23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chai.’ at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that unemployment in the textile industry has become alarming? Does the Minister know that even as late as last week 90 employees were dismissed from the Daylesford textile mills in Victoria? Also, is he aware of the following facts: That in the carpet section of the textile industry the work force had dropped by 21.8 per cent, and the number of people working part time had increased by 9.2S per cent, as at 10th March, 1961; that as at 7th April, 1961, less than one month later, the percentage of the work force dismissed had risen to 25.6 per cent, and the percentage of people working part time had risen to 30.6 per cent.; that in other sections of the industry in Victoria the total number of operatives dismissed as at 28th March, 1961, was 1,364 and the number working part time was 3,635; that in New South Wales, as at 30th March, 1961, the number of operatives dismissed was 1,550 and the number of people working part time was 4,500; and that in other States of the Commonwealth also the textile industry has been adversely affected? I suppose that the Minister is also aware that in to-day’s press there is a statement that 500 employees in Newcastle will be dismissed in the next few weeks. Will the Government consider re-imposing import controls in cases where Australian industry is being adversely affected, and will it also ease credit restrictions to enable industry to re-employ these dismissed workers and get Australian industry back to normal conditions?
– I have taken notes of the points made by the honorable senator in his question. The first answer I give him is that I am aware, and the Government is aware, that the textile industry, which is a particularly sensitive industry, is in difficulty in some parts of Australia. As I stated in the Senate yesterday, I am aware that Daylesford is one such place, and that matter has been brought to the attention of the Treasurer. 1 understand that the position of the textile industry in particular, in which the carpet industry is involved, is being very closely examined at the moment by the Government and a committee appointed by the Government in order to see how and where the policy announced by the Treasurer of seeking to bring relief to particular pockets of unemployment can best be applied.
As to the position at Newcastle, I have discussed with the Department of Labour and National Service the statement about the proposed dismissals from the steel industry there. 1 understand that it is correct to say that about 570 men will be dismissed from their positions. This is not something that I am prepared to laugh about, even if I do get interjections from the Opposition. These dismissals have nothing whatever to do with the removal of import controls. I am given to understand that the demand for steel has fallen off to a certain extent because of the decline in new building construction. Steps have already been taken by the Government to ensure that the rate of commencement of new building construction will be increased. I believe that this step and other steps-
– Hear, hear!
– Unemployment .is nothing to cheer about.
– I am not saying “ Hear, hear! “ because men are being dismissed.
– If I may now proceed, the Liberal Party senator who said “ Hear, hear! “ was doing so because I said that the Government had taken action which would lead to a greater demand for steel, which, in turn, would lead to the reemployment of steel workers. I believe that is the position.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. I wish to refer to representations that were made to me and to some of my colleagues by the Tasmanian Timber Association in referring to a reduction in the number of commencements of housing projects in Melbourne, which is the association’s chief market. The figures given to me show that in the first quarter of 1960 the number of commencements in Melbourne was 1,051, and that in the first quarter of this year the number fell to 658. 1 ask the Minister whether this matter is receiving the immediate attention of the Government, and whether any steps can be taken to bring relief to this industry by expediting sales of timber in Melbourne.
– I am unable to put my finger on the statistics relating to housing commencements in Melbourne, but I have seen the figures for the whole of Victoria. They show a sharp fall in commencements this year, compared with 1960. I remind Senator Wright, however, that 1960 was a very good home-building year. A better comparison could be made with 1959. If my recollection is correct, commencements throughout Australia were running at the rate of about 100,000 a year towards the end of 1960. The figure for the previous year was about 88,000. I think one could make a better comparison with that year. We have to face the position that, whatever may be the reason, the decline in home building in Victoria has been substantially greater than in other States of the Commonwealth. In the last statement that I made, based on the commencement figures, I pointed out that, compared with 1959, the decline this year was not so great, but I said that the Victorian figures were very much lower than those for other States of the Commonwealth. I am aware that the Treasurer has taken steps to increase homebuilding activities in Victoria, as a result of which I hope the Tasmanian timber industry will benefit.
