23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, has announced that £17,700,000 of frozen deposits will be released to the trading banks. Will the Minister say whether this means that credit assistance will be available to primary producers so that they can increase their investments in their farms and thus boost production?
– The advance policy announced by the Governor of the Reserve Bank in November last stillapplies. This policy, it will be recalled by the honorable senator, calls for continuing restraint in trading bank lending, especially in relation to the financing of imports and the more speculative forms of business activity, whilst catering for the essential requirements of primary producers and ‘Other export producers and of homebuilding. In this quarter of the financial year there is usually an increase in outstanding advances, and the Government and the bank had this well in mind when the restrictions were imposed in November last. In orderto remove any misunderstanding about what the latest communication from the Governor to the trading banks actually says, I should like to read an announcement about it so that it will be on the record. The announcement was as follows: -
The Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr. H. C. Coombs, said to-day that in the light of ‘the balance of payments position and the economic situation generally the trading banks had been asked to continue a policy of restraint in lending. This policy had produced a substantial fall between October and March—-
Running to something in excess of £80.000,000- in the levelof advances outstanding but the reduction took place during a period when seasonal influences tend to reduce advances. During the next few months, the seasonal influences would operate in the reverse direction and it was important that the resultant increase in advances shouldbe kept to the minimum necessary to meet essential requirements within the selective policy announced last November. As part of this policy, trading banks were required to be especially restrictive where bank finance was contributing to the demand for imports and to give preferential treatment to export producers, particularly in the rural and mining industries.
Dr. Coombs added that, ‘because of the continuance of restrictions on credit, the liquidity of the banks had been kept very tight and that they had entered the period of seasonal run-down with little “free” liquidity in hand. It was not intended to ease this liquidity pressure and reductions in the Statutory Reserve Deposit ratio would be kept to the minimum found necessary as the run-down developed. The ratio was being reduced from 17.5 per cent, to 16.5 per cent, as from 19th April, which would only partly offset the fall in banks’ liquidity since February. Further reductions in the ratio could be expected but these releases of funds from the Statutory Reserve Deposit Accounts would be regulated to support the current restrictive credit policy and would not imply any change in that policy.
-Senator COOKE. - Does the Minister representing the Minister for Health recollect that several months ago, when it seemed apparent that an influenza epidemic would sweep across Australia, I asked him whether the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories were able to cope with the position and whether vaccine would be available to the States in sufficient quantities when wanted? I ask him whether his attention has been directed to the following remarks by Dr. Bazeley of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories: -
If we don’t get some increased accommodation, with the increase in population and in public health immunization programmes, we could not meet this as we did in 1939-40 when World War II. hit us
Dr. Bazeley is further reported as having said -
If we don’t get some increased accommodation of this type of laboratory space we cannot either look after the natural increase or any kind of emergency whatever.
Lack of space at the laboratories has prevented proper investigation into the failure of several batches of Salk anti-polio vaccine.
I ask the Minister Whether he will treat this as a matter of urgency and ensure that any assistance which is required by the laboratories, which were established by Labour government, is given immediately or as early as possible.
SenatorHENTY. - I read the press article to which the honorable senator referred. Yesterday I read, in relation to a question that appeared on the notice-paper, a reply furnished by the Minister for Health in which he pointed out that this year there had been a demand for vaccine which was greater than normal, but that he was confident that the demand would be met without very great delay. He said that there was no reason to believe that any State would fail to get its full requirements, but that there may be a little delay. I know that the Minister for Health is well aware of the situation which the honorable senator has rightly brought to the notice of the Senate. Knowing the kind of man the Minister is and that he is . aware of the situation, I am confident that he has the problem well in hand, and that he will take steps to ensure that we are not short of vaccine.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, by reminding him that on a number of occasions I have asked questions about the smuggling of drugs into Australia. I now ask the Minister whether his attention has been directed to a statement by H. S. Warren, the Collector of Customs in Victoria, upon his return from having led the Australian delegation to the United Nations conference on narcotic drugs in New York, in which he said that stricter searches would be made of all ships entering Australian ports and more frequent searches of ships from the East, particularly of Asian crew members. What steps, if any, are now taken or are in contemplation to prevent the smuggling of illicit drugs into Australia by persons travelling by air?
– I read the statement that was issued by Mr. Warren, the Collector of Customs for Victoria, who led the Australian delegation to the International Convention on Narcotics, to which Australia is a signatory. As Mr. Warren said, there is evidence of mounting through traffic in Australia, with Australia being made a base for the distribution of drugs to other countries. As a signatory to the convention we feel that it is as much our duty to stamp out through traffic in drugs as it is to stamp out traffic within Australia itself. Examination procedures have been considerably tightened since the honorable senator last addressed a question on this subject to me. The Government will continue to take every step possible to stamp out this dreadful traffic whether the drugs in ques tion are intended for use in Australia or elsewhere. I recently saw certain new instruments that the Department of Customs and Excise is importing for use in the detection of illicit drugs. I am sure that those instruments will considerably assist the department to locate drugs in luggage and elsewhere. I assure all honorable senators that the Government will continue to take every step available to it and to use all the modern equipment at its command to hold this traffic at bay.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the honorable gentleman’s attention been directed to a circular issued by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures in which it is claimed that commercial undertakings are being forced to defer deliveries, are asking for release from contracts and are genuinely unable to meet current financial commitments? It is also claimed in the circular that the manufacturing industries have been hardest hit by the credit squeeze and the lifting of import controls. Figures contained in the circular show that in the past four weeks the number of persons unemployed has ranged from 5.1 per cent, to 7.7 per cent. This was during a period in respect of which the Department of Labour and National Service claimed that unemployment figures were very much lower. Is the Minister aware that many people in Australia are employed1 in work for which they are not best suited? Is he aware that skilled craftsmen mav be required to perform any type of unskilled work, and that if they refuse they may not be entitled to register as unemployed? If the position is as stated by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, and if the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia is unable to offer any prospect of immediate relief, how does the Government propose to remedy this serious situation?
– I have seen the publication to which the honorable senator refers. I understand that it is published by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, which has, of course, a vested1 interest in this matter, and should not be, in my opinion, regarded as impartial. I have also seen statements published in the press by spokesmen for the same organization. In addition, I have seen statements published by spokesmen for the building industry in Victoria, and for the Victorian Chamber of Commerce. Those latter spokesmen do not take the view adopted by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Contrary to Senator O’Byrne’s claim, the document to which he has referred does not allege that unemployment figures have varied between 5 per cent, and 7 per cent.
– Yes, it does.
– It does nothing ot the kind. The document claims that the field of employment in factories, expressed as a percentage of the total number of persons employed in factories, has fallen by certain percentages. That is not the same thing as the unemployment figures cited by the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Can the Minister for National Development tell the Senate whether any arrangements have been entered into, or are being negotiated, with Japanese interests for the export of coal from New South Wales? Will he refer to the sources of such coal supplies, the quantities and the terms of the arrangements?
– There is a large and continuing business in the export of coal from New South Wales to Japan. That business is done on an ordinary commercial basis. Coal from the south coast area is being exported from Port Kembla. Coal from the Burragorang Valley is being exported out of the port of Sydney from the Balmain wharf. Coal from the Newcastle district is being exported from the port of Newcastle. My recollection is that the total quantity of the transactions for the calendar year 1960 was about 1,500,000 tons. The business is spread over a great number of colliery proprietors and a substantial number of Japanese importers. I cannot give the details of the transactions, but in my opinion it is a large and growing business. At the present time its growth is limited by the lack of adequate port facilities at Newcastle and Port Kembla. Because of the prospect of a substantial expansion of export trade those port facilities are the subject of discussions between the Commonwealth and the State.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. What is the normal spread of hours for pilots flying passenger aircraft on long distance flights? Is it a fact that some pilots are required to fly aircraft on the round trip, Melbourne-Perth-Melbourne, with a maximum of only two hours stop-over in Perth? On such long distance flights where the maximum number of passengers is carried, what provision is made for pilots, co-pilots, engineers and air hostesses to have adequate rest? Having regard to the interests of public safety, does the Minister consider that the present position is satisfactory?
– Let me answer the last part of the question first by taking this opportunity to give the honorable senator and the Senate a categorical assurance that the interests of public safety in these matters are always the first consideration. The honorable senator need have no fear that safety, in any of its aspects, will be jeopardized by working hours or conditions of employment in the airlines industry. I pass from that general statement to the particular statement that the usual practice is that crews are changed at Perth. It would be most unusual if that did not occur.
– It is not the usual practice with Electras.
– It would be most unusual if that did not occur. T will have a look at the question so that I can reply to it in detail, if only for the purpose of assuring the honorable senator that safety in no way is impaired by any airline practices.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise as the Minister administering the Commonwealth censorship laws. Did he recently call a conference of State Ministers on censorship laws with the object of introducing a uniform Australian code of censorship laws and regulations? What progress was made? What further discussions are scheduled?
– Yes, about three, weeks ago I had a conference with the. relevant State Ministers on this subject, I found that all the State Ministers had a keen realization of the conflicting State and Commonwealth regulations, and that they approached the problem of attempting to iron out the problem with the utmost of goodwill. 1 think I can say to the honorable senator that in no way was there support for further censorship restriction. Great progress, was made towards the attainment of a better understanding and a better working arrangement between the Commonwealth and States. Certain decisions were arrived at. We have asked: the Commonwealth and State officers to appoint a work force to consider the manner in which those decisions may best be implemented. After the recommendation of the work force is received, we shall have another meeting of Ministers as early as possible to see whether final decisions can be reached.
– On 21st March, Senator Robertson asked me the following question: -
I preface a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by explaining that in the past we have had pioneer men, statesmen, boy scouts, the Red Cross, the Bible, Christmas scenes, flowers and every known animal appearing on our stamps. Many feel that our pioneer women should now be so honoured. Is it a fact that a new lid. stamp depicting a rabbit bandicoot is to be released in May of this year? Is it also a fact that the printing of a ls. 2d. stamp depicting a Tasmanian tiger will complete the fauna issues of stamps by this Government? If the answer to those questions is in the affirmative, will the Postmaster-General consider promises made to issue a series of stamps depicting pioneer women of Australia?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
Careful consideration has been given to the proposal that a series of stamps depicting pioneer women of Australia be issued, and I believe that a plan which I have in mind will meet the suggestion. The Stamp Advisory Committee, which assists the Post Office on stamp design, will be arranging, when opportunity permits, for the preparation of a series of stamps honouring famous Australian women, and the claims of 0U women pioneers will be considered for inclusion in this series. Because of other commitments and other stamp series already in the research ox design stage, however, it will of necessity be some time before the series- of stamps depicting famous women can. be issued.
– My question, which is directed1 to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, relates to the; recent armed invasion of the coast, of West’ New Guinea by a well-equipped and well, armed small party of Indonesians, without any provocation whatever. Most of them,, without displaying very much courage, immediately capitulated. I ask the Minister: Was not that unprovoked assault a negation of the stated policy of the Indonesian Government to the effect that it would not use force in endeavouring to achieve its aim to take over West New Guinea? Has not the Indonesian Government denied’ that it had any knowledge of this escapade? If that is so, can the Minister explain how a group of private individuals could arm and equip themselves, obtain ships and invade another country, without, their own government assisting them or having some knowledge of the matter?
– I have seen in the newspapers from time to time, as we all have, statements to the effect that small bodies of men from Indonesia had infiltrated into West New Guinea, and counterstatements to the effect that small bodies of men. from West New Guinea had infiltrated into, parts of Indonesia. The occurrence to which the honorable, senator has. referred is, I think, one which was reported at some length in the press. If my memory serves me aright, it related to. some twenty persons who were alleged to. have landed in West New Guinea from one of the Indonesian islands. It is not clear whether it is claimed that they came, originally from an Indonesian island, or whether they came originally from West New Guinea and were returning there. I think it is correct to say that the Indonesian Government has denied that it is using force in this way in an endeavour to take, over West New Guinea. Indeed, I think it is admitted by the Dutch and others that should the Indonesian Government,, which has quite considerable forces in the area,, wish- to use force to take over the- territory,, it would be. unlikely to use small parties in this odd way, which does not. seem to bc designed; to achieve anything in particular. I think that’ that’ is- all> that I can say on the matter.
– I, ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether hi9 attention has been, directed to a. statement by the President o£ the Victorian- Chamber of Manufactures, which was reported in yesterday’s issue of the Adelaide “ Advertiser “, as follows: -
The president of the Victorian Chamber ot Manufactures (Mr. G. More) said yesterday that the Federal Government’s credit restrictions had caused unexpected’ damage to commerce and industry in Victoria. Unless the Government moved immediately a situation which was obviously never intended could develop.
Is Mr. More correct in contending that the damage caused by the Government’s policy is unexpected?
– I have not read this statement by Mr. More. Apparently over the last 48 hours he has been more than usually loquacious.
– You will hear more of him.
– I do not doubt that, and his statements will receive appropriate treatment. I think it is quite fair to say that the credit restrictions introduced by the Government have- had the effect that they were designed to have. I do not think that any one looking at the general economic state of the country to-day would deny that the measures taken in November of last year have been effective in shaping the economy in the way in which the Government sought to shape it. It is true, of course, that in that re-shaping there has been some disruption in certain industries - not always as a result of the financial measures. Any one who expected otherwise was, of course, engaging in a pipe dream. The job of the Government of Australia - in saying this I expect to have the support of the Opposition - is to work for the general good of the people and the general good of the economy, rather than for a particular end that one industry or one. small group of industries desires.
– My question, which is directed to the1 Minister repre senting the Minister for Health, is prompted by a question asked1 earlier by Senator Cooke,, concerning a statement made, by, Dr. Bazeley, the Director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Is, it not a fact that that statement was made in the course of evidence given by the doctor at a. current inquiry of the Public Works Committee? Is it not a fact also that the Public Works Committee has before it at present a proposal to provide a general, laboratory unit for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories at a cost of £470,000? Was the doctor, in his evidence, merely pointing to the justification for a project to which the Government has already, in principle, committed itself - a project for additions to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories?
– I thank the honorable senator for that information. As a member of the Public Works Committee, he is ahead of me. He is fully aware that that is the position. I told Senator Cooke that, knowing the Minister for Health, I was certain that he would have this matter well in hand, and I learn now that a project for a new laboratory to cost £470,000 is at present being examined by the Public Works Committee.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that a proposal for new buildings in Western Australia for the Australian Broadcasting Commission was in the hands of the Public Works Committee for eight years before any building- was commenced? Is it a fact that in my earlier question I stressed the urgency of providing additional accommodation for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories rather- than any dispute as to whether such a buildingwas necessary?
– I think the honorable senator would achieve his object much better if he gave evidence before the Public Works Committee.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can he say when the Government will announce whether it supports the Western Australian
Government’s proposals for the standardization of gauge on the railway from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana in Western Australia? When may we expect the work to be commenced?
– All I am able to say at the moment is that the very necessary talks, before any final decision is reached between the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government, are continuing. My understanding is that talks between Mr. Court, the Western Australian Minister for Railways, and Mr. McEwen, speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, occurred as recently as yesterday, as did talks at a departmental and technical level. It will be apparent to the honorable senator that the matter is being actively pursued. I am not in a position to say when a definite announcement will be made, but I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the active manner in which this matter is being pursued.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Government has decided to appoint a select committee to inquire into matters affecting aborigines in Australia? Also is it a fact that this committee is to consist only of members of the House of Representatives? Does not the Prime Minister consider that the welfare of the aborigines is of equal interest to members of the Senate? Is there any reason, therefore, why a combined committee of both Houses has not been appointed to inquire into this important matter of great national interest on which members of all political parties in the Senate have from time to time expressed their views?
– I do not know the considerations which activated the House of Representatives to set up a committee of its own. It is the privilege of that House to set up a committee of its own members just as it is the privilege of the Senate to set up a select committee of members of the Senate.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has he noticed that, at the closing session of the annual conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerceof Australia, held in Adelaide last week, a resolution was carried urging the introduction of the decimal system of currency without delay? Can the Minister give an assurance that the Government is pressing on with its consideration of this matter and. that there will be no undue delay in reporting its decisions to the Parliament?
– I do not think. I can usefully add anything to the answer 1 gave to a simliar question that was asked a few days ago by, I think, my Western. Australian colleague, Senator Cooke, in. that answer, I indicated that the Government was inquiring into a number of matters which it had not been considered appropriate to submit to the committee. Those matters, as I pointed out, included mints and minting and related subjects of that nature. I made it quite clear that I did not expect that an announcement, would be made in the immediate future.. but the honorable senator can be assured that the matter is under active consideration. As soon as it is possible to say anything about it, the Treasurer will, I am sure, make a statement.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject. -
Construction of Commonwealth offices at Toowoomba, Queensland.
In presenting the report I should like to point out that the proposal presented to the committee for consideration was not acceptable to the committee because it felt that the construction of Commonwealth offices in cities the size of Toowoomba, and other provincial cities, should be such as to allow all Commonwealth activities to be concentrated in one centre. The proposal before the committee envisaged a building to be rucked behind an existing weatherboard building on the site.
An alternative proposal was placed before the committee by the Department of Works which the committee approved unanimously and has recommended accordingly. The committee felt that Commonwealth public buildings of this nature should provide suitable accommodation and accessibility to the public. It found that a building should be constructed in Toowoomba and that the location of the site was most suitable, being adjacent to the Town Hall and other buildings in which the community is interested. The site of the present building presented difficulties in planning a building of good design. The committee wishes to stress that when the Commonwealth erects constructions of this type they should lend prestige not only to the city but also to the Commonwealth instrumentalities.
The committee has presented its report and has made certain recommendations on principles to be followed by the Department of the Interior in similar cases when Commonwealth offices are constructed in provincial towns. I have much pleasure on behalf of the committee in presenting this report on the construction of Commonwealth offices at Toowoomba in Queensland.
– For the information of honorable senators, I lay on the table of the Senate the majority and minority reports of the ad hoc committee of inquiry into the commercial accounts of the Post Office, together with an addendum to the report of the majority of the committee and comments on that addendum by the minority.
I also lay on the table of the Senate the following papers: -
Post Office -
Financial and Statistical Bulletin, for year 1959-60.
Reports of Committee of Inquiry into the Commercial Accounts of the Post Office.
Fiftieth Annual Report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, for year 1959-60.
I ask for leave of the Senate to make a statement in connexion with the Report of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– Mr. President, the Postmaster-General’s Report for 1959-60 which has been submitted to His Excellency the Administrator refers to the establishment by the Government of an ad hoc committee to examine and report on the Post Office commercial accounts and to the decisions of the Government on the committee’s report. The accounts for 1959-60 have been prepared on a basis which reflects these decisions.
It may be helpful to honorable senators to have information relating to the terms of reference of the committee, its recommendations and the decisions of the Government thereon in more detail than has been given in the Annual Report. This statement has accordingly been prepared.
The committee was appointed in September, 1959, with the following terms of reference: -
To study and report on -
any returns which the Post Office has made to the Commonwealth Treasury out of profits of the undertaking or the realization of any of its assets.
In expressing the amount, basis or rate of annual contribution the Committee shall make provision for an increase of such annual contribution to reflect any further sums which the Commonwealth Treasury may hereafter from time to time make available to the Post Office.
In considering these matters, the committee was invited to have regard, among other things, to the services which have been rendered by the Post Office up to 30th June, 1959, at uneconomic rates in accordance with Government direction or policy -
To study and report upon the basis tor the preparation of the commercial accounts of the Post Office, with particular reference to the matters referred to in Term of Reference (1) and also, as the Committee sees fit, to
The membership of the committee was - Sir Alexander Fitzgerald, O.B.E., chairman; Mr. Gerald Packer, C.B.E., Mr. L. B. Evans, Mr. E. W. Easton, Mr. J. F. Nimmo.
