also requires that the alien must supply a photograph of himself. It will be seen that by this means the information that is requisite for any governmental purpose is available from the application form - B.A.2 - itself. The bill now before the Senate does not interfere with this application for registration, but merely seeks to cancel the issue of the certificate of registration.
Great changes have been brought about since the Aliens Act came into operation eleven years ago. In all our principal centres of recruitment steps are taken to ensure that all aliens coming to Australia are interviewed and carefully examined before the necessary documentation is given to them. Thus it will be seen that as interviews are undertaken for the purpose of establishing health, general suitability, and security the necessity for maintaining an expensive system of issuing certificates of registration is unwarranted, and there seems no real necessity to retain this provision. We do not police aliens in our midst, as the formalities of acceptance have already been determined before the alien arrives in this country. Moreover, the cancellation of sections 12 and 12a of the act does not in any way interfere with the remaining requirements to which aliens must subscribe. That is to say, the alien must notify the Department of Immigration of his change of address, he must still give notice of bis change of employment or occupation, and he must notify the department if he marries. He cannot, without the consent of the Minister for Immigration or an authorized immigration officer, change his surname. Finally, an officer may still require any person whom he believes to be an alien to give personal information to that officer, and to substantiate it by documentary or other evidence in his possession or control.
It will be seen, therefore, that the Government is not throwing away any security safeguards or, indeed, absolving aliens of their present obligations, lt feels, however, that it is incompatible with our assimilation activities to maintain a provision which imposes an unnecessary burden on the alien community and confers no real benefit on the Government. It does not place the non-British person in a more favorable position than his British counterpart, lt is the Government’s wish to do everything it can to induce its settlers from outside the British Commonwealth to look upon Australia as their home, and to facilitate their adoption of our own nationality. The provisions of this bill are regarded as a step in that direction, and I hope that the Senate will give it warm approval.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m., this sitting.
Debate resumed from 14th April (vide page 717), on motion by Senator Sir Walter Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill before the Senate seeks to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act. To see the bill in its true perspective it is necessary to understand, to some extent at least, the structure that has been created over the years for the purpose of governing the Northern Territory. Honorable senators may recall that, about this lime last year, they were issued with an administrative order which prescribed the functions and responsibilities of Ministers. The Minister for Territories was responsible for the administration of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, the Northern Territory Representation Act and the Lands Acquisition Act. Upon examining the Northern Territory (Administration) Act one finds that it provides, among other things, for the governing of the Northern Territory; and that it establishes the office of Administrator and also a Legislative Council for the Territory. The act provides that there shall be an Administrator of the Territory; that the Administrator shall be appointed by the Governor-General by commission under the seal of the Commonwealth, and shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. Further, the Administrator is charged with the duty of administering the government of the Territory on behalf of the Commonwealth. In the words of the act -
The Administrator shall exercise and perform all powers and functions that belong to his office according to the tenor of his commission, and according to such instructions as are given to him by the Minister.
I want to refer particularly to two of the matters that I have just mentioned. I have stated that the Administrator is charged with the duty of administering the government of the Territory in accordance with the tenor of his commission, and in accordance with such instructions as are given him by the Minister. Any one who really read the act would deduce that the Administrator was required to govern the Northern Territory, and in so doing observe the instructions of the Minister. Those provisions have never been varied although, since 1947, a Legislative Council has been functioning in the Territory. Those provisions will remain even after the passage of the bill that is before us to-day.
If I were in the shoes of the Administrator and studied my commission and this act from time to time I would be inclined to say that the government of the Northern Territory was entirely in my hands - was something for which I was solely responsible except where I had to act under the instructions of the Minister. That does appear confusing. We know that the Department of Territories has its head office in Canberra. We also know that the office of the Administrator is up in the Northern Territory. Understanding that, and realising that we are dealing with governmental matters affecting the Territory, we can appreciate that there must be close liaison between the department and the Administrator. Also, the Administrator would have to be conscious of the Government’s policy in respect of all matters coming under his notice day by day. Policy would be an important consideration for the Administrator at all times.
Having mentioned that, I shall proceed to the next point that I want to make because I am dealing with the structure of government, as it exists to-day, for the Northern Territory. Branches have, of course, been established in the Territory by the Administrator for the purpose of carrying out his functions. One can understand that, although he is up in the Northern Territory doing the work of the department, he is, by reason of his responsibilities, something more than a branch officer. Going further into this matter, I find that several branches functioning in the Territory are in his charge. For instance, so that he can carry out all his duties and fulfil all his responsibilities, a welfare branch has been established to deal with the aborigines in the Territory. There is also a general service branch, which is concerned with harbours and fisheries. Another branch deals with lands and survey, and anyone who has travelled through the Northern Territory will have a fair idea of the magnitude of its work in a given year - if it wished to attain the level of administration attained in the various States. There is also an agriculture branch which deals mainly with research matters. For well-known reasons, little agriculture is conducted in the Territory.
A branch of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization operates at Katherine. I have visited it and although it has satisfied me that tobacco and other crops can be successfully grown there, I am convinced that very few crops indeed can be grown economically. There is a mines branch which has the task of developing mining. There is an animal industry branch which has an up-to-date laboratory and carries out field servicing. When one considers the fact that cattle raising is the main industry one can understand clearly why that branch should be important in the administration of the Territory. There is also an education branch which provides for the education of Europeans. There is a water use branch which investigates water resources and, as far as the economy will permit, develops those resources. Then there are minor but important branches such as the Police Branch and the Prisons Branch. A number of branches of administration in the Northern Territory are functioning under the control of the Administrator who, in turn, is subject to the control of the Minister for Territories in Canberra. Also functioning in the Northern Territory are branches of the various government departments which flourish in the Australian Capital Territory and in the States. For instance, in the Northern Territory there is a branch of the Audit Office, which, as honorable senators know, is controlled by the Prime Minister. There is a branch of the Treasury, which deals with taxation. Other departments which have branches there are the Attorney-General’s Department, which deals with the administration of justice, the Department of Health, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of Works, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Immigration, the Departments of the Navy, Army and Air, and the Department of Shipping and Transport, as well as a few minor departments. I repeat that all these branches operate in the Northern Territory in addition to the branches established under the control of the Northern Territory Administration. Evidently it has been found desirable that all these branches of departments should have life up in the Northern Territory.
It is interesting to note that, when introducing the bill to establish the Legislative Council in 1947, the then Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Lemmon, had this to say -
Up to the present, all ordinances and regulations relating to the Northern Territory have been made by the Governor-General in Council. The residents of the territory have had no say in the legislation but as they live and work in the territory, their experience and local knowledge would be of real value in the framing of legislation governing the territory.
Further on, he said -
For a considerable number of years, the residents of the Northern Territory have been asking for some measure of local government. They have protested against the existing procedure whereby legislation for the territory is drafted and enacted in Canberra. The bill will confer upon them the power to enact their own legislation and the necessary precautions have been taken to ensure that the finances will be protected.
Mr. Lemmon also said on that occasion ;
In view of the fact that the Northern Territory is not self-supporting financially, and that the greater part of the expenditure on its development must be provided by the Commonwealth, the bill provides that there shall be a slight majority of Government members in the Legislative Council.
They were the main reasons given by the Minister in 1947 when introducing the bill which provided for the establishment of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. To-day we are dealing with a bill which proposes to change the representation in the Legislative Council, and to do one or two minor things. At the present time, the Legislative Council consists of the Administrator, seven official members and six elected members, making a total of fourteen. Of those fourteen members, we have eight on the Government side - the Administrator and seven official members, who are public servants - and six who are elected by the people of the Northern Territory.
The bill under consideration proposes to amend the. act so as to provide that in the Council there will be an Administrator, six official members, three non-official members and eight elected representatives. Should this bill be carried, there will be ten members on the Government side and eight elected members. No doubt, as the representation is ten to eight, the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory will be known in future as the nearlybreakfasttime Legislative Council.
– You have the wrong idea. There will be three private members.
– We all know that three hard-crusted old tories will be appointed to the Legislative Council because the present Government will be making the appointments. The Government will probably find a bank manager, a retired squatter and probably a cattle-grower - three hard-crusted old tories - down the street and appoint them to the Legislative Council.
– It will be just the same as the one in New Guinea.
– It will be totally different from the Legislative Council in New Guinea. It is not possible to compare one with the other because, in New Guinea, the natives are being trained to fit them to assume control of their own affairs. The Legislative Council of New Guinea is a kind of training ground for the natives, designed to help them rise to the responsibility of governing their own country.
Let us now examine the Territory that is to be governed under this bill. As I pointed out a while ago, there will be an Administrator, with all the powers he has under the Northern Territory Administration Act. He will be responsible for the administration of the government in the Northern Territory. We have the Minister for Territories, with all his powers, directing the Administrator. Now we come to the Legislative Council with which this measure deals. We see that it has a tremendous area to administer. The Northern Territory is just as much a land of problems to-day as it has always been and whether the Legislative Council proposed by this bill will be sufficient to deal with all those problems is something about which I have extreme doubt.
The area of the Northern Territory is tremendous. Its actual size is 523,620 square miles, and what I am about to say raises another problem that does not confront the States. Of that area, 426,320 square miles is within the torrid zone and 997,300 square miles within the temperate zone. Anybody who has any knowledge at all of the tropics knows that that fact alone poses a problem, especially in the Northern Territory where there is a town the size of Darwin in which almost 50 per cent, of the white population of the Territory lives. The rainfall in some parts of the Northern Territory - at Darwin and along the coast - is approximately 59 inches a year. It peters out in the inland areas until it is as low as 5 inches a year. I mention these matters because they are things with which the Government of the
Northern Territory will have to contend, as will the Government of the Commonwealth.
In the Northern Territory, there are 18,000 white people and half-castes. In 1956, there were 15,211 full blooded aborigines. They are the responsibility of the Northern Territory Administration, and, up to this point, the administration has carried out that task very well. I have travelled through the Northern Territory on one or two occasions and, from my observations, would say that the administration is carrying out its job in a worthwhile manner, having regard to the finance that is provided for the Territory.
The revenue received from the Northern Territory is scarcely worth mentioning. During the year 1957-58 revenue amounted to £1,115,000 and the estimated expenditure from Consolidated Revenue to meet the needs of the Territory, according to this year’s Estimates, will be approximately £8,067,000 made up of £4,448,000 for general services, £ 1 70,000 for developmental work, £1,000 for benefits for aborigines, £7,000 for auditing of accounts, £45,000 for interest, £35,000 for the sinking fund and £3,361,000 for capital works and services. Because of the different conditions applying in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory I shall not make any comparison between the relevant revenue and expenditure involved. Obviously, it is quite impossible for the Commonwealth Government to allow the Northern Territory to govern itself completely, and for that reason the Territory remains a charge upon the taxpayers of Australia.
The Northern Territory has a public service of its own, but I am not sure whether the public servants are covered by the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Great difficulty is experienced in obtaining permanent staff for the Territory. Speaking from memory, about half the number of persons employed there are temporary hands.
The cattle industry is the main industry in the Northern Territory although the number of cattle totals only about 1,000,000. I read in the press only last week that very shortly about 80,000 cattle will be driven across the Barkly Tableland into Queensland where they will ‘be fattened and eventually slaughtered in the meat works along the coast. Speaking as a Queenslander, I have not the slightest objection to the Commonwealth Government spending money in the Northern Territory because we in Queensland regard the Territory as an extension of our State. We receive the benefit of the cattle raised in the Territory because the great majority are driven into Queensland where they are either sold or killed.
The mining industry is also operating in the Northern Territory. Last year an honorable senator on the Government side informed us of the advantages which would flow to the Territory and to the Commonwealth if, instead of exporting all the uranium ore mined in the Northern Territory, some were used for our own purposes. The honorable senator suggested the establishment of a nuclear power station in the Territory. I supported that view wholeheartedly. To my mind, the honorable senator who advanced that proposal has about three times as much commonsense as his colleagues in his advocacy of worthwhile developmental projects. I give him full marks for his proposal because I know the great boon that nuclear power would be to the mining industry and also, if properly reticulated, to the cattle industry in that it could be used to pump water for the stock.
Some honorable senators may wonder how the Commonwealth Government obtained possession of the Northern Territory. The story is quite simple. The Northern Territory at one time formed part of South Australia and the Commonwealth purchased it from that State for the sum of £3,931,000, in addition to the payment of £2,239,000 for the section of the railway line between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta. When one considers the amount of money involved, one is reminded of the character about whom Dickens wrote, the character who married a widow whom he thought to be wealthy. A week or two after the marriage he made a survey of the widow’s wealth and, because it did not come up to expectations, he said, “ I have thrown myself away for one milk jug, three spoons, three knives “, and some other household utensils. The Commonwealth Government did not obtain a bargain from South Australia. That State should be congratulated on having freed itself of the responsibility of the Northern Territory.
– There was also another condition about a railway line.
– Of course. There were several conditions. But has any benefit accrued to South Australia as a result of those conditions?
– The railway line is still in existence.
– Of course, but the main point is the amount of money that was paid. The railway line runs from Alice Springs to Adelaide but, apart from that fact, the geographical position of the Northern Territory cannot be changed, and the great majority of the cattle raised there are driven to the Queensland border where they are fattened and then sent to the meat works along the coast.
What is the future of the Northern Territory? Will the bill before us improve it? Will the bill give to the Territory the means to develop itself in such a way that it will be comparable with South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland? I do not think the bill will do that. In saying that, I am fully conscious of the importance of giving to all people the opportunity to ventilate their grievances in some form of parliament, be it only a legislative council. One outstanding fact that must be recognized to-day is that the people of the Northern Territory wish to govern themselves. If any errors are to be made, they prefer to make those errors themselves. They like to have their own way, and for that reason have experienced some difficulties over the years. I remember the occasion in 1918 when the people of Darwin gave the Administrator of the Northern Territory a one-way steamer ticket to Melbourne, and the government of the day did not see fit to return him to the Territory. On another occasion the Mayor of Darwin and certain other citizens decided that they should not pay income tax. Eventually they were imprisoned. I can remember the time when all persons in the Northern Territory were not required to pay income tax. We could say “Give the Northern Territory more power to develop its mining and other industries “, or “ Give it irrigation “. In regard to irrigation. I am not very hopeful at all, because I know the Territory’s watercourses. I think that the pastoral practices of the Northern Territory will continue for some time, even indefinitely. They are as out-of-date as those in any other part of the world. In this huge tract of country, cattleraising is carried on in a most primitive way. On some of the stations, there are up to 10,000 or 20,000 scrub bulls. If some honorable senators on the Government side do not know what a scrub bull is, 1 will tell them.
– A mickey.
– No. it is not a mickey. It is a full-grown bull over the age of four years that has never heard a musterers whip, never felt a stockman’s rope, a branding iron or a castrator’s knife. There are up to 10,000 or 20.000 scrub bulls on some of the properties. Perhaps an export market could be developed if they could be captured, slaughtered properly and exported to America as hamburger beef.
– They are good for hamburgers.
– I understand that a fair market exists in Melbourne for scrub bulls from the Northern Territory, and I am not surprised at that, because Melbourne people have been eating shark for about 50 years. I feel sure that they would relish scrub bulls. The things that I have mentioned constitute problems for the Government.
The bill proposes a legislative council consisting of ten nominated members and eight elected members. The council will have certain duties - I am aware of that - but will it fully represent the wishes of the people? That is the main thing. Will it be able to put into effect the things that are required for the development of the Northern Territory?
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are not happy about the present proposals and I propose to move amendments to the bill. I move -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the bill be referred to a select committee of the members of the Senate for investigation and report on constitutional reform of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory so as to provide a greater measure of selfdetermination by the people of the Territory”.
T also move an amendment to clause 8.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order! the honorable senator cannot move an amendment to a clause at this stage. He will have to do that during the committee stage.
– 1 bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy President. 1 shall move my second amendment at a later stage.
The Minister, in introducing the bill, referred to the investment of capital in the Northern Territory. 1 feel sure that the Territory does not offer a strong inducement for the investment of considerable capital. lt may offer an inducement, perhaps, for investment in the mining industry, depending on the nature of the mineral that is being mined and the demand for it both locally and overseas, but in the ordinary run of investment the Territory is not a place in which people seek to invest their capital. The industries are poorly developed. They need strengthening. Much more must be done for them in the future, particularly in view of the proximity of the Northern Territory to the south-east Asian countries. That is about all 1 have to say at the moment.
– What industries are there in the Northern Territory?
– There are some primary industries.
– Outside the primary industries?
– There are very few others. You know that there was an attempt to grow rice at Humpty Doo.
– That is a primary industry.
– Yes. Nevertheless, overseas capital was invested in it. The greatest achievement I think, was to create a flock of ducks.
– Geese, I think they were.
– Swan geese, I think. I would not say that the Northern Territory is without potential. It could be developed much more than it has been, but if you review the development of the Territory you will find that it has suffered in certain periods and that to-day its condition may be static, due to past experience.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I welcome this bill. I ask honorable senators to remember that it merely marks another step in the transition of the system of administration of the Territory from almost autocratic government to self-government. For the reasons which the Minister gave in his second-reading speech, and to which 1 will refer later, it is impossible at this stage to give the Territory full self-government.
I think we should look first at the present position. This Parliament and the Cabinet responsible to it have over the Territory the complete power that a sovereign Parliament has. We are not hampered there by provisions of the Constitution. So, for all intents and purposes, we can say that we are in much the same position as is the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Under our supervision is a territorial government that consists of an Administrator, who is in a position very much like that of the old colonial governors sent out from Great Britain to this country. He has his executive officers, who are, in the main, the heads of the departments in the Territory.
Then there is a legislative council which, at the present time, consists of seven official members, nominated by the Federal Government or the Administrator - it comes to the same thing really - and six elected members. The bill proposes, first of all, to enlarge the Legislative Council and to increase the number of elected members. There will be in the new council six nominated official members, three nominated non-official members and eight elected members. The Administrator, will be, as he is now, the President of the Council.
That, I think, is a very great reform. It does not give full self-government, but it does give increased power to the people who elect members and to the non-official members. Senator Benn suggested that they would necessarily be crusted tories. Terms such as that do not mean much today; they are old-fashioned political terms. I imagine that the Administrator would choose responsible citizens of the Territory in whom he had confidence. They would probably lean more to the official point of view than to what might be the radical view of some of the elected members, but they would be independent. I propose to show later from our colonial history that there have been members nominated by the governors of the day who have shown considerable independence.
Another very important reform to be made by the bill is the alteration of the provision for giving assent to or disallowing ordinances. As the Senate knows, the Legislative Council of the Territory, with the Administrator, can pass ordinances. Those ordinances can be disallowed, after being passed by the Council, either by the Administrator or the Governor-General. At the present time, we in this Parliament have the power to consider only ordinances that have been carried. This measure proposes what I think is a very great reform. First, the Administrator, instead of merely disallowing a proposed ordinance with which he does not agree, will be able to send it back to the Council for reconsideration, with recommendations of his own. The Governor-General may do the same.
But what, from our point of view, I think is an even more important reform is that proposed ordinances, whether allowed or disallowed, are to be laid on the table of the Senate, and that of another place, for members of the Parliament to consider. That will give us an opportunity to see what is being proposed in the Territory, and of making suggestions of our own. I think it is a fact, and of that the people of the Territory may well complain, that in general the Commonwealth Parliament has not paid sufficient attention to the Territory. I must acquit Senator Benn of any such neglect, because I know he was in the Territory. He and I were there at the same time and saw the same things, and I think both of us learned a great deal. I learned many interesting facts which I have not time to talk about just now. But I think it is a most important provision for the good government of the Territory for both houses of this Parliament to be able to scrutinize what is being done. Whilst I do not agree with Senator Benn’s suggestion that the particular matter mentioned in his amendment should be subjected to the scrutiny of a select committee, I think that the general administration, the general welfare, of the Territory is something at which the Senate might well look at some time or other.
A third great change that is proposed is the setting up of an Administrator’s Council. That council will be, I suggest, a cabinet or executive government in embryo. lt certainly will not be a cabinet; it will not have great power. But it will give to elected and nominated members of the Legislative Council an insight into what administration means, and possibly train the future Cabinet Ministers of the Territory. The Administrator’s Council is to consist of two official members of the Legislative Council, who will be the appointees of the Administrator and, who, 1 presume, will be heads of departments or at least high officials, and three non-official members. Of those non-official members, two must be elected members. That will bring a popular element into the executive side of government in the Territory - something which hitherto has been lacking. The Administrator’s Council may confer on either matters referred to it by the Administrator or other matters confided to it by the Legislative Council.
We do not look often enough at our own short history of Australia. Perhaps there is one very good reason for that - that is, that it has not yet been written. The little histories we have in the schools and the various reference books we can look at in the Library do not tell us very much about it. As I said, the history of Australia has yet to be written. But, by a great deal of reading, some of us have learned a bit about our history. We can get the elements, of course, in the short histories. I suppose all honorable senators know that in every colony self-government was achieved in stages. I shall refer only to the colony of New South Wales, because its history is longer and what happened there in the gradual growth of self-government was repeated or almost paralleled in the other colonies.
As honorable senators know, from 1788 to 1823 there were governors whom we might almost describe as being autocrats. They had to obey the laws of England, and in some matters in the later stages they had to apply first to the Judge Advocate and later to the Chief Justice to say what was the law of England. But in the main, those governors were their own judges. Governor King is supposed to have echoed an opinion attributed to Louis XIV. who said, “ Sir, I am the law.” I think that is fairly true of all the governors up to the time of Governor Macquarie. But in 1823, in the time of Governor Brisbane, a legislative council was established, which was nominated entirely by the Governor. It was a purely advisory body, but it was the first step towards self-government. Its powers were very limited. It could discuss only what the Governor put before it; it could not initiate legislation. Before any bill was put before it, the Chief Justice had to certify that it was not repugnant to the laws of England - the laws of England, mark you, not the laws of Great Britain.
Between that time and 1842, there was in New South Wales agitation for selfgovernment led by a very remarkable man, William Charles Wentworth, who was ably assisted by a Dr. Bland. We happen to have both names reproduced in this Parliament. In 1842, a partially elected legislative council was formed. It had 36 members, one-third of whom were nominated by the Governor and two-thirds of whom were elected by people having a property qualification, but one which I think admitted nearly every householder. It was a fairly generous franchise for those days. Every householder who paid £20 a year rent, or who had a freehold property worth £200, had a vote. That was a most remarkable body.
What 1 should like honorable senators to remember is that a small, fairly primitive community may produce quite remarkable men. I suppose this little colonial legislature was looked at as being quite a petty little thing by most of the people in London, yet its members included three men of very great stature. One of them was William Charles Wentworth to whom I have referred, who became the unacknowledged leader of the elected members, and who within the next twenty years or less brought about a complete change in government so that by 1 855 New South Wales had responsible government. Three or four of the other colonies achieved self-government at about the same time. i
Another most remarkable man was Dr. John Dunmore Lang, who happened to bs the first Presbyterian clergyman to arrive in New South Wales. The record relates that he had a brother here who had said that the morality of the colony was at a very low ebb. Dr. Lang decided that the only remedy for that low ebb of morality was to come out and introduce Presbyterianism to the heathens here. Lang had many more activities than that of the average clergyman. He was a prolific writer and a politician, and he entered this legislative council. For some three or four years he represented the district of Port Phillip. He attempted to persuade the council and the government at home to grant full selfgovernment to the Port Phillip district. Therefore, I think that all Victorians should hold him in some degree of honour. After having resigned his seat on that context, he was elected twice for the city of Sydney. He did very great service there in bringing about the cessation of transportation. Another great service that he did for this country was to bring out a great number of Scotsmen as migrants, and possibly it is because of his activities in that direction that I am troubling the Senate to-day.
There was a third man whose career in world affairs, and what we used to call Empire affairs, was even more remarkable. I recommend him to the attention of Senator Benn, who seems to have vanished from the chamber. That man was Robert Lowe, a brilliant young English barrister who arrived here and was nominated by Governor Gipps for the Legislative Council. He was one of six nominee members, but he was of such an independent spirit that within a few years he had resigned the seat he held as a nominee and had become an elected member. From then on until his departure from the colony he was one of the most earnest and vigorous supporters of full self-government.
We owe, I think, the coming of responsible government in 1855 more to Wentworth and Robert Lowe than to any other men. Robert Lowe went to Great Britain and became a member of the House of Commons. He was a Whig, and the Whigs ultimately coalesced with the Liberal Party. His career was long and was so varied and interesting that I could occupy the whole of my time in speaking about it. Ultimately, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then he was sent to the House of Lords as Lord Sherbrooke. There was a short period when he completely dominated the House of Commons, and he was really considered by everybody who has written of those times to be one of the most remarkable men there. I point out those things to show that a little, limited legislative council, in a primitive country, may produce very remarkable men who leave a great impression on after days. If this Legislative Council of the Northern Territory can produce men of that calibre it may make our State Parliaments and even the Commonwealth Parliament look to their laurels. 1 must meet some of the suggestions that Senator Benn has made and which he proposes to embody in an amendment. First, the honorable senator stated that what was proposed by this legislation was too little. One might suggest various other things, Mr. Deputy President. For instance, we might have given the people of the Northern Territory one or two more elected representatives; but 1 think that this measure is a carefully thought-out one to meet the needs of the Territory to-day. It is, as you know, a direct result of negotiations between our Government and the elected members of the Territory. It is not something that is being dictated to ‘them. Mr. Paul Hasluck, the Minister for Territories, has patiently many times journeyed to the Territory. He knows it as thoroughly as any man living here possibly could. I have discussed with him many aspects of life there and I have found . that he is completely well informed on anything that one cares to mention. I say that this measure has grown out of the expressed wishes of the elected representatives of the people in the Territory. It may not meet everything that every member wants; it may not meet everything that would be approved at a public meeting in Darwin or Alice Springs; but it is an honest attempt, not to impose on the people of the Territory our ideas of how they should be governed, but to take them on the high road towards selfgovernment.
Here, Sir, briefly, are the reasons why we cannot at this moment give full selfgovernment to the Territory. As Senator Benn has told you, and as you doubtless know, the Northern Territory is an enormous area of land, 600 miles by 1,000 miles. I have travelled over it and through it. most of the way by car, and with the exception of one journey that I had in South Australia, those were the roughest motor trips that I have ever had in my life. I recall many occasions which indicated the pioneer nature of the country.
It really is a country such as all our States were about 100 years ago. I remember that once we were in a little group, accompanied by a very efficient officer of the Lands Department, when we came near a place where an enormous number of cattle were being dipped. There was a cloud of dust something like that raised by Tarquin’s army when it was marching on Rome. When we were some 200 or 300 yards off, a drover came over to us. He was simply smothered in dust. You could not see his eyes because the dust was so thick on his eyelashes. The very hardworking officer of the Department of Lands said rather grimly - and we have all heard the line before - “ The drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know “. There you have the pioneer life, the life that you read about in the works of Lawson, Barton, Paterson and the rest of bush balladists, exactly as it used to be. That is the life of the great stations. 1 can quite appreciate what Senator Benn said, about many of those stations, that probably a good cattleman would find much fault with them. I know as much about cattle as the ordinary civilian who looks at cattle as he goes about the country, but I discovered one curious fact about the cattle in the Northern Territory. I saw cows of every size and shape, but whenever I asked what breed they were I received the same answer. I discovered that a cow may have short horns or long horns, curved horns or straight horns, curly horns or no horns at all, but is still officially a Shorthorn. One thing struck me about the whole cattle industry of the Northern Territory. I do not know how this is to be brought about, but I think that more effective breeding of cattle must be undertaken if the industry is to be a real success. I also say that the government of the Northern Territory, when we were there, was doing all that it could to assist the industry. Among the many courteous and efficient officers whom I met there, none was more efficient, so far as I could see, than the man then in charge of animal husbandry.