– Is the Minister for National Development in a position to state, in relation to the search for oil, what drilling operations, apart from those being undertaken at Cabawin No. 1 well, are being conducted in Queensland and New South Wales in or about the Great Artesian Basin? What other drilling operations in the. same areas are planned or contemplated? By whom or on whose behalf are any of such drilling operations to be undertaken?
– The Great Artesian Basin has within its area a number of smaller basins, of which the Surat Basin is one, situated in the extreme eastern part of the Great Artesian Basin. The whole of the Great Artesian Basin, which covers parts of Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, is held under petroleum licences. Reconnaissance geological surveys have been carried out over the whole basin - detailed regional geological surveys in the central and north-western parts. Information from water bores has been assembled to help in the understanding of the geology, as the outcrop is generally poor.
About 3,500 artesian bores, some as much as 5,000 feet deep, and about 12,000 shallower sub-artesian bores have been drilled for water. About 80 bores have been drilled for oil, mainly in the Roma and Longreach areas. Aeromagnetic surveys have been carried out, mainly in the eastern part of the basin. Reconnaissance gravity surveys have been completed only in the north-western part and in small areas elsewhere. Reconnaissance seismic work has been carried out in a few areas of the north-west, central and eastern parts of the basin. The sequence and structure of the mesozoic sediments is known in a broad regional sense, except in the central area. Very little is known of sequence of structure of the pre-mesozoic rocks.
At the present juncture the more active companies in the Great Artesian Basin are Phillips Petroleum and Sunray MidContinental Oil; Union Oil Development, Kern County Land and Australian Oil and Gas; Delhi Australian Petroleum and Santos; Conorada Petroleum; Magellan Petroleum; Associated Australian Oilfields, Associated Freney Oil Fields and Papuan Apinaipi Petroleum. Other companies holding tenements are L. H. Smart Oil Exploration, Carpentaria Oils, Longreach Oil, Artesian Basin Oil, Oil Development, Condamine Oil, Queensland American Oil, Geosurveys Planet Exploration, Texas American Oil, Builders Incorp., J. G. Fuller and W. J. Steeger, Lee Evans Australian Petroleum, R. Walton, Appaloosa Oil of Australia* Clarence River Basin Oil Exploration, and Hackathorn Oils.
– My question, which is directed to> the Minister representing the Treasurer,, relates to an announcement last night that the Government has agreed to finance the cost of the initial survey in connexion with the standardization of the railway line between Kalgoorlie and the coast. Will the financing of that important project enable consideration to be given to the larger question of financing the construction of the entire railway in time to permit Western Australia and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to proceed pursuant to the terms of their agreement?
– It is true that last night the Prime Minister announced that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to find the cost of the survey for the railway from Kalgoorlie to the coast.
– What is the approximate amount involved?
– I do not know. I do not think the amount was mentioned. Therefore, I would rather not hazard a guess. It would not be a considerable amount relative to construction costs of the line.
– Was there a precedent?
– This is not unprecedented. The honorable senator might recall that a similar arrangement was made 3n South Australia some time ago in respect of the line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. This decision will not in any way affect the consideration of what the honorable senator has referred to as the larger part of the project, that is, the actual construction of the line. No matter when the line is to be constructed, the survey will have to be undertaken, and it was considered that this might be the appropriate time for the Commonwealth to find the cost of this survey. The Government is well aware of the importance of the timing of its arrangements with the State, having regard to the agreement between the State and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The Commonwealth Government has assured the State Government, I think on more than one occasion, that it has the importance of that time factor in mind.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the Government call for a report on the disgraceful demonstration that was made last week on a Melbourne wharf, a demonstration of which Mr. Justice Foster was the victim, and will the Government consider action to check the increasing lawlessness of these bogus rank and file demonstrations which, obviously, are of Communist origin? Will the Government inquire particularly into the circumstances in which, television and press cameras were at the scene beforehand to photograph and publicize the planned humiliation of a member of the judiciary? Finally, what action has the Government in mind to protect Arbitration Court justices in the performance of their duties, and to convince the lawless minority on the Australian waterfront that it does not possess a free licence to intimidate and humiliate members of the judiciary?