The committee did not reach complete agreement on all matters and presented two separate reports. One of these - the majority report - is subscribed to by Sir Alexander Fitzgerald, . Mr. Evans and Mr. Nimmo. The other - the minority report - represents the views of Mr. Packer and Mr. Easton.
Notwithstanding the presentation of the two reports, there was a measure of agreement on the following important matters: -
For the convenience of honorable senators the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has had prepared a summary of the conclusions and recommendations of the committee as contained in the majority and minority reports. This summary will be made available to any honorable senator who desires it.
The Government has considered some of the recommendations of the committee but for the time being has limited its attention to those necessary to establish the permanent form of the commercial accounts of the Post Office and to permit the accounts for 1959-60 to be presented. In relation to these matters it has decided -
It will naturally alter from time to time as particular loans mature and as new loans are raised.
Decisions have still to be made on several other matters relating to the Post Office accounts. These include the introduction of legislation to require the Postmaster-General to prepare and publish commercial acounts and to submit them for audit by the AuditorGeneral; and the manner in which furlough will be treated in the accounts in 1960-61 and subsequent years.
In addition to dealing with certain of the recommendations on the commercial accounts of the Post Office made by the committee set up under the chairmanship of Sir Alexander Fitzgerald, the Government has in mind giving some thought to a number of other matters relating to the finances of the Post Office which it considers to be relevant to its future financial status. Some of these have been referred to in the minority report of the committee.
When the Government has made decisions on these outstanding matters, the PostmasterGeneral will inform the Parliament accordingly. As honorable senators know, however, the Auditor-General has audited the commercial accounts for 1959-60 and his certification has been appended to the balance-sheet as at 30th June, 1960. The balance-sheet is included in the annual report for 1959-60, which will be available to honorable senators.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Motion (by Senator Kennelly)-by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Sheehan on account of ill health.
– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) will be leaving Australia to-day to appear for the Australian Government before the Privy Council on two important cases in which he has intervened. Sir Garfield will be away until early in June. During his absence the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) will act as Attorney-General.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
Thai the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this bill is to establish the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory by act of Parliament. The present court was established by and functions under an ordinance of the Territory. Having regard to the development of the Territory, the growth of the population there, and the altered status of its political institutions, the Government feels that the time has now come when the Supreme Court should, like the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, be put on a statutory basis, with provisions similar to the provisions in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act.
The tenure of the judges of courts created by Parliament is laid down by section 72 of the Constitution and the judges of the court established under this bill will, of course, have that tenure. The judges will hold office for life. As to the number of judges, honorable senators will observe that the bill adopts for the Northern Territory a principle that was put into operation in the Australian Capital Territory in 1958. Clause 7 contemplates that one judge will be appointed, giving his full time to the work of the court. I may call him, although that is not his official title, the regular judge.
The bill then, in order to make provision for the carrying on of the work during the absence of the regular judge, contemplates the appointment as additional judges of the Northern Territory of judges of other courts created by the Parliament. The additional judges would not receive any additional salary in respect of the Northern Territory appointment and would normally sit only in their own courts, but would be available as circumstances required to sit in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. In this way, it is hoped to ensure that in the future, in the event of the illness of the judge, or of his absence on duty in another Territory or of a vacancy, there will always be a judge available for the work of the Northern Territory Supreme Court. Provision is also made in the bill for the appointment of the regular judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory as an additional judge of some other court - for example, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. This, the Government hopes, will open the way to a most useful interchange of judges from time to time, which should in particular alleviate the isolation and physical strain of life in the tropical north.
Clause 15 of the bill defines the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. Broadly it continues as hitherto. The basic jurisdiction of the court will be the same original jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, as the Supreme Court of South Australia had, in relation to that State, at the time the Territory passed to the Commonwealth in 1911. This jurisdiction may, from time to time, be added to by ordinance of the Legislative Council, and the court will also continue to have jurisdiction in matters in which a writ of mandamus or prohibition or an injunction is sought against an officer of the Commonwealth, being matters arising in or under the laws in force in the Territory. In addition, the court will sit as a court of appeal with such exceptions and subject to such conditions as are provided by act or ordinance, from all judgments of inferior courts in the Territory.
Part VI. of the bill makes extended provision for appeals to the High Court. Under the Supreme Court Ordinance of the Northern Territory, an appeal from the court is possible only with the leave of the Full Bench of the High Court. Under the bill, no leave is required where an appeal is brought from a judgment in a civil matter which (a) is given or pronounced for, or in respect of, a sum or matter at issue amounting to or of the value of £1,500, (b) involved a claim, demand or question to -or respecting property, or a civil right, amounting to or to the value of £1,500; or (c) affects the status of a person under the law relating to aliens, marriage or divorce; or where appeal is brought from a conviction on indictment on any ground of appeal that involved a question of law -only.
Until such time as provision is made for an appeal court to hear Territory appeals, appeals in divorce cases must go to the High Court without leave from the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.
The concurrent administration of law and equity in the Supreme Court is regulated by Part III. The customary administrative and procedural provisions are to be found in Parts IV., V., and VII. Perhaps I should specifically draw the attention of honorable senators to clause 55, which authorizes the “ senior judge “ to make rules of court to govern its practice and procedure. As is the case under the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act, and is also the current position in regard to rules of the Northern Territory Supreme Court under the ordinance, the bill provides that rules so made may be disallowed by the Attorney-General by notification. The notification is to be published in the Government “ Gazette “ of the Territory. Provision is made for the present rules to continue in force as if they had been made under the act.
Transitional provisions are contained in clause 4, which enables proceedings already commenced to be completed as if they had been instituted in the new court, and allows appeals to the new court from judgments given in lower courts before the commencement of the act. The act is to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to bring the judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory under the Judges’ Pensions Act 1948-1958. A bill to establish the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory on a statutory basis was recently introduced. That bill is designed to replace the existing Supreme Court Ordinance 1911-1961 under which the present Supreme Court functions. The ordinance provides for a pension for the judge of the Northern Territory with the same benefits as those provided in the Judges’ Pensions Act. When a court is created by the Parliament, the pension payable to the judge or judges of the court is ordinarily provided in the Judges’ Pensions Act. The bill continues that practice by adding, to the list of judges who are covered by the Judges’ Pensions Act, judges of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.
The bill will also insert a new section 4a, the, purpose of which is to make clear that when a judge serves in more than one court the act will provide only for one pension on his retirement. Clause 4 of the bill enables previous service as a judge appointed under the Supreme Court Ordinance to be counted as service under the Judges’ Pensions Act. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 18th April (vide page 561).
Part III. (Application of Prohibited Degrees of Consanguinity and Affinity) (Clauses 22 to 24).
– I think I should traverse once more the reasons for the amendment that I moved last night to clause 22, which, in part, reads - (1.) Notwithstanding sub-section (2.) of section twenty-two or sub-section (3.) of section twentyfive of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959, the provisions of sections eighteen, nineteen and twenty of that Act relating to the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity and the Second Schedule to that Act apply in relation to marriages in .Australia, .other than marriages to .which Division 3 of Part IV. of this Act applies, and to marriages under Part V. o’f this Act, wherever the -parties -are domiciled or intend to make their home.
My amendment is - leave out “ that “, second occurring, insert “ this “.
The .clause will then refer to the Marriage Bill, not the Matrimonial Causes Act. “What I am seeking is the inclusion ‘in ‘the Marriage Bill of the Schedule in -the Matrimonial Causes Act dealing with consanguinity and affinity. I -think this would :have -been done if the ^Government had introduced a ‘uniform marriage ‘law -before introducing :a uniform law for divorce.
I ‘have moved my amendment because, when this bill becomes law, it will be used a great deal by persons .solemnizing marriages. Those persons, when wishing to refer to the .prohibited .degrees of consanguinity and affinity, should not be. required to .go to an act other than the Marriage Act, and one about which they may not know a great deal. Also, parties to the proposed -marriage should be able to answer all inquiries that they may have by recourse to the one act. My amendment is a simple one. It does not involve a departure from what -the Government has in mind. I hope to see the Schedule contained in the Matrimonial Causes Act included in this legislation.
– Whilst I agree with Senator Cole that some of the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act might more properly have been included in this bill, I do not see that very much will be achieved if we put the schedule in regard to prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity in this bill and take .it out of the Matrimonial Causes Act.
– I .did not ask that it be taken .out of that act.
– Senator Cole suggested that a celebrant would then need to refer to only one act. I believe that if we were to include in this bill all the conditions that a celebrant needs to understand, we should include the whole of Part IV. of the Matrimonial Causes Act which deals with void and voidable marriages, prohibited degrees, &c. I suggest that just taking this schedule in isolation and leav ing the Part dealing -with void and voidable marriages means ‘that a celebrant still has to consult two acts. If at any time ‘there was a consolidation of the two acts, I would be -quite prepared to agree that the whole of Part IV. of the Matrimonial Causes Act should more appropriately be in the Marriage Act. However, this amendment goes only half way.
.-In my opinion the .amendment we are discussing -has a lot of merit. ‘It seeks only .to make a machinery alteration so .that .clause 22 (1.) will refer to the Marriage Act rather than the “Matrimonial ‘Causes Act, to which it refers -at present in relation to prohibited -degrees df consanguinity and affinity. Those prohibited ‘degrees apply to marriage more ‘than ‘to divorce, and it seems to be rather an anomally that the draftsmen have not considered -this aspect and incorporated the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and -affinity as a second schedule to the bill. Many people who will read this ‘bill when it becomes an act will not be familiar with those prohibited degrees. Therefore, for the sake of convenience, so that they are readily available to such people, they should be incorporated in this bill.
Also, from an educational point of view, ,more people will be taking an interest in this subject when -celebrants .are registered as a result of the enactment of this measure. In my opinion, the request that this bill have the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity incorporated in it for the sake of convenience when it becomes an act is very reasonable. This is only a machinery amendment. Later we will come to an amendment asking that a second schedule relating to prohibited degrees of consanguinity .and affinity be incorporated in this bill. Therefore, I support the amendment.
– If the consequences of the amendment were as simple as Senator Cole and Senator O’Byrne suggest, there could be very few grounds on which one could suggest that the amendment should not be accepted. However, the amendment, in its -effect, is not as simple as is suggested. The degrees of consanguinity and affinity which prohibit marriages are set out in the schedule to the Matrimonial
Causes Act. The present -proposal is -that that schedule should be attached ‘to ‘this bill. The degrees of consanguinity and affinity set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act are affected by section 20 of that act which sets out certain conditions and procedures under which, provided certain -steps are taken, a marriage can take place in -spite of those degrees of consanguinity and affinity.
The insertion of that schedule in this bill, without any such limitations or qualifications, would raise considerable doubt as to whether people who were within the degrees of consanguinity and affinity could be married under this bill although under the Matrimonial Causes Act they could be married because that act contains a section which limits the application of the schedule. I put that forward as a very distinct disadvantage and as one example of what 5 suggest could follow from enacting the schedule as part of this bill. However, if at some later stage it were thought convenient to associate the schedule with this bill, as distinct from ‘the schedule being enacted by the bill, that would be a different matter.
The intention is to publish for the benefit of authorized celebrants handbooks containing all ‘the Information which they will want to have. Those handbooks will contain the relevant pacts of the Matrimonial Causes Act and the relevant parts of this bill. They will be published and issued to celebrants under the authority of the Government. If that were not sufficient, it would be necessary for .a celebrant to look up both acts. If the schedule were merely inserted at the end of this bill, as is now suggested, it would have the anomalous result that people might well be permitted to marry under the Matrimonial Causes Act but would not be permitted to marry under the Marriage Act.
– I cannot quite follow the explanation given by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). He has made the matter a little more confused. I agree with the mover of the amendment that it is much more important that the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity should be stated in the Marriage Bill than in the Matrimonial Causes Act. The aim of this legislation is to ensure that all marriages are carried out in -conformity with the law. I do -not think there should be very much objection to having the schedule as a schedule to this ‘bill. I think it is much more necessary to have it in this bill than in the Matrimonial Causes Act. It is only a question of machinery and administration. It would ‘help celebrants of marriages if that information ‘was included in the bill so that they -would not have to look up guide books on the celebration of marriages.
There is one other .aspect of this matter on which I am -completely at sea. I refer to clause 23 (4.) .(b) which .reads -
A .person who has .been adopted on more than one occasion shall be deemed to be the adopted child df each -person by -whom he -has been adopted
It will ‘be rather complicated to decide to Whom such a person is related by consanguinity or affinity. I do not know whether this bill has been introduced in order to .confuse people. I should like an explanation from the Minister of how clause 23 (4.) .(b) affects the persons concerned. It will give .quite a number of headaches to celebrants of -marriages. I do not know whether or not these provisions of the bill will apply in many cases. I should much prefer to see the schedule appended to the Marriage Bill rather than to the Matrimonial Causes Act, because I think that the legislation that we are now discussing is superior.
– I ask .the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) why the provisions of section 20 of the Matrimonial Causes Act were placed in that act and not in the Marriage Bill which is now before the committee. I think that in the answer to that question the key to the whole problem will be found. I note that section 20 of the Matrimonial Causes Act relates to the marriage of persons who come within the degrees of affinity prescribed in the act. 1 do not complain about that, but I should have expected that such a provision also would be found in the Marriage Bill. There is probably a good reason why that is not so. I invite the Minister to state why the provisions appear in the Matrimonial Causes Act and not in the bill that is before us.
In passing, Mr. Chairman, I mention that that is the kind of thing which rather infuriates the layman. Matters of that kind may be quite satisfactory from the point of view of lawyers, but after all, laws are passed for the edification of laymen as well as lawyers. The kind of thing that I have mentioned mystifies lay members of the community. I suggest to the Minister that if it is at all possible to insert those provisions in the Marriage Bill, he may care to communicate with the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) with a view to having something done about a subsequent amendment. Meanwhile, I can follow his argument with relation to the schedule. It does complicate the present position. There is a little bit relating to marriage in one act, and a little bit in another act. If the present schedule relating to marriage were included in the Marriage Bill, there might be complicating consequences, but there would be no such consequences if my suggestion were adopted at some future date.
– The reason why the degrees of consanguinity and affinity are stated in the Matrimonial Causes Act is that it is necessary to discover whether marriages are null or void, and matters of that kind.
– I was referring to section 20 of the Matrimonial Causes Act.
– Section 20 would affect the question whether a marriage was null, in accordance with the schedule as published-
– Would not that question be decided on the schedule that was attached to the Marriage Bill?
– No, it would be decided by the schedule as modified by the sections of the act. As I understand the position, a set of rules regarding affinity has been laid down, and exceptions to those rules are permitted, allowing people, in certain circumstances, to marry. In spite of the fact that they do not come within the rules laid down, an exception may be made and they may be permitted to marry. If the schedule alone were inserted, without provision for exceptions to be made in certain circumstances in spite of the rules, the schedule would be completely binding and, I believe, could lead to the prevention of marriages which would be permitted under the Matrimonial Causes Act.
– I understand the point that the Minister has made. Nevertheless, I should like him to explain what would happen if the schedule, as it is now, were incorporated in the bill. Can he say what hardship would result for persons who wished to marry?
– The answer, I suggest, is that if the schedule were inserted in the bill just as it is now, without the qualifying parts that are included in the Matrimonial Causes Act, it could follow that two people who desired to marry but did not come within the prescribed degrees of affinity, would be prohibited from marrying, despite the fact that there were most unusual and exceptional circumstances which were unlikely to be very often repeated. However, as the matter stands under the Matrimonial Causes Act, that prohibition is softened by the provision that if a judge is satisfied that the circumstances in a particular case are so exceptional as to justify the granting of the permission sought, he may by order permit the applicants to marry one another. It is for the judge to decide whether the circumstances are so exceptional.
– That is provided by section 20 of the Matrimonial Causes Act.
– That is correct. If two persons, who come within the prescribed degrees of affinity, wish to marry one another, they may apply to a judge for permission to do so, and may then show that there are exceptional circumstances justifying the granting of permission; but if the schedule were put in the Marriage Bill as it is, they would not have that freedom to apply to a judge.
– I quite agree with the Minister that you should not separate the schedule from section 20 of the Matrimonial Causes Act. That could be done, but it would be undesirable from the drafting aspect. Actually, this is only a drafting problem. I suggest to the Minister that difficulties of the kind he has mentioned should not be put to the committee as reasons why the bill cannot be amended. In the circumstances, however, I accept the explanation that you cannot, without causing a little misunderstanding, separate the schedule from section 20 of the Matrimonial Causes Act. In passing, 1 repeat that I think that that section should be a part of the Marriage Bill. It relates exclusively to the marriage - not to the divorce or separation - of people who come within the accepted laws on consanguinity and affinity, and that is all it relates to. I suggest that at some future date that section and the schedule should be incorporated in the Marriage Act. If the Minister does not accept that suggestion, 1 say that when this bill is being printed and distributed it is most desirable that Part IV. of the Matrimonial Causes Act be attached to it. The law on the degrees of affinity is a most important part of marriage law.
– Having listened to the explanation of the Minister, 1 realize the difficulties that we face in effecting amendment of the bill. The explanation reveals that the Government is just as hopeless in facing problems of human relations as it is in facing the economic problems of the country. Having dealt fully, nearly two years ago, with the subject of divorce, the Government now proceeds to deal with the subject of marriage. Does it not seem reasonable, in the light of the Minister’s explanation, that the Marriage Bill should have come first and the matrimonial causes legislation subsequently? The Matrimonial Causes Bill was the bill of all bills and the Crimes Bill was the perfect bill, but both were recast so often and in so many ways that the Attorney-General has now become known as “ Mr. Amendment “. In the light of the Minister’s explanation, we shall probably have to accept the proposition that the matter would only be complicated by adoption of the amendment.
– I still await some clarification from the Minister of paragraph 4 (b) of clause 23, with regard to adopted children and their relationships. Does the provision mean that a child who has been adopted by two separate families assumes the same relationship towards the members of both families?
– He has two fathers.
– I do not know what will happen. It is a very complicated position. I do not know whether the position would arise very often, but it needs more clarification than a mere bald statement. Whether it is a statement of fact or not, I do not know.
– The only explanation that I can give to Senator Tangney is the one presented to me, which is that clause 23 (4.) (b) covers the case of a child who has been adopted, whose adoptive parents have died, and who has been subsequently adopted by another couple. Under this clause he will be regarded, in effect, as being the natural child both of the adoptive parents who died and of those who adopted him after his first adoptive parents died. He can gain brothers and sisters from both the first and the second adoptions. They would be treated as his natural brothers and sisters for the purpose of the table of consanguinity.
– Senator Vincent has put to the Minister a proposition relating to publication with the act of a portion of the Matrimonial Causes Act. I think it would achieve my objective if the Minister gave an indication that that will be done, for the assistance of people who will be using the legislation. That would achieve my objective just as well as including a second schedule.
– I cannot give an undertaking that that will be done, but I can and do undertake that I shall recommend to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) that that be done. It would be made clear, of course, that it was not an enactment of the law and that what was being done was merely a convenient binding of the two documents together. I shall recommend that that be done, if the Senate thinks that it is necessary to do that in addition to publishing the handbook specially designed to provide celebrants of marriage with all the information that they require.
– I think that this handbook is necessary, and not only for the benefit of celebrants of marriage. Before a young couple reach the stage of approaching a celebrant, they want to know how they stand with regard to consanguinity and affinity. I suggest that this information should be available readily in simple terms. When young people arrive at the stage of approaching, a celebrant, it is rather late in the; day. for them to find that they cannot, be married-
– I agree that not only celebrants need this; information. Actually, most of the celebrants will know as- much- about this subject as any of us.
– Which is not much.
– I said “ any “, not “ all “. For the benefit of other people who desire to inform themselves about the law relating to marriage, it is essential that there should be attached to the Marriage Act some information in relation to marriage of people within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity. Many people would not expect to find that information anywhere except in a law relating, to- marriages and would not think of looking in the divorce law for it. The Minister might consider putting that view to the AttorneyGeneral.