The Northern Territory has a very small population for its size and in comparison with the States. There are, I think, 20,000 white people there, which means that there are only about 8,000 electors. Obviously,
Mr. Deputy President, you could not give complete self-government, unless you were to have a little dependency outside the Commonweath, to such an area. Another important consideration is that there are 16,000 aborigines in the Territory. One of the facts which I think history has demonstrated is that where you have what is called a coloured population and a white population with superior power, the distant power is generally more benevolent, more solicitous of the welfare of the natives, than are the white people on the spot. 1 am not saying anything about the opinions of the people of the Northern Territory, but we here have a responsibility to those 16,000 aborigines, and it would be inconceivable that we should give them completely over to the control of the people of another race who happen to be living there. We must have the final say as to their welfare, even if we have to do things which are commonly considered uneconomic. That is a necessity in the world to-day.
The record of some European people in the past towards the aborigines of Australia has not been a good one. To-day, 1 think we are improving it. Undoubtedly, the Department of Territories has always taken a stand for the welfare of the aborigines. A good deal of the money we spend there is spent to see that their rights are safeguarded. Perhaps we do not always do it in the right way. but the intention is right. I do not think that full self-government can be given until there is a larger white population and the various problems affecting the two races are settled.
As Senator Benn has mentioned, the economy is still fairly simple. There is the grazing industry, metals, and some few little experiments in agriculture which, I hope, will succeed in the future. But so far, they have borne no great fruit. Money to be expended in the Territory is voted here. For that we are responsible. The expenditure is in respect of not only the services of the Territory but also the Air Force and civil aviation and this expenditure, together with other expenditure, amounts to something like £12,000,000 a year. In addition, there has been some private investment; and there is a great necessity for much more private investment. So there is the problem. This vast area will, we hope, become some day, with contiguous areas to the east and to the west, a State. But that time is far ahead; it is not, I hope, too far ahead, but it is ahead
Quite recently, the United States admitted to the union the great territory of Alaska which has belonged to the United States since Secretary of State Seward bought it in 1866. It was a great joke at the time. People have laughed at a far-sighted act, but that was one of the most far-sighted acts in the whole American history. Secretary of State Seward did it more or less alone. Perhaps he had the advice of some honest official, but the move came through his department. Alaska had belonged to Russia, and if it had continued to belong to Russia it would be a great aggravatio to-day in the international sphere. But Seward bought it and the people called it Seward’s ice box. It was considered to be useless until the discovery of the Klondike goldfields about 1896. It has become a more and more important centre, and now it is admited to full state-hood although it is one of the two or three States with the smallest population.
This will happen to the Territory, but for the moment we have to regard the measures that have been outlined as being in relation to provisional and transitional, not full selfgovernment, but something that will give the inhabitants of the Territory the opportunity of learning self-government.
When the League of Nations was founded after the first world war, somebody said, contemptuously, “ It is only half a league “. Bernard Shaw replied “ Yes, only half a league, but half a league, half a league onward “. However critical we are of this bill, however, that is the way in which we must look at it. It is a great step forward for our fellow citizens of the Northern Territory, and we hope that they will do what the State of New South Wales did when it had a limited measure of self government and produce men of calibre who, within a few years, we shall be able to welcome here as the representatives of a new State.
– When so much of our time in this chamber is spent on legislation affecting the more thickly-populated and better-developed parts of Australia, it is refreshing to be given an opportunity to deal with one of those areas which are under-developed and under-populated. We in this country have been inclined to take the present world situation and the present Pacific situation for granted. Many of us think that the position in our north is certain to be the same in 15, 20, or 25 years’ time as it is to-day. We think that there is unlimited time in which to develop those areas in a way which will cause us the least possible inconvenience. My feeling is that if you look at the map of the world and you compare the population of our north with the population of some of the countries close to our shores, the only conclusion you can come to is that time is very short. In the world in 20 years’ time, unless we can show that we are populating and developing the Northern Territory, stronger forces are likely to brush us aside and say that there are other people who are prepared to do the job and assert their rights to the territory.
Therefore, I am glad that the Government is showing an interest in the affairs of the Northern Territory. I was very pleased when the Government made a sum available to do some developmental work in the northern areas of Western Australia, and I would like the Government to develop a very strong bias in the direction of making developmental money available in the future for the north of Western Australia, for the Northern Territory, and also for North Queensland. Those are the areas which are at our front door and we cannot afford the risk of leaving them underpopulated and under-developed.
In drafting this bill the Government has had a difficult problem. Government in respect of the Northern Territory, has had a very chequered career. There have been troubles, disputes, and dissatisfaction all along the line. In this bill the Government has had to try to make the best arrangement it possibly could, bearing in mind the necessity for development, the necessity for population, and the necessity to provide some scope for representation of the people in that area. Naturally, it is not an easy problem to decide some form of representation or participation in the government for an area which is vast and yet contains a white population of about 20,000 people, 8,000 of whom are entitled to vote, and many of whom are employees of the Government, lt is easy to consider that area and those people and their problems from thousands of miles away, but those who are there know that it is not easy to decide what is best to be done.
The Government has made an ‘ attempt in this bill to try to reconcile different points of view. It is possible that one or two amendments may be designed to improve what has been put forward, but taking it by and large I do not think that the Government could have done much else than what is doing as regards the broad principles in this bill. Where you have only 8,000 white people in a vast area, you must obviously say that some time needs to be taken before self-government can be conceded to them. You have to realize that the bulk of the finance which is being spent in that area comes from outside - from the Commonwealth Government - and not from the people of the area themselves. If you propose to ask overseas capital to take an interest in the development of the area - and this seems to me to be the case - you need to consider the one question that the owners of overseas capital ask, and that is whether there is likely to be a form of government or control in the area in which they can have confidence. I think, therefore, that there is everything to be said for the Commonwealth retaining an overriding control while conceding to the people there as much representation as is possible. It is necessary to have certain expert representatives of government departments on the proposed council. In order to develop such an area there must be a certain amount of guidance by experts in mining, native affairs, works, administration, health and civil administration. One would probably have difficulty in obtaining such experts from any group of 8,000 people, drawn from any State. They are such a small group that there is every reason to support the inclusion in the council of people of experience and knowledge. Therefore the form of council which is envisaged is probably the form that any government looking at the problem sensibly would have chosen.
There is to be an increase in the number of elected members, and I think that that is a good thing. I know that some people have argued that that increase should not occur because the number of people entitled to vote in certain of these small centres is so limited. However, a decision has been made to increase the number of elected members - perhaps with the intention of allaying some of the dissatisfaction among people in the area. Personally, I believe that the decision to increase the number of elected members can be very well justified.
Although the elected representatives are not given a great deal of power on this council - something which, in the eyes of many people, will be regarded as ground for objection - I am glad to see that an attempt has been made to make the control of the administration less rigid, and to provide at least some scope for elected representatives to press their point of view. We all have heard of the dissatisfaction that exists regarding some of the Canberra vetoes, for example in such matters as S.P. betting. Some of us have wondered whether it has been necessary to impose, from Canberra, a ban in regard to a matter which many people think could well be left to those concerned.
The Government has made an attempt to meet some of the objections, but obviously it is not prepared to go as far as quite a few people in the Territory would have wished. I suppose that, in the circumstances existing in the Territory, most of us can appreciate the need for caution. Any one dealing with a situation such as this should proceed very cautiously indeed. The big need of the Territory, as I said earlier, is development - so that people will be attracted to it. There have, of course, been some disappointments in this direction. We have heard of overseas capital coming in, or promising to come in, for the agricultural development of large areas. If what one hears is true one such venture has not been very successful, and some of the cost of the experiment - in the form of expenditure on roads - is to be left at the door of the Commonwealth Government. This, as well as what is happening in the Esperance Bay area of Western Australia, should serve as a warning to us that we should not be too quick to accept the offers of some of these overseas syndicates which are allegedly prepared to expend large amounts of capital upon development. Experience seems to indicate that while they are prepared to take all the profit they are also prepared to leave the risks very largely at our own door.
I am sorry that the mining industry is not going as well as many of us had hoped. If what I am told is true, metal is not being extracted at Rum Jungle at the moment and activity there is devoted mainly to the treatment of ore that has already been extracted. Apparently some of the rosy forecasts there are not being realized.
The meat industry appears very promising. There are prospects of sales to easier:-. countries and these could be very profitable indeed. As I said earlier, there is tremendous scope for development, but the area lacks capital and population. Perhaps one can be excused, after looking at the new council, for having doubts as to whether it will be a very dynamic body, or will be likely to generate much drive. That remains to be seen. I hope that we shall not be satisfied, in the manner of previous parliaments, to give slight consideration to bills such as this and then forget about the Territory altogether. We are no longer in a position to forget about it. The old days, when the Northern Territory was a matter of interest for Australians only, have gone. To-day, the area is an object of considerable interest to people beyond our shores. I conclude by once more expressing the wish that, if our Government has money available for development, it will display considerable bias towards spending it wisely in the Northern Territory, in the north-west of Western Australia and in northern Queensland.
– I approach this bill in the spirit that it is but one more step in a continuing process of change for the good government of the Northern Territory, and the improvement of the Territory’s constitutional status. I know that some honorable senators would like to see the bill go further than it does towards achieving constitutional reform, or progress, if I may so term it, while others may think that it goes too far in that direction. As I see it, we must decide how we can obtain a fair balance between the two views.
We know that many people in the Territory are asking - one might almost say clamouring - for constitutional reform.
Those reforms, if viewed in the cold light of day, have the hallmark of ethical aspirations. I hope that they will be granted at some time in the near future, but we must try to obtain a balance between such views and the obligations which rest upon this Parliament. We have a certain responsibility to the people to see that good government is provided for the Northern Territory. This bill is a sound attempt to strike a happy medium between the views of those who are anxious to push on with all speed towards constitutional reform, regardless of cost, and our own responsibility in this matter. That responsibility is to see that the Territory is well governed. Until the Territory achieves responsible government this Parliament cannot, and should not, abandon its responsibility. Senator McManus has emphasized its important defence value to Australia. I do not propose to develop that point, nor do I propose to deal with the expansion of industries in the Northern Territory. The point we have to consider is how the residents of the Northern Territory can be given better representation in their Legislative Council, how we can assist the people of the Northern Territory to be governed in a better manner than hitherto.
In 1947, a Labour government created the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory as a subordinate legislature. No doubt there were two sound reasons for doing so - the small population in the Northern Territory at that time and the inadequate revenue available from that area. Those two factors would militate against the inauguration of responsible government there. Have population and revenue increased sufficiently in the past eleven years to warrant the granting of complete self-government to the people of the Northern Territory? Are the members of the Legislative Council convinced that the situation now is such that they can manage the affairs of the Northern Territory without some financial aid from the Commonwealth Parliament?
Having those two things in view, the bill attempts to give added strength to the Legislative Council, and it is a step forward to the ultimate goal of selfgovernment. The members of the delegation from the Northern Territory who met the government in July last year in Canberra might not have obtained all they sought, but at least their efforts were not without results. When considering this matter, we must bear in mind the fact that in the Northern Territory there are only about 8,000 people enrolled as electors, and one of the results achieved by the delegation to which I have referred is to be seen in this bill in that the number of elected representatives is to be increased to eight. Hitherto, there were only six elected representatives in the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. In addition to eight elected members, there are to be three nominated non-official members, together with six official members and the Administrator. In all, there will be a membership of seventeen and an Administrator.
It will now be necessary for the Administrator to have support from the floor of the Legislative Council before he can have .any legislation passed. And that is a step forward! It is something entirely different from the procedure of the past. I have said that there are only about 8,000 electors in the Northern Territory and, considering the way in which that population is distributed in relation to the size of the Northern Territory, I should say that eight would be about the limit to the number of elected representatives there should be if we are to expect good results from an election. I should say that no matter how the electorates are distributed, it is impossible to give each electorate even what approximates a similar number of electors. If that were done, the people of Darwin would hold all the strength in the Legislative Council, and I am sure that those people would not wish to hold that power over the whole of the Territory. If that position did obtain, it could be truly said that control had been shifted from Canberra to Darwin.
The appointment of three nominated non-official members for three years should add strength to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory.
– Will it not mean that there will still be nine government representatives on it as against eight elected members?
– I do not mind what system of arithmetic Senator Kennelly adopts. I am not at all concerned with that. There are to be eight elected representatives. There are also to be six official representatives and three nominated nonofficial members who will be appointed for three years.
– Private individuals.
– They will be three private individuals, three men wisely chosen for their honesty, independence, integrity and enthusiasm. Surely Senator Kennelly does nol deny that those favorable attributes are possessed by people other than members of the Labour Party? Surely in the Northern Territory we have three men of independence and backbone who can be nominated! Such men certainly must be an asset to the Legislative Council and of great help in achieving sound, hones; government.
– Let us hope it is as good as you think it will be.
– Frankly, I thought the honorable senator had a good opinion of his fellow man, that he believed in the honesty of his fellow-worker. Surely he is not going to back out now? I ask him not to disappoint me. 1 repeat that the Legislative Council must surely be strengthened by the provisions of this bill. Under them we will have a Legislative Council more widely representative of the people of the Northern Territory. With the appointment of these three additional members, community of interests can be preserved, thus ending the previous official majority in the Council. I join with Senator Kennelly in that respect because I believe that the appointment of these three non-official members will end the official majority in the Council. Hitherto, in my opinion, hanging over the deliberations of this Council, like the sword of Damocles, has been uncertainty about assent to, and disallowance and nondisallowance of ordinances of the Legislative Council. This bill proposes to change present procedure. Even the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in another place has said that the proposals will be of benefit to the Northern Territory. It will give the Legislative Council a greater number of members to carry out its responsibilities to the Territory. Under the existing law, bills may be rejected by the Administrator or the Governor-General. This bill will give to the Legislative Council for the Northern
Territory the right to reconsider legislation. This is one of the pleasing features of the measure, and something to which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) referred as an advance for the good of the Territory. At present, when the Administrator or the Governor-General withholds assent from an ordinance, that is the end of the matter. This bill proposes that, instead of withholding assent, either the Administrator or the Governor-General may return an ordinance to the Legislative Council with suggested amendments. This provision is broadly similar to section 58 of the Constitution in its application to laws passed by this Parliament. In addition, the Governor-General, instead of disallowing an ordinance, may return it to the Legislative Council with suggested amendments.
The bill also provides that, as well as ordinances which have received assent, those ordinances which have been disallowed or from which assent has been withheld shall be tabled in this Parliament. As Senator McCallum has stated, that provision will strengthen the system of government and enable the Parliament to maintain a scrutiny, not only over those ordinances which have become law, but also over those ordinances which, to use a popular term, have been vetoed. The latter, when being tabled in this Parliament, will carry a statement of the reasons why they have been disallowed or why assent has been withheld. Provision is made in the measure for the Governor-General to disallow part of an ordinance. The existing system is that the whole ordinance must be disallowed if objection is taken to any part of it. The proposal is a step forward in the right direction, and something for which the honorable member for the Northern Territory has praised the Government.
I shall now refer briefly to the Administrator’s Council, a body which will advise the Administrator in the performance of executive acts. The council will consist of the Administrator, two official members of the Legislative Council and three other members of the Legislative Council - not officials - two of whom must be elected members. All honorable senators know that the Administrator’s Council will not constitute a full executive council in the strict meaning of the term, but a pleasing feature of the proposed set-up is that the elected members of the council will have the opportunity to associate themselves closely with the administration of the Territory. The council will not have any functions in preparing legislation, nor will it approve or disapprove of any bill before it is introduced into the Legislative Council itself. Therefore, the Legislative Council will be able to form its own opinion on the facts presented to it. That is a wise provision.
We all shall watch the newly constructed Legislative Council at work. Its duty will be to blend local experience and wisdom with official responsibility. The members of the Council, with a knowledge of local conditions and interests, surely will be able to forward the welfare of the Territory. This bill is a real attempt by the Government to understand the problems of the Territory and to allow its citizens to exercise as great an influence as possible in their own affairs and in the development of that portion of Australia.
The efforts of the people in the Northern Territory have resulted in the production of minerals worth over £4,000,000 in a year, excluding the value of uranium, and the production of beef to the value of over £3,000,000 annually. Such results inspire confidence in the Territory’s future expansion. With the continued development of the Northern Territory, together with which will go an increased population, I trust that before very long new measures similar to the one we are now discussing will be placed before us, which will increase the number of elected members of the Legislative Council, and outline new steps towards constitutional advancement so that, in the very near future, the Northern Territory will have complete self-government. I support the bill.
.- The measure before the Senate deals with various amendments to the set-up of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. It has been said that the bill is a step in the transitional stage towards selfgovernment for the Territory. Senator McCallum described it as one of the steps from autocratic government to selfgovernment. I agree with that description of the measure. However, when the time comes for the major final step to be taken, no doubt controversy will arise as to whether those responsible for the drafting of the relevant legislation have displayed that degree of vision so necessary for its successful implementation. An honorable member in another place, when speaking to this measure, said that the Government was caught up in the toils of expediency, departmental pride and prejudice. Unfortunately, this legislation does nothing to break the influence of certain departmental officers which is evident, not only in the Northern Territory, but also throughout the Commonwealth. That influence has been obvious to me on the occasions when I have visited Darwin and other parts of the Territory as a member of the ‘Public Works Committee.
The setting-up of the Legislative Council after the Second World War was a very important step towards self-government for the Territory, but unfortunately the Council did not have the confidence of the residents. After all, government, as its first purpose and motive, should consider the governed. At no time has the Commonwealth Government in Canberra fully appreciated the frustration felt by the people of the Territory as a result of the remote control exercised from Canberra through a majority of nominated members in the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. This has been a source of great discontent, and the legislation we have before us is the outcome of a very determined move by the elected members of the Legislative Council last year. They actually resigned in a body from the Council as a protest against what they considered to be the inequity and futility of a Council purporting to carry out democratic processes, but, in effect, completely dominated by nominated members or by the remote control of Canberra. This measure goes a little way, but, in my opinion, not far enough in the direction of the self-government which the governed - the human beings, the men and women of the Territory - desire.
A very important matter that has been discussed during the course of this debate is the representation of the Territory in the Federal Parliament itself. A concession similar to the present one was made to the Territory after the first world war. The people of the Northern Territory at that time expressed their desire for such representation and it was conceded that they should have a representative in this Parliament, with the qualification that his voting powers be restricted to matters which directly concerned the Territory. This Parliament should have as one of its objectives a policy of treating all residents of the Commonwealth of Australia in the same way, whether they live in the Northern Territory, in the States or in Macquarie Island, irrespective of whether they came from countries overseas before they became Australian citizens. The tendency has been for the Commonwealth Government to isolate the Northern Territory and its people from the great concept of the Commonwealth of Australia. The measure before us does nothing at all to give the member for the Northern Territory any really wider authority in the Federal Parliament. It will perpetuate the discontent that existed before this legislation was brought forward.
The Government tells us that the three non-official nominated members could vote with the elected members, if they so wished, or that they could vote with the Administration, if they wished. Government senators, speaking on this matter, have said that the Northern Territory is not ready for self-government. That is their argument. Therefore, this bill is in the nature of a compromise. But in adopting that attitude, Government senators are admitting that the nominated non-official members will be expected to vote along the lines of Government policy. It was this sort of thing that caused the serious situation last year when widespread discontent was manifested amongst the residents of the Northern Territory and amongst the elected members of the Legislative Council, to the extent that the elected members of the Council were prepared to resign. The situation will not be altered very much by this legislation.
I should like to say a few words about the argument that the member for the Northern Territory represents only 8,000 people and, therefore, that it would be quite wrong to make it possible for a member representing only 8,000 people to decide the fate of a government. Any one who uses his imagination to the extent that he can convert that fantasy into reality is really going to the limit. The possibility that the balance of power in this Parliament would ever depend on one member for the Northern Territory is so remote that to use that argument is to evade the issue altogether and to avoid the responsibility of this Parliament to grant to the people of the Northern Territory the fundamental democratic right to have representation, with full voting powers, in the Commonwealth Parliament.
The people of the Northern Territory are as much members of the Commonwealth of Australia as are the people of Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland or any other State. We must not forget that. The tendency has been - and it is continued in this legislation - to isolate the people of the Northern Territory. The present problem cannot be solved in that way. The residents of the Territory have a permanent feeling of frustration because the Commonwealth Government exercises control over so many of their activities. Many people go to the Territory to see what it is like, but when they find an iron curtain of resistance in many places, they do not see much future for themselves there, so they go back to the more comfortable climate of the South.
In the course of his remarks, Senator McCallum mentioned that he had seen examples of the old pioneering spirit in the Northern Territory. I agree that the pioneering spirit does exist there. Some of the types of hard-working men who were so prevalent in the pioneering days in the more temperate parts of Australia are still to be found up there, doing jobs similar to those that were done in earlier days, but the conditions under which those men work to-day, although they have been improved considerably, are still very primitive. The size of the problems that they have to face is enormous.
The Northern Territory has been dogged by circumstances that have kept it back. It has been claimed that the granting of concessions to the organization known as Vesteys developed the Northern Territory, but when we review the history of the Territory over a period of 30 or 40 years, we must conclude that Vesteys, although granted the best concessions that any company has been granted in modern times, did very little to merit those concessions. They have built homesteads to house their staff but, generally speaking, the areas between the waters are still expansive and still call for a tremendous amount of capital for development.
In most other parts of Australia, the original concessions that were given to the cattle men brought about the fencing of areas. In many cases, those areas were subdivided and waters were put down at strategic positions so that the cattle could come in to water and then graze out at a reasonable distance from the watering places. The next stage, of course, was the further subdivision of those huge cattle properties by sheep men and the further provision of watering places. The cattle men would go further out and so the process would continue. Then, in many cases, farmers who were prepared to clear the land, plough it and improve the pastures came in; and the sheep men went further out into the cattle country.
That has not happened in the Northern Territory. Vesteys have more or less exploited and flogged the Northern Territory for all it has been worth. Although, I understand, the value of cattle exports from the Northern Territory is in the vicinity of £3,000,000 per annum, that in itself is not a sufficiently satisfactory result from the giving of very valuable concessions to Vesteys over such a long period of years. A review of their concessions has been made only within the last few years, but all that has happened has been that Vesteys, after their long experience and their strategy in placing their homesteads, watering places and fences on the best country, have been able to relinquish the land to the development of which they should have applied themselves with the profits that they have made over the years. That land has reverted to the Crown and, in accordance with the recently adopted policy of the Federal Government, will be made available to new settlers.
The new settler is getting away to a bad start. He is getting the poorer land. He is not in the same position as the ordinary secondary settler in other parts of the Commonwealth where certain improvements and facilities already exist. Rather is the new settler in the Territory obliged to start off from scratch. I know of people who have gone into the question of settling in the Northern Territory but who have found that, unless they had command of capital well in excess of £50,000 and up to £80,000, it would be not worth their while going up there to take up this land that has been relinquished by Vesteys. Therefore, we are more or less at a dead end in the encouragement of new settlement up there.
There has been much discussion - possibly it is based on truth - to the effect that the meatworks at Darwin was erected for a motive different from that which was accepted by people throughout the rest of Australia. I understand that Vesteys had big interests in South America where they were able to produce young, sappy beasts that had an early age of maturity, and that they were supplying the British market with those nice, well-developed yearlings or even twoyearold steers. In the field of big enterprise, that is good business. But competition from the north of Australia, where Vesteys had these concessions, was successfully prevented. They said, “ We are in the business to help Australia. We will continue with the raising and killing of cattle there.” But for all these years the cattle industry in the Northern Territory has languished. The revenue from the cattle industry, instead of being only £3,000,000 a year, could easily have been £30.000.000 or £50,000,000.
Another matter that is of great interest to the Northern Territory is the control of the quality of cattle. Senator Benn said earlier that scrub bulls were a great problem. That is quite true. Until we can reach the stage where greater control can be exercised over the breeding of our cattle, we will have to take a secondary place on the world’s market and our beef will have a bad reputation. There is no reason why Australia cannot produce for the world’s markets beef that is of a quality equal to the quality of beef anywhere else in the world.
Senator McCallum said that of the cattle he saw in the Territory some had curly horns, some had down horns, some had long horns and some had no horns at all, but that they were all described as being shorthorns. That is true. That is the result partly of inbreeding and partly of crossbreeding with scrub bulls. In addition, the incidence of tick in the Northern Territory is great. The resultant disease of redwater is a very great scourge up there, and has often been responsible for the decimation of the cattle herds. lt was only comparatively recently, through the efforts of private enterprise, that a certain kind of beast was imported into Australia in an effort to counter the incidence of cattle tick. I refer to the Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle, which is the result, I understand, of crossbreeding Zebu with Durham or shorthorn beasts. Those cattle are tick-resistant and are early maturers. They can thrive under tough, tropical conditions. But instead of Santa Gertrudis cattle being introduced as part of a national policy to make certain, not only that scrub bulls are hunted and shot or used for hamburgers in Melbourne-
– Why Melbourne?
– That is where they eat most hamburgers. They are a weird mob down there. There is a tremendous market for hamburger beef. I ‘believe the scrub bull has a particular flavour. I do not know how often I eat that meat, but I would not take it by choice. There should be a national policy to get rid of these scrub bulls from our herds in the Territory. Instructions should be issued to the holders of concessions in the Territory to eliminate scrub bulls. It should also be part of the national policy to make available to people in the Northern Territory a ready and constant supply of the tick-resistant, early maturing Santa Gertrudis cattle.
Some years ago, there were various types of diseases amongst the milking herds of Tasmania. There was a certain degree of tuberculosis, brucillosis or contagious abortion, and two or three other diseases that were difficult to eradicate. The Tasmanian Government decided that it would kill off the infected herds and replace them with herds under State subsidy, so that the farmers would not lose through having infected beasts destroyed. The Tasmanian Government also instituted a scheme to subsidize the purchase of bulls, such as Jersey bulls and others of good quality and high-producing strains, to improve the dairy herds. As a consequence, the average production of milk in Tasmania has increased tremendously.
I believe that similar steps should be taken in the Northern Territory and that new types of cattle should be introduced there as they become available. Inci dentally, I noticed only recently that people who were aware of the potential benefits to be gained through improving their herds were paying as much as 3,500 guineas for bulls. That surely indicates the importance of the evolution of new strains of cattle because of the tremendous value that they may be to the cattle industry of Australia. The point that I am making, Mr. President, is that the development of the cattle industry in the Northern Territory has been far too haphazard. With due respect to the efforts of the Vestey organization, I believe that they did not go far enough and were not good enough. The selected land that is suitable for cattle should be producing more cattle of a higher quality. If that were so, the industry would be able to employ more people.