– I hesitate to say anything to Senator McManus other than that I shall refer his question to the Acting Attorney-General. My hesitation arises from the fact that I am not certain, in relation to a member of the judiciary, what action it would be appropriate to take in the circumstances. Personally, I was very happy indeed to note that His Honour had the courage to come out and label this demonstration for the type of demonstration it was. I must say that when I read his comment I formed the impression that he was capable of looking after himself and of giving an answer to what had been done. However, I think that Senator McManus’s question is a very good one and I shall refer it to the Acting AttorneyGeneral for appropriate action to be taken.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is he aware that many young farmers and share-farmers are being prevented from developing their properties through a lack of development capital? Further, is he aware that the present policy of the Commonwealth Development Bank caters only for people who have a substantial equity in their properties? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to consider widening the franchise of the Commonwealth Development Bank in order to enable that bank to cater for the young farmers to whom I have referred?
– I shall be pleased to discuss the matter raised by Senator Drake-Brockman with my colleague, Mr. Harold Holt, the Treasurer. I might say that I was surprised by the honorable senator’s statement that the policy of the Commonwealth Development Bank does not permit of that bank assisting young people who are starting off and endeavouring to establish themselves by proceeding with developmental projects in the field of primary production. Indeed, it has been stated on a number of occasions that ample proof is available that, right from the commencement of the credit restrictions in November last, primary production occupied, and has continued to occupy, what might be regarded as a preferential position. With regard to the position of young farmers starting out on their farming careers, I was under the impression that, in circumstances which justified it, they, too, could obtain money for developmental purposes against approved security. I shall be interested to discuss the matter with the Treasurer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Out of a sense of fairness, 1 must concede that on occasion the Minister exhibits a measure of competency and reasonableness, but on this important issue he does not show a sense of national responsibility. When I pleaded with him that the only efficient way to develop and settle the northern half of Australia rapidly was to set up a north Australian development and settlement organization, a statutory body with authoritative and advisory powers, he summarily rejected my plea. Now that Mr. George Fisher–
– Order! The honorable senator should ask his question.
SenatorDITTMER. - I am sorry, Mr. President, but it is necessary for me to preface the question so that the Minister will appreciate its nature and also appreciate the fact that I have previously made statements on this subject. Now that Mr. George Fisher, the chairman of Mount Isa Mines Limited, Mr. J. W. Fletcher, an eminent grazier, Mr. W. G. Walkley, managing director of Ampol Petroleum Limited, and, as recently as 5th May, Sir Douglas Copland, have suggested the establishment of such a body, will the Minister proceed to establish it?
– Senator Dittmer appears in a new light when he pleads with me for anything. I hope that he will continue to do so. I trust that I did not summarily dismiss the proposal to which he has referred. My personal view has always been against the establishment of such a body. I have not favored the setting up of a northern development commission because I have had the feeling that all it might lead to would be another report to be filed alongside all the other reports on the subject.
– Not if you provided the money and the necessary authority.
– I have seen a few such commissions operating in the time that I have been in office. I have engaged in debates on this point. I prefer to adopt the policy of trying to support and encourage specific proposals, such as the Weipa proposal, developmental roads in cattleproducing areas, and Rum Jungle.
– With no co-ordination.
– Co-ordination is more easily thought about than achieved, when you have three separate governments concerned with the one area. I admit that there is a strong volume of opinion that is contrary to mine.
– More competent opinion.
– It might even be more competent opinion. I have reflected on this matter for some time. I think we have passed the stage at which I should be expressing personal opinions about it. I contemplate, at some convenient time, placing it before the Government for the purpose of obtaining governmental reaction. That is more easily said than done. It will be necessary to work out the functions of such a developmental body, and matters of that kind - which is a major exercise.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport noted a statement which appeared in the Tasmanian press to the effect that the introduction of roll-on, roll-off ferries and container vessels had resulted in a freight saving of £200,000 a year? Is that statement correct? If so, to what extent has the timber industry shared in the saving?
– I have no doubt that the introduction of these modern vessels has effected a saving, both in time and in cost. I cannot answer specifically that part of the question which inquires to what extent the timber industry has shared in these savings. 1 shall have to get a more detailed answer from my colleague, Mr. Opperman. It is pertinent in replying to the question to point out to the honorable senator that within recent weeks a reduction of freight has been made on timber shipped from Tasmania, running to the extent of about 20 or 30 per cent.