– While I agree partly with what Senator Vincent has said, my view is that if any additional paper or document is to be issued, the whole of the provisions of Part IV. should be included in it.
– It will be left to the Attorney-General.
– I am making my point. The honorable senator made his point with regard to prohibited degrees of consanguinity. I think that the whole of Part IV. is important, particularly those provisions relating to void and voidable marriages and the validity of certain marriages. If we are to have an explanatory paper, let us have one explaining all of those provisions.
Part III. agreed to.
Part IV. - Solemnization of Marriages in Australia (Clauses 25 to 59).
– I refer to clause 31, which relates to refusal of registration as celebrants in certain circumstances. I adverted to this matter during my speech at the secondreading stage. As the Minister was not here then, I shall endeavour to repeat what I said. I believe that this provision is far too restrictive. It places in the hands of the registrar a. discretion that I believe should not exist. It follows the rather curious pattern of some of our liquor licensing laws, whereby a court, if it believes there are enough hotels in a district, will not grant additional licences. That principle is apparently now being embodied in the Marriage Bill, giving a registrar a discretion - I emphasize that element - to refuse registration if he considers that there are already enough ministers of religion of a certain denomination in a locality to perform marriage ceremonies adequately. With great respect, I do not think the sale of liquor has anything to do with the marriage service. 1 suggest that the matter of registration of celebrants of marriage should be dominated by the factor that any two young people - I included old people when I spoke earlier - should be entitled to go to- their own minister and be married by him. If he’ happens to be one of the unfortunate people- who have been deemed by the- registrar to be, in effect, surplus to establishment in that locality, they will Se denied that Christian right. That is the principle that should govern this element of the legislation.
– You are dealing with members of a certain denomination?
– I do- not think that this provision gives the right to deny registration to a particular denomination.
– It denies some applicants the right to registration.
– It denies, a person the right- to make his own choice within the denomination.
– If there are five Roman Catholic priests in Canberra, all of whom apply to be registered as celebrants, the registrar may, at his discretion, say: “ No. Five priests are too many for this purpose. I shall allow only four to be registered.”
– Which four?
– That is up to the registrar. He may say that in this locality five are too many and that four are enough. I think that this quantum element in deciding who shall and who shall not be entitled or eligible to be a celebrant of marriage is quite wrong. I know that in some religions there are difficulties about deciding* who is and who is j not’ authorized to perform marriages: We will: discuss that if the matter’ is. raised,-. but< I. should like to hear, the: Minister’s., views- because- 1: feel: that’ the principle- expressed- in - this proposed section is:, completely wrong.- .
, - 1” was, pleased’ to- hear Senator Vincent refer- to- clause 31’ which– reads- in: part - (1.) A’ Registrar to- whom an application for registration under this Division is made may refuse to register the. applicant if, in. the; opinion. of the. Registrar -
I have. an amendment. to move to this clause and I now move -
Leave out paragraph (a) of sub-clause (1.).
I think that the explanation, for this amendment has been given already by Senator Vincent. The- portion- of the sub-clause which I wish i to have deleted is*-
That- paragraph enables the- registrar- to’ usurp the right1 of - the Christian’ Church- and’ of ministers of religion- who have the rightto marry people: It is not the job of the registrar to- determine who in- the Christian Church should, or should’ not marry people. The- ecclesiastical bodies- should decide whoshould” have that- right.
– Subject to their being., fit and’ proper persons.
– An. ecclesiastical body would consider all those matters and I do not think that in any circumstances it would select a person who was not fit and proper. It is almost impertinence on the part of the Government to give to the registrar the authority to decide who will perform marriages. In most Churches a minister of religion administers sacraments; and he solemnizes marriages. It is impertinent on the part of the Government to allow a registrar to say to a minister, in effect, “ You cannot) performs marriages because there- are other people who can do the-job-“: I” knowthat there are other reasons for this provision. They relate- to certain- denominations where difficulties could arise.
– What are they?’
Senator- COLE. - I said there could. be,
Senator:- Wright-. - You said: you know there- are reasons: 1 am- interested to- beinformed’ of them.
– .There are certain denominations iti which- no- ecclesiastical! authority exists to - decide- who should’ perform marriages.- In some religious sects most off the- people who1- are- members of that- sect could– perform marriages withoutany ecclesiastical authority at all. Thatsortof thing could happen:
– Clause 29 is the govern.ing clause:
– The honorable senator can explain that afterwards. There should be no restriction on, ministers of religion to perform marriages. I am asking, therefore,, that paragraph (a) be deleted. The registrar can. carry out the provisions of the other paragraphs of. the proposed section because they, I think, are his prerogative.
– I should like to ask the- Ministerfor the Navy (Senator- Gorton) whetherclause 31’ (l’.)-(a)1 is not in direct- opposition to - clause- 29: Clause- 29’ provides -
Subject to this Division, a person is entitledto registration- under- this- Division* if- (a)1 h& is. a. minister, of religion of : a recognized; denomination;.
Clause 3d provides that
A> Registrar to whom an application, for registration under- this> Division, is made may? refuse to, register the applicant, if,, in, the. opinion- of. the Registrar - (a), there are already registered under this Division sufficient ministers of religion of the denomination to which the applicant belongs’ to.- meet the -needs- ofthe denomination in- the locality, in, which the applicant resides;
I agree with Senator Cole that this proposed, section introduces a completely new principle into the Australian political scene. It gives to a nominee of the Government, the registrar, the power to override the ecclesiastical authority of any religiousdenomination.
– It is based on our licensing laws.
– Exactly. I do not know whether this bill is really a marriage bill, or a re-marriage bill, or what kind of a bill it is. In its present form I do not think it is acceptable to 90 per cent, of the people of Australia. In all Christian Churches when ministers are ordained to their high position it is not only their privilege and their right but also their duty to confer the various sacraments upon members of their faith. To many Christians the institution of marriage is definitely a sacrament. To give to a State official the power to override a minister of religion in the exercise of his sacramental duty is not only an impertinence but also contrary to the Constitution of this country. Not enough thought has been given to this matter by the AttorneyGeneral. That is demonstrated by the inclusion of such a clause in the bill. I repeat that 99 per cent, of the people of Australia would be opposed to this provision.
I have a very high regard for registrars who are appointed to these jobs, but I do not feel that they should have the authority to decide whether there are sufficient ministers of religion of any denomination to serve the needs of the people of that denomination in an area. After all, the Church authority itself should decide such a matter and I do not think that any Church to-day has a surplus of ministers. Judging from the overworked ministers whom we know - I am speaking of ministers of religion - there are not, in many cases, sufficient ministers at the present time. That is one of the worries of most Churches to-day. There is very little risk that there would be too many ministers officiating in a particular area. But who is to decide whether there are too many ministers? Is it to be the authorities of the Church or some government official sitting in the seclusion of his office who may never go inside a church door, anyhow. This provision is repugnant to the majority of the people of Australia and should be deleted from the bill. Therefore, I support the amendment.
– First, I should like to deal with Senator Tangney’s suggestion that clause 31 contradicts clause 29, which sets out the qualifications which people must have in order to be entitled to registration as authorized celebrants.
– The persons who are entitled to registration.
– Subject to this Division. That is the answer to the honorable senator’s question. They are entitled to be registered, subject to this Division, if they have certain qualifications. Clause 31 is a part of this Division. Therefore, applicants for registration are subject to the restrictions specified in clause 31 and in other parts of the Division.
There is nothing new in the suggestion that a registrar should have a right to refuse to register as a celebrant a minister of religion or any other person. As the law stands in the States at the present moment-
– In every State?
– The law varies slightly in the various States. In New South Wales a registrar can refuse to register a minister of religion, and there can be no appeal whatever against such a refusal.
– Is there no right of appeal in that State?
– There can be no appeal in New South Wales. There can be no appeal in Queensland. There can be no appeal in South Australia, except to the Attorney-General of the day. There can be no appeal in Western Australia against a refusal to register. There is in Victoria a right of appeal to the Attorney-General, and in Tasmania there is a right of appeal to a judge. In every State a registrar has a right to refrain from registering as an authorized celebrant a minister of religion. I am asked whether that right has ever been exercised. That I do not know. The power would never be used in respect of what I may call the major denominations unless those major denominations themselves thought, for some reason, that an application should be refused. Senator Tangney herself gave one practical reason for this when she said that the larger or more wellknown religions are understaffed in the various parishes. Consequently, this position is most unlikely to arise with them. However, there are some denominations which claim that every member of the congregation is a minister. Clearly, it would be rather difficult to accede to a request that every member of a congregation be registered.
The only two points that I wished to make in reply to Senator Tangney are that entitlement to registration under clause 29 is subject to the other parts of the Division, and that there is nothing new, nothing repugnant to the Australian people, in giving to a registrar a right to refuse to register a minister of religion as an authorized celebrant. This right exists in every State but, as I have said, it has never been exercised in respect of the major denominations unless they themselves thought that certain celebrants should not be registered.
– I thank the Minister for the courteous reply he has given to me. I should think that the position outlined by the Minister is unknown to 90 per cent, of the people of Australia. I did not know before - and I doubt whether many other members of this chamber knew - that a provision exists in all State laws whereby a registrar may refuse to register a minister of religion as a celebrant. However, that does not affect my contention that the principle is wrong. I think that the Commonwealth Parliament should take the initiative to rectify the position. If a principle is wrong, it is still wrong even if it is applied in the States. I do not think that we should continue to act on a wrong principle. I do not think that this power should be in the hands of registrars, even though it is exercised to the satisfaction of the major denominations and, probably, of all denominations. There is always the possibility that a time will come when it will not be so exercised.
We know of countries in Europe where the marriage ceremony has become purely and simply a civil affair. I hope that that state of affairs will never come about in this country, but if it does, we shall have placed this measure on the statute-book, knowing full well what the consequences may be. I know that that argument may be far-fetched at the present time, but the point I am making is that I believe that this provision is repugnant and the fact that in all the Australian States registrars have a right to refuse to register does not make the provision any better. I think that it is bad in principle and that this Commonwealth Parliament should give a lead to the State Parliaments in the matter. When this bill becomes law, will it not take precedence over all relevant State laws? As the Matrimonial Causes Act takes precedence over State matrimonial causes acts, this measure will take precedence over State marriage acts. That being so, I do not think we should perpetuate in this measure a very bad principle.
– I should be glad if the Minister would inform me whether he meant that in each State registrars have a right to refuse registration on the ground mentioned in clause 31 (1.) (a), namely, the needs of a denomination in a particular locality. I am well aware of the fact that State registrars of marriage have a right to refuse applications for registration in certain circumstances, but it comes as a complete surprise to learn that every State has a provision giving registrars a right to refuse registration on grounds similar to those used in liquor licensing cases - the needs of the locality.
– My remarks were addressed to the principle that Senator Tangney raised - namely, that the idea that a registrar should have a right to refuse registration is repugnant - rather than to the specific grounds on which an application may be refused. The practice varies as between State and State. Some States leave the grounds unspecified, whilst others specify them.
– Will that continue after this measure becomes law?
– This bill is the first attempt by the Commonwealth to consolidate the law in relation to marriage. The Commonwealth has thought about this subject for 60 years, and now the best that it can do is to advance the argument that the registration of ministers of religion can be refused because a right to refuse such registration is given to registrars in State legislation. As Senator Tangney has said, that is not a good reason. As the proposed law in relation to marriage will apply to the whole of the Commonwealth, it is time that a few new thoughts were expressed on the matter, as happened in connexion with the uniform divorce legislation. I still say that a registrar should not have a right to refuse to register ministers of religion because of the number of ministers ofthesame religion already serving a particular locality.
– Of whatever denomination.
– Yes, ministers of religion belonging to : all denominations. Therefore, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I press my amendment, because I believethat if paragraph (a) of sub-clause of;clause 31 were deletedit would cause the. Government to have another look at this aspect of the marriage law and otherrelevant clauses of this measure. Therefore,I insist that my amendment goto a vote.
.- I believe that Senator ‘Cole has a point in the amendment he has submitted. As “Senator Tangney has said, if a principle is wrong, it does not matter that it has been persisted in for 60 years. Sir Isaac Isaacs said many years ago that it is better that thelaw shouldbe ultimately right rather than that it should be consistently wrong. We would he upholding awrongprincipleif we were to refuse to accept the amendment that has been proposed by Senator Cole. I thought I made it abundantly clear yesterday in the course of a discussion which lasted some hours that there must be a first time for everything. If Columbus, Louis Pasteur and a few other people had adopted theattitude that what they were attempting to do had never been done before, verylittle progress wouldhave been made in anysphere of endeavour.Onehasonlyto recitethe possible effect of thisbill if the relevant provision remains in it in order to conclude that what is a good measure would bebetter without it.
Marriage is the most important union into which young, middle-aged and elderly pople - infact, any couple - can enter, and it is quite understandablethat a couple may want tobe united bya particular member of the denomination to which they belong but whois not acceptable to the lay authority. Irrespective of what has obtained in the past, the provision we are considering is a dangerous one. The billwould be better without it. I support the amendment.
.- The matter to which Senator Cole has directed attention is deserving of very serious consideration. Iam prompted torise because of the statement of the Minister for theNavy (SenatorGorton),when replying to SenatorCole, to the effect that every State has a provisionwhich is analagous to the one weare now considering.
SenatorVincent. -He corrected that later.
– I did not even say it.
– TheMinister was good enoughto pass to me the Tasmanian statute upon which he relied. I shall deal with the Tasmanian law as being illustrative of what Ithinkmay well be copied. Iknow that the . Attorney-General(SirGarfield Barwick), having scrutinized the Tasmanian legislation, (hasahighopinionof it. (Let me goback to thestatute of -15895. The position was, as : is provided inclause26ofour bill, that religiousbodiesdependeduponthe Government’sproclamation in their favour.
SenatorGorton. - Is our billthe Tasmanian bill or the Commonwealth bill?
– I am going back to the 1895 legislation to show the deterioration that can take place unless the Parliament is vigilant and ensures that the legislation is based on a proper principle. Under the 1895 legislation, the religious ‘bodies whose ministerscould celebrate marriages were specified in the schedule tothe act. Under the measure nowbefore us, the religiousbodieswhich are to be recognized ashaving ministers accredited to celebratemarriages will be proclaimed.In other words, the government of the day will put a list oftheminthe “ Gazette “ and will change the list as of ten asit thinks fit without regard tothe wishesof the Parliament. That is the first point.
Underthe Tasmanianlegislation, abody wasgiven a name inthe schedule,bythe Parliament, and it stood. However, we are not discussing that. Thatis onesafeguard that has beenremoved.
– Yes. The next point is that in the Tasmanian Act of 1895 this provision appeared -
The Registrar-General shall register. . . .
Any minister of religion whose name, designation, and usual place of residence, together with the churchor placeof worship in whichthe officiates, if any, shall have been transmitted to the RegistrarGeneral by the person within Tasmania inwhom ecclesiastical authority shallbe vestedorbe reputed tobe vested over anyof thereligious bodies…..
That is tosaytheheadofthereligious body accredited him to the RegistrarGeneral and he was then ‘entitled to have his name placed on the register of persons authorized to celebrate marriages.
– Automatically, and without refusal. The second provisionof the relevant section was designed to accommodate the viewpoint of some miscellaneous sects, and there was entitled to he registered -
Any minister of religion not connected with any of the bodies enumerated in thesecond schedule who shall furnish the particulars mentioned aforesaid, together with a certificate signed by twenty-four householders declaring that such minister is their officiating minister. . . .
That is to say, any group of people who certified that X was their officiating minister could accredit him to theRegistrar-General.
SenatorOrmontle - Andif theyconstituted areligious organization?
– No. There was no such requirement. The sub-section provided - . . together with a certificate signedby twenty-four householders declaring that such minister is their officiating minister, andthat during the six months immediately preceding they have been habitual attendants at public worship conducted by the said officiating minister in a building regularly devoted to such purpose.
Thatprovision has gone, and in the Tasmanianstatute of1943 there was included aprovision which has not, asI understood the Minister, the same sweeping effect as that mentioned by him. Section 6 of the Tasmanian act of 1943 provides -
Application for registration of any person as an authorized celebrant may be made -
The right of the Registrar-General to limit the number of people who may be registered applies not to those who are nominated by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority or by two duly recognized office bearers ofany religious body but only to the third group, in which case a person may be nominated by any twelve householders who attend, under his guidance,aparticular place of worship. Section6 (5) provides -
No applicantshallbe registered under theprovisions of paragraph (III.) of sub-section (2) hereof if, in the opinion of theRegistrar-General, the requirements of the religious body which he represents are sufficiently provided for in the locality within which such applicant resides.
I cannot seeany merit inthat limitation, narrow as is the area to which it refers. As a matterof principle aregistrar should not have any authority to ‘limit the number of accredited celebrants that an ecclesiastical body nominates and should not have any authority over the two responsible recognized office bearers that any religious body nominates. I direct the Minister’s attention specifically to Tasmanian legislation. In these matters it is well to examine one statutory provision at a time. The Tasmanian legislation does not afford a properprecedent for the proposal contained in this bill. SenatorCole’s amendment contains such merit that unless I am otherwise persuaded I shall support it.
Question put -
That the words proposedto be left out (Senator Cole’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I wish to refer briefly to clause 38, which provides -
Each Registrar shall, not later than the fourteenth day of each month, furnish to the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department -
a list of ministers of religion registered by him under this Division during the preceding month, showing the full name, designation, residential or postal address and religious denomination of each minister; and
particulars of any other alterations to the register kept by him under this Division made during the preceding month.
If the proper interpretation of that clause is what I fear it to be, I am anxious to scotch - I hope that the committee will support me - the inveterate disposition in Commonwealth departments for form filling. Does clause 38 require registrars to submit a form each month to the secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department? The clause provides that registrars shall submit forms giving details of ministers of religion whose names have been registered that month and requires the inclusion of particulars of any other alterations to the register. If no additions or alterations have been made to the register, will a registrar be required to submit a nil return?
– That is a certainty.
– I would think so, but if not I require a definite assurance from the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). This penchant for form filling vexes me. I would think that an annual return from registrars would be ample in these circumstances. May I have some enlightenment on this matter?
– Clause 38 provides that the registrar, who in this instance will be the State officer at present occupying that position, shall supply each month to the Attorney-General the names of people who have been added to or removed from the list of authorized celebrants in his division, together with their addresses. If the situation is unchanged in his division a registrar is required to submit a report stating that fact. Of course, these records are already kept by the registrars in the various States, but the Attorney-General’s Department requires them because people who are authorized1 celebrants are authorized celebrants anywhere in Australia. A celebrant may be out of his home State. It would be right to have a register showing those who had been added in a particular division as authorized celebrants of marriage anywhere in Australia and those who had been removed from the previous register and were no longer authorized celebrants of marriage anywhere in Australia.
Senator Sir NEIL O’SULLIVAN (Queensland) [5.16]. - As I read this clause, what the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) has said is not right. Clause 37 provides - and very properly so - that an annual list of ministers of religion has to be sent in to registrars. Clause 38 (a) requires the furnishing of a monthly list to the Attorney-General’s Department. Clause 38 (b) - I am quite happy about this subclause and I understand Senator Wright is also quite happy about it - provides that the registrar shall furnish monthly “ particulars of any alterations “ - I omit the word “ other “ - “ to the register kept by him under this Division made during the preceding month “. That is a very proper provision to make. Clause 38, as I read it, makes it obligatory for each registrar to send in the complete list every month as well as any alterations to it. In my opinion it would be quite satisfactory for them to furnish an annual list and then particulars of alterations monthly.
– I understand that to be the position.
– I should like to know what the effect would be upon the parties to a marriage if it is carried out by a celebrant who, under clause 33 (4.), has been notified by the registrar that his name has been removed from the register and who is appealing against such removal. What happens to the parties to a marriage which is celebrated during the time when a celebrant’s name is removed from the register and a decision is given on any appeal that may be made? Clause 33 (4.) reads -
When notice is given to a person under subsection (2.) of this section, that person shall not solemnize a marriage unless and until . . .