Another matter about which I wish to speak is the mineral resources of the Northern Territory. I understand that the combination of companies which has the uranium concessions at Mary Kathleen really has an El Dorado. Not only is the percentage of uranium’ that may be extracted higher there than it is in any other deposit in the Commonwealth, but in addition, the interlocking companies have slowed down the tempo of development of other uranium deposits in the Northern Territory. We should not be so shortsighted as to think that the world will not require uranium in the future for the generation of atomic energy by the power stations which are increasing in number throughout the world. In this connexion, I am speaking of atomic power for peaceful purposes. 1 do not suppose that any man has a greater horror and hatred in his heart for the use of atomic power for war purposes than I have. Mankind will ultimately have to decide the direction in which this newfound power is to be diverted. 1 think that the Commonwealth Government is remiss in not making certain that the uranium deposits of the Northern Territory, as they are discovered, are developed, because their development would mean the employment of labour. In consequence, the population of the Territory would increase, with the result that the march towards selfgovernment would be rapidly accelerated. In addition, we would improve our claim to hold that Territory in the face of vastly over-populated countries to our north.
I feel that the people of the Northern Territory are not being dealt with satisfactorily by this legislation. It is time that the elected members of the Legislative Council became the majority. There are in the Territory responsible people with the interests of the area at heart, who could be elected to the Council. Although this legislation will relieve the position to a certain extent, the Government is continuing the cause of the discontent that brought the people of the Territory to the point of desperation last year. That discontent precipitated this legislation, but, as always, the Government has been too conservative. Unfortunately, it has too much regard for expediency. Great governments and great statesmen can see past the needs of expediency and can appreciate the main issues. I suggest that the main issue, so far as the Northern Territory is concerned, is the need for people with a sense of urgency to get on with the job of developing the Territory, so that the citizens of that remote part of Australia will feel that they are becoming more and more a part of this great Commonwealth. They must be given the chance to prove that they are as good as the people of any other part of Australia and equally entitled to govern their own affairs.
– I rise to support the bill. Having listened with great interest to Senator O’Byrne, my comment is that, in covering the wide field of the cattle industry, he seemed to deal with the bull more than the bill. Nevertheless, I compliment him on making quite an interesting speech. It showed that he has moved about Australia. I suggest to him, however, that his trenchant criticism of some of the cattle interests in the Northern Territory was intemperate. He excluded criticism of a factor which I consider bedevilled the development of the Territory for many years. I refer to the red unionists whose actions virtually closed down quite a number of meat-killing establishments, including a huge one in Darwin, after only a year or two of operations. The slow turn-round of ships in the Northern Territory for many years held back the development of the Territory as much as anything else. However, Sir, I desire to speak about the bill.
As a South Australia, I am particularly interested in this matter, because it should be remembered that, from 1863 to 1911, the provincial government of South Australia, and later the State Government of South Australia, took on the enormous job of developing the Northern Territory. When one considers the lack of transport and the enormous distances that had to be travelled by sea, by sailing ship, round to Palmerston, which was then the capital of the Territory, I think it can be said that the pioneer legislators of South Australia did a very good job in all the circumstances. The Northern Territory is a vast territory of 500,000 square miles. With South Australia, it has a rail link, an air link, and an education link, because South Australia provides education for the Territory under an arrangement with the Commonwealth. There is also a telegraph link with South Australia which has been of importance since the 1870’s. So, as a South Australian senator, I feel that this bill is of great significance in the development of this area that was the responsibility of our fathers and grandfathers in South Australia, and now is the responsibility of the Commonwealth. In 1947 the then Labour Government, I thought, did an excellent job, so soon after the devastation had been cleared up, in providing for a Legislative Council. At that time, of course, the government of the day decided that this Legislative Council should be composed of seven official members and six elected members, with the Administrator in the chair. The present Government, in the light of the development that has taken place in the Territory, has adopted pretty much the framework of the legislation introduced by the previous government, but now there will be the Administrator - in the chair - six official members, eight elected members, and three independent souls, if I may call them that, appointed by the Administrator.
In Papua and New Guinea the three appointed members have brought great distinction to the Legislative Council in that area. It is my hope that these three free-thinkers, as one may call them, being appointees, neither elected nor official members, will bring great distinction to the Legislative Council. I have been there. I have seen the buildings and the staff, and I feel that there will be the framework within which this new Council can successfully operate. At the present time the Administrator must assent to ordinances or laws that are passed by the Council. However, if he decides not to assent, he may definitely throw the ordinance out, or he may reserve the law for the GovernorGeneral’s assent. The Governor-General may disallow the ordinance within six months. All ordinances relating to Crown lands and aborigines must come before the Governor-General for his approval. Money votes may be proposed only by the Administrator. So you can see that there is a fairly tight control at the present time on the legislative functions of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory.
About four years ago, Sir, I made a fairly thorough tour of the Territory. I went from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek and to Darwin, and then out on to the uranium fields in the South Alligator area. I met a number of people engaged in pastoral pursuits, mining and administration, and in the cultural area in Darwin I met the lawyers, the teachers and men of that calibre, as well as municipalists
I think I can list in six categories the main complaints about administration matters in the Northern Territory, and then I wish to discuss why I think this legislation is a step in the right direction in dealing with those complaints. The first complaint I heard wherever I went was that the members of the Federal Parliament were not interested in what was going on in the Northern Territory. I got that complaint on the first crisp morning in winter in Alice Springs, and wherever I went that was the complaint. I think that this bill definitely brings Northern Territory affairs closer to this Parliament because under it disallowance- by either the Administrator or the Governor-General must be reported to this Parliament and! so this vetoing, to use a common expression’, must come before the- Parliament for consideration. I think this legislation will bring us as. legislators all much.: closer to the Northern Territory than we have ever been before.
The next complaint 1 received when I was going through, the Northern Territory was about the delays in decisions from Canberra. Well, I think that that is a very real complaint indeed. At a later stage in my speech, when I refer to some of my experiences as a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of this Senate, I will be able to illustrate from those experiences that complaints about delays by the civil servants in Canberra relative to the Northern Territory are well founded.
There was a complaint, of course, of the lack of knowledge of those of us in Canberra about Territory matters. Then amongst the people themselves 1 found further complaints. The people of Alice Springs complained most bitterly of the great momentum of spending of government money that was going on in Darwin, and the people of Darwin complained about their climate compared with the climate of Alice Springs. So there was that rivalry between the two largest centres of population. The pastoralists of South Australia, in the northern part of the area which I represent, complained about the special tax concessions that are allowed to people in the Northern Territory who are carrying on pastoral work and the people in the Northern Territory complained about the high ‘cost of freight on things that they require.
There are some matters that have to be sorted out and things that have to be explained to these splendid people, by and large, who are living in the Northern Territory. I say that the closer the representatives of these people are to them and the greater the power that their legislators have in getting decisions agreed upon here in Canberra, and in getting action taken, the better it is for those people. I think that this legislation brings administration closer to the people than did the old legislation. I will pay the previous government the compliment of saying that the 1947 legislation brought the people of the Territory closer than they had ever been before to the Administration and I hope, with Senator McCallum and Senator O’Byrne, that as time goes on further legislative power will be centred in the Northern Territory.
I do want to say, however, that this Senate has a quite important power with regard to the Northern Territory, as also has the House of Representatives, because it should be remembered that all ordinances, and regulations made in relation to the Northern Territory lie on the table of this Senate and there is a committee appointed under our Standing Orders - the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances - which, by reason of Standing Order No. 36a, has important powers and duties relating to the Northern Territory regulations and ordinances. Paragraph (4.) of that Standing Order provides -
All Regulations and Ordinances laid on the Table of the Senate shall stand referred to such Committee for consideration and, if necessary, report thereon. Any action necessary, arising from a report of the Committee, shall be taken in the Senate on motion after notice.
Over the years it has been my privilege to sit on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and consider regulations and ordinances relating to the Northern Territory. In the circumstances, I think it my duty to make certain observations concerning what has happened in the past and to express the hope that a certain misuse of power, and delay, will not recur in the future. The very legislation that we are considering gives a greater responsibility to the Senate than it has ever had in regard to ordinances and the consideration of their disallowance.
Section 4 (z) of the Northern Territory Administration Act specifies that every ordinance assented to by the Administrator, or by the Governor-General, shall, as soon as may be after being assented to, be laid before each House of the Parliament. As a senator and as a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, I complain that this requirement is not being adequately fulfilled at present. To give an instance, an ordinance was drawn up amending the Lottery and Gaming Ordinance of the Territory. It was assented to on 12th May, 1958. I think Senator McManus mentioned that lottery and gaming matters loom fairly large in the Northern Territory. Although the act specifies that ordinances shall be laid on the table of this Senate “ as soon as may be “, the relevant ordinance was not, in fact, laid on the table of the Senate until 17th February, 1959. Consequently, the Parliament was denied the opportunity to consider that ordinance all through the sittings held in May, August and September. If air postage were availed of it would not be very difficult for an ordinance dealt with in the Northern Territory one week to reach this place in the following week. I draw attention to that because I believe that the Minister responsible for the administration of the Northern Territory should make available sufficient staff to ensure that these ordinances reach Parliament at the right time.
It is a contempt of the Parliament to deny it the opportunity of considering important matters affecting the citizens of the Northern Territory by not bringing them before its notice within the time laid down. I know that the wording of the act is fairly wide - “ as soon as may be “ - but I defy any one to suggest that the delay to which I have referred may be regarded as meeting that requirement. In addition to being contemptuous of the Parliament, such delays are contemptuous of the citizens of the Northern Territory, and of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. After all, we are the constituted authority which taxes the people of the Territory. They are entitled to have their problems - expressed through the Legislative Council - made known in this Parliament long before they are in fact made known. I might add that this is not an isolated example. Therefore, I say with all sincerity that if we are in the future to make this thing tick we must have speed in dealing with matters here after the Administrator of the Territory, or the GovernorGeneral, has dealt with them.
I feel that I should say a word or two about the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the administration of the Northern Territory. I pay tribute to the chairman and members of that committee for their great work. Our representatives on the committee, Senator Benn and Senator Wedgwood must have endured no little hardship in going deeply into these matters in a most trying part of Australia. This is one of the most comprehensive reports upon the Northern Territory that has ever been made. I should like to refer especially to paragraphs 201, 202 and 203 under the heading “ General Comment “. Paragraph 201 is as follows -
Your Committee’s Inquiry into the Northern Territory Administration has disclosed an unsatisfactory state of affairs. This of itself does not necessarily warrant animadverting upon the activities of the Minister for Territories, his Department or the Northern Territory Administration. The very serious administrative situation which has existed is not of recent origin - it is a product of the Commonwealth’s earlier neglect of the Territory, and more recently of the wartime dislocation. On the other hand, the achievements of the last decade are quite substantial when looked at in the context of conditions in the Territory. For what has been achieved, credit must be given to all those - Minister, the Department and the Administration - who have played a part in them.
I want to make it clear that things are improving. The legislation before us to-day reveals that fact. Paragraph 202 of the report states -
However, the administration of the Territory has not been without fault. There has been too much detailed control centralized within the Department in Canberra; Departments generally have adopted a somewhat negative attitude towards the Territory and ils problems, and we doubt whether the difficulties which have confronted the Administration and the branches of other departments operating in the Territory have been fully appreciated.
Paragraph 203 reads -
Your Committee were shocked at some of the things we saw in the Territory, and were disturbed that the situation should have been allowed to develop as it did. We would hope that in future departmental administrations will adopt a much more realistic approach towards the Territory and thus help it to achieve, as early as possible, full efficiency and stability in the administration of government.
Those conclusions were arrived at after the committee had made a sober and detailed examination of the situation, and I commend them to the attention of honorable senators. In doing so I would express the hope that from time to time there will be debates in this chamber upon legislative matters relating to the Nothern Territory which may arise from examination of documents laid on the table of the Senate.
I hope that the measure will have a speedy passage and I should like to offer my congratulations to the Northern Territory upon achieving a further stage in its development from representative government to what I hope will be, in the not too distant future, responsible government.
– No doubt this bill is the outcome of some dissension and, may I say, some little agitation that occurred last year when certain members walked out of the Legislative Council. I suppose, after that happening, the Government thought that it would be wise to take some heed of the position there.
We must be candid about the Northern Territory. I have been to that part of Australia four times and I realize that, with such a huge area in which there are virtually only three pockets of population - Darwin, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs - and in view of tremendous distances between them, the problem of development is most difficult. I agree that it is the most important part of Australia from a defence point of view. I am not one of those who continually look over their shoulders in the belief that people are about to attempt an invasion of the country, but I do think that if trouble does develop in the East there is a big possibility that Australia will be involved, as it was during the last war.
It is true that a Labour government introduced the legislation that set up the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory in 1947. When I saw the position there, with six elected representatives on the one side and six nominated members on the other, it occurred to me that the Administrator had things all his own way and that it would not be unpleasant to be the Administrator. That position obtained before the present member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) was elected to the Commonwealth Parliament. Needless to say, I was not in the Northern Territory at that time for my health; I was up there for more reasons than one, for I could not understand why a member of the Australian Labour Party could not repre* sent that area. We have represented it ever since that time.
I admit that the problem is an awkward one. When all is said and done, the people who clamour for complete self-government must be able to produce more than £1,100,000 of the £8,000,000 spent in the Territory. I certainly believe that there is room for a great deal of development there, but I admit that it would be most costly. One suggestion I do make is that the Northern Territory would be helped a great deal if the railway system there were connected with the Queensland system, through Birdum and Dajarra. I have often wondered why, for defence reasons, that was not done. The experts seemed to believe during the last war that the great long stretch of bitumen-coated road from Alice Springs to the top of Australia was more useful for defence purposes than the linking of the railway with the Queensland system. Of course, all these questions are governed by the economics of the situation, but if we are to develop this area, even by the expansion of cattle-raising, we must give those who are prepared to help in that development some outlet for what they produce. I know that it is possible to drive cattle for many miles and then rest them iri holding paddocks, but 1 believe that the industry would be developed much more quickly if the railheads in the Northern Territory were linked with the Queensland railway system so that the cattle raised in the Northern Territory could be transported to the big meatworks adjacent to the Queensland coast. I know that Vesteys had a meatworks in the Northern Territory, and I have no idea why that meatworks was closed down. Perhaps the profits were not enough. After all, the only thing that will entice private capital into an industry is profit, and that is only natural.
There has been a great decline in mining in the Tennant Creek area. Large amounts of outside capital were invested in the mines there, hut I suppose very little, if any, gold-mining is carried on in the area to-day.
There is one direction in which I should like to see some improvement made quickly. As honorable senators know, Darwin is the first landing point for people who travel by air to Australia from abroad. It is most annoying to those travellers to have to spend four or five hours at Darwin waiting for the plane to be refuelled, and then find, on arrival at Sydney, that they are required to go through the customs procedures of this country. I do not suppose the customs officers take kindly to the idea of tearing up their roots in Melbourne or Sydney and going to Darwin, but it seems to me that this transfer will have to be made sooner ‘or later because in no other country do we find a situation in which visitors do not go through customs procedures until they arrive at the second or third landing point in that country. This bill does not go as far as it should. The people of the Northern Territory want a majority of elected members on the Legislative Council. Under the present set-up the Governor-General - in effect, the Minister of the day - has the right to veto any ordinance submitted to him. This legislation provides that any ordinance that is disallowed shall be laid on the table of the Parliament, together with a statement of the reason for the disallowance. That, at least, is a step forward. Senator Laught referred to the ordinance that was passed in May, 1958, and then, to use a term, was lost in transit until 17th February, 1959. Is it any wonder that the people in the Northern Territory feel hurt at the treatment they have been receiving? When I was reading the history of the legislation affecting the Northern Territory I became aware of the way in which the attitude of honorable senators opposite changes when they occupy the benches on the righthand side of the President and when they are in opposition. When the supporters of this Government were sitting on the lefthand side of the President, they clamoured for legislation to provide for a majority of elected members on the Legislative Council. Contrast that attitude with the bill now before us! However, I have no objection to the provision which gives to the Government the right to veto.
This bill does not deal with the financial side of the administration of the Territory. I hope that before very long the Government will introduce legislation that will do so. The Government receives an annual revenue from the Northern Territory of £1,100,000 and the people in that area should have some say about the way in which the money is spent. At present the Government has the sole say. Although I agree that the Government should have the final word on such matters, the people who subscribe the money should be permitted to nominate avenues in which the money should be expended. If the Government gave them that right it would inspire confidence in them.
Very few people take up residence in the Northern Territory with the intention of remaining there permanently. I suppose that every officer sent there by the Government has the feeling that he must serve his time before he can return to the southern States. During my visits to the Northern Territory I have met many public servants who have told me that they have accepted positions in the area so that they can accumulate some money and then move on elsewhere to spend it.
This legislation, whilst perhaps effecting some slight improvement in the position, will not satisfy the people in the Territory. The Government proposes to set up the
Legislative Council which will consist of eight elected members, six nominated official members and three non-official nominated members. I hope that the latter three members will be local people who have no connexion with the Crown. Although we are not completely satisfied with the legislation, we shall give it a trial. The administration of the Northern Territory is one of those very knotty problems that any government has to solve because it must advance the money to enable the Territory to carry on. 1 do not believe that any government should have sole control of the people’s money. Those who subscribe the money should have some say as to how it shall be spent.
If the Government took steps to ensure that all ordinances passed by the Legislative Council were presented to this Parliament, each honorable senator and honorable member would be obliged to focus his attention on the Territory at some time or other. We in Canberra are a long way from the Northern Territory and, although the far north of Australia is a lovely place in winter, not many honorable senators or honorable members have either the time - I shall be kind enough to say that - or the inclination to go there to see things for themselves.
I trust that this legislation meets with the success for which the Minister hopes. I trust that it will be of assistance in the development of the Northern Territory, which will call for an annual expenditure far in excess of the £8,000,000 now being spent. We must focus more attention on the Northern Territory because an increased population and further development of the area will give Australia some form of defence against possible invasion from the north. If the people of the Northern Territory find that the Government’s proposal does not work as satisfactorily as they expect, let us hope that they act collectively, as they did last year, and suggest improvements. If they do, we will be compelled to direct our attention to their representations.
– I support this measure, and I am pleased that Senator Kennelly has decided to support it too. I listened intently to his speech and have come to the conclusion that he has given great attention to the matter. I am sure that all honorable senators on this side of the chamber were interested in his remarks.
During the term of office of this Government, the Northern Territory has received considerable attention. The amount made available annually for its development has been increased from about £3,000,000, the amount spent in 1950, to almost £12,000,000, the amount voted for this year. The Territory stretches for about 1,000 miles from north to south and is 600 miles wide. It has been neglected by parliaments and governments ever since it was brought into being. The population, notwithstanding that it has almost doubled in the last ten years, is only about 20,000 to-day. The Government is spending this year approximately £225 per head of population on the people living in the Territory, compared with £54 per capita granted to Western Australia.
I do not think very much could have been done with the Territory had it not been for the discovery of uranium. That has given a fillip to the Territory. In 1949 uranium was discovered at Rum Jungle, and shortly afterwards the town of Batchelor was developed. To-day it is a very modern town, with a population in the vicinity of 500, the menfolk working at the Rum Jungle uranium mine. The development of uranium-mining since uranium was discovered in the Territory has been amazing. At first it was decided that the Government, through the Department of Supply, should bring the mine into production, but later it was decided that private enterprise should work the mine. In the first instance, when the Government had control, the mine was not very successful, but to-day, with Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited looking after its administration, the mine has produced a considerable amount of wealth for Australia.
After the discovery at Rum Jungle, uranium ore was sought at other places in the Northern Territory. Deposits were found on the Katherine River, and on the Alligator River, some 200 miles to the east, further deposits were found. These discoveries, of course, were brought about as a result of the Government granting rewards for the discovery of uranium in Australia. An amount of up to £25,000 was given as a reward in those days - the same scheme is in existence to-day - for the discovery of uranium ore at a distance at least 5 miles from any previous discovery. The granting of rewards, of course, led prospectors to go out to look for uranium. The Bureau of Mineral Resources also played its part. It had parties in the field, and had aerial surveys made to help prospectors in their search for the ore. That, of course, led to further discoveries. Now a plant has been set up to treat the ore mined in the Alligator River area. In assisting the development of this industry the Government has made available, through the Commonwealth Bank, money for the establishment of this treatment plant adjacent to the Alligator River area. I repeat that mining has had a big influence on the development of the Territory.
Senator O’Byrne and Senator Kennelly mentioned the cattle industry and told us that Vesteys started in the Territory early in the century, spending approximately £1,000,000 on establishing a meatworks at Darwin. The honorable senators did not mention that Vesteys lost so much money - mostly through industrial trouble - that they had to close the works down. In the first three years they treated some 67,000 head of cattle at a loss of £3 for each beast treated. I think the closing down of the works was a tragedy. If that plant had been kept going, large numbers of cattle would have been bred in the Territory and a healthy cattle industry could have been maintained. At the present time, virtually all the cattle bred in the Territory are either driven to Wyndham, to be killed at the meatworks there, or overlanded 1,000 miles to Queensland or northern New South Wales. The cattle bred in the southern part of the Territory, around Alice Springs, go to the railhead at Alice Springs and are sent to Adelaide for slaughtering. Most of the cattle that come from the Alice Springs area are in good condition, and some of the heaviest bullocks killed in Australia are bred in the central part of the Northern Territory. I understand that some store cattle are brought down to South Australia, but, owing to tick infestation, they can be sold only to people who guarantee to keep them within a specified holding, which must have a dual fence around it. A person has to give that guarantee before he is allowed to buy these tick-infested cattle.
This Government has done a lot to help the pastoral industry, first of all by granting taxation concessions in respect of pastoral holdings, and secondly, by making finance available to pastoralists for the development of their properties. This has all happened since this Government has been in power. The income tax legislation has been amended so that a person defined as a pastoralist can claim as a deduction in one year the full amount that he has spent on the development of his property. For instance, expenditure on the erection of fences, the building of quarters for his staff, and the provision of water supplies, mills and dams, may be deducted in the year in which it is incurred.
The Government did not think that the pastoral industry was progressing quickly enough, so some seven years ago the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) introduced- a bill that was designed to make finance available to pastoralists in addition to any amounts already advanced to them by banking institutions. If a person who owned 1,000,000 acres of land and who had 10,000 head of cattle had a limit of £25,000 or £30,000 at the bank, he could obtain from the Treasurer a guarantee for up to another £25,000 for further development, provided the bank was willing to lend the money. I understand advantage has been taken of that provision in the legislation with the result that the number of” cattle in the Territory has risen by almost 50 per cent, over the last ten years, notwithstanding the fact that in that period there occurred probably the worst drought that has ever been experienced in the area. But that is not great development; there is nothing exciting about it. However, it is an indication of the future prosperity of the Territory. I believe that we can expect an increase in the turn-off of cattle from that area within the next few years.
Much has been said about the proposed alteration of the administration of the Territory. Following representations by members of the Legislative Council, the Government has decided to reduce the number of nominated official members of the Council from seven to six, to increase the number of elected members from six to eight, and to make provision for three non-official nominated members. The Council is to consist of seventeen members altogether. The nominated official members will probably be drawn from people who are working for the Government within the Territory. The electoral boundaries will be altered, following investigation by a distribution committee, to provide for eight electoral districts. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) pointed out in his secondreading speech that, as there are only some 8,000 electors in the whole of the Territory at the present time, the Government was of the opinion that the electorate could not support more than eight elected members. To increase the balance of power for elected members, the Minister for Territories has agreed to a reduction of the number of official members from seven to six and an increase of the number Of elected members from six to eight. So it will be seen that the Administrator will always need to have a majority Of the non-official nominated members on his side in order to have legislation passed by the Council. 1 understand that the non-official nominated members will be chosen from people living in the Territory. As there are three major industries in the Northern Territory - the mining, pastoral and agricultural industries - it is possible that one nonofficial nominated member will come from each of those industries. I think that that is partly the intention of the Minister for Territories. So, whereas it has always been quite easy for the Administrator to have his legislation passed by the Council, under the new arrangement it will not be so easy, because at least two of the non-official nominated members will have to side with him. I should think that that is a great advantage for the people who live in the Territory. If the residents of the Territory were spending their own money, I would be quite prepared to give them the maximum amount of control. But when the Commonwealth provides probably 95 per cent, of the money that is expended in the area - this year it amounts to some £12,000,000 - we must ensure that care is exercised in the expenditure of it.
I come now to the future development of the Territory. It is an amazing fact that no more than approximately 30,000 people live in the whole of the Northern Territory, the north-west of Western Australia and the tropical part of Queensland, which cover probably one-third of the whole of the Commonwealth. 1 think the Commonwealth should take over the whole of that area. I suggest that the area of the Northern Territory should be extended to the coast of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel, and also so as to take in an area of Queensland, with one parliamentary representative for the whole of the area, who would be given voting rights. 1 suppose that there would also have to be a representative in the Senate, because if we had a member of the House of Representatives we would need a senator, too. The senator could be given the electorate allowance that is given to Western Australian senators, which is the grand sum of £800 a year.
Coming back to the question of the importance of the whole of northern Australia, I believe that it is beyond the capacity of the Queensland and Western Australian Governments to develop the northern areas. No doubt as the result of representations made by Western Australians to the Commonwealth Government, we have been able to obtain from the Commonwealth the sum of £500,000 a year for five years for the development of the Kimberleys region. That is a gracious gift by the Commonwealth, but it is only a beginning. I should like to see the expenditure of that money supervised by the Commonwealth, because I think that that would be far better from an administrative point of view. However, instead of the Commonwealth providing a sum of money on either a yearly or a five-yearly basis to a State for the development of outback areas, I think that we should obtain the best advice available and perhaps appoint a commission to advise the Government on how the money should be spent.
If an area were to be defined that would take in the whole of the Territory north of the 26th parallel, that part of Western Australia to the west of the Northern Territory border and above the 26th parallel, together with a portion of the. State of Queensland, a new State could be formed, and the member who represented the area in the Commonwealth Parliament could bt entitled to vote on all matters. At the present time, I think that it is impossible for any responsible government to give the member for the Northern Territory, representing some 8,000 electors, full voting rights in the House of Representatives, having regard to the fact that the approximate number of electors represented by other honorable members is 40,000. To do so would mean that the Northern Territory representative would have five times the voting strength of other honorable members. We have been quite generous to the honorable member for the Northern Territory inasmuch as we propose to allow him, under this legislation, to vote on matters pertaining to the Territory. That is a start. No doubt, as the population of the Territory grows, we shall be able to extend his voting rights so that eventually he will have a vote at all times.
As I have said, the population of the Northern Territory has increased almost 100 per cent, in the last ten years. With the help of additional finance for the construction of roads and the improvement of transport facilities, and with additional finance and assistance by the Bureau of Mineral Resources for the development of mines, we may expect further rapid population growth. In about the middle of the Territory there is a town called Tennant Creek, which I have visited on two occasions since T have been a member of this Parliament. I understand that the Territory’s greatest potential in gold and copper mining lies in that area. During the last decade a new mine, called the Peko mine, has been opened there and is probably the richest copper mine in the world. The last report concerning the mine that I saw was published about twelve months ago, when it was stated that there were untold reserves of ore there. The grade of copper is approximately 6.9 per cent., which is higher than that of any other copper mine of similar size in Australia.