– I preface my questions, which I direct to the Minister for National Development, by saying that, in spite of interjections and cross-fire, every man in this Parliament is perturbed because of the rise in unemployment. We have all seen on the front page of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ the report of 850 dismissals. A few minutes ago, I was in touch with the manager of a certain firm employing 500 men, who is very much perturbed because on Friday he started a series of dismissals by sacking 35 employees. I hope the Minister will listen carefully, because I may not put the questions as plainly as I could put them it I were allowed to speak for half an hour, ls our domestic economy completely tied up with our commitments overseas and the obligations entered into with the controllers of the International Monetary Fund? Has the Government any economic proposal that involves the use of unemployed Australian men and material to meet the needs of our people in relation to housing and other matters? Have we to admit that modern financial capitalism, represented politically by the Menzies Government, is hopeless and helpless to solve its own and the nation’s internal economic problems - I stress internal, as opposed to our overseas obligations - in face of a supply of local men and material?
– Is that a Dorothy Dix-er?
– No, it is not a Dorothy Dix-er. I have been here for years, and I have not yet asked a Dorothy Dix-er, but 1 am going to start.
- Senator Brown is quite incorrect when he implies that the economy is under any tie or obligation to the International Monetary Fund, which is an international banking organization with the objective of protecting national currencies. What the honorable senator has read is a report to the bank indicating the country’s position and the policy that it proposes to apply. We are under no obligation at all. There are no tags or conditions to the arrangements that have been made.
– You have to repay the money, have you not?
– We have to repay it, yes. The second and third questions are in the same mould. They proceed upon the assumption that disaster has overtaken us and that all is wrong.
– I did not say that.
– I do not know what other interpretation could be put on the honorable senator’s words. He asked whether I would admit that the modern financial capitalist system was hopeless and helpless. He is trying to be a prophet of gloom, and to change the circumstances as they are into circumstances from which he thinks he can gain electoral benefit. Corrective action has been taken and it is, without doubt, proving to be of great benefit to the economy as a whole. This is a most difficult exercise which has to be undertaken with the greatest skill and judgment that is available. We are watching the situation from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month, and are taking corrective action in each set of circumstances that arises. A new set of unemployment figures will become available within the next week or so. but they will not substantiate the doleful forebodings that have been expressed. What Opposition senators do is to read in the press about isolated instances of unemployment. What we as a government have a national responsibility to do is to look at the economy as a whole.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Will the Government ensure that sufficient money is made available to enable the Commonwealth Development Bank to continue lending at the present scale? Secondly, will the Government consider enlarging the scope of the bank to allow it to make loans to qualified young men who wish to purchase properties that do not come under the development provisions at present laid down?
– A substantial part of the question refers to a matter that was raised earlier by Senator DrakeBrockman - the issue by the Development Bank of loans to young men for the purchase of property to enable them to start a farming career.
– This is a different category.
– As I understood you, it was much the same. Senator DrakeBrockman referred to the fact that whilst loans are available on the security of existing properties they are not available to men who have not those assets. However, if the honorable senator informs me that he is not referring to the same matter, I shall be prepared to have a look at the situation and discuss it with the Treasurer. The other part of the question involves a matter of policy - the amount of capital that will be released to the Development Bank. I am sure the honorable senator realizes that the Government, having seen the need for and the importance of such an institution, and having established it, would do its utmost in all circumstances to see that the bank could fulfil the purpose which the Government had in mind.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Government has repeatedly stated that we are living in “ Australia Unlimited “, and I assume the term to mean that, despite the administration of the Menzies Government, there is still a vast amount of developmental work to be done in the future such as the construction of factories, hospitals, wharfs, bridges, houses, schools, universities, railroads, locomotives and machinery. Having regard to the Government’s statement, what is there to prevent the Government, through the Department of Supply, from purchasing and stockpiling for future needs any surpluses of steel that may temporarily be accumulating at Newcastle, and thereby keep the men of that city employed, the furnaces working, and ancillary industries in operation during this time of Government-manipulated recession?