One of two things is done. If the celebrant went ahead and performed a marriage, would that marriage be valid?
– I understand that the position referred to by Senator Tangney is covered by clause 48 (3.) of the bill which reads -
A marriage is not invalid by reason that the person solemnizing it was not authorized by this Act to do so, if either party to the marriage, at the time the marriage was solemnized, believed that that person was lawfully authorized to solemnize it. and in such a case the form and ceremony of the marriage shall be deemed to have been sufficient if they were such as to show an intention on the part of each of the parties to become thereby the lawfully wedded spouse of the other.
The answer to the. honorable senator’s question is that the marriage would be valid.
My reply to Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan is that the first clause to which he referred relates to the complete list of ministers of religion and the other clauses relate to monthly lists of alterations.
– I refer to clause 43 which reads -
A marriage may be solemnized on any day, at any time and at any place.
This clause relates to marriages performed by what are called “ authorized celebrants ‘ under Division 2. Clause 43 is part of Division 2. They are marriages which are commonly called “ registry office marriages “. Normally, our laws contain such a provision relating to what might also be called “ civil marriages “, enabling the authorized celebrant, who is normally a government official, to celebrate marriages at any time and at any place. I am not quarrelling with that provision.
I appeal to the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) to ensure that the instructions to authorized celebrants contain an instruction, that the marriages which are performed by them should be performed with as much formality as possible. In that connexion I refer to the Minister’s second-reading speech in which he said among other things -
But although that is so- referring to marriage legislation - underlying these procedural matters is the purpose of ensuring, as far as it is possible by legislation to do so, that there shall be in our community a sound basis for marriage and that persons about to undertake matrimony do so not lightly but advisedly. It is fundamental to this type of legislation that marriages should be public. . . .
The Minister went on in that strain. I agree entirely with those sentiments. 1 emphasize the fact that unfortunately most of the marriages that are performed by civil authorities are not performed with the formality that I would like to see. The official’s office is generally - I am. not saying always - a very dismal room. The local clerk of court or the local mining registrar usually also officiates as the registrar’s deputy. I have seen that functionary turn out in his shirt sleeves and mumble to the parties something which they have not heard. He gets rid of them as quickly as possible because the ceremony is just another job to him.
I do not suggest for a moment that legislation can take care of such superficial but very important aspects of marriage. I suggest that instructions could be given to civil celebrants to conduct marriage ceremonies with more formality and more decorum than heretofore. I do not know whether those honorable senators who are treating this matter with great levity at the moment have ever seen a marriage performed in. that way. I can assure them that it is not a very imposing spectacle. It does anything but suggest to the parties that they are undertaking the most important job of their lives and one of the most difficult jobs.
I suggest to the Minister that in formulating the book of instructions to celebrants consideration be given to ensuring as far as possible, that a wedding ceremony will be conducted with a certain formality.
– And dignity.
– And dignity; I quite agree. It should not take place in a dismal, dingy office. In most towns there are other places where marriage ceremonies could take place. In some towns the Mayor’s parlour in the Town Hall would he.- a most appropriate, place for such- ceremonies. When we conduct naturalization; ceremonies and make new Australians Australian citizens, we do so purposefully and very advisedly in such rooms. Yet people are married in a back room of the clerk of court’s, office by an official in his shirtsleeves. I am not exaggerating.. As-one who. has had. a little, experience, of such matters,. I suggest to the Minister- that he give serious: consideration to passing my suggestion on» to the- Attorney-General (Sir- Garfield’ Barwick)! because I’ think it is- very important. Another- suggestion I make is; that when- people- come along and pay their– 5s-. for- a- civil- marriage, the authorized celebrant’ should’ say something along these lines to the parties, “ Look here, would you not- prefer to be married in a church with proper dignity? I suggest that you thinkthat over first; and’ if you refuse to do so or- for your own reasons do not wish to be married in a church, I shall1 marry you. But think the matter over first.”
We have reached the stage in this materialistic, world when matters of this kind1 are being treated far too frivolously. If we- are not prepared to give a lead, and to- instructour servants who will be: conducting’ such ceremonies, we- shall” not be: doing: the- job’ that- we are supposed- to do;.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia)’ [5..25J. - Before I’ discuss the matter abour which I have risen to speak, I want to support Senator Vincent’s remarks. When I was overseas some years ago, I found, in the countries in which a civil marriage as well’ as. a. religious, ceremony is necessary, that in. the town halls of the cities I visiteda. special room was set aside where such marriages- could be- conducted, in an atmosphere of quiet dignity, thereby indicating, to persons being married something of the seriousness of the obligations they were assuming. As Senator Vincent has said, naturalization ceremonies in Australia havebeen brightened’ and improved considerably: The responsibilities- of Australian citizenship are1 accentuated’ by the new dignitythat the ceremonies have, been given.. A similar improvement could be made in civil marriage- ceremonies, if those who participate^ in such ceremonies are not to gain the impression that an undertaking lightly entered’ into- may be lightly broken. Afterall, the Government has legislated first in relation to divorce and’ then to marriage.
Clause 39/ (I.)1 provides thats -
A- person- who* under the law of a- State- orTerritory, has the. function-, of registering marriages solemnized, in the State or Territory,- or, a. part of the State or Territory may solemnize marriages in that State or Territory or in that* partof the State or Territory, as. the case - may be.
When this bill becomes operative, will ittake the place of State provisions? If so, will celebrants of- marriages be registered1 foE particular States, or. will they be registered to conduct services- throughout the whole of Australia?
– They will’ be registered in the States, and they will be able to celebrate marriages throughout Australia.
– Will this legislation that we are discussing take the place of State marriage laws?
.- I. also wish to’ support the remarks of Senator Vincent’ regarding, the- need to- accentuate’ the solemnity of marriage ceremonies,, and: I support, too,., the- remarks that he made, in regard to clause 43. I direct the attention of the Minister and other honorable senators to clause 46 (1.). I ask the Minister whether he can explain to me the. meaning and- purport of the clause as a whole. Yesterday,. I moved foc the insertion of. a definition clause which was in virtually the same, words as those used in. the clause, and for reasons which were not clear to me the motion was roundly defeated by a vote which- could scarcely be described as close. In view of the statements that have, been made earlier in the debate; I now ask theMinister whether marriage, according to law in Australia, is in. fact the union of a. man and a woman to the exclusion of. all others, voluntarily entered into for life. If.” the answer, to that question is- “ No “,. what is the purpose of inserting- an inaccurate statement of the law in. a provision relating to civil ceremonies?
– I think that a lot of nonsense is being spoken on this subject of marriage. It is well over’ 50 years since I was married; and I do not remember much about the ceremony. Senator’ Vincent has suggested that the person who is conducting a civil marriage ceremony should ask the. couple being married-, “ Would you rather go to a church to be married?” or “ Why did. you .not .go to a .church?” The honorable senator has entirely overlooked the .reason for .civil ^marriages. I contend that .the celebrants of such marriages have no right to ask (questions of .that kind. ‘Generally speaking, most people -seek a civil ceremony because they do not .want .to he married in a church.
To my way of thinking, it is only deeply religious men and women who regard marriage as an extraordinarily solemn occasion. Generally speaking, the parties are so worried about when to say “ I will “ and when the ring should be put on, that they are only too happy to sign the register and get away. Of course, there are deeply religious people who study the marriage ceremony so that they will know word for word the procedure that is to be followed, but I have no doubt that 90 per cent, of people who are being -married are only too happy to get the ceremony over as soon as possible. All that they know about the matter is that they have to say “ I will “ when the official performing the marriage asks, “ Will you take this person “ and so on, and many of them have to be prompted to say even that. The purpose of this provision of the bill is to establish an arrangement whereby people who do not want to be married in .a church may be married in a civil ceremony, perhaps because it is cheaper to have a civil ceremony.
– I wish to refer now to clauses 45 and 46. I mentioned those clauses in my speech during the second-reading debate, but because the Minister was absent at that time, I feel obliged to discuss them again. When I spoke previously, I said that clause 45 did not state what a dumb person was expected to do when he was being married. Clause 46 renders rather stupid the provisions of clause 45, so far as deaf people are concerned, because they would not hear a word of the service. Neither of those clauses has any regard for the position of deaf-mutes who wish to marry. I am not certain whether the Minister, by way of interjection, stated that something would be done under the regulations to rectify this position. However, I do not think that a regulation would be appropriate. Deaf and dumb people should be treated with the same degree of dignity as are people not so afflicted. ti suggest :that ;in .due course the Minister -should introduce .an amendment -to ‘provide for deaf and dumb people, and a’lso tor deafmutes. The fact that the bill does not contain provision for such people is probably an oversight. “I do not intend to -move an amendment in this respect, although 1 have thought very seriously of doing so. It seems, ‘Mr. Chairman, that only about onethird of the members of this chamber are taking an intelligent interest in the debate. The other two-thirds are elsewhere in this building and are coming in and voting without any knowledge of what they are voting on. I shall not embarrass them by bringing them back and expecting them to vote on a subject of which they know nothing. That would be only a matter of embarrassment to them. .1 am not referring to honorable senators who are listening to me now. It is quite futile, dealing with a non-party measure such as this, to propose an amendment when only a minority of the Senate is present and the majority turns up when the bells are rung, not knowing what they are to vote on. That is why I shall not move an amendment.
– There is a pretty good muster here listening to you now.
– I commend them for it. I appreciate it very much. My remarks do not apply to them at all. I ask the Minister to pass on my observations to the Attorney-General in order to ensure that an appropriate amendment be made and that this matter be not treated lightly by way of a regulation.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) [5.36J. - Clause 44 reads - iA:marriage shall-not-be solemnized -unless :at least two persons who are, or appear to the (person solemnizing the marriage to be, over the age of eighteen years .are present .as -witnesses.
The words “ appear … to be “ give very wide powers to the person celebrating the marriage. Senator Vincent referred earlier to the liquor laws. This clause reminds me that a .person dispensing liquor is responsible if he serves it to a person who is under age. His ignorance of the customer’s age is not accepted as an excuse. This clause, it seems, will allow people who are under ‘t’he age of eighteen years to be witnesses to a valid marriage, if they appear to the registrar, or whoever is performing the ceremony, to be above that age. “Is any alteration of the existing practice -proposed?
At present, must witnesses be over the age of eighteen years, or need they only appear to be over that age?
.- As I indicated earlier to the Minister, I have an interpretation of clause 46 that I believe makes sense. It is based on the ordinary meaning of the words and I approve of it. However, I should be grateful if, before we cast our vote on this matter, the Minister would answer the question that I put to him a few moments ago. I take it that it is not necessary for me to restate it.
– No. I propose to answer it.
– Clause 42 states that notice in writing of an intended marriage shall be given not earlier than the ninetieth day before the date of the marriage. Why does the bill stipulate the ninetieth day? Quite a lot of mental arithmetic is involved in working back to the ninetieth day. Why should the bill not stipulate three calendar months?
Clause 42 (3.) states -
Where the signature of a party to an intended marriage cannot conveniently be obtained at the time when it is desired to give notice under this section, a notice duly signed by the other party and otherwise complying with the provisions of this section shall, if it is signed by the firstmentioned party in the presence of an authorized celebrant before the marriage is solemnized, be deemed to have been sufficient notice.
Why should all those words be used? All that the provision means is that the marriage notice may be signed by one or both of the parties to the marriage. Why should the clause be so involved?
– Why content yourself with one form when you can use twelve!
– The honorable senator suggests that the more words used in a law, the better it is. Clause 42 (8.) (a) provides that an authorized celebrant shall not solemnize a marriage unless he has satisfied himself that the parties are the parties referred to in the notice given in relation to the marriage. How would it be possible for an authorized celebrant to satisfy himself of that? It seems to me that the celebrant is being asked to do what is almost impossible.
– Several points that require an answer have been raised. First, I take the opportunity to tell Senator Vince:, t that the Attorney-General will, in the handbook that he proposes to issue to authorized celebrants, not lay down rules as to what the dress must be, or anything of that kind, but he will endeavour to indicate a desire for some dignity in the carrying out of the marriage ceremony. It would be clearly impossible to say that a coat should be worn, for instance, because in the Northern Territory and such places a khaki shirt and so on might well be the appropriate wear. The point at which Senator Vincent is aiming will be covered, as far as it can be covered, by the intention set forth in the Attorney-General’s handbook.
In relation to clause 46, Senator Hannan referred to the provision that a celebrant shall use words to this effect -
Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
The honorable senator asked whether that was a definition of the law as it stands in Australia. The answer is: No. There is no definition of marriage in the law as it stands in Australia.
– That was not exactly my question.
– Quite, but I propose to develop the answer a little, if I get the opportunity. There is no definition of marriage in the law in Australia, lt is, of course, the law that while a man is married to one woman he cannot marry another. These words are, to that extent, a statement of the law to people who go before an authorized celebrant. Marriage is a union entered into with the intention, in general, at the time it is entered into, on the part of both parties, of being a union for life. I would say that the words set out in the clause are not by any means an exhaustive statement of the law as it stands iri Australia. A great number of qualifications would have to be made to it to define the law.
asked whether there was any departure from, practice in providing that witnesses to a marriage must be, or appear to be, over the age of eighteen years. The present practice varies from State to State, but in general there is no departure from the present practice.
asked me a question about clause 42 of the bill. That proposed section sets out the notice to be given by an authorized celebrant before a marriage takes place. I am informed that 90 days is a more satisfactory expression than three months, which can vary according to the length of the month. This time is, of course, not binding on denominations because clause 47 of the bill provides that nothing in this bill shall impose an obligation on an authorized celebrant, who is a minister of religion, to solemnize any marriage, and nothing prevents him from requiring a certain longer notice of intention to marry. Clause 42 does not impose a limitation on the rights of denominations.
Clause 42 also sets forth the documents required to be produced to an authorized celebrant. They are, in effect, a birth certificate, a statutory declaration by both parties saying that they are applying to be married, and a notice of intention to marry. This should normally be signed before the authorized celebrant himself by both parties or before a Justice of the Peace; but if one party signs the document and the other party produces it before the authorized celebrant, and signs it in his presence, under proposed section 42 (3.), that would comply with the section. The provision has been inserted more for the sake of convenience.
– I was only thinking of the involved language of the paragraph.
– I do not accept responsibility for the language. I seek only to interpret it.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Chairman, this afternoon, when we were referring to clause 46, I made some reference to what I regarded as the two difficult alternate positions which the Minister faces in propounding his view. I must thank him for his patience and for the courtesy with which he dealt with my earlier inquiries, but I feel it is my duty to press for a final elucidation of the dilemma in which he is placed. It seems to me that the voyage between Scylla and Charybdis was a Sunday afternoon cruise compared with the tortuous line he seems now to be compelled to follow.
Earlier, thinking that it was necessary, I moved an amendment seeking to have a definition of marriage based upon the decisions of the courts over the last 100 years or more written into the measure. My amendment was rejected. By clause 46, the officiating officer must say to the parties -
Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
When I asked the Minister whether that was a true and accurate statement of the law in Australia, he said, “ No “. I feel that this is not the place to embark on an argument in regard to that point at the moment, although at the proper time and place I would be prepared1 to argue very strongly to the contrary of the Minister’s view. But accepting the contention that that is not a true statement of the law, I want to know now the purpose of inserting an inaccurate, incorrect and untruthful statement of the law in the tail-end of clause 46. I feel sure that the sincere and genuine approach which the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister have made to this bill will lead to our being given some explanation of this seeming dilemma, but before we are called on to vote on clause 46 I would be pleased if the Minister would dispose of one or other, or both, of the points I have put to him.
– I think I should begin by reminding Senator Hannan that the navigation of the path between Scylla and1 Charybdis was undertaken by a vessel under the command of Ulysses, a chief of naval staff, with some success, and I hope to emulate the navigational feats of my predecessor. I would suggest that although it is not using a legal definition to use the words stated in clause 46, or words to that effect - I emphasize “ or words to that effect “ - it is a good, rough, layman’s guide to the general approach to marriage of the Australian public. Marriage is, in general, intended1 to be for life, but not without exception. It does add - this is something which is near to Senator Vincent’s heart - a certain amount of solemnity to the occasion if this general approach, as distinct from a legal definition, is explained by a celebrant of marriages. At any rate, the words make quite clear to both parties, as I said before, that they cannot marry somebody else while they have a- spouse. That- is all. 1 can say, in general, about, why these, words are- written- into this- clause.
– I think Ulysses did a lot- better.
Senator- GORTON. - Well I hope I got through.
Part IV. agreed to:
Part V. agreed tb.
Part VI. - Legitimation (Clauses 89 to. 93),
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) fSf.5-]. - I referred- to- clause- 91 during thesecondreading debate; but I think P should’ refer to it again. If relates to- the- legitimacy of children of certain void’ marriages-. By way of explanation, I shall make one’ reference to a void- marriage. If is a marriage which has, in effect, never existed. A court, in declaring- a marriage void, would say to the parties that a marriage between them had never existed - that there never was a marriage. Consequently, any issue of such a union would at one time have been deemed to. be. illegitimate. It must follow, of course, that if there has not. been a marriage, there could be no legitimacy with respect, to the offspring. It is historically correct to say that, for many years the courts have done their very best in those pathetic circumstances to present a satisfactory argument, which has been finally incorporated in most of- the statutes in respect of the States, that there is. a loophole through which the unfortunate and innocent children of” void marriages can. be legitimized”. This bill goes a very, long way,, even much further than the statute law of. most of the States, in. looking after the children of void marriages. L commend the Attorney-General for the humane, attitude he has. adopted to this rather delicate and. difficult question.
Honorable’ senators will, notice: that clause 90: also makes provision in relation to legitimation. It provides, that children who are born, illegitimate can: be: legitimized by the subsequent marriage of their parents. Clause- 90! very humanely provides that if children are bonn out of wedlock: and! their parents subsequently marry,, even; if the marriage takes place outside Australia-,, and subject to other conditions; the1 children shall be deemed to be- legitimate: I: have mentioned clause 90 because- it is founded upon a principle, of domicile of the parties. Clause 91 also is linked to the law- relating to domicile. Clause 90 is tied to the law relating to domicile by subsequent entry into and domicile of the parents in Australia which give Australian courts the right to declare the illegitimate children of such a union to be legitimate. Clause 91 adopts a similar principle. The only reason why I brought in clause 90 was to suggest that, the principle of domicile is somewhat similar, although not identical, in both cases.
In clause 91 we are dealing with what is perhaps a far more pathetic ease - that of children of adults- who have lived together thinking they were legally married but who suddenly discover that they are not lawfully married. In- those circumstances clause 91 will, come into operation and legitimize the offspring in almost- every- case. I commend the Attorney-General for having gone a long way - in fact, almost the whole way - to rectify the situation-. But I suggest that he has not gone the whole way, the exception which, he- has not covered - I understand he. is considering the matter - being the issue of a void, marriage contracted overseas, the child haying been born overseas before the marriage is declared void. In- those circumstances, clause 9-1 does not legitimize the child. I suggest to the Minister for the Navy that it would be very desirable if at a subsequent time the Attorney-General could’ see his way clear to amend the proposed legislation in order to provide a humane service to -children of void marriages who are born overseas.
I understand that there is a legal problem associated with this matter. I shall not weary honorable senators by dealing with it beyond saying that in certain quarters it is believed that, in relation to offspring of void marriages, only those born in Australia can be legitimized. I do not agree with that contention. In neither clause 90 nor clause 91, as they at present stand; are we actually seeking to pass laws which would be accepted in many other countries. There is a definite conflict in relation to the proposed law in both clauses 90’ and 91’, based upon the principle of domicile. I’ can see no reason why the provision cannot be stretched a- bit further: T believe that the subsequent domicile of the- parents as provided for in clause 91 could; in these circumstances, quite effectively be- made the basis of the legitimacy of; the. children. This matter could be, argued, all night, from the legal stand-point.. But. I do not wish to. take up the time, of the: committee by discussing it all night, because it is an intricate, subject. All I need to say is that: some eminent lawyers believe- that that would, be stretching the- law relating, to domicile too far. Others say- that that would not be so; I err on the side, of those who say it can be done and that it should be done.