The chief problem of the mining people there’, of course, is transport. They have to bring their concentrate, which is only about 25 per cent, copper, down to Alice Springs and tranship it to go to the smelting works for treatment. The value of the concentrate, on present prices, would be £80 or £90 a ton. . Off the cuff, I should think Chat the cost of transporting it to the treatment works would’ be about £40- a ton. I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to consider the establishment of an atomic reactor on a site adjacent to Tennant Creek so that power might be provided cheaply and in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of the additional equipment that may be installed there. If that were done, the copper could be refined there, instead of having to transport material consisting of 75 per cent, waste matter down to the coast, because 75 per cent, of the material that is transported is thrown away, lt would mean that the ore that was transported would be worth the value of copper to-day, which is about £216 a ton, instead of only £70 or £80 a ton. A very large saving on freight would result. From memory, the distance between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs is 300 miles. The ore has to be carried by road for that distance, and on top of that, there is a journey of almost 800 miles to the port and then from the port to the smelting works.
During the last twelve months, the Peko mine has increased its production by the installation of additional equipment. The monthly tonnage of treated ore has risen from 2,000 tons to 4,000 tons, which means that 4,000 tons of material consisting of 25 per cent, ore, or 1,000 tons of concentrates, is being transported from Peko and delivered to the smelting works every month. At a cost of £40 or £50 a ton, that amounts to £40,000 or £50,000 for freight. When the price of copper fell some time ago the shareholders in the Peko mine found that shares which previously had been quoted at 10s. 6d. fell to less than 4s.
It is hard to imagine that a mine so rich, with such a potential, was on the point of closing down during the last twelve months because the price of copper fell and because of high freight costs. To my knowledge, it is the richest copper mine in the world. As I have said, the percentage of copper per ton of ore is about 6.9, a figure that was given to me when I was there some three or four years ago. At that time we also had an opportunity to look at Mr Isa. For the information of honorable senators I should say that the content of the ore body at Mr Isa is a little over 4 per cent., which is much lower than at Peko. The percentage at the Rhodesian mines is very much lower than that, and the operators work on a big tonnage of low grade ore. This applies also in American mines. This may be the opportunity for the Government to consider the erection of a nuclear reactor so that power will be available on the spot for the refining of the copper. If that is done, not only will that mine expand but also other mines in the area will be developed.
I notice that the Minister has changed the whole mining set-up with the idea of giving greater encouragement to prospectors to go out and search for minerals. He has increased the amount of money that can be made available by the Government to a person who finds an ore body and wants to develop it. In the initial stages only £1,000 could be made available to a miner. The amount that may be provided without the Minister’s consent is being increased to £2,000 and with the consent of the Minister a larger amount of money can be made available. The Minister has done a grand job for the Territory in every sphere we look at.
I do not think we should allow the opportunity to pass without giving thought to the way in which the Minister has looked after the under-privileged. On more than one occasion he has introduced measures into the Parliament to provide for the welfare of the native population. He has given this matter his personal attention. When I went through the area, I was amazed to find how well the natives in Darwin were being looked after. I met the Director of Native Affairs in Darwin and I was taken out to the native settlement. As I have said, I was amazed to find the good conditions under which the natives are living. We see, in every sphere of the Territory’s affairs, that the Minister has given the matter his particular attention and any help that could be provided has in fact been provided. I have already mentioned that pastoralists have been provided with extra capital to enable them to carry out further development after the banks have gone to their limit in that direction. I have mentioned also that the pastoralists in the Northern Territory may claim as a tax deduction the amount spent on development in the year of the expenditure, if they elect to do so. I believe that under the
Minister’s administration there will be a continuation of major developmental work in the Territory.
I hope that more money will be made available for the transport system in the Territory. As most honorable senators know, a bitumen road connects Alice Springs with Darwin. Another bitumen road runs east from Tennant Creek to Mr Isa. I think that, in order to improve the transport system, additional roads are needed, one going west from the central road, and the other in an easterly direction.
– Does the honorable senator prefer roads to railways?
– I have yet to be convinced that the laying down of more railways is the answer to the problem of opening up outside areas. I think that in the future, consequent on the introduction of modern methods, road transportation will leave the railways for dead.
– Not in all cases.
– I am referring to the opening up of sparsely-populated areas, not the congested areas. I believe that road transport is the most suitable means of undertaking the initial opening up of sparsely-populated areas. Road trains are capable of carrying from 130 to 150 tons. The electric power that is developed by a diesel electric device in the front compartment is transmitted to motors which drive the individual wheels of each truck. There may be any number of trailers if sufficient electricity is generated to turn all the road wheels. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– by leave - 1 have now reached the stage at Which 1 have introduced, and taken to the first-reading stage, three bills, the Ministers of State Bill, the Parliamentary Allowances Bill, and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill. Each of the bills is related to the recommendations of the Richardson committee. I suggest that it would meet the convenience of honorable senators if X were to make one comprehensive second-reading speech to cover all three. If there were no objection to this, the bills could then pass through the remaining stages separately.
I would make the further suggestion that the second-reading debate on the Mini.ters of State Bill should cover the other two bills. I should like to emphasize that there is no intention to limit in any way the opportunity available to honorable senators to debate the bills and the various proposals. The proposal is aimed mainly at avoiding a good deal of repetition, as each of the bills is closely related to the Richardson report. I ask for leave of the Senate to adopt this procedure.
– by leave - I concur generally in the proposals of the Leader of the Government, but I hesitate to accept his suggestion that there should be one debate only - on the first measure, the Ministers of State Bill. Though concurring in the proposal that there should be a general debate, I should not wish to support a denial of the right of any honorable senator who may wish to do so to make a remark or two on the remaining bills at the second-reading stage. I can say with confidence that I would expect that the main debate would conclude with the first bill. It may well be that there would be no debate at the second-reading stage of the other two measures, though we might proceed to a division, but I would not be prepared at this stage - because 1 do not know what developments there may be - to surrender the right to speak on the second reading of the other two bills. I think that the Leader of the Government will recognize the force of that. !n actual fact, I have had no opportunity to consult my party on that particular mat;er. i would expect very little debate upon the other two bills - possibly none. At the same time, I would not surrender the right to speak at the second-reading stage of those measures. If the Minister would accept that amendment to what he has proposed the Opposition and the Government could proceed with the debate on that basis.
Senator SPOONER (New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development) - by leave - I give the assurance that the Leader of the Opposition requests. I remind him that when making, the proposal I said that it was not intended to limit in any way the opportunity of honorable senators to discuss all the bills. The procedure contemplated is to give honorable senators an opportunity to range far and wide on the three matters that are before the Senate. The first bill having been decided, the second bill will be brought on and then, subsequently, the third bill, in accordance with the usual procedure in the Senate. There will be, if honorable senators so desire, opportunity for a second-reading debate, and discussion in committee, on each of the three bills, but I share with the Leader of the Opposition the view that if we can have a wider discussion on the first bill we shall narrow the discussion on the two subsequent bills.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin). - Is it the wish of honorable senators that the debate on the second-reading of the Ministers of State Bill may include reference to the subject matter of the two associated bills?
– I move -
Thai the bill be now read a second lime.
The motion, for the purposes of debate, will cover the Ministers of State Bill, which is actually before the Senate, and the two cognate measures, that is, the Parliamentary Allowances Bill and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill. These three measures are designed to give effect to the recommendations of the Richardson committee, which was invited by the Government to inquire into and report on the salaries and allowances payable to Ministers of the Crown and to senators and members of the House of Representatives. In these circumstances I propose to address myself principally to the subject matter of the report made by the committee.
The Constitution places upon the Parliament the responsibility for dealing with the salaries and allowances of members of the Parliament, of officers of the Parliament and Ministers of State. The basic allowance for each senator and member of the House of Representatives established under section 48 of the Constitution was £400 per annum “ until Parliament otherwise provides “. Section 66 of the Constitution provides that there shall be payable to the Queen, out of the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth, for the salaries of the Ministers of State, an annual sum which, until Parliament otherwise provides, shall not exceed £12,000 per annum.
The history of subsequent variations in this allowance is outlined in paragraph 19 of the report of the committee of inquiry, relating to members of both houses, and in paragraph 64 of the report relating to Ministers. The report has, of course, been distributed to all honorable senators.
This task of fixing the remuneration of those who have offered themselves for public office is an indivious one, as in some respects it lends itself to the charge so frequently heard that members of the Parliament become judges in their own case. As a result the practice was established in 1951 of appointing an independent com mittee of people of standing from outside the Parliament and asking them to assess the remuneration which should be paid, and up to the present the Parliament has, broadly speaking, accepted the recommendations made. This practice was followed this time.
I should like to digress for a moment to say a few words about the independent committee. I do so partly in order to pay a tribute to its work but also because there have been suggestions that this was in some way not a properly constituted or properly independent committee. The members were Sir Frank Richardson as chairman, Mr. G. E. Fitzgerald and Mr. N. L. Cowper. Each one of them was well qualified by his capacity and experience to carry out the task. Sir Frank Richardson is a leading business man in Melbourne. He has a long record of voluntary service to successive governments over many years. He has served on a number of committees, both Commonwealth and State, which have examined parliamentary salaries and allowances.
Mr. Fitzgerald is a distinguished member of the accountancy profession. Mr. Cowper is a leading member of the legal profession. Each of the three is held in the highest esteem in his own profession and business. Each of them has a standing and reputation extending beyond his own immediate sphere of activities. No one of them had any self-interest in the matter.
The report of the committee indicates that it set about its task in a methodical way and sought to establish certain principles and facts on which balanced judgments can be made. The committee reports that it has considered in detail basic statistical information of the kind listed in paragraph 7 of the report. It studied previous reports relating to the National Parliament and to the Parliaments of the States, and information relating to salaries paid in other countries. It interviewed members of the Parliament and office bearers of the Parliament and Ministers, and obtained information of a personal and confidential character. Some members of Parliament submitted for consideration by the committee written statements upon their parliamentary duties and the adequacy of remuneration to enable them to carry out those duties. In addition, the committee
Sought, by public. advertisement, an expression of the views of the general public, and no less than 1,500 replies were considered. I say all this to establish that the committee conscientiously carried out the work entrusted to it. The report which has been produced is well balanced, in that it includes the grounds upon which the conclusions are based.
It is unfortunate in these circumstances that the committee’s conclusions have been subjected to a violent attack by some Sections of the press. I think that in such circumstances I should, at the very least, put on record the view of the Government that the committee carried out the task allotted to it in an able and conscientious manner. The press campaign has included a good deal of correspondence from people who could not have had an opportunity to read the report. Even if they had read the report, the correspondents certainly did not have the opportunity to consider the evidence presented and the reasons which prompted the committee to make the recommendations it has advanced.
No doubt many people may disagree with one or other of the committee’s recommendations, and some have said that they would like to see them rejected in toto. We must respect the views of all who have studied the proposals carefully and have come to that conclusion. No one would deny that it is true that it is a function of the press to criticize and to constitute themselves as the watchdogs of the public interest. At the same time, I submit that in fulfilling this function the press has a responsibility to make reasonable and balanced judgments which are related to the facts of the situation. Whilst some newspapers have done this, I believe that on this particular matter many others have not done so, and that, believing this to be the situation, we have a responsibility as parliamentarians in this debate to bring forward the relevant facts and information so that the prestige of Parliament is not prejudiced.
It has been said that freedom of the press can mean freedom for the press proprietor. This is a somewhat cynical view, and I for one would be most reluctant to reach the conclusion that it is true. The Australian press as a whole has a great tradition of honest and impartial dissemina tion of news”. It is basically important to the welfare of our community that our newspapers should continue to uphold these traditions. Equally however, it is of very great importance that Parliament should retain that respect and support of the community which it has traditionally enjoyed. Nothing has been done, either in the appointment of this committee, or the adoption of its findings, which should prejudice the good standing and reputation of Parliament. Nothing has been done which justifies the violent attacks which some newspapers have made.
I stand right alongside the Prime Minister when, in this matter, he fights the fight of Parliament against this extraordinarily violent newspaper campaign. Australia is fortunate that at the head of its affairs it has a man with the courage to stand up and fight the issue. I note with interest that Dr. Evatt supports the Prime Minister. I would have more regard for Dr. Evatt and the Labour Party however, had they been prepared to take their views to the logical conclusion of supporting the findings of this impartial tribunal instead of endeavouring to make political capital by whittling down those increases in remuneration from which the majority of them do not benefit whilst firmly grasping with both hands those which improve their own personal position.
I would like now to turn to the terms of reference of the committee, and I quote the relevant parts. The committee was required (1) to inquire into and report upon the salaries and allowances payable to senators and members of the House of Representatives &c. (2) If it reported that it is necessary and desirable to alter such salaries and allowances or any of them’, then to recommend the nature and the extent of the alterations that should be made; (3) generally to inquire into and report upon the conditions which apply to the service of members of Parliament, &c.
As I said earlier, the committee did inquire in a most comprehensive way, it did find that alterations were necessary, and desirable, and it made its recommendations accordingly. The recommendations in the report are covered in three main sections, which are (1) salaries and allowances for Ministers and members of
Parliament. The term “ members “ is of course to be interpreted to mean “ senators and members “, and in this context honorable senators will note that any reference to the masculine should be deemed to include the feminine; (2) other allowances and privileges; (3) pensions. The committee made a number of observations, some of which 1 propose to mention briefly.
All honorable senators will agree with the committee that there has been a substantial development in the responsibilities of their office in recent years when the National Parliament of this country has developed in harmony with the growing stature of Australia as a nation.
Because some people may think that the responsibilities of a member of Parliament cease when parliamentary sittings end, the committee has done a useful service to the community in pointing out the need for a member of Parliament to spend much of his time in equipping himself adequately to discharge the functions of his office by travel, education, attendance on committees and so on. In addition, the demands of the electorate on the time of parliamentary representatives are exacting and time consuming, not to mention the functions of importance which an honorable senator or a member of Parliament is required to attend. For a senator, these often include functions throughout his State.
Another point in which there has been a great deal of misunderstanding is the view that members of the Parliament are able to obtain additional remuneration from extra-parliamentary activities. This aspect is dealt with adequately in the report. Those of us who have had experience in the Parliament would support unreservedly the conclusion of the committee that the remuneration of members should be approached on the basis of a full-time occupation.
Another aspect of significance is the unanimous view of the committee that an element of vocation is required to encourage a man of quality to abandon the security provided by other avenues of employment within the community for the insecurity and the vicissitudes of parliamentary life. The committee says, “The country is entitled to ask of members that they should be prepared to make sacrifices for the priviledge of serving in the National Parliament”.
It makes all its recommendations on that basis. In furtherance of that view, the committee sought to fix a salary such as would enable a young man who has to educate a family to take part in political life, and not to debar a man who has no private income of his own. It did not seek to fix a salary which would be generously rewarding. In the words of the committee, “ The salary of a member should be fixed at an amount which is not so low as to deter a man of good attainments and abilities who has no private income, from entering or remaining in Parliament “. Is this not an eminently reasonable test? To dispute it seriously would be to argue that the National Parliament is the place for the rich - for the man with private means. All that I can say is, that if service in Parliament is to be restricted to those with private means, then that policy would have deprived the National Parliament over the years of a number of highly distinguished, eminent men who have rendered great service to their country.
The principles established and the emoluments recommended both for members of the Parliament, the office bearers of the Parliament and Ministers of the Crown, appeal to the Government as eminently reasonable and acceptable. Indeed, they retain the element of sacrifice demanded of a member of the National Parliament in that the remuneration suggested is less, by far, than the remuneration demanded for comparable service in other fields of endeavour within the community.
I turn now to the recommendations relating to expense allowances payable to Ministers and members of the Parliament. Honorable senators will recall that a special allowance was first made in 1952 to Ministers and members of the Parliament “ in respect of the expenses of discharging their duties “. This followed close examination by the Nicholas committee which found that, in a number of instances, the amount available to a member, after taking into account the expenses necessarily and actually incurred in the performance of his duties, was less than half his normal salary and, in some instances, was less than the basic wage. The Richardson committee has again examined this aspect in the light of changes since 1952, and has recommended certain increases. It is important to realize that this expense allowance is granted in respect of the expenses of discharging an honorable senator’s duty and is given to him expressly for that purpose. It could not, and should not, be regarded as part of his salary.
The next point which arises is the remuneration of Ministers of the Crown. This has not been varied for seven years. During those seven years there is no doubt that the work and responsibilities of Ministers have increased materially. I have no reservation in stating in simple terms that the proposed increase in Ministers* remuneration is completely justified and is, indeed, below the level of remuneration that is paid for comparable work in the commercial and professional world.
Mr. President, the next point I would like to make relates to what are commonly known as fringe benefits. 1 do not propose to deal with them in detail for they are not covered by the legislation. However. 1 do want to refer to one aspect of the recommendations which appears to have attracted some attention, namely, the proposal that anybody who has been Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition or Deputy Leader of the Opposition for five years should have, for three years after he left Parliament, the benefit ot an official car in which to attend official functions. This proposal has been given an exaggerated importance. To provide a car for men who have contributed so much to the welfare of Australia so that they may attend official functions is surely a small courtesy. But, as was said in another place, “ There has been so much argument about it that anybody who stands a chance of being a beneficiary from it would sooner be without “. Therefore, the Government had decided to drop it.
I turn now, Mr. President, to the question of members’ pensions. The Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill is designed to give effect to sections M and N of the report. The committee recommended that some pension benefits should be improved, and the principal alteration is in the increase in the rates of pension and in the contribution which must be paid in future by members. The contributory pensions now being paid will continue at the existing rates and the increased pensions will operate only in the future.
Some minor modifications of benefits have been proposed by the bill, including lower pensions to those who cease to be members of the Parliament between 40 and 45 years of age. I will be happy to provide further information in relation to the drafting of the clauses of the bill during the committee stage of the debate. Honorable senators will know that section O of the report contains certain recommendations in relation to retiring allowances for Ministers and Opposition Leaders. The proposals were for non-contributory pensions. The Government, after long and earnest consideration, has decided not to accept these proposals, except in the case of the Prime Minister, but to examine a suitable contributory scheme quite distinct from the members’ fund.
Finally, Mr. President, I should like honorable senators to refer to those sections of the report in which reference is made to the wives of the members of the Parliament. Few outside the Parliament would appreciate the responsibilities which wives of members are called upon to assume. Their labours are largely unrewarded. It is a matter of great satisfaction to ali of us to read the committee’s recognition of this situation.
In conclusion, may I recapitulate. The Government adopted an approach to this problem which was both equitable and reasonable. We appointed a committee of men of undoubted reputation and well known in public life. These men made comprehensive inquiries. They invited the public to express their views and many members of the public did so.
The committee weighed all the evidence, reached its conclusions and made its recommendations to the Government. It was proper that the Government, having set up this committee, should be largely guided by its recommendations for reasonable remuneration for parliamentary and ministerial responsibility. The committee has made recommendations which it says quite plainly are based on the assumption that whilst parliamentary emoluments should not be unduly high, at the same time they should not fall to a level which precludes men without private means from entering public life. Subject to the amendments which I have previously outlined the
Government accepts these recommendations. They are contained substantially in the legislation which I now commend to the Senate.
– The three bills now before the chamber are important. They are important to the nation, which is concerned to see not only that its representatives in this Parliament are adequately paid to carry out their duties in a proper manner, but also that they are not overpaid. Therefore, every member of the public in Australia has a very proper interest in this matter, lt is also of real importance to members of Parliament, who have the privilege and the honour, as well as the duty, of representing their electorates and their States in this Parliament.
But the legislation is not of such importance as to justify the completely undue prominence given by the press to this matter in recent weeks. At this point, 1 remind the Senate that only a few weeks ago it considered a measure which I am sure everybody will agree was one of major importance - the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill. Amongst other things, that measure affected some 2,000,000 air travellers per annum in this country alone. It was a matter of vital concern to their dependants and, therefore, it affected a vast majority of the people of Australia. I am prepared to say that never was there a better debate in this chamber, or a more informed debate, than that in relation to that bill, yet what appeared in the press? There was not even a reference to the fact that the bill had been debated.
– There was no scandal in it.
– There was certainly nothing sensational in it. I merely contrast the attention which the press paid to that matter and the attention it has paid to this matter, which, while I concede its importance, lies in a relatively small financial field - one almost insignificant in a Budget of £1,400,000,000. The press completely ignored a matter of the importance and consequence that I have just described.
I think the first thing to do, whilst conceding the importance of these bills, is not to lose our sense of perspective. I would say that, with some notable exceptions. the newspapers have kept up an Australiawide, syndicated blitz on federal parliamentarians of all parties in recent weeks. The net result, in my assessment of the matter, is that they have brought parliamentarians into public disfavour. We will survive that. But also they have tended to bring the Parliament itself into disrepute, and in doing that 1 would say that they have done the nation a great disservice in that they have, to an extent, tended to undermine faith in democracy. When faith in democracy goes - and one of its essential establishments is the National Parliament - we are on the verge of very desperate events in this country. 1 would expect the press to endeavour to upbuild the stature and dignity of the National Parliament and to avoid everything that might have an adverse effect upon it. 1 concede at once that the press of the country, and everybody in the country, are entitled to criticize, as freely as they like, the proposals that emanated from the Richardson report, most of which are embodied in the legislation that we have before us. But I say that the criticism of the press was not objective criticism. It was accompanied by so much abuse, misrepresentation and suppression that thoughtful people in this country should, in my view, be alarmed that a handful of newspaper magnates, responsible for what 1 have just described, should not merely control the press of this country, but should have, in addition, effective control of an Australia-wide network of radio stations, and now, really effective control of the most powerful media of mass communication - the television stations that are established or are about to be established in this country. That is a matter for consideration and alarm on the part of any thoughtful person.
I join with the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) in agreeing with the strictures that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Dr. Evatt have passed on a section of the press in relation to this matter, but I regret that the Leader of the Government when he was dealing with that matter, made an unworthy comment in relation to Dr. Evatt and the Labour Party. Moreover, it was one that in my view did not put the position fairly. I can say to the Leader of the Government that neither
Dr. Evatt nor the Labour Party is concerned with whether he has any regard for our party in respect of any matter. We are completely prepared to stand on our own feet in respect of the decisions we make. J am not to be chided by the Leader of the Government, and neither is my party to be chided, for the fact that we failed to support the findings of the Richardson committee, because that is the very thing that the Government itself has done in the light of criticism, both public and from members of the Parliament. In the speech that he delivered to us just now, the Minister stated himself that some recommendations in the report have been dropped. I could, if I wished, return the compliment to the honorable senator, but 1 just say this: A study of the matters involved in this very lengthy report brings you into a complicated field, involving study of the original acts, the bills and the implications of the report itself. It is not an easy matter, lt does take time to study. 1 come back to the point that the press of this country - or the section to which 1 have already made reference - weeks before my party had met, or could meet, directed a blast against the party, as if it had initiated the proposal. The Labour Party’s attitude was declared by our Leader, Dr. Evatt, when he indicated that there could be no decision on the matter until the party met. The party met last week, and after two or three meetings it reached its decisions, after arguments and differences, with every viewpoint adequately considered and many of them respected. It reached the decisions to which we propose to seek to give effect to-night. It was quite unfair of the press to pillory the Labour Party as though it were the originator of the scheme, when it knew perfectly well that nobody in the party was free to talk about the matter until the party had met. When the party did meet, the press was told at once of the decisions that were made. Those decisions were made public.
I am obliged to the Minister for quite a number of the quotations from the Richardson report that he included in his speech. His reference to them will save me the necessity for even adverting to them. But I want to say a word regarding the constitutional requirement; that this Parlia ment must fix the salaries of its members. That is quite inescapable and is exceedingly embarrassing to anyone of any sensitiveness. It is not a happy experience to be in the situation where, first, every detail of one’s emoluments is published in the press - that is unavoidable - and, secondly, where one is compelled to be part of the responsible authority which alone in this country, under the Constitution, can fix those emoluments. That position arises even though an independent body like the Richardson committee is appointed to make a recommendation. The Parliament and its members cannot escape responsibility for fixing those emoluments.
It has been the practice in recent years to refer matters of this kind to an independent committee. The Labour Party did not adopt that attitude but dealt with the matter directly in the Parliament and accepted the political responsibility for what it proposed. But the present Government, wisely or unwisely, has adopted the practice of referring these matters, roughly triennially, to independent committees. I have had the pleasure, the privilege and the duty, on behalf of the Labour Party, of addressing all three of those committees. I was one of three - Mr. Calwell and Mr. A. D. Fraser were the other two - who were selected by the party to present a case to the recent committee. I want the Senate to understand that at least I have had a consistent view - I am putting it as a personal view at the moment - in relation to what the duty of these committees ought to be.
I take credit for foreseeing the kind of thing that has surrounded legislation of this kind on each occasion. I urged the Nicholas committee, the first of these committees, to fix the emoluments at a figure that might put this contentious issue out of the realm of politics for at least ten years. I thought that would be very desirable. But the committee did not accept the proposal. I put it even more strongly to the first Richardson committee, but again it was not accepted. And I tell the Senate that I put it exceedingly strongly to the recent committee. Now we have the embarrassment and indignity of going through the whole process again. Not only have we to suffer personal embarrassment and damage to our own repute, but also the parliamentary institution must suffer damage.
If I am faced with the problem of reviews or a determination of the matter for a long time, which may be more costly by reason of ,an attempt to provide for the situation over a long period of years, without hesitation my mind comes down on the side of putting the matter out of the political arena for a long time. I should say that in the end that would be the wisest policy for the Parliament to adopt. In my view, it is far better that parliamentarians should be somewhat overpaid than that they should be underpaid or that their salaries should be adjusted every few years. It is a most disturbing and embarrassing situation - one which I hope somebody some day will have the courage to end. At least I have put that position from the beginning.
My outlook, based on an experience now of fifteen years, is that the desideratum, the really important thing, is to attract into the Parliament young, able men of character. But they will not be attracted unless the emolument is made adequate to enable them to marry, to buy a home, to rear a family over many years, to educate their children, to make some little provision for the future and, finally, to have their vocation yield to them some measure of security in an occupation that is notoriously and basically insecure. I should say that, despite the difficulties of preselection by the various great political parties, if such young men come along they will break through, because in all parties there is such a thing as an aristocracy. It is an aristocracy of brains and character, and no one can help but pay tribute to it. I would hope that a large number of young men would look at the parliamentary emoluments and realize that, if they were made adequate, this would be a worth-while vocation for them.
The importance of getting young men, in my view, is this: I should say that it would take fifteen years or more for the ordinary untrained man who comes into this Parliament to become really knowledgeable in a number of major fields. Of course, there are exceptions. The scientist, the agriculturist, the lawyer, the accountant or the economist who comes in may, in quite a few fields, run at once whereas others without prior knowledge would have to get down on all fours or walk for a very considerable time. What are the kinds of things to which a member of the Parlia ment must address his mind? First, he must have a basic understanding of the Australian Constitution. That is fundamental, and is almost a life study. It is a complicated matter of law involving the deepest consideration, and is of fundamental importance to any one who wants to take an intelligent interest in the Parliament or who hopes to achieve any administrative responsibility in it.