– I cannot give Senator O’Byrne full marks for that question.
– We can, and the people will.
– You hope. What has happened is that we have dampened down the economy. There would not be any sense in concurrently taking action to nullify the policy that we have adopted. There has been a decline in demand. That decline already is putting our cost structure on a better basis and is providing a foundation - the only sound foundation there can be - for further development in the future. We have announced some of the forms which that development will take. I refer to the beef road projects and the railway projects. They are all part of the plan to divert our economy into producing the goods that we need in order to obtain essential export income.
– Did the Minister for National Development see a statement in yesterday’s Sydney “ Sun “ under the heading “ Cabawin Oil Well Fails “, which was displayed in large headlines on the front page of the newspaper? If he did see it, will he say whether the statement, particularly the part in headlines, is correct? As the well at Cabawin did produce oil, although probably not in commercial quantities, does he agree that that means that we have had another strike of oil in Australia? Can he say whether new sites will be selected on the same location for further drilling operation?
– The Cabawin well failed only in one respect. An oil deposit was found, but the deposit has not been proved to be large enough to be commercially exploited. Apart from that, this was, I think, one of the most exciting events that have occurred in the history of the search for oil in Australia. The well located and proved the presence of oil. It established the geological conditions and the nature of the sands in which the oil is located. This find most certainly will lead to world-wide interest in the search for oil in Australia. It will attract more overseas people and additional local capital for the task. The rate of exploration will be stepped up. Because of the signs, portents and indications at Cabawin, the prospect of finding oil in Australia has been immeasurably improved.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has he seen a recent statement which indicates that more than 600 Asian spouses of Australianborn citizens have already been, not only welcomed and assimilated in Australia, but also naturalized as Australian citizens? Does the Minister consider that this is a high percentage in a relatively small population, and that it proves conclusively that our immigration policy is not designed for n white Australia, and that there is no colour bar or colour prejudice in Australia?
– I think the honorable senator is referring to figures published within the last week or so which referred to the number of marriages that have taken place in Australia during the past year. They related, amongst other things, to the ages of people who married and they gave the interesting information that something like 400 Australian men had married Asian girls in Australia and that something like 200 Australian girls had married Asian men. The general picture emerges that in the last year about 600 Asians in our country qualified for Australian citizenship. They qualified, if I may say so, in the best possible way - by being assimilated into Australian life by marriage to Australians, with all that that means in the way of a circle of Australian friends, Australian interests and entering into the spirit of the Australian community. I suggest that assimilation of that order could well be pondered by those people who in and out of season clamour for a small quota of Asian immigrants; because 600 Asians in a year is more than the number which such people usually talk about. That could well be pondered by those people who seek to convey the impression that a determination to preserve a homogeneous population and take in only the number that the population can assimilate is a policy based on discrimination. The figures indicate that that impression is not correct.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that some time ago when the Queensland Treasurer returned to his home State from Canberra after attending a conference on a new housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States he was reported to have said that Queensland would resist the terms of the new agreement because the increased rate of interest which the States were asked to meet would involve an increase of 10s. a week in the rentals of housing commission homes?
– The Queensland Treasurer might well have said that, but I can only say that I have received from him a letter in which he accepts the terms and conditions of the housing agreement. If I am any judge, I believe that he is in good company with all the other State Treasurers, who are very pleased indeed to have the opportunity to obtain the money on the generous terms and conditions on which the Commonwealth makes it available to the States.
– Further to my previous inquiries, can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the Senate of the progress that has been made in equipping broadcasting stations 5AN and 5CL in South Australia with extra power to give improved reception on Eyre Peninsula?
– I understand that work in connexion with the scheduled power increases for radio stations 5AN and 5CL will be completed within about eight weeks. I can also say confidently that this added power will give greatly improved reception on Eyre Peninsula. I shall ask my colleague, the Postmaster-General, to inform Senator Pearson specifically when the project will be completed.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that in some homes for the aged which are in receipt of the government subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act a lump sum payment is required from tenants in addition to the low rentals which some of them also have to pay? How many organizations have been financed on this basis? What is the range of lump sum payments in such cases? Is it a fact that tenants have no equity in such homes? In how many cases where premiums are payable are the controlling organizations church bodies, philanthropic organizations and newly-formed syndicates or companies? When new companies are formed, what steps does the Government take to ensure the bona fides of the companies and their directors in order to guarantee both the taxpayers’ money and the life savings of the aged persons and to guard against the exploitation of both?