I’ believe that void marriages could occur more frequently, relatively speaking, within the next few years than heretofore. 1 say that, because it is quite possible that many people who have believed” that they have been through a proper form of marriage in central Europe immediately after the war could discover at some future date, to their astonishment, that they have not been married - that their marriage is void. If the issue of that marriage was born overseas, those children could never- get the sanction of law over their heads and be deemed to be legitimate. Whilst there may not be many such cases - there will not be- many, when all is said and done, in relation to the total number of marriages celebrated1 - a very important principle1 is involved. The Attorney-General would do well to- have another look- at the matter. Indeed’, I understand’ from the remarks he has passed to me- that he is considering’ it. I; do not know what stage that consideration has reached. Perhaps the Minister for the Navy can enlighten me at this stage of the debate.
– I agree: with Senator Vincent when he- says that the- Attorney.General (Sib Garfield Barwick) has thought that’ this, matter: could’, be examined with a view to, ascertaining: whether- in fact there is the? danger that the honorable senator fears in- theory: Clause 90, as opposed to clause 91,. deals entirely with legitimizing children who may have been born: illegitimate, because- the marriage was void, or’ for some other reason, but the parents of whom re-marry - or should- I say marry- when they come to. Australia.
– But because they are domiciled here.
– It is more a- matter of whether or not they re-marry. Domicile is; one.- factor:.. But the other and, I believe, more important! factor is whether the. parents decide: to, re-many, when, they get. to Australia-
– But if they re-married in- China-, as far as- our law was- concerned the children would not be legitimate.
– That is a rather difficult one..
– I am talking about the domicile of the parties.
– If they re-married in China and. then. came, to Australia, they could re-marry in Australia and the children would be legitimate. I am not saying that if they re-married, in China the children would not be legitimate - that is, provided the marriage in China was a common law valid marriage.
Senator- Vincent* - I should have added “ and if they stayed in China “.
– Well, it would not matter to us then.
– That, is what I am saying. The domicile is- the essential element in this problem.
-. - The marriage in the case of Wong v. Wong was a Chinese marriage. It was held- by the New Zealand court to be valid.
– F do not feel too competent to argue about’ that case. Clause 91 does not deal with the case of parents who have had an illegitimate child, who come to Australia- and who desire to legitimize that child1 by a:- re-marriage in this country. If deals with a void marriage, in which the parents do not, for one reason or another, re-marry in Australia. The point at issue1 is this: Is any great hardship caused to the parents or their children if parents who thought they were married abroad but who when they come to Australia find’ that the marriage is void, and who then are not prepared to go through a form of marriage in Australia to legitimize their children? There may be cases of hardship. But the AttorneyGeneral has decided to look at the matter to ascertain whether in fact cases of hard* ship will devolve from this provision. At first glance it would seem to be reasonable to require that parents who come to Australia from a foreign country; and who find that there– is. a. flaw- in their marriage and it is void, to re-marry in Australia in order to legitimize their children. If hardship is caused as a result of this provision and there is evidence of it, the AttorneyGeneral will seek to overcome that hardship.
– 1 thank the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) for his explanation, and I may say in passing that at this stage I am quite satisfied with it. I wish to add a few words to what I said earlier about hardship. We must bear in mind that people do not know that they are not properly married until somebody acquaints them of the fact. The only person who can lawfully do that is a judge. The only way to get before a judge is to have the matter of their marriage raised before him in the proper way. In most cases where there is a palpable flaw in the marriage it is discovered only during an action under our divorce laws for dissolution of the marriage. This is what happens. The parties come before the court. One of them is seeking a dissolution, of what each of them thinks is a proper marriage. During the course of the hearing the judge comes to the conclusion, on the evidence, that there has not been a marriage, and that, therefore, he cannot divorce the parties.
– At that point costs should stop.
– The costs continue to mount. At that point, if the parties so desired, the judge could declare the marriage null and void. That may be satisfactory for the parties, but what about the children? That is where the hardship is experienced. The innocent children of that union are then illegitimate if they were born overseas. It is as hard for a child born overseas as it is for a child born in Australia to be declared illegitimate. Children, born overseas have the same feelings as children born in Australia. In this case they must go through life in this country bearing the stigma of illegitimacy. I know that cases of the kind to which I have referred are not common. Nullities are rare, but I do not think that the number of cases is germane to this problem. It is just as important that justice be done to one individual as that it be done to the rest of the community.
– This matter will be examined to see what hardship is caused. I agree with Senator Vincent that all illegitimate children, whether born in Australia or overseas, are innocent at least until they grow older. A situation that might be considered is where people who are married overseas come to Australia, having had issue become coming here. After arriving here one of them seeks to divorce the other, or to have the marriage declared void or in some other way to get rid of the other party, while still seeking to legitimate the issue. The question that arises there is whether the parents of the children should be required to take the steps open to them under the legislation to re-marry in Australia and legitimate their issue. The incidence of any possible hardship in relation to this aspect of the bill will be examined to see whether the bill requires amendment at a later date.
Part VI. agreed to.
Part VII. - Offences (clauses 94 to 106).
– I wish to refer to clause 101, which provides that it is an offence for a person not deemed an authorized celebrant to solemnize a marriage anywhere in Australia. If such a person does solemnize a marriage he is guilty of an offence, the penalty for which is a fine not exceeding £250 or imprisonment for six months, lt is important to remember that that offence is punishable summarily. That is, it is an offence punishable before a magistrate. It is not an offence that goes before a jury. It is not an indictable offence. It is a simple offence. In other words, it is an offence that is not regarded very seriously by the law. It is an offence that could be related to any traffic offence where the maximum penalty is six months’ imprisonment. As a matter of fact, in most States the maximum imprisonment for a conviction for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor is not six months, but twelve months. So the offence set out in clause 101 is not regarded by the Government as being very serious.
I suggest that this a serious offence. I can understand the case of a celebrant who, being no longer authorized, solemnizes a marriage in the belief that he is still authorized. He would be making an honest mistake. Perhaps he would be guilty of carelessness in not checking to see whether he had retained registration. I could understand that man being charged and being punished not very severely. But this offence will also embrace people who knowingly and wilfully hold themselves out as authorized celebrants and who take part in what could be, not necessarily a voidable marriage, but perhaps a bigamous marriage. Such people could be parties to bigamy, and would be just as culpable as the principals to the offence. This bill regards bigamy as a highly serious offence. The offence attracts a punishment of imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years. I do not understand why a more serious penalty has not been provided for the offence of fraudulently and deliberately solemnizing a marriage where the celebrant knows that he is not authorized, and is pretending to one of the innocent parties that he is authorized. I think that offence is just as serious as bigamy, and I urge the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) to place my suggestions before the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick).
The offence about which I have been speaking should be removed from this group of offences which, in the main, are not serious, and which carry maximum penalties of six months’ imprisonment. I am well aware that my argument may be answered by stating that in the circumstances I have outlined the person concerned could be charged with conspiracy, which would attract a higher penalty. But I submit that that would be bad law. The essential offence with which I am concerned is conducting a marriage ceremony without having a licence to do so. It is well known in legal circles that it is much more difficult to prove conspiracy than to prove the offence with which we are concerned in clause 101. I commend my remarks to the Minister. I do not suggest that the clause be amended, but I suggest that in certain circumstances this offence could be a very serious one - just as serious as bigamy.
– I am very pleased that clause 94 has been included in the bill because in my opinion the penalty for bigamy in the past has been very, very light. As a matter of fact, in many cases, whether any action has been taken against the bigamist has depended upon whether the wife, or the person who thought herself to be the wife, has been able to take the necessary legal action. Some years ago in Western Australia I had a case in which a man was not just a bigamist but a trigamist and the two spouses he had taken trigamously were in my office at the same time. We were trying to get him back from South Australia. They had managed to trace him to that State, but we could not get any cooperation from the police in either State unless the first or the second alleged wife was able to supply the money to bring him back to Western Australia first-class - I would have brought him back in a dog box - and also two first-class return fares for escorts in order to bring him back to meet justice. Had his alleged wives got at him, I think that would have been enough; but that is beside the point. For a long time I have been amazed to think that the penalty for theft should be greater than the penalty for bigamy which is the worst form of theft because people are robbed of their happiness and their lives are ruined by it. I am pleased that this statutory penalty of imprisonment for five years is included in the bill.
Sub-clause (7.) of clause 94 reads -
In a prosecution for an offence against this section, the fact that, at the time of the alleged offence-
That is bigamy -
That seems to me to be a rather difficult provision. I should say that in nine bigamous marriages out of ten the offending party is the man. That has been my experience in dealing with cases of this sort during the last eighteen or nineteen years. If the evidence of the wronged party to the bigamous marriage is not to be accepted, what will be the position?
– The reason why so often the man is the offending party is that it is the man who asks the woman.
– These men ask too many women at the same time. They are too sociable. I should like to know whether under this legislation prosecutions are to be initiated by the wronged parties. Does the wife or husband who has been wronged in a bigamous marriage have to initiate a prosecution under this bill? At present that is the position. -Senator GORTON ^Victoria - Minister for the .Navy) [8.33], - The answer to the last part of Senator Tangney’s .question .is that the prosecution is not to be -initiated by .the wronged .party who, ^myself would imagine, would be the -.male as often as ,the female; -the .prosecution is .to ,b,e initiated by the State on the production by the wronged party of sufficient .evidence to warrant a prosecution.
In a prosecution for an offence against this section -
That is a prosecution for -bigamy - the fact that, at the time of the alleged offence, a person was married shall not be taken to have been proved if the only evidence of the fact is the evidence of the .other party to the alleged marriage.
In my opinion it is reasonable to provide that there should be some other evidence ‘to indicate that either the .male -or the .female is guilty.
– If such other evidence is provided by the other party, is it or is it not acceptable?
Senator -GORTON. - It is acceptable, but it is not .acceptable by itself. .It-is not acceptable unless it is supported by something which the other party can produce to prove his or her own statement or whatever ‘it may be. 1 move. on to Senator Vincent’s .remarks on clause 101. The penalty provided .may not ,b.e sufficient for somebody -who purports to solemnize .a marriage without pro-per authorization. The penalty is £250 or imprisonment for six months. However, that person would be (liable :to prosecution for conspiracy under ‘Commonwealth ‘law.
– That is a much .more difficult offence to prove.
– It ought to be able to be proved if it exists. The penalty ‘for such a conspiracy under Commonwealth law is imprisonment for three years. Conspiracy may be more difficult to /prove, b.ut we .should be able :to prove an offence the penalty ‘for which :is imprisonment for three years.
.- I concur with Senator Tangney in directing attention to the penalty for bigamy -under clause 94. pf , the bill .and to- express doubt .as to whether the .penalty .provided in that clausens adequate. The offence of bigamy is the -fundamental violation of the bill which we have been, discussing for the last couple of days. Frankly J believe that the penalty of imprisonment .for five years is not adequate as the maximum penalty.
– ‘Five years.
– I do not believe that five years is adequate as the maximum penalty. I direct the committee’s attention to the fact that a court very rarely imposes the maximum penalty. Honorable senators will be -familiar with many of the ideas of King Henry VIII. He had many ideas on marriage. Frankly, I myself - and I believe many other ‘honorable senators - could not subscribe -to all of his views on marriage. However, he regarded the protection of the forms and ceremonies so seriously that ‘he executed people who committed ‘bigamy or made false entries in marriage registers or parish registers. By and large, so long as he himself was not involved, he was extremely strict :in policing .the marriage bond.
I hope that the reasoning which apparently has comme.nd.ed .itself to the majority of honorable senators ..over the last -couple of days is not accepted in the courts of law. Our failure to put a. legal definition pf marriage into the bill, in my opinion, -will be blessed by many a bigamist .in years to come because, for good or ill, if the reasoning which honorable senators have adopted is ever adopted by .the courts of law it will be extremely difficult to get .a .conviction foi bigamy. I dp not know whether the suggestion commends .itself to the Minister. I dp not propose to move an amendment in relation to it. I. simply express the view that a maximum penalty of imprisonment for fiv.e years for an offence which strikes at the root of the bill is inadequate.
– I want to make one reference to the Minister’s remarks in answer to mine. I believe .this is important; otherwise I would not have risen .to speak. I quite agree that it would be possible for a person to be charged with conspiracy instead of the lesser offence, but this is what .happens in such circumstances-
Senator -Gorton.-r-As well :as with that offence.
– You .are not punished twice in a court of law for the same offence, Mr. Temporary Chairman, sq that if the charge of .conspiracy , succeeded, the second .charge would be -withdrawn.
The .point -I ,make ,is that .on a .charge -of conspiracy, wrapped around such an offence, some fraudulent .intent would have to be proved, for a start. In .mitigation, it would be quite proper for counsel for the defence to invite the attention of the court to the fact that the -substantial offence ‘that had -been committed -was not conspiracy, but the conducting of a form of service .of marriage without authority, for which the law - that is -to say, ‘this ‘Parliament - =had provided only a very minor penalty. It would be quite proper ‘for counsel to make that point, and for the court to take that circumstance into consideration ‘in assessing a penalty for “the offence of conspiracy. That, I suggest, would render quite abortive a charge of conspiracy in those circumstances.
We. -have to .be logical about :this matter. If,there were a charge .of conspiracy in such circumstances, I think it would be quite proper for,the court to say, in effect: “ Well, the offence really is an offence -under section 101 of the act, which provides for a penalty of only six months imprisonment. That is the substance of the offence, and we are going to -take that circumstance into consideration in assessing the penalty.” This is an important ‘factor in the -light of the Minister’s suggestion that in any .case a person so charged could also be changed with conspiracy For .this rather diabolical offence, the bill .provides for ,a penalty -,of only six months’ -imprisonment. J do not think that that is sufficient, -nor ,do J think that -we can -get .round -.the .difficulty .by charging person with some .other offence
– Perhaps I have missed the answer to the question that I am about to ask, but in case it has not yet been answered, ‘I should like to know which people, apart from priests and .parsons, are to be authorized to solemnize marriages. I understand that the law in this respect varies in the several States. Under this bill, will a number of people - say twenty or .more- be able to .select a person, to represent them-
The TEMPORARY > CHAIRMAN (Senator Anderson).- -Order! :I point out to the honorable, senator that the matter he is discussing has already been .dealt with. We are now dealing with Part -VH.
– I thought that it would be in order to discuss clause 103.
– tff the honorable senator connects his remarks With that clause ‘they will -be in order.
-Clause 103 provides that-
A -person shall not igo through a -form or ceremony .of marriage with another .person knowing that the person solemnizing the marriage is not authorized to solemnize it and having reason to believe that the other party- to the marriage believes that the person solemnizing ‘the marriage is so authorized.
Has the registrar complete power to authorize persons to solemnize marriages? Let us assume that a rationalist, socialist or some other organization wanted a certain person to be authorized to solemnize marriages. If the registrar happened to be prejudiced - religiously or in some other way - against the rationalist party or the socialist party, he might deny that person the right to solemnize marriages. I understand that the bill before us seeks to unify the law on this subject. Can the Minister enlighten me on the point I have raised?
– Perhaps I should congratulate Senator Brown on seeing a distinction between the rationalist and the socialist parties. Seriously, I .think that the answer .to the honorable .senator’s question is that nobody would have the right to solemnize .a .marriage unless the registrar had placed his, or .possibly in some cases, her, name on a register of .persons who were authorized to do so. In this bill it is left to the registrar to decide which persons shall have their names placed on the register as being authorized to .celebrate marriages, although I have no doubt that he would pay great attention to the desires of the major denominations. I do not think I can go any further than that in answer to the honorable senator’s .query. The matter is left to the registrar, with provision for an appeal to the Attorney-General, in accordance with parts of the bill with which we have already dealt.
Senator WEDGWOOD (Victoria) [8.47J. - 1 wish to advert to the statements that were made by Senator Hannan and Senator Tangney in relation to the penalty of imprisonment for five years for the offence of bigamy. While I do not want to minimize the effect of a bigamous marriage on the innocent party, I should think that the Attorney-General, in deciding to make the penalty one of imprisonment for five years, probably was influenced by his knowledge of courts and of the conditions that exist inside the prisons of Australia. As the lawyers here will know, a person who is sentenced to imprisonment for from three to five years in all probability is a person who has been before a court on a previous occasion. Such a penalty is imposed for a crime of a vicious nature.
– Does not the honorable senator think that a bigamous marriage may have vicious effects on the injured party?
– Yes. I am not seeking for one moment to underrate the effects of such a marriage on the innocent party, as I have said. I recall clearly a visit to a prison in Victoria where a woman bigamist was undergoing sentence. Senator Tangney has said that it is usually men who are convicted of bigamy, but that is not so. If honorable senators were to search through the files they would find that numbers of women also are convicted of bigamy. In a Victorian prison - and I should say that the same conditions probably exist in other places - there would be difficulties in detaining for five years a woman convicted of bigamy. One usually finds in the women’s section of a prison women who are imprisoned for drunkenness, larceny, theft and vagrancy. On rare occasions one finds a bigamist or a woman convicted of manslaughter or murder. It has been the rule in all prisons to keep first offenders serving short sentences away from those women who are serving long sentences. The same thing happens in men’s prisons. I think the Attorney-General would be influenced in making the penalty five years or less by the fact that the man or woman bigamist would not be considered a hardened criminal and no good purpose would be served by holding such a person, on a long-term sentence, in the same place of detention as hardened criminals.
– I must take issue with the Minister on the reply that he gave a short while ago. He will remember that in the secondreading debate Senator McKenna directed his attention to clause 101, which provides that no person shall solemnize or purport to solemnize a marriage at a place in Australia or under Part V. unless authorized. Clause 103 provides -
A person shall not go through a form or ceremony with another person knowing that the person solemnizing the marriage is not authorized to solemnize it and having reason to believe that the other party to the marriage believes that the person solemnizing marriage is so authorized.
Senator McKenna raised the position of aboriginal tribes. I think that the Minister, in his reply, said that aborigines do not come under the bill. I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that while aborigines do not have a marriage ceremony such as we have in a church they solemnize their marriages by certain rites, which constitute not exactly a marriage ceremony but an act of marriage. The bill states that they must not do that, and that there must not be any contract of marriage at all. Some tribes, of course, go through a corroboree first and then the young couple nick off on their own. Some couples, at the behest of the elders, meet one another and touch one another and then go away on their own for a month, or whatever the period may be, on their honeymoon, as it were. There is a ceremony in accordance with their tribal practices.
Honorable senators may be under the impression that the tribes are constituted only of black people, but that is not so. Anybody who is born under the totem of a particular tribe, whether of a white father or a white mother, and whether quartercaste or three-quarter caste, belongs to that tribe and can go through the appropriate tribal ceremony of marriage. It is a marriage ceremony; there is no getting away from that. Under the bill, just about all tribal aborigines would be liable to imprisonment for six months or a fine of £250. That is what it amounts to.
Another factor is involved. Throughout Australia there are certain sects that are not religious sects. They have congregations and carry out certain procedures, but they deny that they have any religious aspect. Those people at various times and in various
States have had the right to nominate somebody to act on their behalf in the solemnization of marriages within their group. That is an aspect to which I think Senator Brown was adverting. The position is exactly the same as with aborigines. Apparently these people and the aborigines would not conform with this legislation and each and every one of them could be prosecuted for conducting a marriage ceremony, in the case of aborigines, in accordance with tribal rites, and in the case of these other organizations, in accordance with the rites of the sect. Quite a number of people are affected. Some call themselves the Plymouth Brethren. They are not a religious body.
– What sort of brethren?