I pass to the question of foreign affairs. That involves a knowledge of the history of foreign countries, keeping up to date with modern events at the ‘best level, and continuous reading and study. Then there is the vast field of national economics, national and international trade, the exceedingly complex and vastly important field of Commonwealth and State financial relations, finance, banking, the development of the country in all major aspects, primary production, and secondary industry. They are only some of the matters that occurred to me immediately. I may have missed quite important ones. But the parliamentarian must address his mind to those matters. Some of them may be grasped more quickly than others, but there is no escaping the hard, long hours of study and thought. Very often, that has to be achieved amidst many distractions associated with the necessity for keeping in touch with one’s electorate and doing the essential chore of making sure that one continues long in the Parliament. It is not of: much use doing that fundamental study unless one can use it to advantage in the Parliament.
I would hope that a deliberate effort would emanate from this Parliament, even in the matter of emolument and security for the men who enter it, to attract young men who would remain here for a long time and to give them ease of mind, so far as it could be given, in the interim until, at the end of fifteen years, we produce some really good administrative, Cabinet material. Money invested - and it would not be very much - by this country in the programme I have outlined would be the best investment this nation could make.
Both Senator Spooner and the Richardson committee referred to the element of sacrifice that comes into the life of the parliamentarian. One does not have to look for that; one finds it in a dozen different ways. It is experienced in the loss of domesticity, in the severing of intimate associations with one’s family, in the burden that one casts on the family itself and which is worse than one’s own difficulty, in continuous travel and study, and in the fact that the conscientious parliamentarian, particularly if he serves in another place, is on duty every minute of the day and night for every day in the week. There is not another occupation like it that involves so many inconsequential matters and so many matters of the deepest import, involving study of the type to which I have just referred.
I join with Senator Spooner in paying a tribute to the members of this committee. Their findings and their work have been attacked very bitterly. They were prepared for that. I think that it might be appropriate if 1 read a brief passage from the report in order to put that matter in perspective. On page 8, the committee, realizing what lay ahead of it, stated -
The 1955 Committee complained that the general public, without full information and often in complete ignorance of the facts, tended to offer unreasonable opposition to any alteration in parliamentary allowances; that little attempt was made to inform the public or for members of the public to seek accurate information; and that much of the publicity given to the matter was deliberately distorted. We have observed the same phenomena. The Prime Minister’s announcement of the 17th January, 1959, was followed by comments (in some newspapers and in letters to the Committee) of the familiar kind, in which phrases loaded with false and abusive implications were freely used, misstatements abounded, and malice took the place of judgment.
Apart from the fact that nobody has been able to attack the integrity, the probity or the ability of the members of this committee, I want to pay a tribute to their courage, and that of the chairman in particular. He acted in an honorary capacity for Labour governments years ago and has acted continuously, as well, for the Government. I want to pay tribute to the members of the committee for the courage with which they embarked knowingly on a job that would direct at them so much personal and hurtful abuse. We can differ from their findings, and we can regard some of those findings as not wise and perhaps as being too extravagant; but I think that whatever we think of their findings, the members of the committee ^ have commanded our respect and admiration for their courage.
The Opposition, as 1 have said, gave completely official recognition to the appointment of this committee in sending along the three members that 1 have indicated, including myself. 1 think it proper that I put to the Senate one thing that happened at the meeting of those three gentlemen with the committee. We were asked to make representations as to allowances and benefits that should be payable to leaders of the party. I want it to be clearly understood that Mr. Calwell and I declined to make any representations at all in that respect. We both explained that we would be embarrassed, since we were personally involved; that we were there to put a case on behalf of the members of the Australian Labour Party at large and not for any particular section of it. I want to say, in the light of some things that have appeared in the press, that leaders perhaps have fared better under the report than have members. I say with complete deliberation that I did not then, or at any time, directly or indirectly make the faintest degree of representation to the Richardson committee in respect of any officer of the Australian Labour Party or, in fact, in respect of any senior officers of the Parliament, including the Ministers. We left that entirely to the committee. T think it proper that that attitude should be known. T believe that I can say with truth that my colleagues amongst the leaders of the party took exactly the same attitude.
Again, I put a personal opinion when I say - and I think it is implicit in what I have already put - that I am disappointed in the amount that was provided for all the members of the Parliament by way of salary - an additional £400 - and the additional electorate allowance, ranging from £100 to £250. I think that there is an anomaly in giving to senators, by way of an electoral allowance, a lower allowance than is available for portion of a State in some electorates. I think that that is wrong. T put a case to the committee on that matter, but the committee has not appreciated the importance or the significance of it. The reason for my disappointment flows from the broad concept that I have of basing this Parliament on young men who will be trained, who will be given a degree of security and will be led through experience - the only way is through hard experience - to becoming the administrative officers of this Commonwealth. 1 should like to advert for a brief moment to £he argument that has been addressed to us, and to our party in particular, from many sources, to the effect that we should oppose all the recommendations of the Richardson committee until wage justice has been done and until satisfaction has been accorded to the pensioners of Australia. I do not want to become political in this, but I must say that the Labour Party clearly indicated its outlook at the last election in relation to those two matters. The matter that is now before us is a problem in narrow compass, affecting a few individuals. It is a problem that must be faced. The Labour Party has nothing on its conscience in relation to both classes in this community. I think that, on a proper consideration of the matter, if reasonable increases were given to members of this Parliament, I could imagine no better springboard for the wage-earner and the pensioner from which to get better conditions for themselves.
– I hope that is noted.
– That would be a good starting point. I understand the implications of the honorable senator’s interjection, and I make the statement with complete deliberation, because I think that both classes are in need of assistance. The fact that assistance is not forthcoming immediately should not operate to prevent this Parliament, when it is faced with the matter, from attending to this business which, while one of importance, is, 1 suggest, of relative inconsequence and one that has been dragged entirely out of its proper perspective.
I realize that the committee, in looking at this matter, did not assess the individuals it encountered and met; it assessed the job. lt determined what would be a proper return for a capable individual, properly carrying out the duties of his office. Members of Parliament have great difficulties, because conditions and expenses vary from one electorate to another. The committee necessarily had to make some kind of a snap judgment as to what would be a fair thing to apply over all members. That is not easy.
Mr. President, in relation to the first measure, the Ministers of State Bill, I propose to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading. I understand that it has been circulated. I move -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the substitution for the proposed increases of Ministers’ salaries and allowances such increased salaries and allowances as would be fairly proportionate to the increase of base salaries and allowances contained in clauses four and live of the Parliamentary Allowances Bill “.
I say to the Leader of the Government that that is not a rejection of the proposal for increases in ministerial salaries. It is a proposal in effect, that there be substantial reductions in the amounts provided for in this bill, on the recommendation of the committee.
– What is the extent of the reductions?
– That is impossible to say.
– I am not prepared to say the approximate amounts. I point out to the honorable senator that, apart from the Prime Minister and Ministers, senior and junior, in the next bill to come before the Senate we will be faced with some fifteen separate positions that must be dealt with. Their relativity has to be considered . in relation to other classes, and only a mind that could address itself to that task with knowledge of what the relativity is could fix a figure. The Labour Party considered naming a figure. We feel there are too many considerations to which a mind has to be addressed to do more at this stage and with our information than guess at it. The purport of the amendment is to seek a substantial reduction.
In relation to Ministers’ salaries, the Leader of the Government indicated there had been no increase for seven years. But when the first Richardson committee sat some three or four years ago the matter of ministerial emoluments was not referred to the committee. It is a fair inference from that position that the Government was satisfied as to the level then operating. The question arises: If there is to be an increase proportionate to that granted for every member of the Parliament, where does one look - to the conditions of seven years ago or to the conditions operating three or four years ago? That is unquestionably a factor to which come consideration must be given.
– What is your proposition?
– I would not be prepared to say that until I know the mind of the Government. If someone will inform me what was in the mind of the Government when some three or four years ago it did not refer the matter of Ministers’ allowances and pay to the committee, I certainly would be in a better position to provide an answer. In the absence of that, how could I? That is one of the factors on which we have no knowledge. That is one of the reasons why the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party has carefully refrained from nominating the amount. I say now speaking quite freely and officially for the party that what the party seeks is a substantial reduction in the amounts recommended by the committee and included in this bill ranging - I am, looking at page 50 of the report - from increased salary for the Prime Minister of £3,250 to an increase of £500 for junior Ministers; and an increase in special allowances of senior Ministers of £500, and an increase for. junior Ministers of £250; and for other officers of the Parliament increases ranging from £1,500 to what seems a relatively small increase of £125 for some of what I might call the junior Whips of the parties. There are numerous heads under that particular item of the report. We are not in a position to say that one percentage should be applied to them all.
The purport of my motion is that there should be a substantial reduction in the increases in salary and allowances provided for senior Ministers and junior Ministers in the first bill.
Now let me refer to the second bill - the Parliamentary Allowances Bill. That is the one that deals with salary increases for every parliamentarian regardless of whether he is the Prime Minister or a private member, and of his electoral allowance - an increase of £400 in salary and an increase of from £100 to £250 in allowance. The Opposition does not oppose that provision. I put a personal view that I elaborated a while ago that that is not in fact enough to meet the needs. I can say quite frankly, having been the confidant of a great number of the parliamentarians in this place that there are many who are in real, dire need of assistance, and 1 doubt very much that this will do more than alleviate that need. It certainly will enable them to do a better job. It certainly will enable many to keep out of further debt; many of them I do know are heavily involved. Many men have put their complete financial position before the Richardson committee, and it is undeniable that there are men in this Parliament from one end to the other and in both chambers who. without some assistance of that kind - in my view the proposals do not go far enough - are in really difficult straits. The amounts members get sound large, but when one considers the purposes to which the recipients must apply them it is extraordinary how fast they disappear. It is not even generally understood in the Australian community that members pay tax as does everybody else. Whilst we are not objecting to that, we move an amendment to the second bill in order to cut down the increases of salaries and allowances of the officers of the Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition and the rest.
I come now to the parliamentary retiring allowances. Again, I personally have experienced a vast ignorance in the Australian community of the fact that this is a superannuation scheme contributed to at the rate of £4 10s. a week by each member of this Parliament. That is a compulsory contribution by each member at the rate of £19 10s. a month. For some of us, this has gone on for twelve years or so. So one can realize the parliamentarians have paid a vast amount into that fund. The Government also contributes to it. The Richardson committee, we agree entirely, did the right thing when it pointed out that there is no reasonably large industrial undertaking that imposes upon its members the obligation to contribute 10 per cent, of their salary to a superannuation scheme. It is a very heavy burden, and this bill, whilst granting benefits, increases the obligation to contribute from £4 10s. a week to £5 a week. The fund is completely solvent. I have the figures before me.
– What is the usual proportion of contributions as between employee and employer?
– It varies from a complete contribution by the employer - that does not operate in many cases - to 97i per cent, by the employer and 2± per cent, by the employee. I am not claiming that my experience of this matter is more than limited. 1 suggest that 5 per cent, is the maximum. I think the committee itself - I have not read the report for some considerable time - directs attention to that particular comparison.
– What is the ratio - the management’s contribution compared with that of the employees?
– I think our own was 1 to H, which was 40-60, which the committee recorded, if not in the report, then in the discussions. I had discussions with the committee on behalf of the party. The opinion expressed in the light of inquiries in relation to what is done outside was that the figure was absurdly low. I confess that my experience of superannuation schemes in industrial activities is not wide. I do not accept the view that they put. Accordingly, I indicate to the Senate that we will not vote against the second reading of the second measure. We will endeavour to secure amendments to the amounts provided for officers of the Parliament in committee. We shall not oppose the third bill relating to pensions at the second reading or the third reading, but we do seek two amendments. We do not object to the increased rate of pension for the Prime Minister. The party debated that matter very fully and recognized that there is no more onerous or arduous duty in the Australian community than that of the Australian Prime Minister under modern conditions - nothing more responsible and nothing more arduous. Some of us who have lived close to past Prime Ministers know of their bitter experiences. We know the unending, the unceasing impact of events upon them. A great toll is taken of their strength and their lives are affected. I have only to refer to men within the experience of many of us. Apart from Mr. Scullin, who was in the Parliament until recent years, I think of Mr. Lyons, John Curtin, Ben Chifley - men who died prematurely, men who when they embarked on these duties were in the prime of health but were borne down by the burdens of responsibility. I have expressed the view before in this place that the man who takes the job of Prime Minister writes five or ten years off his life. I think that he is entitled not only to adequate remuneration, and to whatever is required to enable him to function with dignity in the country that he represents, but also to be relieved of any thought of financial worry about his future. That cannot be applied with regard to means, whatever they might be. To my knowledge more than one person who had held the office of Prime Minister, left very little estate behind him when he died. When I was in the Chifley Cabinet, I had the opportunity to see the applications for assistance that were met out of the Treasurer’s fund. Probably some of the Ministers listening to me now would have certain knowledge. They would not give the details - nor will I - but I am prepared to say that the nation would be shocked if it knew how certain persons, the widows of those who have carried the highest responsibilities in this country, were in the direst difficulty.
– That is so. In this matter the Labour Party takes the view that a man who serves this country for from two to six years is entitled to a graduated pension, according to the period for which he has served - to relieve him of financial anxiety while he is here and to ensure, for it is consonant with the dignity of the nation, that he shall never be allowed to fall into penury - nor his widow when he passes on. We approve that. There is no qualification. While we accepted the principle of Prime Ministers’ pensions in 1952, then completely supporting the Government and the Nicholas committee in its proposals as to the retrospective element, we feel that when a terrific rise- from £1,200 to £3,000 per annum for a Prime Minister who has completed six years in office - is now to take place, it is a little unreal to give that extra £1,800 to a man who completed his term of office as Prime Minister of Australia 30 years ago. Accordingly, we propose to move that the benefit of the increase of £1,800 be not enjoyed by anybody whose term of office as Prime Minister was completed more than 25 years ago.
– Why should the time make the difference?
– 1 think that it is more than the time.
– It is the man.
– I agree, but my criticism is not directed to any particular man.
– To what else?
– I do ask the Senate to believe me when I say that it is not directed at the particular man affected. There would be no hesitation on the part of the honorable senator to accept what I say if he had been in the party room when the matter was discussed, and had heard the tributes paid by Dr. Evatt, amongst others, to the work of Viscount Bruce as High Commissioner for this country, representing the Chifley and the Curtin Labour Governments, for which he performed magnificent service. I have always been prepared to concede that. I do ask to be believed when I say that the amendment which I foreshadow is directed not to the man but to the position. The Budget, in the days when Viscount Bruce was the Prime Minister of this country, was probably £50,000,000 or £60,000,000. 1 have not checked the figure, but it had grown to less than £100,000,000 by 1939 so it would be a very low amount compared with the figure of £1,400,000,000 to-day. There were no great issues or pressures at the time, and the life of a Prime Minister in those days, before the Commonwealth assumed the enormous responsibility of combating a depression, was entirely different from what it is to-day.
Just after Vicount Bruce’s term we ran into the last terrific depression, and then went through the difficulties and inflationary effects of a second world war and the postwar period, so it would be wrong to suggest that there could be any comparison between the strain that was imposed upon a Prime Minister some 30 years ago and the strain that is imposed to-day. I have personal regrets that this amendment does strike at Viscount Bruce.
– He will not be worried.
– I should hope that he would not be. I think that he would be exceedingly surprised if he were to have an additional £1,800 per annum added to the £1,200 that he gets at the moment in respect of service that was concluded some 30 years ago. I think that if the proposition is stated that way Senator Spooner will see that it has a basis of reason and that there is no personal element in it at all. It was one of the features of the report that excited public opinion. It was one of the things featured day by day in criticism of the Richardson report, and of the Government’s decision to adopt it, and I think that it is proper to include that as well as other matters.
I have only one more thing to say before I conclude. Altogether, the Opposition has voiced objection to ten matters in the Richardson committee’s report. Two matters were mentioned by the Government to-night. They are matters which the Government has itself discarded. Noncontributory pensions for Ministers and Opposition Leaders are out. There is an undertaking, or a statement, that consideration will later be given to a contributory scheme which will impose responsibility on those who may benefit. I shall look forward to seeing that scheme eventuate. Once a scheme is on a proper contributory basis the main element of objection is gone.
We objected also to the provision of cars for the use of ex-Ministers. The Government has given way on this matter, which is of the slightest consequence - the least significance - as the Government acknowledged, and I agree.
Three matters which are not dealt with in the legislation before us, and to which we have objected, will no doubt be dealt with by administrative act. I refer to travelling allowance for the Prime Minister and Ministers, travelling allowance for the President, Mr. Speaker, and certain Opposition Leaders. There is also the matter of life gold passes. We have objections, but not complete objections such as to wipe out all the proposals of the committee - rather to modify them. We have no opportunity of dealing with those matters under this legislation and I merely name them.
The remaining five matters to which we objected are included in this legislation and in the course of my speech I have directed attention to those particular aspects. I feel that I have certainly taken more time than I intended and that I have had an adequate opportunity to put not only my own thoughts on a few aspects but also those of the party in relation to the matters at issue. We shall carry our objections to the point of voting against the different bills and 1 look forward to hearing the contributions of other honorable senators to this debate.
– The bills that we are considering to-night are a series which stem directly from the report, known as the Richardson report, on salaries and allowances of members of the Commonwealth Parliament. First, I wish to join both the Leader of the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in referring to the attack that has been made upon this independent committee which examined, under its charter, the position of members of this Parliament. I note with some interest that this attack was not directed early in the appointment of the committee, but has been particularly virile since its decisions have become known.
The chairman of the committee, Sir Frank Richardson, has been a member of the three independent committees that have been appointed by this Government and because of that very continuity of operation would naturally be appointed chairman on this occasion. I believe that a great deal of ill-informed criticism has been levelled at the independence of this committee. That can be seen if one looks at the gentlemen who have carried out this odious task. I refer to the other members of the committee - Mr. Cowper, who is a well-known Sydney lawyer, and Mr. Fitzgerald, who is a well-known Melbourne accountant. Those three men are every bit as independently minded as is any member of this Parliament. I believe that it is unjust and unfair to state otherwise. It is interesting to note that at the time of the appointment of this committee no one raised his voice against its composition. In fact, a section of the press was loud in its praise of this system of appointing an independent committee and actually said that we should abide by the umpire’s decision.
The previous Richardson report came to us when we were using every endeavour to stem inflation. I think that answers the question posed by the Leader of the Opposition as to why ministerial salaries and allowances were not included in the recommendations made in that report. I opposed the timing of that report, but since then we have stabilized the economy and, I believe, circumstances have altered entirely. Fears have been expressed as to the effect that these increases, totalling £170,000 - and £80,000 will return to the Treasury by way of taxes-
– As much as that?
– It could be a little more. I am being conservative. I have heard it suggested that £85,000 will go back to the Treasury in payment of taxes. Fears have been expressed as to the effect of these increases on the economy and the court’s decision relating to the basic wage. I believe that no court which might be investigating the basic wage position - and this wage is reviewed annually - would be influenced by the findings of a committee which considered something only once every three years. I submit that if we are to give full weight to the suggestion that there should be no consideration of the need or otherwise for increasing parliamentary salaries and allowances because the basic wage is being reviewed, then, as the basic wage is reviewed annually, there will be no time which will be the right time for considering increases in parliamentary salaries and allowances and therefore injustice will be done to members of Parliament.
I am quite aware that some sections of industry, of our great rural industries in particular, are facing very great difficulties. No one appreciates more than I do the termendous value of the contribution made to the economy of Australia by our rural industries, but I do not consider it sound to tie parliamentary salaries and allowances to any one section of Australian industry. It is unsound to do so because the tremendous fluctuations in the prices of some of our main primary products make the proposition untenable.
I should like to deal briefly, and perhaps a little more factually, with the proposals contained in the report, and to discuss some of the criticisms levelled at the salaries and allowances of private members because there has been a great deal of misunderstanding on this subject. The present salary of a private member is £2,350 a year. If he has a wife, he is required to pay income tax amounting to £336 on that salary. This leaves him a net income of £2,014. The bill proposes that his salary shall be increased to £2,750 a year. If he has a wife, that will be reduced by £458 in the payment of income tax, leaving him a net salary of £2,292; so that the net increase to be enjoyed by him will be £278. From his £2,292 he must also suffer a compulsory reduction of £262 a year for superannuation contributions. This will reduce the proposed new salary to a net £2,032 a year.
In addition, a senator receives £700 a year at present by way of electorate allowance to meet his expenses. That allowance is to be increased to £800. I point out that many honorable senators would travel 20,000 miles a year in their own motor cars, touring their States on government business. They could not possibly cover that mileage at any lower cost than £650. It simply cannot be done for less than 9d. a mile. This means that from the present allowance of £700 only £50 is left to a senator to meet the whole of his other travelling expenses, his donations - and believe me, they are many and varied - and the whole of his subscriptions; and I say without hesitation that the honorable senators who appeared before the committee and stated in evidence that they spend a great deal of their salaries as well as their allowances in carrying out this task were stating facts. I am convinced that the private senator who carries out his task properly needs and is entitled to the proposed increases.
I know that many people, somewhat unreasonably, condemn the private member of Parliament, but the committee, which advertised that it would receive evidence, and which did in fact receive nearly 1,500 public submissions, said this of the private member in paragraph 22 of its report -
For the above reasons, the question of the remuneration of Members must be approached on the basis that theirs is a full-time occupation.
I direct the attention of the Senate to another point in this paragraph of the report because I have heard it said that there has been no continuity of policy between these committees. The committee goes on to say -
We repeat the statement in the Report of the 1955 Committee - “ Evidence abounds that a Member, with the best will in the world, who goes into Parliament with the intention of devoting only part of his time to the job is swiftly caught up in the fast-moving and exacting life of a representative of the people which demands full-time service. Any ancillary income from personal exertion diminishes rapidly.”
That was said in 1955, yet I have heard it said that there has been no continuity of policy between the three committees which have considered this matter.
I should like to quote further from this committee’s report because there are certain parts which I feel are well worth repeating. Paragraphs 27 and 28 read -
While we honour their sentiments and do not doubt their sincerity, we do not agree with their views.
I am quoting extracts from a summary of the factual evidence given to the committee which examined the bank statements of the members who submitted the evidence. I do not believe any member of this Parliament would go before any committee and tell complete untruths. The report of the committee continues -
It is contrary to the interests of the community that Members of its Parliament should be underpaid to the point of financial embarrassment. The results, in our opinion, would be that (a) men of education and quality, but without private means, would be deterred from entering public life; -
I shall deal with that matter in a moment. The report goes on -
To illustrate the continuity of thought that has run through the minds of members of the committees, I shall read to honorable senators pronouncements made by the committees that sat in 1951 and in 1955. The committee of 1951 stated -
The committee that sat in 1955 stated -
We do not believe that any one should seek election to Parliament for personal profit nor do we believe that any one should be debarred from a seat in Parliament simply because he cannot afford the financial sacrifice.
Australia would be in a sorry plight indeed if its parliamentary representatives consisted only of wealthy men, or men and women who had a business, a profession or a private income. The committee, which was comprised of competent businessmen, has stated that the younger trained business executives, the men trained in business management, who can look forward to obtaining ministerial rank in the administrative departments of the Commonwealth, should be given the opportunity to enter parliamentary life. The Parliament, which faces a huge administrative task, as well as the task of formulating political policy, has great need of men of this type.
In company with other men, I have approached these young trained business executives, men who have had experience and training in business and who have acquired sound judgment and common sense, and have asked them to stand for election to Parliament because I have believed that they would be an asset to the Parliament. They have declined to do so because they have said that their careers in the organizations in which they were employed provided more adequate protection and security for their wives and families. Every young man has the right to consider the future of his wife and children. The committee had that matter in mind when it referred to superannuation. Although the parliamentary superannuation fund has been sneeringly called “ the pensions for politicians fund “, it is a fund into which every member pays a compulsory contribution of 10 per cent, of his base salary. The committee has recommended that the amount should be increased by 10s. a week to make an annual contribution of £260. From my experience in the business world, no organization would be courageous enough to ask its staff to contribute 10 per cent, of its salary to a superannuation fund.
– An organization that did so would not hold its staff for very long.
– I agree with the honorable senator; no organization would hold its staff for very long if a contribution to the superannuation fund of 10 per cent, of the base salary was requested. The average amount contributed to any superannuation fund out of the salary of an employee is 2£ per cent., and I am certain that no contribution exceeds 5 per cent. The parliamentary superannuation fund can afford to meet the recommendations of the committee.
The press has been most unfair in its constant references to members’ salaries, quoting a figure which includes the member’s travelling and electoral allowances. In my business life I have employed many commercial travellers. If I have paid them a salary of £1,500 a year and have given them an allowance to cover entertainment, travelling expenses and other such incidentals, amounting to £1,000 a year, I have never stated their salary to be £2,500 a year. I am sure that no member of the press has ever added any allowance he may receive to his base salary and regarded the total as his normal salary. To add together travelling and electoral allowances and salary is completely unfair and unjust. Every person in a community knows that in the business world allowances are made to executives, junior executives and travelling staff.
I know that traditionally the people are opposed to increases in the salary of members of Parliament. The Constitution has given us an odious task to perform in that we must fix our own salaries. But we have accepted that duty which, in my opinion, can be discharged only by referring this difficult question to an independent committee for determination. The Government has done so on three occasions; the committees have arrived at decisions and those decisions have been referred to Parliament. I have no doubt that those decisions were arrived at after a fair and thorough inquiry into the matter. As a man who has been a business executive for many years, I do not consider that the recommendations of the committee on this occasion are unreasonable. J do not believe there is anything wrong in advocating a reasonable standard of payment for our public duties. 1 say this as a man who has been for many years in public life, first in an honorary capacity and now receiving payment for my services. Any member of this Parliament who contributes compulsorily £260 a year into a superannuation fund, while meeting all the social service obligations of the ordinary taxpayer, is entitled to draw from the fund the amount recommended by the committee.
I have studied only cursorily the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition. I am sorry that those amendments seek to delete from the proposed legislation everything which will not benefit members of the Opposition personally, and to retain everything from which they will benefit. To do that is to play party politics. The Opposition’s performance is grotesque. The attempt to accept the recommendations that benefit them and discard those from which they will get no benefit will not be accepted by. nor will it convince, the public. I believe it will display to the public that honorable senators opposite are shadow fighters and will indicate the low level to which the Opposition has sunk.
I believe that it is in the best interests of the nation that this problem should be examined by an independent committee. Because I believe that the Richardson committee has done that in a fair and impartial manner, I support the legislation and will record my vote for it.
– The legislation before the Senate dealing with ministerial salaries and salaries for parliamentarians is, I believe, anathema to the people of Australia. The Democratic Labour Party is determined to oppose all these bills and any amendments that may be moved as well. Some of the amendments might be good, but by supporting them we would be sanctioning some parts of the legislation.
We might be asked why we are opposing these tremendous and rather extravagant increases to parliamentarians. During the last three years the Democratic Labour Party has set a course in this Parliament which it intends to follow in respect of this legislation. We have fought during the last three years for a tribunal - or a committee if you like - to be set up to give justice to pensioners, social service beneficiaries and superannuated people. We have fought for that in this Senate when social service legislation has been introduced. We would have been prepared, if we had had the support of the Labour Party, even to defeat Budgets along those lines.
If we politicians can set up an independent tribunal to investigate and increase our salaries, why in the world should not something like that have been done for pensioners and others over the last three years? Parliamentarians on the Liberal side have opposed us on this matter. 1 can understand that, because they show very scant respect for the pensioners of this country. That was shown very clearly in the last Budget. We thought that the Evatt party would support us in our efforts to have a tribunal set up to give justice to the recipients of social service benefits and pensioners, but what happened? During the Budget sessions in each of the past three years, the Evatt party voted with the Government to prevent an independent tribunal being set up to give justice to the pensioners. Yet that same party to-day is accepting the findings of an independent tribunal for its own benefit. For three years we have been asking that the same type of tribunal should be set up for social service beneficiaries, pensioners and superannuated people.
The Democratic Labour Party is definitely following the line in respect of this legislation which it has followed in respect of the pensioners. That is why we oppose in full any increases to parliamentarians until social service beneficiaries are given the right to put their case to an independent tribunal, or are granted very much increased benefits.
A case may exist for increases in parliamentary salaries and allowances. I am not disputing that. In my speech to-night I am not canvassing the merits or demerits of this legislation. I am not worrying about that, because, as I said, we are totally opposed to all the bills. Just reasons may exist why increases should be granted to parliamentarians who have no resources other than their parliamentary salaries. But we have a responsibility as parliamentarians. It is our job to give leadership to the rest of the community, and we should not ask other people to do what we will not do ourselves. That is what is being done in this legislation. If honorable senators accept this legislation, they are accepting something which they are not prepared to give to others. Because of that, my party is wholly and completely in opposition to the three bills and any amendments that may be moved to them. Our view has been put to the people right from the beginning. Everybody knows where we stand on this issue, both from the executive level of the Democratic Labour Party and from the parliamentary level. 1 should like to express our view once again. We say that there should be no increases in parliamentary salaries, allowances and pensions until an independent tribunal has been set up to give justice to pensioners. That is the stand that Senator McManus and I have taken in this Parliament, and that is the stand we intend to take until justice is given to these people.
A great deal has been said about newspaper propaganda. I have no great love for the newspapers. They did not show me a great deal of consideration when they commented on the Richardson report. Even when I pointed out to them forcibly their mistake, they still did not have the decency the next day to correct the mistake they had made. It cannot therefore be said that I have a great love for the press. I believe that those who have spoken in this chamber to-night, and those who have spoken in another place, are making a very bad mistake. They are blaming the newspapers for the outcry that has been raised against the proposed increases of parliamentary salaries, allowances and pensions, but I disagree with them.
I believe that the outburst was spontaneous and that it came right from the people themselves. Of course, the newspapers reported it, but the feeling itself came directly from the people, lt may be that the press kept the matter alive over the last few weeks; but I believe that honorable senators know where the feeling originated, because they have met various people in their electorates. A newspaper in a town on the north-west coast of Tasmania did not make any comment, good or bad, about the increases but simply published what they would be. That newspaper did not try to influence the people, but when I went down the street on the following morning I could feel that the people were dead against any increase. I say that the outburst was spontaneous and that the people of Australia do not believe that these salary increases are warranted.
It may be that the people have a good case. If we look after ourselves and not the needy in the community, what can we expect? And that is what this Government has done, especially when framing the last Budget, ft has not helped the needy people in the community. Should we wonder, then, at this outcry against extravagant increases in salary, especially in the case of Ministers? In fact, I believe that ministerial salaries are reaching proportions that could quite easily lead to the formation of an aristocracy in this country. We have not an aristocracy yet, but if these increases are granted, we will have one and it will be led by the parliamentarians. Perhaps that would not be a bad thing!
The Democratic Labour Party was attacked when the banking bills were being considered. To-night, I ask: Where does the Evatt party stand on the measures now before us? It has been backing and filling on what should be done about parliamentary salaries. There has been much hypocrisy about the matter, so much so that to-day the federal president of the party and the vice-president of the Tasmanian branch have resigned. If the Labour Party, which professes to be the champion of the pensioners, had taken a firm stand on this matter at the very beginning, this legislation would not have come before the Parliament and we of the Democratic Labour Party would not have had to try to defeat it at the second-reading or the third-reading stage.
I say that the Evatt party, in this chamber and in another place, is responsible, because of its shilly-shallying and hypocrisy, for these measures coming before the Parliament. If members of the Labour Party are in favour of the introduction of the legislation, let them be firm about it. Mr. Menzies has been strong on this matter and has been quite willing to take the brunt of the attack. He has stuck to his guns. But that is not so with the Labour Party. Members of that party had their opportunity to prevent this legislation from ever seeing the light of day. Now we are witnessing a sham fight. I believe that supporters of the Labour Party realize that,- and that the action which has been taken in certain quarters within the party to-day proves it. At least, every one knew from the start where the Democratic Labour Party stood.
The Senate is a very worthy institution, and I believe that it can do great things for the Commonwealth of Australia. It is supposed to represent, not parties, but the States in the parliamentary sphere. Every one in this chamber knows that almost 90 per cent, of the people of Australia do not want this legislation to be passed. The Senate could gain great kudos if it took a stand on the matter. There is no reason why it should not take that stand. If it did, it would add to its prestige - prestige that it will sadly need if those who are working so hard to have the legislation amended support a clause which will allow one of the people in another place who represents a pocket-handkerchief electorate to receive £50 a year more by way of electoral allowance that a senator will receive. I believe the Richardson committee did not think that the Senate was of any great value. By our vote to-night we can show that we are of some value, that we do represent the people of Australia, and that we have independent minds on these matters.
– Did you appear before the committee?
– Certainly, I was there. If the honorable senator wants to know what T said, I will tell him. I said that there should not be any increases in parliamentary salaries.
– That was not the answer they wanted, but they have it, nevertheless.
– We seek the truth. It did not take the honorable senator an hour and a half to say that.
– We had a good, quiet chat. A member of the committee asked we what had happened to all the people who had been defeated at the general election. I know quite well what Senator Hendrickson would have said if he had been there.
I cannot understand why Senator McKenna is bringing forward the amendments that he proposes. How can he logically do so when, in his speech, he advocated tremendous increases in parliamentary salaries? He said that politicians should even be over-paid. I therefore wonder whether he really means what he says in attempting to cut down ministerial salaries and allowances by means of his amendments.
– He is putting a caucus decision.
– I am sorry. I thought that this was the Senate, where we had independent voting.
– The honorable senator should quote me accurately. I said that members of Parliament should be overpaid rather than under-paid.
– The honorable senator put forward the proposition that parliamentary salaries should be fixed for the ensuing ten-year period so that there would be no fooling about with salaries for ten years. That is the idea that I got from his speech. Now, apparently, he is suggesting that salaries which are not on a tenyear basis should be cut down.
I hope, Mr. President, that this legislation will not be rushed through the Senate. I do not think there is any need for great haste. Certain pressure may be brought to bear on some people in this chamber if the legislation is not passed to-night, but I should say that it would be unseemly for the Senate to sit all night to pass the legislation. I hope that the Minister in charge of the bills will inform the Senate whether they are to be passed to-night or not. We can allow ourselves quite a long time in which to study the various bills, and, as I say, I hope there will be no unseemly haste in dealing with them.
I have given the Senate the reasons why we of the Australian Democratic Labour Party are opposing the bills in their entirety. I believe that our case is sound, that we are following a very fine principle, and that the members of the Senate will help us, by their independent vote, to make sure that these increases of parliamentary salaries and allowances are not brought into being before similar efforts are made to bring the deserving people of the community to a reasonable standard of living. If we do that, then we as a parliament can take the responsibility for deciding to increase our salaries and allowances, and I believe that we will receive the approval of the people of Australia.
.- I crave your indulgence, Mr. President, and that of others who are listening to me, for the weak state of my voice to-night, but I do not wish to register a silent vote on this occasion. This is legislation which, because of its personal application, involves embarrassment in speaking to it. Nevertheless, Sir, I want to-night to put the point of view of my party on this issue. I stress that matter, because there has been no verbatim report emanating from the party meetings indicating to the world at large that we have considered this important matter. For that reason, I want to let the Senate know that we as a party have realized our responsibilities towards this legislation and have given it a great deal of consideration. We have never debated the question of who is right on this issue, whether it is the press or the Richardson committee. We have bent our energies in the direction of determining what is right. I am bound to say that my party is convinced that the only infallible voice is the voice of the people when they are completely and fully informed.
Being a simple soul, I delight in simple things. My reference is to informed people. Last Friday, a colleague and I were travelling on our usual long train journey from Melbourne to Horsham, a journey that takes some six hours, in a train that delights in stopping at every little wayside station and invariably loses half an hour in the first 30 or 40 miles.
– No wonder you want more roads in Victoria!
– No wonder we want more money from the petrol tax. But tar from being critical of that train, my colleague and I welcome the opportunity to travel on it because it provides us with an opportunity to talk to people with whom we would not otherwise come in contact, people who have problems and a point of view that we find of tremendous value to us in this National Parliament. For that reason, I have no personal criticism whatever to make of this train. It is true that the journey is fatiguing, but it provides us with a source of information that I would not like to be without.
Last Friday was a particularly trying day. It was humid, and the train was late. The tires on the train were flat. We were shunted on to sidings to make way for freight cars and sheep trucks, and at a particular siding the aroma that arose from a train alongside us would have made the smell encountered on the journey between Mascot and Sydney, which prompted a question in the Senate recently, fade into insignificance. But let me get away from aromas and come to more pleasant things. In the carriage, we had as fellow-travellers two charming women.
– This is a travel talk, is it?
– Yes. We talked about things of no consequence until one of the ladies picked up off a seat of the compartment a copy of the Melbourne “ Age “, a newspaper that enjoys a reputation in Victoria for reliable reporting.
– G’o away - forget about it!
– That is what I have said.
– How long have you thought that?
– I shall come to you directly. Across the front page was a heading indicating to the world that the Victorian parliamentarians were to receive an increase of £400 a year in their salary. The lady said to me, after reading it, “ That is the sort of job you fellows should have. You would not have to ride in these wretched trains then “. That is typical of what has been built up in the people’s minds - built up by a press which has apparently embarked upon a course of belittling Parliament and those who constitute it.
Therefore, Sir, we as a party were determined to find out for ourselves, not who is right but what is right. There are some curious aspects of this controversy. The Prime Minister, in his address on this subject in the other place on Tuesday evening, went to some length to admit, quite courageously, that he felt he had a responsibility to see that justice was done to members on both sides of Parliament - in respect of their salaries and allowances - a responsibility that he accepted quite freely. The curious thing is that when the Richardson committee was appointed for the express purpose of inquiring into parliamentary salaries and allowances, not a word was said about it by any member. I should like to quote again from the leading article of the Melbourne “ Herald “ of 19th January. It contained this passage -
In announcing the appointment of an independent committee to report on Parliamentary salaries and allowances, Mr. Menzies is choosing the fairest way of answering those members of the two Federal Houses who have been suggesting that another increase in their pay is merited. The principle of periodic and independent reviews is sound.
If rates are to be reviewed early in the threeyear life of each Parliament, as Mr. Menzies suggests, it should follow that the findings of the committee are followed throughout this term, and are applied in their entirety.
But as soon as the report was tabled there was a scream from the Melbourne “ Herald “ and other sections of the press that deliberately set out to distort and inflame people’s minds as to the content of that report. And just at that time I think another section of the press indulged in an all-time piece of low intent to distort a statement alleged1 to have been made by the Prime Minister. It was declared in headlines that the Prime Minister said, “ You will have all of this report or nothing “ I suggest to this Senate, Sir, that that allegation drove the last nail into the coffin of decent public thinking, because here was a state of affairs, according to the alleged statement, that proved to the people of Australia that the government was prepared to dictate on matters that were matters for negotiation and tolerance. It is true to say that because of the zeal with which a certain journalist carried out the dictates of his employers, he has paid the sacrifice. But the damage has been done. The damage was done because of that statement that was completely without foundation. So, Sir, we concluded that there was not any real substance in the newspaper propaganda that was being levelled at this report.
We decided that we would try to find out for ourselves what the people thought when they wrote to us, and I am bound to say that we are indebted to some people for being good enough to state their case in writing. It is an indication that democracy in this country is really alive when people are prepared to take the time and trouble to sit down and write to their member and express their ideas on what should be done for the betterment of this country. There is only one complaint that I have, and it is that there were not as many letters to examine as we would have liked. But two chief objections stood out. Practically everybody took the greatest exception to the recommendation in the report that Ministers should receive pensions without making any payment towards them, that is, non-contributory pensions. My colleagues agreed that that was something that was quite unnecessary, quite uncalled for, and we stated our case to the Government. The result is known. The Government proved tolerant and considerate of the wishes of those that support it and said that it would eliminate that issue.
The next thing of importance that was brought to the notice of my colleagues by way of correspondence was that the time for increases was not opportune. Of course the time was not opportune! But the time is always opportune to remove an injustice if it is within the powers of a government to do so. The Prime Minister freely admitted that, as I have said before, and he appointed the Richardson committee to examine the allegations that injustices and disabilities were being suffered by members of both Houses of the Parliament. He said, in effect, to the Richardson committee, “ I charge you with the responsibility of bringing in your finding, not on hearsay and not on opinions, but based primarily on written evidence - documentary evidence”. That committee, after receiving many submissions and making many inquiries, I believe with complete honesty, brought in a report which made certain recommendations for increases, and said, “ Now is the time “. Still we were not satisfied, and again we went to our correspondents and we found that they had the same burden of complaint - that the time was not opportune. There was only one way to ascertain their reason for saying that the time was not opportune.
One of our most distinguished members, who has had a very long period of service in this Parliament, decided that he would call a meeting of his electors in the second largest town in his electorate. He made his intention known by radio, by press, and by word of mouth. To make sure that some of his most caustic critics in that area knew that the meeting was to be held, he sent them personal telegrams. The sum substance of the public support for that meeting was 21 souls, but still it was a representative meeting and one from which our member could get a considered opinion as to whether or not the time was opportune. The meeting was held in a rural town, which lives upon the rural industries that surround it. Our member discussed this matter with those present. He answered their questions and in the final analysis a resolution was carried to the effect that the member be instructed to accept the rises in his salary and allowances. So, if you are going to argue that the time is not opportune I would say that the report says that it is opportune. So also do the people, when one has had an opportunity of talking to them, and when fully informed of all that is involved.
I turn now to what T consider to be one of the most blatant pieces of political manoeuvring that I have seen for a long time. I have on my desk notice of an amendment to be moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I must say that that gentleman, as always, presented a studied and well-thought-out case, that his manner was temperate and courteous. However, doubtless at the behest of his party, he suggested that Labour would support the bills for the increases in salaries and allowances, but would not agree to the legislation proposing salary increases for Ministers.
– You are not very we informed.
– I am sufficiently well informed to know that honorable members opposite are motivated by the principle that the Richardson committee suits them fine when it refers to the emoluments that they will receive, but it does not suit them when it suggests increases for Ministers. Apparently honorable members opposite are resigned to the fact that they will never occupy the treasury bench and they therefore will not have a bar of the report as it affects Ministers.
In conclusion, I should like the Senate to note that there are clauses in this legislation that I should like to see eliminated, but if to eliminate them I have to choose between voting with the Opposition that has been guilty of political manoeuvring, or voting with a government that has been frank in its approach, T shall vote with the Government.
.- The Parliament is engaged upon a delicate duty in considering legislation affecting the emoluments of members. In my opinion, the legislation expressed in these three bills should be defeated. I want to make it quite clear that I take the view that it is just as necessary that adequate compensation for services be paid to members and Ministers as it is necessary that they should be paid to any other public officer. Parliament’s existence would be threatened if adequate emoluments were not available. Only the wealthy or those tied to sectional interests could then exist in Parliament.
The second thing that I want to say, Mr. President, is this: In this particular instance it must be recognized that each individual member of Parliament has a very definite interest. I submit that it is not fair advocacy, even for those experienced in equity, to ignore and indeed not to emphasize, the need for the greatest restraint and objectivity in dealing with this matter - that is, when a member of Parliament who comes here as a representative of the people undertakes to vote, if he assents to the measure, for an increase in his own remuneration. That, I submit, makes this issue essentially one in which you cannot transfer responsibility to any committee, especially not to a committee of three men of no special constitutional understanding, presided over by an influential merchant - of great experience in the commercial sphere, but not with any special experience to deal with a revision of the principles - for that is what they undertook - upon which parliamentary remuneration should be assessed. We have had the humiliating experience, here in this chamber, of being told of a committee sitting in camera, and of hearing suggestions from one section and the other as to what deliberations were as between individual members. We have had references by various members of the Parliament, who appeared before the committee, as to what they put. Every member knows the committee gave an assurance that such matters would not go on record. Not one syllable of record of those proceedings is available. Nor is this decision one for the prerogative of Cabinet. Much less is it a matter for the party room. It is a matter where the individual interest is predominant. It is essentially and preeminently a matter for the individual member on the floor of the House.
The next thing that I want to say is that, this being an issue in which every individual member has an obvious interest, this kind of measure, perhaps beyond all others, demands the scrutiny of an impartial press and of every other agency of communication whereby electoral opinion can be informed and advised. It would be a sorry state of democracy if every member in Parliament could meet otherwise than subject to public criticism by a press of some tradition, and vote on matters which increased his income, not at the expense of his employers, but at the expense of the public purse.
– Are not the public his employers?
– They are certainly not his employers! We hold one of the most independent offices in the land. The press is deficient in reporting current matters of great national importance and in this regard I share the opinions expressed by Senator McKenna concerning the complete disregard of the press for the significance of the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill. However, in a matter which concerns members’ salaries it is imperative, if you are going to maintain a vigorous democracy, that the press should operate with the most vigorous criticism if it, as a matter of judgment, thinks that the public interest warrants such criticism. I dissociate myself completely from the idea that it is valid criticism in this instance to say that the press is not elected, or enjoys inherited wealth, or writes with an undergraduate style. That does not detract from the validity of the views so long as they are honestly put forward and genuinely intended for the public interest.
The next thing I want to say is that it is nothing to the point, in this instance, to state that since salary votes have come before Parliament, as they have done for the last 50-odd years in Australia and a little shorter time in Great Britain, the press has shown vigilance in respect of the interest of members in the subject which, inside the Parliament, demands that we address ourselves to the question of whether or not such measures are justified.
I think that it would be becoming at least just to take a glance at the United Kingdom experience where the traditions of Parliament, I think, have been created, and have grown, and where they are nurtured by parliamentarians and the people to a degree that is the envy of the rest of the world. Some criticism has been levelled at comparison made in the press between the emoluments of the Prime Minister of Great Britain and our own Prime Minister. I was indebted to the Prime Minister the other night for pointing out that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, in addition to his allowance of £10,000 sterling, has the advantage of Budget votes for his establishments. But in my own inquisitive way I had, a day or so earlier, sought from the secretary of the Richardson committee the tables of comparative emoluments which were stated in the report of that committee to have been laid before the committee. It ought to be known that the table is headed, “ Comparison of salaries and allowances within the British Commonwealth. Rates in Australian pounds.” The emoluments of the Australian Prime Minister are added up, and I think his salary and allowance total something like £10,000. In the column headed “U.K.” appears this item “£12,500 (£3,760 tax free, £940 expense allowance)”. One might be forgiven, therefore, for taking the table on its face value, without other things in the schedule of much more significance than that.
The present emolument of Cabinet Ministers in the United Kingdom, including salary and allowance, is £7,210 sterling. Junior Ministers in Australia, without the aid of this legislation, receive £5,800 Australian, and those in England - this table has, at my instance, been corrected to-night to correspond with what I have found for myself in the “ Hansard “ of the House of Commons, on the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer - receive £4,700 plus an allowance of £940.
Let it be said that when the House of Commons dealt with this subject as recently as July, 1957, references were made, with great solicitude, to the reaction in the country, on the spirit of the nation to such measures as this. The Prime Minister’s references to it reverberated throughout the House. A brief summary of the position there is this: Ordinary members of the House of Commons had their emoluments fixed at £1,000 sterling in 1937. In 1952, a select committee recommended an increase to £1,500 sterling. In 1954, the House had a free vote and, by a majority of 114, resolved to adopt that recommendation. But Sir Winston Churchill, as Prime Minister, came into the House on 24th June, 1954, after the vote had been taken, and said -
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement. The stringency of the effort necessary to keep the economy of this country balanced is si.’ch that I and my Ministers feel that members of Parliament should not give the country the example of increasing salaries and wages, an important factor in industrial and agricultural cos fs.
– When was that?
– lt was in 1954. But 1 have not finished yet. In 1956, Sir Anthony Eden was pressed for an increase, and his reply is reported in Volume 556, of “ Hansard “ of the House of Commons -
With greater restraint on all sides, we may achieve a greater stability in prices, and that is what we all seek. I need not tell the House after that that an increase here at this time, in the full glare of publicity in which we have to live as members of Parliament cannot but have its effect at once on other sections of the community at a lime when we are urging restraint.
In this respect we are in a special position because we are the cynosure of all eyes at all times. I do not think, therefore, thai members of Parliament can be compared exactly with any other salaried personnel, official or professional. We are in this special position and we must not be the ones to get the spiral working again.
However presumptuous it might have been for me to rely upon my own unaided judgment in advancing the view that the proposals before us to-night will have a significant impact upon wage costs in the country, 1 trust it will be conceded that my opinion will be listened to when it is the view of the Prime Minister of Great Britain as recently as 1956. After all those efforts, the Government of Great Britain on 4th July, 1957, granted an increase to members, other than those receiving more than £5,000 a year. Junior Ministers in the British Cabinet receive £A4,700 a year with an allowance of £940, while members of the House of Commons, who do not have the assistance of secretaries and do not receive postage allowance or any other benefit, other than free travel between their constituency and the Parliament, receive a salary of £1,750 sterling. Therefore, in Australia where we do not call our struggle a battle against inflation, but where we did conceive some time ago that it was our task to put value back in the £1, it is important that we do not, by any act of this Parliament, turn ourselves from our task, particularly as the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has said that a great deal of success has attended our efforts in the last three years to stabilize the economy. But the economy is delicately poised and at any time may topple and lead to further spiralling of costs.
– I did not say that.
– Apparently I have created the impression in the Minister’s mind that my last few words were his. That is not so. The stabilization of our economy now demands, as never before, the most careful handling by the Government. But what do we find? We find a committee constituted, not for the purpose merely of adjusting the levels of parliamentary salaries to the current levels of costs, but equipped with a commission which the committee considered entitled it to make an entirely new re-examination of the principles upon which this matter should be judged. The committee stated -
In o:.r judgment, our function was not to take the existing rates of salaries and allowances and bring them up to date in the light of movements in cost of living indices and average rates of earnings since 1951 or 1955. as the case might be. We were clearly required to make a fresh examination of the matters included in the terms of reference. We therefore approached our task without feeling fettered or committed on any question by the opinions and recommendations of the previous committees, or by price and wage indicators.
The committee took that view notwithstanding that Sir Frank Richardson was a member of each of the previous committees, as the Leader of the Senate went to some pains to emphasize. How appropriate is this time for the committee to advance an entirely fresh view as to the basis on which emoluments, leading to an increase in salary and allowances of something between £500 and £800 a year for members, and an increase of between £2,000 and £2,300 a year for Ministers, should be raised? In a country in which an arbitration court is constituted to assess the capacity of the country to pay, the Government should take care that its approach to parliamentary salaries is in line with the remuneration of workers in industry. Unless due respect is paid to that factor, there is a danger that the impact made on the economy by any decision, the product of that tribunal, will be critical, especially in relation to those industries that are necessary to sustain our exports and maintain our trade balance. Any honorable senator who has studied the recent statistics as to the absorption of adolescents into industry, and the present unemployment figures, and who remembers the huge number of adolescents who must be absorbed into our industries in 1962, will feel that our task is particularly important. We must ensure that costs in our export industries are not overloaded and so spoil the efforts that are being made to keep a balance of trade, because any additional costs that this Government’s action might lead industry to bear will be retailed back into the primary industries, and we all know what the result of that will be.
I have taken the trouble to examine the trend of income from agricultural pursuits in relation to salaries and wages over the last fifteen years and I have prepared a table which, with the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “. The table reads -
The table shows that during the fifteenyear period the average ratio between farm incomes and salary and wage earnings was 24 per cent., varying from 15 per cent, to 49 per cent, in the peak year 1951. For the year ended 30th June, 1958, the ratio dropped to 12.4 per cent., the lowest average on record for those fifteen years. Yet we have the party that represents the workers and the party that represents, in a special degree, the country-man, taking the responsibility of advancing parliamentary remuneration which not only I, but also the authorities in Great Britain, feel will give a terrific impact to the cost spiral in this country.
At this time when farmers and their wives are engaging in really hard work, many of them on the small and medium size farms receiving a net remuneration of not more than the total increase that members of the Australian Labour Party are so eager to receive, it behoves us to say, “ Do not load the economy with any further charge. Do not impose on it the risk that the whole wage structure will be set in motion so that costs will spiral and detract further from the value of the fixed income group and those who live by savings.” I shall read to honorable senators a statement made bv the secretary of the Shires Association of New South Wales which, to my mind, states the position clearly. He is speaking of salary increases and the impact they will have upon fixed incomes. He says -
There are thousands of estimable citizens who, during their working lives, by thrift and economy, made what they regarded as reasonable provision for the autumn of their days . . . only to find that their savings disappeared almost overnight - noi by spending, but by circumstances qum beyond their control. The distress of mind an. anxiety caused to these proud and fine people - ihe very backbone of the country - must surely be almost intolerable. They are the ones who, in [he years gone by, provided the funds so essential for investment, building up the industrial and commercial life of this country.
I submit. Mr. President, that having regard to the special incidence of these measures upon that part of the community which was completely unrepresented at this committee - the farmer, the worker and the fixed income earner - it would be a national disservice at this time to impose upon the economy the risk of re-creating the vicious spiral of inflation.
– 1 was rather amazed at the commencement of the speech of Senator Wright. He commenced by implying that the chairman of the committee was unfitted for the task that was placed in his hands. I have no recollection of Senator Wright making such a reference to Sir Frank Richardson when he was the chairman of the 1955 committee, nor have I any recollection of Senator Wright raising the question in this chamber when the announcement was made that Sir Frank Richardson would again chair the committee appointed to investigate the remuneration and allowances of parliamentarians. If he had raised the question on those occasions, people would have paid some heed to his opening remarks to-night. In the circumstances, one can discard his remarks because the time at which he made them was most inopportune. T desire to read to Senator Wright the grounds on which the findings of the Richardson committee are based. They are to be found in section 22, on page 10 of the report, as follows -
For the above reasons the question of the remuneration of members must be approached on the basis that theirs is a full-time occupation. 1 will leave the rest for Senator Wright. 1 listened to what Senator Cole had to say. It is true that when the last Budget was being considered he did move for an independent committee to inquire into pensions, but in answer to an interjection to-day he admitted, after some hesitation, that he was in front of the Richardson committee for an hour and a half.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– I asked you whether you were with the committee for an hour and a half.