– There is a breakaway group, members of which call themselves brethren of some other kind. These people marry amongst themselves and have an arrangement whereby certain members may perform the marriage ceremony. They have a form of ceremony. Under clause 103 they could be prosecuted. I want to know the position of those people. Is it intended to prosecute them or is provision made to allow them to carry on their usual procedures for marrying within their own groups?
– It is not the intention or the effect of the bill to interfere in any way with the tribal marriages, if 1 may use the term, of aborigines. Nor is it the intention of the bill to interfere or affect any other aberrations, if there are any, amongst the sects to which the honorable senator referred. I am informed that in clause 103 the expression “ form or ceremony of marriage “ means a form or ceremony of marriage that is conducted by an authorized celebrant in the terms of the bill or somebody who purports to be an authorized celebrant in the terms of the bill.
Part VII. agreed to.
Part VIII. agreed to.
Part IX. - Miscellaneous (Clauses 111 to 120.)
– Clause 112 is an important provision which relates to the use of interpreters at weddings. This may not have been quite so significant or important a matter 25 years ago when we had few people who could not speak the Queen’s or the King’s English. Now an ever-increasing number of people in Australia who are marrying, cannot speak, write, or understand English. Very properly, the bill seeks to provide for interpreters at marriage ceremonies, where the people concerned cannot speak or understand English. It provides for a service very familiar to what I was suggesting should have been provided for deaf people, dumb people and deaf-mutes. Alas, my supplication in that respect fell on deaf ears.
Here we have, very properly, a provision whereby an authorized celebrant may employ an interpreter. I suggest that the clause is a little woolly. It provides for a discretion on top of a discretion. It gives two discretions to the authorized celebrant. It gives him a discretion to decide whether an interpreter ought to be used. That, I think, is a proper discretion to give; but having given the authorized celebrant that discretion, the clause then gives him a discretion to decide whether he will use an interpreter. On a strict interpretation of this clause an authorized celebrant- could come to the conclusion that he ought to use an interpreter but not be bound to do so. Generally speaking, marriage services in this country are conducted in English, and I think it is the intention of the bill that they should be. However, I do not think it is necessary for them to be conducted in English. If a Greek Orthodox priest wishes to conduct a marriage service in Greek, there is nothing wrong with that. The law so provides. But if he is marrying, say, an Italian to a Yugoslav, and conducting the service in Greek, I think there is an obligation on him to do something about obtaining the services of an interpreter. Again, if an English clergyman is marrying a French girl who cannot speak English to a German who cannot speak English and the’ clergyman comes to the conclusion that the parties cannot speak or understand English, he has an obligation in those circumstances to employ an interpreter. Clause 112 provides -
Subject to this section, where the person by whom or in whose presence a marriage is to be solemnized considers that it is desirable to do
That is his first discretion - he may use the services of an interpreter, not being a party to the marriage . . .
With great respect,, I think the- draftsman has been, a little, loose in. his, language. The expression should have been, that the cele-beaut, shall use the services, of- an interpreter when, he has come to the conclusion that the parties cannot understand the service.
We started- off with a very desirable expression’ of view in the- second-reading speech- of the Minister when he claimed - and1 properly so - that marriages should be solemnized with- due formality and ceremony and with proper respect and con:sideration for the very solemn contractual rights of marriage. How on earth can two people who cannot understand) the minister ha-ve any– regard foc the service?. It is most important that- the celebrant should be obliged to use an- interpreter, when he comes to- the conclusion’ that’ the par-ties- cannot understand. English. Some, people, of course-, may say that I am being a little technical about this’, that: perhaps I am being too- frivolous in suggesting that the word’ “ shall-“ should- be preferred to- the word: “may”. Eel? me- say; with great respect, that I have- had a little experience of what- goes on- in civil1 marriages’. I can assure- the Senate- that far too- often; unfortunately; the- civil celebrant conducts services’ in a very casual manner: Ir have- no hesitation in saying that at far too many marriages performed- by civil officers the parties do not understand the nature of the service.
Sena’.or Ormonde. - They are generally rush. jobs.
– Here is- an opportunity for the honorable senator, to display some- ingenuity and assist me. in this matter. I. feel that the double discretion- given in this! clause: is wrong. If an authorized celebrant comes to- the- conclusion that, the parties cannot’ understand- him, the clause should be mandatory and. should^ oblige him to use an interpreter
’. - At the- risk of delaying the Senate I- think that Senator Vincent’s remarks deserve some comment from me. I suggest to him first of all that changing the word ‘“may” to “shall” in this particular clause would not strengthen the position in any way. The whole point of the clause is that. the. decision of whether an interpreter is to be used is left to the discretion of the authorized- celebrant.
Senator Vincent, pointed; that. out. If. the clause: were to provide: that, the authorized celebrant,, if he. thinks an interpreter is necessary, shall use. am interpreter: or may use an interpreter, it would make very little difference, because the basic point from which we start is the decision of the authorized celebrant whether an interpreter is necessary. If you do- not leave to the authorized celebrant that discretion then you put- him in the position where he must use an- interpreter.
– Why should he. not?
– There may be no need for him to use an interpreter.
– What if the parties cannot understand what he is saying?
– I suggest that the clause applies to members of religious denominations and we can assume that they would use an interpreter if they thought one was necessary. I think we can leave it to their discretion,, and it does not matter whether, we use. the word: “ may “ or “ shall” in the clause.
– r should like a- little clarification on one point. Clause 114” (6.) refers to copies or- extracts from- an entry in a register- of marriages, and provides that such- a copy shall be made available to people, who want it. The clause reads - ….. if the registran is satisfied, that. the. person requiring a copy on extract has proper reasons for requiring a copy or extract containing those particulars.
I should like to. know whether this clause willi be. enforced- in a- case where the legitimation of children! is involved. You could have some sticky beaks, or people who- may require- some- information tot use to’ the detriment of- the- children concerned-,, if such information: is available to- the general public just: on application, to- the- registrar’s office.
– I am informed that the clause has little or nothing to do with legitimation of children.
– Would these* particulars be available to, anybody- who. wanted them,?
– L shall ascertain; the position*
– The, opportunity to obtain personal particulars, about, another citizen, should beclosely guarded. Have entries relating to marriages and births been adequately protected in the bill? Can an ordinary citizen go into the registry office and obtain information about another citizen? Is the position properly protected? Is the registrar to be satisfied, before such information is made available to an applicant, that the applicant is acting in the interests of the person about whom he is seeking information?
– I point out that this provision refers to foreign marriages and overseas marriages. Under sub-clause (6.) of clause 114, a person would need to have proper reasons for requiring a copy of, or an extract from, an entry in a register of marriages. The sub-clause reads -
A copy, of, or. extract from, an entry in a register shall contain the particulars- contained in the entry and the particulars entered, in relation to the entry, in the margin of the register if the regis tar- is satisfied, that the person, requiring: a copy or extract has. proper reasons- for- requiring a copy or extract containing those particulars.
So- a person requiring, particulars of a foreign or overseas, marriage could get such particulars if the registrar were- satisfied that, that person- had a- proper reason for requiring them. I gather- that a registrar, in deciding whether; such: at request was made for a proper reason, or not, would consider-, for instance-, whether a question of property was involved. Somebody might require to know, for- the purposes of an action at law about property, whether or not a person was legitimate. I. gather that if the inquirer had a proper reason for requiring the information, it would be- within the registrar’s discretion to make it available to him.
– We are tidying or untidying the laws with- relation to marriage. I would like to know whether- any provision is made in this measure to protect- people- generally against disclosure of particulars’ of marriages and births. Is there- any general protection against the disclosure of the secrets of peoples’ lives to- anybody, who- goes, to a registrar’s office and, is prepared to pay- half a crown to the office boy to- get particulars of the dates of marriages and births? I point out that some, people may use their knowledge of. an, illegitimate birth for unworthy purposes. I, understand” that at the present time no protection is afforded in this matter - that anybody could go to a registrar’s office, obtain these particulars and use them to the detriment of the people concerned. As we are tidying up the- laws relating to marriage, P believe that a safe.guard should be inserted1 in the measure to ensure that such particulars are made available only to people who have very special reasons, for requiring them and- who are entitled to have them.
– I should1 like to ask the Minister a question concerning registers. I do not know whether I- heard- correctly what he said before;. I. should like, him to correct me if. I am wrong,. I thought I heard him say that the only person who. could decide whether anybody could obtain a copy of a marriage certificate, was a registrar. If that is correct, will the Minister inform honorable senators, why that provision is now- being’ made law? Registers of marriages have always been free and open to the public: It is- an innovation for a person to-, have to- go to a registrar, state his business and explain: why he wants to examine a1 public document like a register of marriages: That is something new. I feel that it is no more the business of a registrar than, that of anybody else to ask why a person wants to inspect, a public document’. f am surprised- to learn that we are now regarding marriage registers as secret to that extent. I hope that my interpretation of what the Minister said is wrong.
– I” have been talking about foreign marriages and overseas marriages. The provision to which Senator Tangney, referred relates- to such marriages. T understand’ that the position, in regard to marriages in Australia is that people can go to a registry office, pay a fee and obtain particulars of. them. I understand that when this measure becomes law that will still Be the. position. The States will still; in regard to. marriages- celebrated’ in Australia, provide the same information under, the same, circumstances as they now provide it. Clause 1 £4. (6.) applies, to overseas marriages and foreign marriages. It is only in that field that a registrar is required to decide whether a person has proper reasons for requiring the information.
– I should like to ask the Minister a question with reference to clause 113(1.) (a), which states - persons who are already legally married to each other shall not, in Australia, or under Part V. of this Act, go through a form or ceremony of marriage with each other.
Will the Minister inform me how this provision will affect people of different denominations who are married at a registry office and who later desire a marriage ceremony to be performed within their own religious denomination?
– I suggest to Senator Drury that the answer to his query is provided by sub-clause (5.) of clause 113, which reads -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to prevent two persons who are already legally married to each other from going through a religious ceremony of marriage with each other in Australia where those persons have -
produced to the person by whom or in whose presence the ceremony is to be performed a certificate of their existing marriage; and
furnish to that person a statement in writing, signed by them and witnesssed by that person, that -
they have previously gone through a form or ceremony of marriage with each other;
they are the parties mentioned in the certificate of marriage produced with the statement; and
they have no reason to believe that they are not legally married to each other or, if their marriage took place outside Australia, they have no reason to believe that it would not be recognized as valid in Australia.
– I would like to say to the Minister that I raised my query in relation to clause 114(6.) because that is the only provision I can see in this measure where there is any mention of access being given to persons to obtain information on marriages. I referred to that provision only to find out whether any attempt has been made in the bill to prevent the exploitation of information about illegitimate or adopted children. I know of instances in which people have got such information and have used it to the detriment of children who, up till that time, had not known that they were adopted or, as the law says, were illegitimate.
– The answer to the point raised by Senator Tangney is that this bill does not seek to supersede existing State laws in this respect. The State laws require that some proper reason should be given. We are leaving the position in relation to the register, and the provision of information from the register, as it is at present.
– I thought this bill superseded all State laws.
– No. We are not, by any provision in this legislation, superseding that aspect of the State laws.
Part IX agreed to.
– The Schedule refers to persons whose consent is required to the marriage of a minor. It is divided into three parts - first, where the minor is legitimate and is not an adopted child; secondly, where the minor is illegitimate and is not an adopted child; and thirdly, where the minor is an adopted child. I ask the Minister whether the parts which deal with an illegitimate child and an adopted child could be deleted from the Schedule. I understand that when a child is adopted it is regarded as a child of the adoptive parents. All the circumstances that are set out in Part I. of the Schedule should be quite sufficient to cover the case of an adopted child. As I indicated a moment ago, in most cases - I know it is so in Tasmania - an adopted child is regarded as being a child of the adoptive parents. It is rather embarrassing for a minor to be asked by a registrar or some other celebrant whether he is illegitimate or adopted. I should like to see Part I. so amended that Part II. and Part III. could be deleted. I suggest that the words, “ Where only one parent of the minor is alive” should be changed to “ Where the minor has only one parent”. Would such an amendment be possible?
– There is really no need for Part II. and Part III.
– If Part I. were amended as I have suggested, there would be no need for Part II. and Part 111. 1 know it seems something of an impossibility for a minor to have only one parent, but I am asking the Minister whether the amendment 1 have suggested is legally practicable. If it were, there would be no need to refer to illegitimate children or adopted children in separate parts of the Schedule.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia; [9.24]. - I believe that the result Senator Cole seeks to achieve could be achieved by deleting Part II. and Part III. of the Schedule and by merely retaining the heading, “ Persons whose consent is required to the marriage of a minor “.: All the various circumstances set out are the same whether the child is legitimate, illegitimate or adopted. If, as in the case mentioned by Senator Cole, the minor has not a guardian, the consent could be given by a prescribed authority. I repeat that 1 do not see any need for Part II. and Part III. I have had brought to my notice recently cases in which young people’s lives have been blasted because they have had to supply to marriage registrars information such as that referred to in Part II. and Part III
– Dealing with Part III. first, I am informed that there is a distinction in law between natural parents and adoptive parents, and that consequently it is necessary, in order to tie up everything legally, to have a section relating to adopted children.
– That is not so in Tasmanian law. In Tasmania the adopted child is considered to be a child of the adoptive parents.
– Is there no distinction in law between the adoptive parents of such a child and the natural parents of children? I am led to believe that there is a distinction.
– It may be so if property is concerned, but would there be much difference in marriage forms?
– I have been handed a statement which says that where any minor has been adopted pursuant to the Adoption of Children’s Act 1920, the adopting parent has all the rights and duties of, and is in the same position as, a natural parent, but if the minor is of illegitimate birth his mother is the sole parent except where he acquires one by adoption. I do not see what that has to do with it.
I move on to Part II., which relates to an illegitimate minor who is not an adopted child. It is suggested that that part be deleted. Where the minor is legitimate and both parents are alive, the consent of both parents is required.
– I was referring to paragraph 2.
– I agree that it is a different proposition where only one parent of the minor is alive. Both parents of an illegitimate child could well be alive but the child could be living’ with either one or the other, the father possibly being unknown. That is the reason - or one of the reasons - why, in order to safeguard the rights of the illegitimate child, only the consent of the mother is required. If the mother is not alive, the person who has the custody of the minor under an order of the court, the guardian, or a prescribed authority, is required to give consent. The schedule as it stands, without allowing a legitimate child to be married with the consent of only one parent, permits an illegitimate child to be married with the consent of only one parent, and to that extent is of some assistance to the minor.
– Has not the mother of an illegitimate child first claim on the child?
– I do not know.
Probably that is so.
– As Senator Wedgwood pointed out by way of interjection, the mother is at common law the lawful guardian of her illegitimate child. Somebody must consent to the marriage of an illegitimate minor. A child born in wedlock has two parents, each of whom, if alive, must give consent. In the case of an illegitimate child, the lawful guardian of that child is the person who gives consent.
– In the second circumstance in relation to a minor described in Part I. of the Schedule, the position could be covered by simply stating that consent could be given by that parent.
– I appreciate Senator Cole’s intention, but I do not think it would work.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate (resumedfrom11th April (vide page412), on motion by Senator Partridge -
Thatthebill be now read a second time.
– I take it there will be no objection if I deal with this bill and Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) together. The Opposition does notoppose the reduction in sales tax on motor cars from 40 per cent. to 30 per cent. At the committee stage we will move an amendment designed to ensure that people who were unfortunate enough to be caught by the Government’s tremendous blunder shall not be penalized. Let us hope that the Government will be big enough to recognize that it made a mistake.
-Would you call it a blunder?
-It wasa tremendous blunder, andI am sure that honorable senators oppositerecognize that fact. The people of Australia will not for a moment accept the Government’s story that this savage increase in tax achieved its purpose and rectified the economic situationin a mere three months. Senator Pearson and his colleagues are the only people in Australia -who are prepared to accept the Government’s story. The facts are that the Government set out to attack the motor car industry, and it used two barrels in doing so.It usedthecredit squeeze and the increase insales tax. I say that the Governmentblundered in increasing sales tax,on motorcars. Apparently it is satisfied now to apply only the credit squeeze. It is futile for Government supporters to claim that the savage imposition of an additional 10 per cent. sales tax on motor cars was not a mistake. I remember that during the debate on the bill to impose the additional tax, Senator Wright asked Senator Paltridge, who was in charge of the bill onthat occasion, whether there was any hope of the tax being lifted within six months. It is true that the Minister said that when the tax had fulfilled its purpose it would be lifted.But theGovernment said the same thingyears ago when it increased salestax on motor cars from 16 per cent.to 30 percent. It claimed on that occasionthat its action was of a temporary nature.
The Government blundered in this matter. The ‘Government is having a pretty rough go at the moment. It made a terrible faux pas over its foreign policy on South Africa. That matter was debated in this chamber last week. The Government goes from blunder to blunder week after week. Its supporters are not the main sufferers because of its blunders. Honorable senators opposite do not seem concerned that the Government’s prestige is rolled in the dust week after week. As long as they sit on the treasury-bench they are not concerned about the people outside. I have never known of a government that has changed its policy so often and so unashamedly. One can place extremely little faith in any decision the Government makes. For instance, it is continually arriving at decisionson defence matters. Thosedecisions are putinto practice for about six monthsand then they are altered. When , all issaid and done, what defences has Australia , got for the huge amount of money that has been expended in this connexion? The truth is that we have very inadequate defences.
Let usexaminethe Government’s economic policies. In February last year, the (Government told the Australian people that it would act to prevent rising prices. It (opposed an increase in the basic wage by briefing counselto appearbefore theCommonwealthConciliation and Arbitration Commission. TheGovernment said, “ As long as we can stop a rise in wages, prices will look after themselves “.. It is true that prices looked after themselves, but not as the Government implied they would. They just kept on rising. Then the Government said that it would remove import controls and Australians would get cheaper goods. What does the index figure show in respect of the rise in prices? The Government knows that it is ruining this country, and as sure as night follows day, it will alter its policy on that matter beforeDecember of this year, although it has saidtime and time again- that it will not: But- it has-, said that in- respect of other,- matters:
– You say that we will’ do that:
– I- believe- that you will.. I do. not think- Senator. Scott cam place-: any reliance ewen, on his own thoughts; because if the top- men. change their, policy, he will be a faithful follower, and will find a reason why he should change his mind. Of course, everyone knows why Senator Scott will. change his. mind if the top brass does. The reason, is that, he will not be. on the. Government benches if he does not. That is the fundamental reason..
-. - How. do you, get. on- with’ Mr: Chamberlain?-
– I. gel on all right with him..
-. - Because you: do what’ he tells- you.
– No. I know the rules of my party- over well’.
– What are the. rules on. unity tickets?’
Senator:- KENNELLY.- We> are- speaking about the Government’s! economic policy now,, but I- know that supporters: of- the Government have nothing better to. yell about than unity tickets, in. this economic discussion.. The Government said that, in order to prevent rising prices,.it had decided’ to balance- the Budget. It is true, that if balanced’ the Budget, but” if did” not. prevent prices rising. Then it said that it would” restrict bank advances. Those were* the Government’s decisions on economic policy m February, 1-960.-
In November, the Government’ brought forward a new economic policy in which it imposed a general- credit squeeze, and increased interest, rates- on, overdrafts. It. also increased the sales tax on motorvehicles from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent. It said that it would make certain types of borrowing by companies liable to taxation, and that it would legislate to- compel assurance- companies to invest a certain proportion1 of- their funds- in- Commonwealthloans. The Government said1 that- those1 measures would rectify- the- economic position, but it knows as well as I do that1 they1 have not1 rectified- it: In the: main-,, all* that they have done- isi cause1: distress- to a- large: number^ of: people.. lt:is- true that-many of i the people- who.: were* displaced! from certain’ industries because; of the: Governmental action have, been, put into.- other/- occupations,. But-, as- was said in. this chamber,earlier, to-day;, the only. way. that a. tremens do.us, number^ of those, people, who are. skilled, workers, could. earn some.. money in, order to buy. necessaries or. their, wives and, kiddies was to go into occupations other than skilled occupations. Of course, that means- a lowering of their standards:
I suppose, that very soon the Government will bring, down another, policy. Although Senator Scott says that it will not alter its policy, I do not know about that. By the time November and December arrive, I! believe that considerations other than those which. operate at the moment, may be paramount. That is the Government’s form. I think Senator Scott likes the sport of kings. He supports form; he- does- not support horses that: have no form. Judging: on the form of this Government, it seems: to be- able to -change its- policy on any subject - on defence, on foreign affairs, and on the economic position - almost as quickly as- the Melbourne weather changes. Having lived’ in that city all my life, I recognizethat its weather- changes’ pretty rapidly.
As I said, earlier,, the Government fired, two barrels. Ifr put- oil the credit, squeeze^ L want, to,be. quite, candid. . L think any Aus? tralian who - to.day, purchases, a, motor- car, to- be used> for< pleasure, other, than -by payingcash/is. very-foolish. I,suppose that a person; who buys a motor car on? hire- purchase: pays about £&’ a. week,, and; finally pays: £700 or- £800* more- than* he- would- havepaid if he had paid- cash. Of course,- he also pays- the- £4’ a week that it costs to- run thecar. F believe that unless the- car can earn money, a- person who buys a- car- on hire purchase is very foolish: When- such peoplecome within, my ambit I advise them, against it,, but unfortunately they do it. But the Government does, more- than, any one else to. encourage them, to do. so.. The Government, was– proud, of. enticing overseas capitalinto the Australian motor- car manufacturing business. The Opposition has- said tot the: Government, “If, yow, have not: the- constitutional! power to deal with hire purchase? we will help, you- to- get rt-“ but- there* has- been no response at all from the Government. Therefore, is it any wonder that there was a tremendous outcry against the increased sales tax? That outcry did not come only from the people who wanted to buy cars; it came from people who, in the main, have been supporters of the Government - the manufacturing classes and even the newspapers. The Government has not had a happy time with its changes in economic policy.
Let us have a look at how the increased tax was withdrawn. The day before that happened the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) received a deputation from the leaders of the trade unions of this country who were concerned about the credit squeeze and the increased sales tax, because they recognized, as every one else did, that those measures would bring great unemployment in Australia.
Let me speak of the position in my own State. The Ford motor factory at Geelong put off its proportion of the 8,000 or so employees who went out of the motor industry. A man who has his home at Geelong and who has lost his employment there may not be able to obtain other employment in Geelong, and perhaps his only hope of employment is to go to the big city. I do not say for a moment that many of the people who have been displaced have not been found other employment, but it may not be employment in the industry in which they have spent the best part of their lives. I understand that it has been estimated that approximately 8,000 employees in the motor industry and allied industries, such as the motor parts industry, have been displaced from their employment. One wonders how far the Government considers that an economic policy has to go. There is no doubt that the present policy has caused hardship to the people I have mentioned.
Supporters of the Government have stated that no government has ever refunded revenue collected by way of a tax that has subsequently been reduced or repealed. I shall move an amendment in this respect at the committee stage. I believe I shall be able to show that whilst it may be correct to say that this Government has not handed back revenue that has been collected, in some cases it has refrained from collecting tax. Honorable senators opposite should not run away with the idea that all those who bought motor cars during the period that the sales tax operated at the increased rate, did so because the cars were to be used for pleasure. It must be remembered that in many cases the purchase of a car was essential for the performance of the purchaser’s normal duties.
I understand that the revenue collected as a result of the increase of sales tax on motor cars from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, amounted to £3,800,000. As I have said, T have no doubt that the argument that no government has ever refunded revenue collected in such circumstances, will be advanced in this chamber, as it was in another place. All I wish to say in that respect is that from 1946 to 1954, tax was not collected from Ansett-A.N.A. That was sales tax on aeroplanes, including flying boats, seaplanes, and helicopters.
– Were we in office in 1946?
– The fact is that the government of the day, at the time that it was going out of office, was about to prosecute the company. Be that as it may, no tax was collected in those years.
– It was Australian National Airways Pty. Ltd., not AnsettA.N.A.
– I do not want to mis-state the position. If it was the former, the amount of tax which you people did not insist on the company paying was £393,750.
– That was for landing fees.
– The fact is that you did not collect it.
– It was for landing fees.
– It was revenue that this Government could have collected but did not.
– Are you insisting that it was sales tax?
– According to a statement made in another place, it was sales tax. In 1950, you actually handed back to timber importers £500,000, which they would have had to pay on timber imports.
– As customs duty?
– Yes. If it is good enough for the Commonwealth not to collect the sum of £393,750 from Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and in 1950 not to collect £500,000 on timber imports, I believe that it is also good enough to expect the Government to refund the additional sales tax paid by people who purchased motor cars during the period that the increased tax applied.
When one appreciates that the increased tax on a Holden motor car amounted to between £80 and £100, one can understand that it is a matter of considerable importance to the ordinary person who purchased such a car. However much the supporters of the Government may try to fool themselves, I do not think it can really be established that the increase of the tax achieved the object that the Government had in mind. I ask the Government to reconsider the matter. It will be remembered that in 1956 the sales tax on motor vehicles was increased from 16i per cent, to 30 per cent., and that that was stated by the Government to be a temporary measure. Surely the Government recognizes that it made a mistake in increasing the sales tax on motor cars and that it therefore has a moral obligation to refund1 the amount of the additional tax to the 50,000 or 60,000 people who purchased cars at the increased rate.
The only people whom the Government has satisfied by saying that the increase of tax has fulfilled its purpose are the members of the Government. It certainly has not satisfied the people of Australia.
– Have a look at the motor registration figures.
– It is true that registrations fell. They are much lower to-day than they were prior to the imposition of the increased tax. I am speaking from memory when I say that since the tax has been lifted registrations have been at about half the rate that prevailed prior to the imposition of the increase.
The Government had a double-barrelled weapon in the credit squeeze and the increased sales tax. It found in a short time that the squeeze would do all that was desired. Why, then, should it penalize the people who bought cars within the period when the higher tax applied? I do not know whether the Prime Minister himself just removed the tax without consultation. Honorable senators opposite would know, but whether they will say rests with them. Although Mr. Harold Holt was receiving a deputation in relation to the credit squeeze and the increased sales tax, on the day before the increase was removed, he did not even hint that the Government thought that the tax had achieved its purpose. In his position, I should have said that I believed the increased tax was fulfilling the objective of the Government and that possibly in the near future it might be eased. Not one word was said. The fact is that on the day Mr. Menzies was going abroad, for some reason or other he, took on the role of Treasurer of the nation and he said, “ The increase in sales tax will be removed “. As I said last week, he superseded Mr. Casey at the time of the Suez crisis and he superseded Sir Garfield Barwick at the United Nations. Of course, that is quite common for this man of many parts. On this occasion, he superseded even the Treasurer, who I should have thought would be the man to announce the change. That is what puzzles the people of Australia. Have they to wait until the Prime Minister makes a decision, whether it be on foreign affairs or any other matter, before the Government alters its various policies?
I believe that the Government has a moral obligation to do the right thing in this matter. It made a blunder. It did not even satisfy its supporters, as I see from their faces, that the increase had fulfilled its objective. They must recognize that a blunder was made. The honest thing would be not to make 50,000 or 60,000 people pay £3,800,000 for the Government’s mistake. In the committee stages I shall have much pleasure - I do not say at this juncture with what success - in submitting an amendment that will have for its purpose the back-dating of the bill to 16th November, 1960. My amendment, if carried, would mean that those people who have been mulcted of £80 to £100 on an ordinary car such as a Holden, would not have to bear the cost of the mistake that the Government made.
– The- purpose of the bill, in conjunction with the rates bills, is to reduce on and from 22nd February, 1961, the sales tax on motor cars ‘from ‘40 per cent, to 30 per cent, and the sales tax on motor cycles and motor scooters from ‘25 per cent, to 16* per cent. The Deputy ‘Leader of the Opposition ‘(Senator Kennelly) has foreshadowed an amendment that ‘he intends to move in committee to substitute the date 16th November, 1960, for the date 22nd February, T961. If the Government adopts the amendment, the effect will ‘be that a refund of the extra sales tax collected “between those two dates will become necessary. Senator Kennelly, in attacking the Government, said that its supporters were merely following the leaders. He attacked me from that angle. In reply, I say to him that the press, of which I take a lot of notice, has stated repeatedly that the real leaders of the Australian “Labour Party in this Parliament are not those members and senators .elected by 4he people, -but .Mr. Chamberlain, the .federal secretary, and M.r. Stout, the -federal .president, of the party. Mr. Chamberlain will be Jiving in Canberra to direct Senator .Kennelly how to vote. The difference between Senator Kennelly and .me is that I at .least am .following .persons elected by the people of Australia, while Senator Kennelly is following the directions .of persons -not elected by the people of Australia, namely, the president and secretary of the A.L.P. I think it is a matter of “ all is fair in love and war,” and we are having a bit of war, because Senator Kennelly attacked me, and J .am surely within my .rights if I attack him. He mentioned that the additional sales .tax collected by the Government, taking .into consideration .the extra 10 per cent, charged, is in the vicinity of £3,000,000. That is the sum which the Labour Party recommends should be returned to the .purchasers of motor cars between 16th November, 1-960, and 22nd February, 1961. He does not take into consideration -that when the Government introduced .the legislation it stated quite .clearly, in -this chamber .and .in -another place, that the .measure was .not designed to produce additional revenue.
– Then why does the -Government not return -the money to .them? -Senator SCOTT. - :I will answer your question, ‘Senator. The reasons ‘why we will not g’ive ‘it back and have no intention of giving it hack are, -firstly, that -that :has never been done by any political party since sales tax was introduced in 1930 and, secondly, that we stated in both Houses ‘of Parliament that this legislation was designed, not to raise revenue but to stop - we hoped - the sales of motor -cars. At that stage, sales of motor cars -were imposing a severe strain on our economy and were draining our overseas -balances.
When these sales tax measures were introduced last November, the value of imported motor .cars, components and oils was at the rate of £200,000,000 a year as against £150,000,000 at the same time in the previous year. That was a rise of £50,000,000 in one .year, and the economy could not stand such an increase. Yet Senator Kennelly would have people believe that we ‘introduced these measures because we thought they were popular! I say to the honorable senator that the Government knew full well that it would not .gain any votes .by the introduction of any of .these measures, but we knew that we must .place our country first. We also -knew - and At was recognized by the Opposition - that we could have .avoided this responsibility until after the election, which will .probably be held .in December of this year. We could have -postponed this .action. But the credit squeeze, the sales tax legislation, and the other measures introduced in November, would have been ten times as severe at the beginning of 1962 as they are .at the present moment.
The Government did not collect any additional revenue .from the increase of sales tax on motor cars from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent. The Government knew that the increase in sales tax would reduce the sale aof motor cars throughout the Commonwealth and .that it would actually be losing revenue.
– That is Machiavellian.
– No. I will tell -the story, and give the accurate figures. In the three months of which we are speaking, from 16th November, 1960, to 22nd February, l:96l, new car registrations totalled 70J000. Sales -tax at the rate of 40 per cent, was imposed -on -those -vehicles. ‘Let us assume that ‘each -car -cost approximately -SEI ,000 and with “sales tax -added, £1,’40O.
Sales ‘tax yielded a total -of £28:000,000. The normal sales ‘o”f ‘cars would have been between 32,000 and 93,000 a -month. In the “three months o’f which ‘we are speaking, approximately 99’,00O cars ‘would normally have “been sold amS sales tax at the ‘ra’te of BO “per cent, would ;have been paid ‘on them Assuming that ‘each -car -cost f,1;000 and with sales tax added, £1,300, -I find that ‘the tax “would ‘have -yielded approximately £29,000,000. So, in ‘actual fact, the Government lost £’1,000;000 in revenue from the increase of sales ‘tax -from 30 per cent, -to 40 per cent. That calculation is quite correct, and it cannot be disputed.
The figures are factual. The prediction nf ‘the -Government, when it -introduced the -measures and said ‘that they were not -.designed ‘to ‘increase revenue, has been proved true. “.Therefore, the -Government, having lost £1,000,000 by increasing -the sales tax, -is ‘hardly ‘likely to accept Senator Kennelly’s amendment. The Opposition continually levels ‘the charge that -the Government ‘has *no firm, ‘settled policy.
– - I said that .the Government goes from blunder to -blunder. -Every .policy the Government has brought -down .has been wrong. ‘Senator SCOTT r- ‘In -reply to the -honor able -senator, I -say that we :have a policy off national -development steadily ‘maintained ‘a ‘planned immigration programme of about 125;0O0 people per year and a continuing ‘high level -of employment amounting, in effect, ito- almost ‘full ‘employment. It is a policy ‘of ‘which we are proud-
– Are you proud of it to-day? -Senator SCOTT.- We are proud of it to-day. I am -proud of it when I compare it with the position in the last few months of Labour’s rule, .in 1949. At that time, 5.6 per cent, of the work ‘force of Australia was out of work. The men could .not -get jobs. Yet (Labour supporters go about the country .criticizing a government which through almost ‘twelve years of office ‘has -never rn ac more -than 2 , per ‘cent, of its -work force ‘Unemployed.
– A .moment ‘ago you -.said that this Government, during ‘its -eleven years of .office, has mad almost full employment. -Senator SCOTT; - I said so because ‘I read in “ Hansard “ the report of a speech made in 1945 by the honorable member for Parkes ‘(Mr. -Haylen). He said that the United Nations considered that any nation in which -not more than 5 per cent. of the work force was -unemployed ‘Could be regarded as having a condition >of full employment. He is a member of the Labour Party, and he said 5 per cent, because under the “Labour Government at that time Australia had an unemployment rate of about 5 per cent. Again, in 1948, during the period when a Labour government was in office, the ‘figure was 3.6. In 1949, it was 5.8. That is the record df the Labour Party which statistics will prove. If honorable senators opposite want to check that figure of 5.8, it was -for the June quarter of 1949. At that period 5.8 per cent. of the work force of Australia was unemployed. There were strikes all over ;the country and no production taking place. What sort of a government was the Labour Government at that ‘time? -It believed in socialism and nationalization of industry, distribution and exchange.
– You .are very bitter to-night
– I -am not being bitter -at ‘all. tt just ‘-want to repudiate a ‘few of the ‘statements ‘thai -‘have -been –made. I am trying to impress -upon ‘the ‘Senate that -a government -cannot at -all times do popular things to win ‘votes.
– We know .that.
– It was ‘because you were always endeavouring to do popular things “that ‘you were eventually put out of office. You ‘did not ‘have sufficient courage to “run “the country properly. There were strikes all over ‘the place. You had no courage and “there was no power.
– I rise to .order. I direct your attention, Mr. Acting Deputy President, to Standing -Order No. 419.
– Y-o.u canno.t take.it.
– What have we to do with power ? That is a ‘State matter but, of course, Senator ‘Scott -would -not ‘know that.
– If the Minister has finished ‘chattering I should like to direct attention to Standing Order No. 419 which reads -
No Senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any Question under discussion; . . . 1 know, Sir, that you are most tolerant when in the chair, but I think that even your tolerance has been strained during the last four minutes.
– Speaking to the point of order, I direct attention to the fact that we sat for half an hour listening to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) digress in all directions in a futile manner. Just because a little bit bounces back, an honorable senator on the other side cannot take it, and rises and resorts to the Standing Orders.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order! Irrespective of what has happened previously, Standing Order No. 419 provides that no senator shall digress from the subject-matter of the question under discussion. That question, relates to a wider sphere than sales tax; it embraces the economic situation. For that reason I have allowed a wide latitude to Senator Scott in this discussion, but I ask him to keep the debate within reasonable bounds.
– I bow to your ruling, Sir. I do not intend in this debate to deal with the subject of foreign affairs, although Senator Willesee listened with great interest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speak on that subject. As this is a sales tax measure and not a foreign affairs debate, I shall adhere to your advice, Sir, and return to the subject of sales tax.
I was talking about the way in which the Government had to take measures that were more or less unpopular. My party, when in government, has been through such periods. In 1956, the Government brought in what was termed the horror Budget which increased sales tax on motor cars.
– And on wool.
– I must keep to sales tax. The Government increased sales tax on motor cars from 161 per cent, to 30 per cent. Having done that, and having corrected the economy of the country-
– What is that?
– Having corrected the economy of the country, the Government kept it on an even keel until November, 1960. It then found that Australia’s export income had fallen to such an extent as to affect our overseas balances. Certain measures had to be taken by the Government to correct that position. Amongst those measures was an increase of sales tax on motor vehicles from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent. At the time of introducing that measure the Government stated that as soon as the increase had the desired effect it would be lifted. The Government is honouring its promise.
– But you do not believe that.
– You speak a little more about foreign affairs; I am not allowed to talk about that subject. You know nothing about sales tax. The little speech you made about it was very interesting while it lasted. Figures indicate that the measure taken by the Government had the desired effect. In November - the increase did not apply for the full month - registrations totalled 31,865. In December, the first month following the introduction of the increased sales tax and other measures taken to correct the economy, registrations of motor vehicles dropped to 22,368; and in January they dropped to 16,252. I am the first to admit that the sales tax measure had more than the desired effect. After the previous increase in sales tax in 1956, when the rate was increased from 16 2/3rds per cent, to 30 per cent., the drop in motor car registrations was not as pronounced as it was on this occasion. I think every one will agree with that statement. The Government found that its action had the desired effect on this occasion much earlier than it thought, and so, honouring its promise to the electors of Australia when it introduced the measure, it is now reducing the sales tax from 40 per cent, to 30 per cent, as from 22nd February, 1961.
– Why does not the Government bring the rate down to 16 2/3rds per cent.
– I would say that that is a budgetary measure. One purpose of the Budget is to determine rates of income tax, customs duties and sales tax. If the Government were to adopt the suggestion of the honorable senator it may not be able to meet its budgetary requirements at this stage. No doubt the Government at some future date will look into that matter.
In view of the huge increase in motor car registrations when sales tax was 30 per cent., if the Government were to remove sales tax on motor vehicles altogether, one can imagine that registrations, instead of being 33,000 a month, could easily rise to 50,000 a month. How could we afford the oil and component parts for motor cars that would have to be brought into this country as a consequence? I ask honorable senators to be realistic. We have not sufficient earning capacity to buy those things. During the term of office of this Government measures have been taken to steady the economy of the country. Measures have now been taken to speed up economic activities, so that we can enjoy a continuing condition of almost full employment.
If honorable senators opposite can point to any government in Australian history that has maintained a position in which at no time during a period of twelve years, the level of unemployment has exceeded 2 per cent., then I will be prepared to listen to them. 1 have studied the figures produced by the Commonwealth Statistician, and they reveal that no other government has a record in this field to equal that of the present Government, lt is a proud record, and we are pleased that we have been able to bring down these measures to look after the economy of the country. Of course, we are sorry that in the process we have had to affect adversely the motor vehicle industry to some extent, but unfortunately it had to be done. We are pleased that the measures have had the desired effect. When the economy will stand it we will ease the position, and I hope it will not be long before car registrations return to their previous level. This will be dependent, of course, on the level of our export income, which must be high enough to cover the imports of oil and spare parts required for the motor industry. 1 am sorry to say that I will be unable to support the stupid amendment that has been foreshadowed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, which follows closely the amendment that was proposed by the Labour Opposition when the measure was before the House of Representatives. Senator Kennelly has no ideas of his own, as is the case with all members of the Opposition in this chamber. Why can they not be original and propose something of their own? It is noticeable that frequently in the Senate amendments to legislation are moved by honorable senators on this side of the chamber which have no relation to amendments that were introduced in the House of Representatives. But what do we find to-night? We have a person here repeating, like a parrot, what was said in another place, even to the extent of using the very words that were used in the amendment that was proposed in the House of Representatives. Senator Kennelly is endeavouring to interject, but I say again that he should be original on some occasions, and certainly on this occasion he has not been. I am sorry that I cannot and will not support the amendment that he has foreshadowed. I support the bill.