– A gentleman over there mentioned an hour and a half, but I did not even answer him. I was there for twenty minutes.
– I am asking you. now. Let us be honest about it. Wereyou before the committee for an hour and a half?
– That is different from what I know. All I am going to say is this: Did it take you an hour and a half to say that you did not want any alteration in your remuneration?
– I said I was not there for an hour and a half.
– I will let it goat that. The other night I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), as I have listened over long yearsto the speeches of many Prime Ministers. I must admit that for the first half-hour he gave me one of my greatest thrills inrecent years, because he spoke the truth about certain sections of the press of thisnation. I was rather intrigued. I wondered whether this was the first time that those individuals needed the censure that was being given by the Prime Minister. Senator Wright said that the press was impartial and that their views were honestly put forward.
– I did not say that.
– Yes, you did. All I can say is that Senator Wright must differ from the Prime Minister, whoaccused a representative of the Melbourne “ Herald “ of being the cause of lyingstatements appearing in the press on this issue.
Of course, that is nothing new as far as the Melbourne “ Herald “ is concerned, but it gave me great pleasure to hear from a person to whom that newspaper has- given great service over, long years in political campaigns, that at last it had nauseated him so much that he was compelled to tell the people - no doubt he had a great audience, as he always does - of the tremendous disservice done by the newspaper, not only on this question but also on the majority of other big questions that concern this country.
Let us have a look at the attitude of the Sydney counterpart of the Melbourne “ Herald “ in relation to one of its own employees.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - 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 negative.
– I wish to refer to the case of George Kerr, who until quite recently was head of the Canberra bureau of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, but who was dismissed from his employment for having made what to my mind was an honest mistake, no doubt after receiving instructions from the editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ that he was to get all the news he could and no doubt after some of the reports that he sent down on this very issue had been slanted.
– lt is a wonder his colleagues did not go on strike.
– I said to one party, “I can assure you it would not happen on the waterfront. If it did, the ships would not sail, and if they did sail, the holds would not be full “. That is not because I wish to see ships held up for stupid reasons. But I think the action that was taken in this case was vile. So that I shall not make a mistake, I shall read from my brief. His dismissal arose out of the following report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “:-
An official report from the office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, in Canberra yesterday, said that Mr. Menzies would abandon the whole of the Richardson Report if the Labour caucus resolved to amend or reject it.
Subsequently the Prime Minister denied that he had made such a statement and upon investigation, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ admitted that its report was not correct, and Kerr was given instant dismissal. That is one side of the story, which might be known to those who are connected with the press and no doubt to certain other people. But there is another side to it. My information is that this incident arose out of an interview which took place between an officer of the Prime Minister’s Department responsible for providing background information on current Government policies to the press, and a “ Sydney Morning Herald “ reporter. In the course of the interview, the official told the reporter that the Prime Minister would probably shelve the Richardson report if the Labour Party decided to amend or reject it.
Such information is given out as background material, but I understand is not for publication as a comment from the Prime Minister’s office unless a clear indication of such an intention is given. The reporter concerned conveyed this information to Kerr in Sydney by telephone. Kerr at that time was handling all reports concerning the Richardson report. In preparing his article for publication, he made the error of reporting the information as an official statement instead of background material.
Obviously Kerr was at fault, but if every such fault was followed by instant dismissal, there would hardly be a reporter working at present.
I am advised that the normal penalty for such an offence is a reprimand, and I also point out that it only becomes an offence when it reacts against newpaper proprietors, because it is my experienced that many such reporters are actively encouraged by their editors to slant reports to suit particular editorial policy.
However, Kerr was given instant dismissal, a penalty that can only be imposed for wilful and grave misconduct.
– What have you been reading from?
– I told you. I was reading from a brief presented to me.
– By whom?
– lt was presented to me by a person who knows the actual facts. Are you satisfied?
– No, not by any means.
– Of course, you would not be. All I am concerned about in bringing up this matter is to show what was the attitude of Henderson of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ when it was discovered that the report which was telephoned to Kerr and which was published in the paper as being an official statement from the Prime Minister’s office, was in fact not official. That shows the viciousness to which these people can descend, even towards those who have served them loyally and well. I believe that I was entitled to mention that matter, even though it may not fit into the context of the bill. These facts display the viciousness of persons who, in the main, control the views of a great majority of the people.
Except in regard to one matter, I was not interested personally in the work of the Richardson committee. I did not attend before the committee. I certainly rang the secretary and told him that I was interested only in the matter of pensions, because there were four or five persons in both Houses who, because of their years of service in the Victorian Parliament, were entitled to superannuation benefits under the Victorian scheme but who were prevented by law from receiving such benefits from both Victorian and Commonwealth sources in spite of the fact that they were paying £19 10s. a month into the fund here. That was the only matter in which I personally was concerned and it was about this matter that T rang the secretary of the committee.
But one has only to have some knowledge of the activities of the average country member to know that it is impracticable for him, on the allowance he receives at the present time, to perform the work that he is obliged to perform, especially if he is in what is known as a barometer seat. That is why 1 agree with the decisions of the party in this matter. To be quite candid, if it were my own personal prerogative to fix the amounts, I would have given Ministers and leaders of parties the same percentage increases as was given to the rank-and-file members.
I believe that one can say that there is a great disparity between the increases proposed in salaries and allowances for the leaders of both parties and those proposed for ordinary members. If the amendment that has been moved by Senator McKenna is carried, it will be possible to work out a fair rate of increase to cover the increased work and the more onerous duties of Ministers and leaders of parties, particularly those in another place, and every one admits that they do have more duties to perform than have ordinary members. We are all most anxious with regard to pensions and child endowment. I think that Senator Wright will agree that if the increases are granted in the form that the Opposition desires them to be granted, that will help, rather than hinder, the submission of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the arbitration court for increased wages.
The Richardson committee based its findings on the position of members of the Parliament, in the Senate and in another place, who treat their membership of the Parliament as a full-time job and have no other remuneration. In that light, I believe that the recommended increases for rank-and-file members cannot be considered excessive, particularly when one remembers the deductions, to which Senator Henty referred, that will be made by way of taxation. Therefore, no private member of the Parliament need feel that he will be overpaid if he receives the increases that we on this side of the chamber suggest.
– There has been quite a lot of controversy in connexion with the Richardson report, particularly in the newspapers. I am convinced that if any one expresses opposition to the report, in the eyes of many of those who are in favour of it he has been influenced by the newspapers. I am not in accord with many aspects of the newspaper controversy. T do not think that some of the newspapers have been quite honest in the matter, because mistakes that they have made have not been corrected. For instance, I take the case of Sir Percy Spender. That sort of thing, I think, undermines the case of the newspapers; they do not do ihe right thing when they discover that they have misrepresented the position.
From the point of view of the newspapers, I think that it would have been much better had there not been some of the spleen that probably exists in some instances. I am not suggesting that that is so with every newspaper, but some of them have displayed viciousness. I think that if the criticism had been kept on a level above thai, in certain ways it might have been more effective with many of us. But I am a fortunate person, so far as the southern newspapers are concerned. When this report was released, 1 was up in North Queensland, where I do not see the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the Melbourne “ Herald “. As a consequence, when the local newspapers gave a resume of the recommendations of the Richardson committee, I made up my mind that when the report came along I would study it, and I did so. I obtained it on Easter eve.
I studied1 the report and my reaction was that it was very lavish indeed. That was my own calculation. I know that lots of people in this chamber thought the same thing. Lots of people in another place also thought the same thing, but somehow or other, when they come to Canberra and certain things happen, it is amazing how, when it comes to such a thing as a salaries bill, opinions change. But I made up my mind in a clear atmosphere, away from the influence of Canberra, and so I still stick to what I think, having looked at the report on more than one occasion.
I have no doubt that the people who comprise this committee went to their task with a high sense of duty. The fact that they neither asked for payment nor were paid in itself indicates the spirit in which they worked. I think that Senator Wright put the matter clearly when he said that people might have great capacity in certain directions, but that sometimes they do not understand. We know, as men of the political world, that men of great achievements in business, in the professions and in other directions, can come into the political world and, for quite a while, be green politically. We know how often men such as that have come into the political world and made false moves after they have started on their political career. Over a period of time they have matured politically and have found their way about and learnt how to present the political angle.
The same thing possibly could apply to the members of the Richardson committee. I am not one to impute anything but the highest motives to them, but I believe that people with high motives and high ideals sometimes can be carried away by information which may be given to them.
– Do you say that the committee was carried away?
– I am saying that they may be people of great achievements in their callings and their own professions, but they may not be able to assess things according to what a more experienced mind, knowing the political activities involved, is putting.
– Do you say in fact that they were carried away?
– I am saying that the information before them might have been such that they may not have been able to make the right assessment.
– Do you think that they could have made a better assessment without information?
– I know that some Government supporters are very hostile towards me. I have a lawyer on each side of me firing questions, but I will stand on my rights in this matter. As Senator Wright said, this is the individual’s contribution. When I made a statement to the press in Queensland I said that I would stand on my right. So, Mr. President, let me state clearly that I impute nothing of an ulterior motive to the members of the committee. I have the very highest of thoughts so far as they are concerned. But because of their possible lack of knowledge of the work of parliamentarians and of Parliament they still could make the wrong assessment, and I believe that they have done so in certain respects, as I shall show. If the honorable senators in this chamber have any faith in their House, if they have any spirit about their Senate, they will realize that the committee did make wrong assessments.
– It got evidence from 1,500 people.
– I know that, but let me continue my speech:. I have not very much time left before we go off the air, and consequently I shall not have the full privilege that other speakers have enjoyed. I am not opposed to reasonable payment to parliamentarians, but I think there is a time for things and I do not believe that this is the right time for increases. Let me remind the Government that in its last Budget it gave the impression that things had to stay put, and that is the impression we gave to this country. Then let us as parliamentarians live as we say other people have to live. I think that is right.
I ask honorable senators to recall the Budget provisions. We are still living according to its provisions and I believe that we should be the first members of the community to conform to what the Government requested the people of Australia to do. We are not privileged people. We are put here by the electors in order to carry out the requirements of this country. I say this, not only because of the atmosphere of the Budget, but also because of things that are going on in this country.
There is a claim by the unions of this country for an alteration of wages throughout Australia on a federal basis, and we as a Parliament are bringing before the people a healthy case for increased salaries and allowances when this very Government said to the arbitration court “ We are opposed to any change in the structure of wages on the federal system.” I know that it is on a different basis, but we are dealing with human beings. What do you think the people who comprise these unions are going to think in relation to ourselves as parliamentarians - not only honorable senators on this side, but those on the other side as well? What will be thought by the people if they do not get the deal they are hoping for from the arbitration court? I know it has been said that the court does not take cognizance of what we do in respect of parliamentary salaries and allowances. But judges, union advocates, and the unionists themselves are all human beings; they think as all other human beings think, and 1 know very well that this will loom very largely in the minds of the people who put the claim to the arbitration court. If, because of our action, the court does give bigger rises to the unions than they might otherwise obtain, what will that do? It will put up the whole cost structure of this country. It will price this country out of export markets to a greater degree than is the case to-day. That, I believe, can be very serious, and the serious effect can be of a continuing nature.
At the present time, also, claims by the Public Service for increases are being considered. If all these things are affected, do not you think that we parliamentarians, because of this desire for a rise in salaries and allowances at the present time, will have been responsible for doing great damage to this country? Surely to goodness if honorable senators think in simple terms they can envisage the probable consequences! Supposing the unions, through our action, get higher wages than they would otherwise get, and that the Public Service is granted rises because of our action. What is going to follow? The public services of the States, and State parliamentarians will seek increases, and State governments have not sufficient money now to meet increased costs. I know that if an increase of wages of 10s. a week is granted, the extra annual cost of the Queensland public service alone will be £1,000,000. So you see what we can trigger off - the very things that we as a government have been fighting down for years in order to curb inflation. Surely to goodness we here who are receiving our present parliamentary salaries and allowances are not blind to what we might be doing! I know that in the field of forecasting it is one of the things that a person might take a risk on, but I believe that we parliamentarians should be trying to look at all the possibilities. And let me ask this in regard to the claim that is before the Arbitration Court: If the unions do not get what they think they ought to get, what do you think might happen? Do you not think there is the possibility of nationwide strikes because we parliamentarians have helped ourselves to a considerable rise? Do you not think that if that happened it would do untold damage to the economy of this country in general? Those are the things that could happen.
I shall vote against increased parliamentary salaries and allowances because of the conditions operating and the circumstances of the times. I am not going to be one that is guilty of seizing on this opportunity to increase my parliamentary salary and allowance and running what I believe is a very real risk for the country. My belief is that if we as a parliament look at this thing reasonably, we will give a lead to the nation. I know that it is hard for some people who had it in mind to make some monetary gain to say that they will oppose such a measure. But let me remind you, Mr. President and honorable senators of this: We are members of a democratic parliament, and democracy does not mean just receiving. We are required to give in order to sustain democracy. We parliamentarians serve here and we are paid. There are lots of people in public life who serve their cities, their towns, and their shires, who do lots of work, who give lots of time, and who do not get paid, or who receive only very poor allowances. These people are targets for donations and many gifts to funds and other causes. Many of them serve at a cost to themselves. I know this to be so as I have served in a municipal sphere, and I know just what these people can be called upon to subscribe to.
– You are not alone in that.
– 1 know, but I should be amazed if anybody told me that by comparison, we parliamentarians here are worse off than those people who give greatservice to their country. 1 know it is very easy for a man to get into Parliament and then find that he cannot cover his expenses and his outlay from his remuneration. But there are various circumstances that might cause this. Quite often it could be due to the individual himself. When we come * to think, of our salaries and allowances, let us be clear about the matter. The present salary is £2,350. I heard Senator Henty say, in relation to it. that you cannot get young men and businessmen to come into Parliament because the advantages are not good enough. That has not been my experience in relation to people whom it was thought desirable to get into Parliament. Many people are fearful of public criticism and that, in my opinion, deters them from coming forward.
– What they think about you at the moment would give you a bit of a shock.
– I pursue the even tenor of my way. I do not suppose that any one has suffered more criticism in various activities than I have, but I always believe that if my conscience and my heart and my mind are right I can go to bed and sleep easily. I have been referring to the salaries and allowances of members.
– Does that make you sleep easily?
– Yes. Allowances worry a lot of parliamentarians. I know that some members told the committee that they spend certain sums, but we must realize that an allowance is paid for parliamentary service.
– What about one’s wife?
– I have not got one. This wife business is beyond me. There is a tendency to want a big allowance. I am of the opinion that many members spend their allowances, not just in parliamentary service, but in making sure that they get back to Parliament for another term.
– That is what it is for.
– That is so.
– Senator Hendrickson and Senator Buttfield suggest that that is what an allowance is for. It is not for that purpose at all. lt is intended for use in giving parliamentary service.
– How can there be service without a parliament?
– I am sorry that very many honorable senators do not realize the difference between parliamentary service and political propaganda. We should not expect the people of this country to pay an allowance such as will enable a sitting parliamentarian to entrench himself against any opposition. If any of you were trying to get into Parliament you would be the first to ask why sitting members should be given money with which to entrench themselves against all opposition.
– Do you run a car?
– I have been asked whether I run a car. I hire cars. I engage taxis wherever I need them.
– You cannot cover the State in a taxi.
– Some of these people have a car mania. The matter of a car looms so large in their minds that one would think it cost a terrific amount; that it was such a large figure-
– That it would be cheaper to get a taxi?
– 1 know that this hurts some of my colleagues, but I want to say that 1 have heard so much about the matter in recent weeks that I have almost become car sick. In fact, as members seem to want to play around with the subject, let me say that in the last few days I have felt a little sick at moving round among so many broken-down, bankrupt parliamentarians. It makes me wonder why, if it is such a financial strain to be here, so many of them ask their parties to send them back to this Parliament. If there were no salary increase I am sure that they would not welcome their party head-quarters saying, “ lt has been a bit tough for you during the last three years. You have been losing money. We are going to give some one else the responsibility of losing money this time.” I suggest that most members would be deeply concerned if that happened. That is my reply to the talk that I have heard about cars and similar matters.
– I suppose that you ride around on a push-bike?
– Yes. I am one of those who keeps down among the people. I do not keep myself apart from them. I am easily accessible to them.
– What do you do with your allowance?
– Having said that-
– What have you said?
– I have referred to national appeal, and to ihe dangers that can flow from accepting this report. If that will not sink info the honorable senator’s mind it indicates that it is useless to talk common sense to him. I have been criticized for my assessment of the work of the men on this committee. T should like to point out a few things which indicate that the committee was out of touch with the mood of the people. Most honorable senators will agree that one of the most foolish things it could possibly do was suggest a non-contributory pension for ex-Ministers and the like. We all know the revulsion of feeling that followed that suggestion. It was contrary to the principle under which present members of the Parliament contribute £4 10s. a week - and will contribute £5 a week if this legislation goes through - in order to receive a retiring allowance at a later date.
– Will you take it if it goes through?
– Did you hear that?
– I do not miss much. The report recommended hefty, noncontributory pensions for Ministers. That really amounted to class distinction between Ministers and back-benchers. After all, Ministers were only back-benchers before they were elevated to the position of Minister, yet because they have been elevated to to the position of Minister, the committee makes a distinction in their favour. Can any honorable senator disagree with my argument there?
I come now to the recommendation relating to transport for former Prime Ministers, deputy Prime Ministers, and so on.
– That is not in the bill.
– I am referring now to the Richardson committee’s report, not the bill, and the honorable senator indicates by his interjection that he has not been listening to what I have been saying. This recommendation, too, is a clear indication that the members of the committee are out of touch with what is in the best interests of the people of this country. I challenge any honorable senator to deny that. Admittedly, the cost involved might not be great, but this recommendation did rankle in the minds of the people of Australia. Those who would have received this benefimight argue that the privilege is very small. If it is so very small then surely those who might have enjoyed the benefit could afford to hire a car to attend functions to which they are invited because they had been a member of Parliament.
Let me relate that argument to the position of the ordinary senator and ordinary member of the House of Representatives. Senators have a wider field to cover than members of the House of Representatives who represent much smaller areas, but all are in a similar position under this recommendation. If it is right that former Ministers should be given the benefit of the use of cars when attending functions to which they are invited because they have been members of Parliament, is it not equally right that those who have been ordinary senators and members of the House of Representatives should be granted the use of cars when attending similar functions? Of course it is! The Richardson committee did not think of those people when making its recommendations; it stayed on the lofty level of Ministers; and I support Senator Wright’s suggestion that the report indicates quite clearly that men who have great ability in one sphere of activity do not necessarily possess good political sense. Why, any honorable senator who is proud of his office should be squirming with resentment at the discrimination shown in the report between the Senate and the House of Representatives!
A further indication of this discrimination is found in the recommendation relating to allowances for expenses. A member of the House of Representatives who represents a city electorate is to receive £850 a year for expenses while a member representing a country electorate is to be paid an allowance of £1,050. A senator, however, who represents a State, is to receive only £850.
– It should not affect you; you have not got a car.
– It must be a terrible crime, in the eyes of honorable senators, that one does not have a car. I reiterate that a senator represents a State and, if he is doing his job, he can spend a great deal more than a member of the House of Representatives, who represents only a small part of the State, will spend. Some honorable senators do carry out their jobs properly, while others do not. If they do not, then it is for their own party organization to deal with them. If an honorable senator is doing his job, he can spend a lot more than a member of the House of Representatives can because a member of the House of Representatives represents, fewer people and a much smaller area.
It has been suggested that some honorable senators do not spend their allowance. Surely it is not suggested that every member of the House of Representatives, spends the whole of his allowance? I know that he does not. One member of theHouse of Representatives told me that some honorable members of that place would not spend £200 a year. I hear honorable senators opposite groaning. The arguments I am adducing must be hurting them. But there are some honorable members of the House of Representatives who do carry out their jobs properly, just as some honorable senators carry out their duties conscientiously.
For the purposes of comparison, I refer to the member of the House of Representatives who represents a city electorate. Heis to receive £50 a year more than a senator. One expense incurred by a senator in travelling round the State is the cost of hotel -accommodation. The member of the House of Representatives who represents, a city electorate does not have to pay for hotel accommodation when travelling round his electorate. Take the electorateof East Sydney as an example. I understand it is possible to walk round that electorate in an afternoon. Most city electorates are very compact because of the density of population. Knowing thesefacts, can anybody argue that the Richardson committee assessed the position rightly when it recommended that the member representing such an electorate should bepaid more than a senator who represents aState? Again, if the committee had exercised proper judgment, would it not haverecommended that a member of the House of Representatives who represents a largecountry electorate should be paid a higher expense allowance than that granted to the member who represents a small city electorate. In the same way, would it not have recommended a higher allowance tothose senators who represent large States than that paid to those senators who represent the smaller States? Surely it cannot be argued, in view of these facts, that the committee’s report is soundly based!
In illustrating the need for paying a higher allowance to members of the House- of Representatives, the committee relied on the evidence submitted by a senator who tours a whole State. That is not a valid argument. I do not say that we should be paid more for expenses; I am simply pointing out that, despite the high reputation of its members, the committee did not make a realistic approach to certain matters.
I come now to another point - the party Whips. The Government Whip in the House of Representatives is to be paid more a year than the Government Whip in the Senate is to receive, and every honorable senator knows that there is no better Whip in the Parliament than the Government Whip in the Senate. Everybody pays her the tribute of doing a wonderful job.
– She has only half the numbers to whip along.
– I point out that the numbers are more even in the Senate and for that reason it is more important that the Whip sees to it that senators are here to record their vote. The Government Whip in the House of Representatives, on the other hand-
– There are two Whips on the Government side there.
– That is so. I do not know what they have on the Opposition side.
– There are three Whips on the Government side.
– That being so, they must be loafing compared with the Government Whip in the Senate. All these points indicate that the recommendations of the Richardson committee are not as sound as we are led to believe.
Let us deal now with the argument that parliamentary salaries and allowances should be on a level that will allow members of Parliament to enjoy standards comparable with those of people in other walks of life. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has stated that parliamentary service does not return sufficient income to induce people to stand for election. During my years of association with local government matters, I have met civil engineers, men who have attended universities for years and who have spent probably thousands of pounds on their education, who do not receive the salary now paid to a member of the Parliament.
– They must be crook engineers.
– It is rather unwise for any honorable senator on the Government side to suggest that because an engineer does not receive more than a certain salary he must be a crook engineer. 1 know some very good engineers. Judging by an article I read in the press recently regarding the salaries paid to architects and other professional men, we in this Parliament are not too badly off.
– When the Government offered an engineer in Tasmania £7,000 a year to enter the Commonwealth service, he at least would have received a higher salary than members of the Parliament if he had accepted the offer.
– That was sheer lavishness on the part of the Government.
– The honorable senator at that time supported the action of the Government.
– That is so. That is the sort of thing that can be done by this Government. However, because it offered a high salary to an engineer to induce him to leave the State service, the State Government had to offer an even higher salary to induce him to remain. The result was an uplift in the cost of government administration. We should be very thoughtful and think earnestly before we pass this legislation. I am sorry that many interjections have destroyed, to an extent, the thread of my story. I impress upon honorable senators that this legislation does not meet with the general approval of the people of Australia. I know that the right time to increase parliamentary salaries will never arrive. When an increase is proposed, we shall always be subjected to criticism, but on. this occasion I honestly believe that the objections voiced by the people are more strongly rooted than ever before. To my mind, that is an indication that parliamentarians are not as highly regarded by the people as we might think. Even at this late hour I appeal to honorable senators to ponder on the results that could flow from the passage of this legislation. 1 shall not support the bill dealing with parliamentary salaries and allowances.
However, I shall support the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill because I look on that legislation in a different light. Parliamentarians contribute to their own superannuation fund and, from information i have received, no government funds have been utilized for the payment of retiring allowances. Even if the Government had made an advance to the fund it would merely have followed a practice that prevails in the Public Service and in industry generally. All honorable senators are aware that superannuation and provident funds receive contributions from the employers. As members of the Parliament contribute for their own pensions, I support the bill.
Even at this hour the Government should withdraw the Richardson committee report and stay its hand in relation to the emoluments of members. Unfortunately, other feelings prevail in both parties in the Parliament. I hope that my fears for the future are unfounded. Because of the keen desire of members of the Parliament to accept the increases recommended by the committee we, as a Parliament, will lose a great deal of prestige in the eyes of the people. From the time the report was handed to the Government, an indecent haste has been exhibited in its speedy acceptance by the Cabinet in one day - without reference of the recommendations contained in the report to members of the Government parties - and the presentation of the legislation to the Parliament. The fact that so few members of Parliament have wished to speak to the legislation must indicate clearly to the public mind the eagerness of parliamentarians to grab the proposed lavish increases.
Before honorable senators vote on this legislation, I remind them that in a democracy there must be give and take. I hope that spirit will prevail in the minds of honorable senators. Any man or woman who enters public life, whether in local government, State or Federal politics, lookin? only for the remuneration to be obtained, is not truly fitted for service in a democracy. I leave those thoughts with honorable senators. My conscience is clear. ‘ “’
. I rise at what is almost the witching hour of midnight to take part in a debate which, so far, has been most extraordinary. My contribution, which will be briefer than it otherwise would have been, is based on a statement I made on 31st May, 1956, indicating my attitude to the salary and allowances paid to members of the National Parliament. My remarks are recorded for all time on page 1181 of the “Hansard” report of the Senate proceedings of that date. 1 have risen to address the Senate on this occasion because I have a sincere belief that the views I then expressed apply with equal force at this time. However, 1 make the open admission that nowhere within this Parliament can I find any support, for them.
I remind honorable senators that shortly after the Cabinet was appointed following the recent election, a committee was set up to review parliamentary salaries and allowances. That action of the Government set off an unparalleled press campaign which, at times, was so vitriolic and misleading that the public mind was stirred and strong opposition to the proposal was expressed. I remind honorable senators that Parliament has two duties. First, it must assess public opinion and give it certain recognition. Secondly, it must carefully decide the timing of and the degree of payment that it will make to its members. With respect to public opinion, we can discount some of it because of the press campaign, but all of us must admit that when the findings of the Richardson committee were announced, the public was dismayed and that reasonable, reliable people were soberly annoyed about it. Their main criticism related to the indecent haste with which the committee had been set up. The press of Australia was able to say that one of the first major decisions of the new Government was to set up this committee. When I refer to the Government in that regard, I think that in many respects I must include the Parliament, because I am sure that the leaders on each side, or their party managers, got together a little beforehand and arranged to go ahead with this committee. So I think the Parliament itself must take the knocks that have been directed at it.
The report of the Richardson committee was published, and almost immediately
Cabinet accepted it. As far as I know, no private member or senator had an opportunity to express his views on the advisability of accepting the report in its entirety or in part. Another galling feature of this matter, as far as the public is concerned - ;ind 1 do not blame the public - is the announcement that the new pay and allowances will be retrospective to 1st March. That provision is contained in the bills that are before us. I remind honorable senators that there is no retrospectivity with regard to taxation concessions, or increases in social service or repatriation benefits. They are always made payable as from the date on which the act receives the royal assent. lt is deplorable that we should pass a bill that would have the effect of increasing our own pay and allowances retrospectively.
There can be no argument that Parliament has the right to fix the salaries and allowances of its members. Section 48 of the Constitution, which gives Parliament that right, is set out on page 9 of the Richardson committee report. This Parliament has established a custom of setting up an ad hoc committee for the purpose. I think, as I said in May, 1956, that the appointment of an ad hoc committee is palpably wrong, and has been proved manifestly wrong in this instance. We should have a permanent committee vested with the right to inquire from time to time into the salaries and allowances of members of Parliament.
During the three years since I last expressed my view on this matter I have had the opportunity, while travelling around Tasmania and other places, to interview many electors. They have all expressed the view that it would be a great improvement if the Parliament itself were to fix salaries and allowances. There is something else that will get the Parliament and Cabinet on my side in this respect: Owing to the intemperate abuse, epithets and criticism that have been levelled at the members of the Richardson committee, and the shocking and quite undeserved treatment that has been meted out to them, I firmly believe that no men of honour, character, sincerity, and worth will offer themselves for such a committee. So, 1 hope that the Parliament will settle down to the job of deciding a steadfast policy for the future. Whatever the findings of any committee may be, Parliament must make the final decision.
I think it is fair to say that all parties wanted an increase in pay and other emoluments, but the timing is the important thing. The date of application of the legislation is of great importance, and it must never be in retrospect, in my opinion. It should never be - as it will be if we pass this legislation - three-quarters of the way through a financial year when we are budgeting for a deficit of £110,000,000. There has been argument and counter-argument about applications by other sections of the community for alterations in their salaries, and I believe it is true that whilst the Richardson committee was in session, the top executives of one of the Government’s business undertakings - the Australian Broadcasting Commission - applied for increases in their pay. I believe it is also true to say that the Government put in an appearance to oppose that application, and although none of the men concerned received any increase, they had to pay the costs of the case out of their own pockets. 1 should think they are a little bitter at the present time.
I know that there will never be a right time for increases in pay and allowances for members of Parliament, but one time may be better than others. I think that the Government proved that in 1955. That is why I speak to-night. In August, 1955, a committee was set up to inquire into this question of salaries. In October of that year the finding of that committee was published and the Government announced its acceptance of the proposals, but said that it would introduce legislation in the new year and that the legislation would he effective, if passed by Parliament, as from 1st July, 1956. On 10th October, 1955, an election was held. It is quite wrong to say that an election held under such circumstances would be turned into a circus, because experience has shown us that during the campaign that preceded the election in 1955 no great political issue was made about the proposal to increase salaries and allowances. The public was resigned to its fate; the election was held; legislation was introduced; and at the beginning of the financial year the increases were paid. I think that is the pattern that should always be followed, and that is why J speak to-night. lt will be recalled that the Richardson committee report states - quite rightly - that the pay and allowances of members of Parliament must be such as to attract young men of talent to the Parliament. I suggest that if pay and allowances are nol increased good men will not be attracted So Parliament. If the public are told, prior ito the election, what the pay and allowances are and the candidates applying for election, or members re-nominating themselves, are told that this is the contract under which they will serve for the ensuing term of Parliament, the Government can then say to the electors, “ That is the pay and allowances; now elect the people you think worthy of drawing them “.
It is better not to have people elected to Parliament and then increase the pay and allowances. If this bill becomes effective, the next election is three years away and I suppose that in the meantime costs will have risen and the pay and allowances now proposed will not be such a great bait to attract young and talented people to submit themselves as candidates for Parliament. That is, above all, the reason why we should decide the method for the future which I have already put forward.
– Why does not the honorable member move this amendment to the Ministers of State Bill.
– Because the Ministers of State Bill is a completely different piece of legislation. It is based on entirely different premises. The Ministers of State have not had an increase in salary since 1951. If the honorable senator will be patient he will find that I will give my views, completely openly, on the Ministers of State Bill, and I will not try to get on the back of the pensioners.
– The honorable senator is only shadow-sparring. Why not move the amendment to the other bill. The Australian Labour Party intends to support the other two bills. The honorable senator would not be taking any risk. He is only talking humbug now.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order!
– I remind the Senate that in 1956 I supported a measure to increase the pay and allowances of members. I did that knowing that three of my own colleagues on this side of the House from Tasmania would be speaking against it. I knew also that I was one of those who, within two years, would be applying to my party for endorsement and seeking re-election. But I have had no regrets, and I do not believe that I lost prestige in any way because I supported that measure. Now I happen to be in a position where, having laid down a policy in 1956 and stuck steadfastly by it-
– Don’t be a humbug.
– I ask the honorable member not to call me a humbug. There are no words that I could use in this place to describe him. In 1957, I saw an article in the press in which the Leader of the Government in another place was reported as having said he thought it would be a good idea if, at the beginning of the Parliament, the question of pay and allowances to members was considered. He went away for a trip to England and on 9th August, 1957, I saw, in the press, that he was back. I wrote to him, referring to his statements and explaining my attitude. The final paragraph of my letter of 9th August, 1957, reads -
Therefore, it is my firm intention to oppose, in future, any increases or decreases suggested to be made along the lines you aTe reported to favour.
That is in respect of the pay and allowances of members of Parliament, which is the subject of one of the bills the Senate is asked to debate to-night. I will not amplify my argument any further. Those who want to understand it know where I stand. I have said enough for those who want to consider the future and, perhaps, force me to get the Government to adopt this attitude and so get us out of the sorry mess we have been in during the last few weeks.
In the speech which I prepared 48 hours ago I had a note to ask the Minister whether, in his reply to the debate, he would indicate that he would introduce a Government amendment to give effect to my views that the pay and allowances should not become operative until the date of the next federal election. But I have been told, without qualification, that such a proposal is not acceptable to the Government and I will not ask him that question. For that reason 1 have circulated an amendment to try at least to give effect to what 1 believe is right. I believe that the adoption of my suggestion would remove from the reputation of Parliament some of the scars that it has acquired because of this situation.
Now, briefly, in respect of the other two bills, I think it was most unwise to refer the question of retiring allowances of members to the Richardson committee. According to my memory, it was in 1955 that this subject was last looked into. At that stage I criticized the Government because of what it had done and pointed out that section 12 (1.) of the act giving effect to the retiring allowances provides -
An investigation as to the state and sufficiency of the Fund shall be made as at the thirtieth day of June immediately following the expiration of seven years after the commencement of this Act, and thereafter at intervals of not more than seven years.
I believe that the Parliament which passed that act did the right thing, and I believe that this Parliament should obey that act and do what it provides. It should not have put the question of the provision of retiring allowances to members into the hands of a committee to decide. My views were expressed on this subject on 9th June, 1955, and appear in “ Hansard “ at page 781.
Why there is such criticism of this proposal by the public, I do not know. After all, members pay a lot of money into the fund, and for a comparatively young man who hopes to retain his seat in the Senate as long as the public wants him and as long as his health enables him to carry out his duties, I think it is a very poor financial investment. I would rather have the £250 which I pay into the fund available to me to invest with a private insurance company. However, it is part of our contract and we have to honour it. If the committee and the Parliament want these increases I am not prepared to oppose them.
With regard to the Ministers of State Bill there are some important points to remember. Even before hearing Senator McKenna speak, I had, after full consideration, decided that I was not prepared to oppose the measure providing for an increase in pay and allowances to Ministers. I believe, first of all, that the Prime Minister, whoever he may be and whatever party he may represent, has the greatest responsibility of any man in Australia. I am not one who can say within £3,000 or even £5,000 how much he should be paid annually. I think that it is poor and petty to quibble at the recommendations of this committee in respect of our Prime Minister when we have a fair idea of what tycoons in big business draw for far less responsibility. Whatever government is in office, whatever the party to which the Prime Minister of Australia belongs, he does a great job for Australia, so let us pay him without quibble.
Now, Sir, there is a first eleven and a second eleven in the Cabinet. 1 do noi know their expenses. I do not know ‘he great sacrifices that they have to make for being in the Ministry. I have no desire to enter - and certainly no chance of entering - their select company, either now or in the near future. I have no evidence - ‘ cannot have any evidence - in respect of their expenses. But a committee of men who, I believe, are honest, inquired into that matter and gave its findings. I may tell Senator Cole that in 1955 I voted to increase my own salary. The Ministers at that time did not have their salaries considered. If my memory serves me correctly, their last increase was in 1952. For these reasons I am fortified in my view that not one member of this Senate has the right to vote against the Ministers of State Bill. The provisions made by the bill may be a little extravagant, but I do not know, and I am not going to protest against something I do not know. I am more fortified in my view after hearing the position put in a level-headed and clear way by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), who gave us an indication of the type of evidence he put to the committee. I have my notes here showing the alteration of my speech that I made after hearing him. If I interpret the honorable senator’s remarks faithfully he said to the Richardson committee, “ Put this matter out of public controversy for at least five years “.
– Ten years.
– I believe he brought it down to five years later. I believe that nobody in Australia can fairly say that the increases of the pay and allowances of Ministers have not been made decently and taken out of the political arena, as they should be for the benefit of the Parliament, for the next five years. I say straight out - and my statement will be recorded in “ Hansard “ - that I support the bill as a whole. I believe that the Labour Party has attacked the Ministers of State Bill in part, but far less bitterly and stupidly than it has been attacked somewhere else, because there seemed to be a chance to make political capital out of it. However, even since the bill came into this House there has been a realization on the part of the Labour Party that there is not much political capital to be made out of it, and so Labour senators have decided that they will go quietly. Well, that suits me, but I think they should have made up their minds about it 48 hours ago, as I made up my mind about it.
Friday, 17 April 1959
– In the last few months since the general election, and during the weeks that this session has been in progress, I have not been participating in debates in this chamber to the extent that I formerly did, or making public statements. That arose from a conviction that, having been defeated at the election, it might not be altogether appropriate for me to express firm opinions when, to some extent, I felt myself stepped of authority. Even knowing that under the Constitution our term as full senators persists to the 30th June following a general election, nevertheless when you have lost public support, it is very difficult to feel with any confidence that you are speaking for a great body of people. That was the basis of my reluctance on so many occasions to participate in debate.
However, on this occasion, because it is a particular and special occasion, an occasion on which a peculiar responsibility, different from any other responsibility, is imposed on parliamentarians and on the Parliament itself, I feel that everybody who is here whether in your circumstances,, honorable senators, or in mine, who proposes to cast a deliberative vote, should give the Senate the opportunity of hearing the reasons which are actuating him. Therefore, if to-night I make a departure from what has been in he past few weeks my plan and procedure, it is in the circumstances that 1 have detailed.
Mr. President, the Parliament has imposed on it this dread responsibility of legislating in its own interest if the circumstances of the time and the case demand it. That is always a delicate, always a difficult, and always an unpalatable responsibility. Nevertheless, it is one which is imposed on us, not in terms of any ordinary law. but in terms of the most fundamental law in the Commonwealth - the Constitution Act. In these circumstances, we must approach any determination we have to make, and which only we can make, with whatever assistance we may get. We must approach it with courage and resolution. They are demanded particularly in this case where, as I say, our own self-interest is inseparably involved. But it was contemplated, Mr. President, at the time of the drafting of the Constitution, that we at some time, and in this matter, would have to legislate concerning our own interest. We were still entrusted with that dread responsibility, which we are called upon to discharge to-night.
I would say that we must approach the responsibility with the degree of resolution required to vote ourselves, if warranted, increases of parliamentary salaries, allowances and pensions whatever the outcome might be. If the circumstances demand that, and we are not prepared to do it, then we shall be as recreant to the trust which is imposed on us in the Constitution Act as if we arbitrarily, wantonly, stupidly and avariciously voted to ourselves sums of money that could in no circumstances be defended.
I feel, Mr. President, as I look round the Senate and sense the distribution of strength, that the position which I thought might develop has not, in fact, developed. I thought that I might be called upon to cast a significant vote on these measures. I feel now that that is probably, almost certainly, not the position. That, in itself, would have been a tremendous responsibility, but one which I personally should have had to face up to. What I am saying and what I propose to say, therefore, is said in the clear understanding that my vote will not be significant in the sense of determining the ultimate fate of the bills, because I sense that the bills will pass in any case. in those circumstances, Mr. President, I think that I could well have taken refuge in that famous statement of Lord Sunderland who, after being dismissed by Queen Anne from his position as secretary, said, when the Queen offered him a pension of £3,000 a year, “ Because I am no longer going to have the honour of serving my country, that is no reason why I should plunder it “. Well could I rely on that, Mr. President, but only if that represented the truth and justice of the situation. It might be an immediately popular line, something that might relieve a person of criticism; but I do not think that in their approach to their responsibilities parliamentarians should be affected by criticism, unless it is valid and represents the mobilized and informed opinion of the people. Otherwise, the Parliament would be subject to the whim and the will of those who tried to impose their opinions and their wills upon it.
During the whole unfortunate period since the Richardson report was first made public, I have taken a strong and definite stand. I have refused to comment in public and to the press, although naturally I was asked on many occasions to do so, because I regarded this matter as particularly and peculiarly a matter to be discussed in this place, one on which opinion should be ventilated only in this place. I do wish that the same practice had been followed by others, because this is essentially a matter for the Parliament and for the Parliament only. But as week has followed week, what have we found? Instead of coming here and being able to discuss in the calm and collected atmosphere of the National Parliament this difficult matter in which we each have a personal interest, we have found that there is now throughout Australia a national hysteria which is affecting every one in this place. Does any member in this chamber not feel that, in one way or another, from one source or another, he is not the subject of some type of intimidation? Surely few of us do not feel that that atmosphere surrounds us. I have heard from many sources criticism of the part played by the press in public discussions on the Richardson report. I do not necessar join in that criticism. I think that the press has been, in many cases, inaccurate and, to that extent, has distorted and perverted our ability to assess accurately valid public opinion. 1 think that in some cases, possibly, the press has been vicious, but 1 am not able to determine whether here is a gigantic spontaneous restentment against this legislation, whether there is an organized press campaign, or whether there is merely the channelling through the press of a spontaneous resentment. For that reason, l do not pass my strictures on the press.
There are two sources from which intimidation has come to this Parliament and its members. One source is the Executive Government itself. I have been waiting, day after day, to hear from the Prime Minister some denial of the suggestion that has been attributed to him that these three bills which we are now considering are completely inter-dependent, and that if this bill, the Ministers of State Bill is rejected the other two bills either will not be presented or will not be proclaimed. The Prime Minister denied that he ever made such a statement when it was attributed to him by the press. Nevertheless, the prevailing atmosphere is that if the Ministers of State Bill is rejected the other two bills will not see the light of day.
– It was reported that the Prime Minister had said that the whole of the Richardson report must stand or fall.
– If that was the statement, it was even more incorrect. Part of the Richardson report has now gone. What I resent is that three separate bills, embodying three different principles, should be, in somebody’s mind, regarded as interdependent. If they are to be regarded as interdependent, it is only the regard of Parliament that affects me, not the regard of the Executive Government. I would regard it as an arrogant exercise of the right of veto by the Executive Government, if. this Parliament having passed two of these bills and rejected the third, the Executive Government should then refuse to produce the other two bills for adoption. Senator Henty smiles. I know that, as a matter of practical politics, perhaps there is some reason for this, but as a matter of sheer political principle, 1 think it is indefensible. Every member is subject to this intimidation that if he resists one bill he loses the other two. 1 have been wailing for the Prime Minister to make a statement that the rejection of one of these three bills would not affect the fate of the other two. I am grieviously disappointed and disturbed that no such avowal has been made by the Prime Minister.
There is intimidation from another source. There is intimidation, perhaps of every member in this place, from his party organization. There is not a major party in this place whose executive has not met and, by direction or attempted direction, or by strong intimation, has not attempted to influence the conduct of its representatives in this place. There is no organ of any of the major parties which, in some place or another, has not attempted to do that, with one exception. The executive of my party has not met because that party is particularly sensitive to interference or direction from outside. That was the very genesis of our creation. It is why we exist, and it is why I sit here in a separate and independent capacity. Therefore, if I resent this attempted interference from outside affecting the true and untrammelled judgment of members of this place, it is because my party feels strongly about it.
Therefore, in that atmosphere of intimidation which I strongly resent and against which, on behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I protest to the nation, where am I to step? I am not subject to influence from my party organization. I am, in common with other honorable senators, the victim of what I suggest is attempted intimidation by the Executive Government which we all, individually and collectively, ought to resent. Where do I step? There is only one way that I can step and that is to go back, ridding myself completely of the influence that might surround me in that intemperate intimidation to the very fundamentals of the matters before us - to go back to the Richardson report and its recommendations, and in a calm, objective atmosphere, completely disinterested, to try to form a resolution in fairness and justice on these recommendations.
We come, therefore, to the salaries and allowances of Ministers and the pensions. There are two principles to be looked at in assessing these bills. Are these increases warranted for the reasons given? Are we justified in bringing in any increases according to the appropriateness of the time? I can understand Government senators such as Senator Wright or Senator Wood who have opposed this legislation with great courage in the face of their party’s attitude. In consonance with the courage that these two honorable members have consistently shown in this place, I can understand their placing the proposition before the Senate that the nation cannot bear this increase at the moment; that justice has been denied to many sections of the community, and that we should be the last to add to the inflationary spiral. Those arguments may be valid for those honorable senators, but they are not valid for me.
The reference of parliamentary salaries to the Richardson committee was completely in consonance with proposals which my party submitted in the course of a policy speech which I had the honor of delivering before the last Federal elections when I said this in relation to pensions of all kinds -
For all time we must take pensions out of the prize ring of party politics. For too long have the needs of the pensioner reflected only the needs of the politicians for votes. This must stop. Therefore we propose that a tribunal be set up under statute to determine a just and adequate rate of pension for pensioners of all classes. Following such determination pensions will thereafter be increased in conformity with the increase in national income in real terms.
We advocated an immediate increase of 10s. a week in pensions. Thereafter we advocated the determination of the base rate by a tribunal with annual increases in terms of a formula which I mentioned. We have referred the matter of our own salaries to the Richardson committee, and from my point of view and for my part, that is completely in consonance with what I suggested and recommended for pensioners. We have resisted the pegging of the basic wage. Having listened to the arguments advanced by the two honorable senators un the Government side who oppose this bill, I can draw only one conclusion, which is that they contemplate no increase for pensioners and no alteration of the basic wage, because these things would immediately iestart the inflationary spiral. Apparently they think that, by increasing Parliamentary salaries, we will induce such an alteration and therefore effect an upward rise in prices. I do not agree with that. Justice must be done to the wage earner in the arbitration court and done to the pensioner in terms such as I have mentioned, or in similar terms. So that type of argument, while it is completely honest, valid, compelling and convincing for the two honorable senators who oppose the bill, and one which I should expect in view of their association with the party that has resisted these things, does not appeal to me in view of the attitude I have taken in relation to wages and pensions.
So, Mr. President, I approach the three principles of these bills. On the question of the Ministers of State Bill, which poses the important and the key question, as 1 said, I go back to the Richardson report. I try to regard the bills objectively, dissociated from this miasma of intimidation that now surrounds the Parliament. I say that the Ministers of State assume tremendous responsibilities. Their salaries have not been reviewed for a long time. No doubt adequate evidence was submitted to the Richardson committee as to the requirements of these gentlemen. We must have regard to the aggregation of powers that have gradually moved to the central government,
If we go back to the Constitution md consider the original payment provided for Ministers, we shall see that the framers of the Constitution were providing for a payment in a completely different world. They were providing for a payment in a world in which the States had much power and the Commonwealth comparatively little. Since then, we have seen the development of the welfare state. We have seen, as every honorable senator has noted in his Parliamentary affairs, an increasing burden of representation, and an increasing burden ot advocacy that now falls on the shoulders of
Ministers, due to the assumption of greater powers by the Commonwealth. This, in a pre-eminent degree, Mr. President, is reflected in the work and in the responsibilities of Ministers. The committee took it upon itself to assess the responsibilities assumed by these men, not approaching that determination on the basis of a purely economic principle according to the cost of living, but making a complete reassessment of their status and their responsibilities in the community. On that basis, it has recommended certain advances on ministerial salaries.
When I look at the attitude of the official Opposition and make a calculation, I find, first, that over the whole of this Parliament, with the exception of two or three senators and three or four members of the House of Representatives, there is virtually’ no difference of opinion regarding the principle that Ministers of State should get higher salaries than they are getting. The only matter that is in dispute is that of quantum, and that is a gradually narrowing area of disagreement. The proposals in relation to Ministers’ salaries would involve a total increase of £28,250. If Ministers got everything that is proposed, apart from the daily allowance, by way of salary and special allowances recommended in the report, it would mean a vote of £28,250, on my calculation. The Labour Party has put up a proposal that there should be a review of the recommendations in thisrespect with a view to a scaling down. If that scaling down were to the extent of 50 per cent., it would mean that the sum of approximately £14,000 was in dispute in this Parliament, that that sum had created the greatest turbulence that I can remember - a turbulence which has completely distracted the attention of parliamentarians from so many more important things, although the principle that is involved is virtually not in dispute at all.
When we look at the matter in that way, Mr. President, is it not obvious that the Parliament has got itself into an extraordinarily stupid and indefensible position, having regard to the fact that we have been wrangling here for so long over a sum of possibly less than £15,000? Assuming that Ministers of State have tremendous national responsibilities and that, on their ultimate decisions, individually and collectively, the welfare of the humblest citizens rests in the long run, as government intrudes more and more into the individual lives of the Australian people, we have to agree that they must be adequately paid. Justice demands that that be so, and if they are adequately paid, men who will discharge their duties with maximum efficiency will be attracted to these positions. I would not set my judgment up against that of the committee, which I regard as completely impartial and as quite competent. It had the opportunity to receive and evaluate the evidence. Knowing that, I would not say that the projected increases are in any way too much. For that reason, Mr. President, I shall support the Ministers of State Bill in regard to salaries and allowances.
In relation to the salaries and allowances of private members of the Parliament, again the Parliament is virtually unanimous. To determine my own attitude, I go back to the Richardson report. The committee had before it the specific accounts of men who came and presented their personal records of transactions and their bank statements. If we have confidence in the committee, how can any one go behind that fact or beyond it? Once the principle is accepted, I can see no way in which we can substitute our judgment effectively, fairly or justly for a judgment arrived in those circumstances on that evidence by such a committee. For that reason, Mr. President, I support the bill providing for increased salaries and allowances for private members of the Parliament believing, with the assistance of the committee, that the provision is not undue, that there is real and genuine hardship, evidence of which was produced and established to the satisfaction of the committee by honorable members, and no doubt also by honorable senators, who were speaking the truth and trying to assist the committee. I think that we must in conscience accept that recommendation.
– The Government did not accept the Morshead report.
– No, the Government did not. In fairness to the committee, I ask: On what matters had the committee evidence before it? For example, the report of the committee deals with noncontributory pensions. I should like to ask whether that was compiled as a result of evidence submitted to the committee, or whether it resulted from the committee’s own initiative. I do not expect that that question will ever be answered, unless those who may have presented evidence themselves elect to answer it. The members of the committee, on that matter, necessarily must be dumb. Their lips are sealed, but they have come in for tremendous criticism because of that. We are quite uninformed about it and quite unaware whether it was something that they conjured out of the recesses of their own generosity, or whether it was as a result of a submission formally made by some group of individuals, or by an individual, in the course of the committee’s deliberations.
There is common ground in the Parliament on the provisions for contributory pensions in the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill, although there is some resentment that members who have already left the Parliament will not receive the benefit of the proposed increases. I think that those members could well have been provided for. Whether there is some actuarial reason which would preclude it, I do not know. The principle of retrospectivity is embodied in the present legislation, and its abandonment was not recommended by the Richardson committee. Yet, for some reason or other - perhaps a good and sufficient reason, but a reason which I think the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) should disclose at an opportune time during the debate on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill - the Government has been induced to omit provision for retrospectivity. I should like to see it written in again.
As I have said, Mr. President, this Parliament has been for some time, to my mind, undergoing a process of intimidation from a number of quarters. If I had any doubts as to the justice and the fairness of the recommendations of the Richardson committee which we are embodying in legislation, there is one thing that would resolve them. In the years during which I have had the honour to be a member of the Senate, I have, as members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee know, stood up for the Parliament against the Executive of the Government, and to-night I stand up for the Parliament when it is under challenge and when an attempt is being made to impose the will of others on it through parliamentary representatives. As I have said, if I had any doubt that these proposals were just and fair, I would finally come down on their side because I think that on this occasion the Parliament must stand up to the challenge which has been posed against it. If the Parliament is satisfied that these recommendations can be reasonably, justly and fairly substantiated, and that an informed public opinion will be conscious that there is in them nothing inadequate or outrageous, the Parliament must assert its -own position.
For those reasons, Mr. President, I support the bill.
– Mr. President, I think that at this time of the morning there is not much ito be gained by my canvassing the pros and cons of the debate that has occurred. I therefore propose to restrict what I have to say to the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. I have listened to the debate with very great interest. The exchange of views across the chamber has done no more than confirm in my mind the wisdom and the soundness of the principles and the proposals which the Government advanced and which are contained in the second-reading speech which I made when I introduced the legislation.
Having said that, I turn to the amendment which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has moved. I think that the correct approach to consideration of the amendment is to refer the Leader of the Opposition to the atmosphere that existed when parliamentary salaries were increased in 1955. In his second-reading speech on this bill in another place, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to what Was done in 1955, and said - we felt that at that time in some particular circumstances we had to show a little restraint on this matter, without denying to members their right to a review.
So, in 1955, when parliamentary salaries were last increased, the Government deb “fi.bers.tely refrained from submitting to the first Richardson committee the position of Ministers.
The amendment contemplates the redrafting of the bill to provide for the substitution for the proposed increases of Ministers’ salaries and allowances such increased salaries and allowances as would be fairly proportionate to the increase of base salaries and allowances contained in clauses 4 and 5 of the Parliamentary Allowances Bill. The purport of my introductory remarks is to establish that the relationship would need to be to ministerial salaries in 1952, because ministerial salaries, by deliberate intent and policy of the Government, were not increased in 1955. If we assume that that is a fair basis of approach - and I see no logical argument to the contrary - and if we were to accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition, we should get the most extraordinary result, because the effect of the amendment would be to give Ministers a greater increase in salary than that at present proposed. The salaries of members will have increased by 57 per cent, since 1952, whereas the salaries proposed for senior Ministers represent an increase of only 50 per cent. The salaries and allowances proposed for junior Ministers represent an increase of only about 40 per cent.
– That would not apply to the Prime Minister, though.
– I have not checked in relation to him. I thought that the position of the Prime Minister was not involved, because the amendment is aimed only at Ministers. I think that that simple illustration shows that the Opposition’s proposal has been advanced in haste without due consideration of all the circumstances, and that the Government is acting quite correctly in saying, through me, that it is not prepared to accept the amendment.
– On the Opposition’s amendment, it would seem from what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, that the Opposition’s proposal has been conceived in drink and presented here in delirium. It would seem, also, from the determination of Senator McKenna to refuse to answer the question that I asked when he was speaking, that the amendment was deliberately calculated to cause confusion rather than to clarify the position.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! Senator Wright has already spoken on the second reading.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That the hill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 1.14 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 April 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590416_senate_23_s14/>.