– I rise to support the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Kennelly on behalf of the Opposition. I do so despite the description applied to the amendment by Senator Scott. In the concluding stages of his speech he sard that it was a stupid amendment. This brought to my mind an article that appeared in the Adelaide “Advertiser “ of 22nd March, 1961, which stated -
About SO S.A. dealers who had paid 40 p.c. sales tax when they bought cars recently would lose 10 p.c. when they sold them, a motor trade authority said yesterday.
A Taxation Department spokesman said in Canberra yesterday that the Government had decided no refunds would be made in any case of stocks on hand when sales tax was reduced.
The Chairman of the S.A. Chamber of Automotive Industries (Mr. P. L. Faulkner) said yesterday the chamber believed that at least part of the increased tax should have been refunded to the people who bought cars at the higher rate.
It also felt that assistance should be given to the many small dealers who, when the sales tax was reduced, had an unusually large stock of new cars on which they had paid 40 p.c. sales tax.
If, therefore, the amendment is stupid, then the South Australian Chamber of Automotive Industries and all other chambers of automotive industries throughout Australia are stupid.
I, personally, am not surprised that Senator Scott devoted the major portion of his speech to talking about anything but sales tax on motor vehicles, because throughout the debates on this matter, both at the time of the increase of the sales tax to 40 per cent., throughout the intervening period and during- the- present’ debate, we- have- heard’ nothing from- honorable’ senators; opposite but contradictions’. In introducing the measure te the Senate; the- Minister himself made1 a- surprisingly brief speech. But perhaps its brevity is not so surprising when one thinks that he may- have had in mind the old- principle “ Least said’ soonest mended!”’. I make this suggestion because the reasons given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the. eventual’ removal: of the additional sales tax were different from those given by. other- Government- spokesmen. An article in the “‘Taxpayers’ Bulletin “ of. 4th. March,, 1961, states -
The Prime Minister- said: “ We- imposed’ additional- sales- tax on motor vehicles as a supplementary means of securing- air effect which would help to reduce the rundown in. our. overseas funds.
Close- examination has . satisfied’ us that- the. present psychological- effect of. an increased sales tax. which many possible buyers- believe- not likely to endure beyond the next budget, is a bad” one: It- serves to induce postponement- of’ demand whichaggravates the effect’ of- credit, measures, and- therefore, tends to hit the motor- industry mor.e than we would desire.
We ate satisfied on the evidence that our other measures will achieve nationally satisfactory results.
We did- not impose, the extra sales tax for revenue purposes but as- a deterrent. As our ownjudgment satisfies- us that this added deterrent is now unnecessary and probably produces undesirable results, we have decided to repeal the added sales tax.”
That statement is in complete and absolute contradiction of the reasons given by Senator Paltridge when introducing the legislation in this chamber. He said -
Some immediate cut-back in demands in this- area was obviously necessary. The general measures adopted were expected to moderate these demands but it was considered that supplementary action- in the sales tax field would also be- required to- ensure quick results. Accordingly,, we increased, the sales tax. It was made cleat at the. time that we would review the rate as soon as the situation warranted it:
As intended, the measures had immediate effects. The Prime Minister, on the one hand, said that the measures had’ had effects that had not been anticipated-; and that- the psychological effect on purchasers’ minds of’ the belief that the tax would’ not remain in force past the’ next budget was preventing people from buying motor cars. Well, I> recall’ quite distinctly that the’ Government’ was warned that its- measures would have such- art- effect Ifr was- given this1 warning during the- debate on- the- legislation to increase- the- sales tax in- November, when the-measure-was passed* despite the fact that a majority- of Honorable- senators were opposed to it, and despite, the fact, of which’ r am positive, that a majority of the people in Australia were opposed- to it. The Government’ and1 its advisers were given plenty of warning by people in the trade who. knew just what would’ be the effect of increasing sales- tax on- motor- cars.
Senator Scott, contended’ that the measure was not introduced’ originally to produce additional revenue. That is quite, correct; it was so stated at the time. But on that occasion. Senator Scott, said - and I hope I am. not misquoting him- - that, the intention was to dampen down employment in the industry. If that was not Senator Scott’s argument, it was certainly the general trend of the contributions to the debate by honorable senators opposite. While we. argued, and the industry claimed, that the legislation would create unemployment in the motor vehicle, industry, Government spokesmen said that it would merely dampen down employment in the industry, that there would be no great amount of. unemployment, but that the measure would slow down the industry’s, rate: of expansion. The simple mathematics of Senator Scott’s argument prove that! if-the Government did not intend to obtain- any additional taxation benefit by increasing the. sales tax from. 30 per cent, to 40 per cent., it. intended to create 25 per. cent, unemployment in the motor car industry. No figures can contradict that. If- the Government receives only £30 sales tax. in every £100 and the: amount is increased- to £40 without the Government receiving any additional revenue yield, it follows that there must be a 25 per cent, decrease in output with a corresponding decrease-in employment. But, as the-Prime Minister indicated; the plain fact is that the- tax created more than 25 per cent unemployment in the industry. So the argument that was- advanced by spokesmen of the Government at- the time when the additional’ tax was imposed, to the effect that it- was intended’ only to- dampen downthe industry, contradicts the- Treasurer’s statement- that the additional tax was not intended^ as- a- means’ of obtaining- revenue;
It is completely fallacious for the Government to attempt to claim now that the additional tax has done the job that it was intended to do and that is why it has been removed. That statement is fallacious for this reason: Every person who did not purchase a motor car during the period when the sales tax was 40 per cent, will purchase one during the next three months or six months. That is obvious. All the people to whom the Prime Minister referred as delaying their purchase of a car because they expected the sales tax to be reduced at some time before the next election will now purchase a car, so any argument of the Government that the additional tax was necessary to supplement the credit restrictions in slowing down industry is fallacious.
I believe, as many Government supporters believe, that the Government made a mistake and, as the Prime Minister has virtually admitted that the Government made a mistake, it should do the fair and honest thing by the people who suffered as a result of that mistake and bought cars when the 40 per cent, sales tax was levied. To illustrate what I consider to be the meaning of equity in taxation I should like to read an extract from an article in the “Taxpayers’ Bulletin”, dated 15th April, 1961. The article is headed, “Taxation as an Economic Weapon “ and reads -
In a paper presented to the annual conference of the Federated Taxpayers’ Associations of Australia, held recently in Melbourne, Mr. Sholto Douglas (Queensland) said - “We have recently had brought sharply to the notice of all of us the use of taxation by the Government as an economic weapon. It appears to me that the time has accrued to consider whether Parliament has departed too far from its original function under the democratic system.
The Ferguson Commission stated the principles under which taxes should be collected very clearly - they should be collected with equity, economy and simplicity. Equity has been defined as a just regulation of the mutual rights and duties of men living in a civilized society. If we apply this definition to taxation, such rights and duties are the rights of the State to tax, and the duty of the taxpayer to contribute to the cost of government in proportion to his ability so to do. Economy in its purest sense as applied to taxation must surely be that the Government should take from the taxpayer only sufficient to enable it to function efficiently and pay its way. . . .”
I think I have read sufficient to indicate that the Government’s action in increasing sales tax from 30 per cent to 40 per cent., which severely penalized the people who had to purchase cars during that period, most certainly does not fit within the definition of “ equity “ in relation to taxation. Was the person who bought a motor car during that period better fitted to pay the additional 10 per cent, tax than was the person who bought a car on the day before the tax was increased or on the day after it was reduced? Obviously no such test could be applied.
The Government also caught the people who did not have the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they should purchase a car during that period. The small dealers to whom the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ refers are a case in point. Motor cars are their living. They have to buy and sell cars, and they have suffered also. Another portion of the article in the “ Advertiser “ which I did not read, but which I am sure other honorable senators have read, states that the large dealers did not suffer because of arrangements that they had with the manufacturers. It was the small dealers and the people who bought cars during that period who suffered.
It may be worth while to consider at this stage the kind of people who bought cars during that three months and the circumstances in which they bought them. I recall that during a previous debate Senator Gorton interjected while Senator Toohey was speaking and stated that he was one of the persons who had bought a car during the time when the higher sales tax applied, and that he had no grumble to make about it. Senator Gorton can assure himself that he is indeed a rare kind of animal. Any person who bought a motor car and who has no grumble about paying an additional £100 for it is a rarity.
– Did people “ have “ to buy cars or did they “ choose “ to buy them?
– That is the point that I was coming to. Some people had entered into arrangements to purchase motor cars prior to the announcement by the Government of the increased sales tax. Perhaps they had sold their previous cars or had arranged to sell them, and had entered into arrangements to purchase new ones.
– I was talking about Senator Gorton.
– I do not know whether Senator Gorton was in that category, but if he bought a car not knowing that the sales tax was to be increased and if he was landed with the additional 10 per cent, tax, 1 feel sorry for him even if he does not feel sorry for himself.
– It was self-inflicted punishment.
– He was trying to indicate that he did not know that the sales tax would be increased, even though he is a Minister. Any person who had not arranged to purchase a car prior to the announcement of the additional tax, but nevertheless bought one, was either in dire need of a car or was quite prepared to pay the additional tax. But one thing is certain: If it was thought by a responsible Minister of the Government that the effect of the measure would be such that it would remain in operation for only three months and he was still prepared to contribute an additional £100 to the Treasury, that person was being more than philanthropic. I suggest that if Senator Gorton bought a car during that three months’ period because he had made up his mind to buy one, he most certainly did not know that the additional tax would be removed on the date announced by the Prime Minister.
– People who depend on a car for their living had to buy one.
– I think I referred earlier to the effect on the small car dealer. The other valid argument which was advanced by the vehicle-building industry, and which almost certainly was placed before the Government prior to the imposition of the increase, was that the credit squeeze of itself would be sufficient to achieve what the Government claimed was the desired effect. Every one with any knowledge of the trade knows that about 95 per cent .of the people who purchase new cars have first to sell the cars they already own. In other words, nowadays a very small percentage of car buyers are buying their first vehicle. Moreover, it is well known to persons who have a knowledge of the trade that more credit is required by persons who purchase secondhand cars than is required by those who purchase new cars. That applies to the category mentioned by Senator Kennelly, which includes lads of the age of seventeen and eighteen years.
It should have been obvious to the Government, as it was obvious to the people, that it was not necessary to increase the sales tax as an added deterrent to people purchasing cars. The effect of the restriction of credit was felt immediately by the second-hand car market. Any one who likes to study statistics or who cares to check on the sale of second-hand cars as distinct from the sale of new vehicles will note that the depressing effect of credit restrictions was much greater in relation to the second-hand car market than in relation to the sale of new vehicles. The restriction of sales of second-hand cars of itself prevented people from purchasing new vehicles.
All the evidence points to the fact that the Government increased the rate of sales tax from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, on wrong advice. I do not know whose brain child it was, but most certainly the advice was wrong. I am quite certain that the Government knew by the time the measure was passed by the Senate that it had introduced a measure that was unnecessary. It certainly knew that it was unpopular. Senator Scott and others try to derive some satisfaction from the fact that the Government is not fearful of introducing unpopular measures. The plain fact of the matter was that not only was the measure unpopular but also that there was a growing realization by the majority of people that it was not necessary. There was sufficient evidence that the other measures that the Government introduced at the same time would be sufficient to dampen down activity in the vehicle-building industry to a degree even greater than that which the Government stated to be necessary. For that reason, the Government made a mistake in introducing the measure. It most certainly admits now - at least the Prime Minister does - that it made a mistake. That being so, it should refund the extra tax to those who were unfortunate enough to be the victims during the time it was in operation.
The only argument that has been put forward by any spokesman for the Government in opposition to a refund of this money to the 50,000 or 60,000 persons involved is that it would create a precedent to do so. It would certainly be true to say that a precedent would be created. I am speaking without accurate knowledge of the facts, but I believe I am on safe ground when I say that there has never been another occasion in the history of Australia when sales tax has been imposed for only three months of a financial year and then lifted. The Government itself set a precedent when it increased the tax to the extent to which it was increased and applied the increase for only three months. I repeat that, in fairness to those who were the victims of the Government’s mistake, the Government should find some means by which to refund the money to them. 1 make a plea also on behalf of the smaller dealers whom I mentioned earlier in my speech, because in many instances they could ill afford the extra impost that they had to bear.
I close on this note: It is understandable that a government should want to save face. We all like to kid ourselves by saying that efforts to save face are characteristic only of other nations, but it is obvious to any impartial observer that this Government, which increased the sales tax in the manner in which it did in November last, is refusing to make refunds of the additional tax only to save its own face. It is quite wrong for it to do that at the expense of 50,000 or 60,000 Australians who were unfortunate enough to decide to purchase a motor car during the months when the increased tax was in operation.
– Coming in, as I do, to bowl the last over, I begin my speech by saying that the Australian Democratic Labour Party was opposed to the original measure which was introduced to increase the sales tax on cars from 30 per cent. to 40 per cent., that it voted against the measure, and that it is now very pleased to see that its judgment has been vindicated by the introduction of this legislation which is designed to put the rate of tax back to 30 per cent. Our only regret is that the Government, now that it feels that everything in the garden is lovely, has not decided to reduce the rate of tax to 16 per cent., which was the rate that applied four or five years ago. We were told that the increase to 30 per cent. was a temporary measure. However, I am very glad that we are getting even this proposed reduction. The Democratic Labour Party will strongly support an amendment designed to pay a refund to those who were caught by buying cars during the three months for which the increase was in operation.
It is time that some one said a word for the poor motorist. There is a false idea in the minds of many of our Treasury officials, and perhaps of the Ministers who are associated with them, that in these days a motor car is a luxury. In my opinion, we have reached the stage where a motor car is practically a necessity, and it should not be regarded as being a luxury upon which heavy forms of taxation should be levied. The extent to which taxation is being imposed upon the unfortunate person who wants to or is forced to drive a motor car needs to be examined. When one considers that for the year ended 30th June, 1960, State taxation in the form of registration fees and motor tax amounted to approximately £34,000,000, thatdrivers’ and riders’ licences provided revenue amounting to £3,000,000, and that miscellaneous taxation in this field amounted to £10,000,000-a total of nearly £48,000,000 - one is inclined to wonder whether the motorist is being called upon to pay taxation which is out of all proportion to the benefit that he is deriving from ownership of a motor vehicle. I believe it is time a look was taken at what is being done to people who want to drive a motor car, because, in the present circumstances, they are regarded as the prime target of the taxing officers. I do not believe that most of the people who drive motor cars to-day can afford to be penalized by these exceptionally heavy rates of taxation. The Democratic Labour Party opposed this increase in the sales tax first of all because we believed it would cause unemployment and would heavily penalize those who do not deserve to be penalized. Debate interrupted.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring to the attention of the Senate a matter affecting immigrant tradesmen who are allowed to enter Australia because they have a trade. I understand the position is that a person who wishes to migrate to Australia, but who has no relatives here, can gain admittance if he can satisfy certain authorities that he is skilled in a trade. He is asked to pass a trade test in his own country first. If he satisfies the immigration authorities in that test, he is permitted to come to Australia as an assisted immigrant; but under certain regulations, he can then be compelled to submit to another test. The committee that directs him to undergo that test includes two persons employed in the particular trade, two employers engaged in the same trade and a Government nominee as chairman. My attention has been directed to quite a number of those immigrants who have passed the test in their own country but have been rejected when they came to Australia.
– What authority requires them to pass the second test?
– I believe it is done under the tradesmen’s rights regulations.
– Is this under the administration of the Department of Immigration?
– Yes. I am concerned about this matter because I have had a number of cases brought to my notice concerning men who were examined in Italy. They were given a further test in Australia and were not considered sufficiently skilled to follow their trade here. I do not want the conditions of trades in Australia broken down, but I think there is a very grave fault to be found with those who examine these immigrants in their country of origin. Surely, they should be given a test in their own country that would satisfy the committee which submits them to an examination in Australia.
I have had cases concerning a welder, an engineer and a boilermaker among others. It is a bad advertisement for Australia when men of this type pass a test in their own country but are not permitted to follow their trade in Australia because they have failed in a second test. I believe the fault lies with the Department of Immigration. It should obtain from those who have the right to test the immigrants in Australia a test or examination that can be given in the country of origin so that a potential immigrant can at least pass the test or fail in it before he leaves his native land.
– Are there many cases?
– I have had nine of them altogether. Captain di Salvo, who does a tremendous amount of work among Italians, brings them to me. I do not blame the trade unions for attempting to maintain a standard of work, but I cannot understand why the Department of Immigration cannot lay down a test that will satisfy all requirements. That would obviate the need for a second test when the immigrant arrived in Australia. I know that it would be much easier for a man to pass a test in his own country and in an environment familiar to him, than it is in Australia where he is in new surroundings and perhaps cannot speak a word of English.
I hope the Minister will look into the position. In the past six or eight months I have had eight or nine of these cases. Some were boilermakers and others were turners and fitters. One was a welder, and this was the worst case because he could have had a job but the employer said that he had an agreement with the union and the man could not work without a ticket. I am not against that proposition; but the fact is that we are creating in the minds of these people a feeling that they were brought here under false pretences.
– How does the Department of Immigration decide who will be tested and who will not be tested?
– Every one has to have a test in the country of origin. It is up to this committee that is established under the tradesmen’s rights regulations to order the second test
– Are all immigrants given a second trade test?
– They are given a test if the trade committee is not satisfied with their papers. It is becoming difficult to get a skilled job in Melbourne. Irrespec- tive of what many people say, the railways and the tramways are more than full, and it is going to be pretty hard to get a job. Some of these men cannot get into Australia under the immigration laws unless they can satisfy our authorities in their own country that they are tradesmen. I believe that a standard should be set - I do not advocate any lowering of standards - and the prospective immigrant should be examined overseas on the basis of that standard by an officer of the Department of Immigration. If the prospective immigrant passes that test he should be permitted to work in Australia. He should not be required to sit for a further and perhaps different test after he comes to this country. The present position is creating quite an amount of hardship and is not helping the department or Australia.
– Is there an international affiliation of unions?
– You could not have a boilermaker from Italy automatically entitled to membership of the appropriate union in Australia?
– No. The only organization that would have affiliations throughout even the British Commonwealth would be the Amalgamated Engineering Union. All other unions in Australia have no such affiliations. There may be some relaxation of the requirement to undergo a test so far as British unionists are concerned, because I am told that in some cases certain unionists from England have not undergone tests. Their papers have been considered to be satisfactory, although in some quarters suspicions are held that those papers are not all that they should be. Surely, once a person passes a test before a recognized government official he should not be left on the beach, so to speak, when he reaches this country. I urge the Minister to take this matter up with his colleague, the Minister for Immigration. Something should be done about the people to whom I have referred, because at present many of them are very disgruntled; and that is a very bad advertisement for Australia.
– I shall be pleased to bring Senator Kennelly’s remarks to the attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer). I do not know enough about this matter to deal with it myself; but even if the trouble is slight, anything that will make the lot of newcomers to this country easier should be encouraged. I understand that even professional men are required to undergo almost a complete course of instruction when they emigrate to this country.
– That is because there is no reciprocity in respect of doctors, for example, between Australia and other countries.
– No, and I do not think there should be in the case of tradesmen. Sometimes the certificates that are issued are suspect. We should ensure that a proper test is administered. I know that Senator Kennelly agrees that we should have a proper test so that the required standard is maintained in Australia. Nobody wants to break down the standards of tradesmen in this country. I am not aware of the administrative difficulties that may be involved in Senator Kennelly’s suggestion. I do not know who would give the proposed test overseas. The officials overseas may not be as competent to give a test as are people in this country. Those are matters that may be examined by the Minister for Immigration, to whose notice I undertake to bring Senator Kennelly’s remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 April 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610419_senate_23_s19/>.