– I have to ask Senator Tangney to put her question on the. notice-paper. I cannot be expected to have readily available the information which is necessary to answer her question. I should like to reply to the last part of her question which casts doubt on the bona fides of the people running these homes by suggesting that they run them for speculative profit. I am quite certain that there are no such instances.
– That is what I want to be sure of.
– The honorable senator need have no doubt about that. The whole purpose of this legislation is to subsidize church organizations and other organizations of a similar kind and spirit. I ask Senator Tangney to put her question on the notice-paper so that she may receive an answer, but I say very promptly that she need have no fear that money has gone in wrong directions, as she has suggested.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has ‘the Government of Western Australia sought federal aid for the victims of the disastrous bushfires at Dwellingup last summer and also for the flood victims at Carnarvon? If the State Government has made such a request, what was the nature of it and has any decision been taken by the Commonwealth Government?
– After the floods, bushfires and cyclones which occurred earlier this year, the Western Australian Government asked the Commonwealth Government for assistance for the relief of the people who suffered as a result of those occurrences. As is the custom in such cases, the Commonwealth Government advised the State Government that it would contribute on a £l-for-£l basis and the money would, as usual, be spent on the relief of personal distress. A further condition was the usual one that the State Auditor-General should certify that the expenditure had been correctly incurred. The Commonwealth Government advised the State to that effect, asked for an estimate of the amount involved, and also inquired whether the State Government required any advance payment. Up to date no reply has been received from the Government of Western Australia.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether the Electra aircraft owned by Trans-Australia Airlines have had their wings adjusted by their manufacturers and are now undertaking flying operations in Australia? Will the Minister also advise me whether the speed of the Electra aircraft has been deliberately restricted to that of Viscount aircraft because Ansett-A.N.A. has not received its Electra aircraft back from the United States of America?
– I cannot help thinking that it is something of a coincidence that this question asked by Senator Benn to-day follows a characteristically inaccurate outburst by the honorable member for East Sydney, Mr. Ward, in another place last night. The position is that arrangements were made for the Australian aircraft to be returned to the United States of America for modification. Each airline was allocated dates for the return of its aircraft one at a time. The original arrangement was that Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft should go first, but operational difficulties in Australia prevented that from occurring and the first to go was a Trans-Australia Airlines plane. It was always understood by the airlines that the modified aircraft would not operate at the placarded speed until all those that were operating in Australia had been so modified. The situation at the moment is that two T.A.A. aircraft have been modified and that the third will be modified at a time when two only of the Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft have been modified. The placarded speed will be resumed on the Australian pattern when T.A.A. has three aircraft capable of operating at that speed and Ansett-A.N.A. has only two. In point of fact the advantage, if any, lies with T.A.A. I am extremely sorry that Senator Benn was trapped into asking the question by an inaccurate statement made in another place last night.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Has any provision been made, in adding to and remodelling the Hobart Repatriation Hospital, for psychiatric wards for returned servicemen?
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answer: -
No provision has been made for a separate psychiatric ward in the new building now under construction at the Repatriation General Hospital in Hobart. Only a small number of Repatriation patients require psychiatric treatment in Hobart, and they are able to be accommodated in general medical wards. Single rooms are available for disturbed patients and those requiring special treatment. Single rooms, which will be available for psychiatric patients when needed, are being provided in the new building.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Item 51 in the First Schedule to the Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications Act 1935-1960 authorizes exemption of books other than stationery. This exemption covers all text-books for use in all grades of primary and secondary education. Sales tax at the rate of 12i per cent, applies to all exercise books and other stationery in book form.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Has the Federal Government made a grant to the National Heart Campaign? If so, what was the amount contributed?
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The Commonwealth Government made a grant of £10,000 to assist the National Heart Foundation in the initial stages of its work.
– by leave - It has been urged from time to time in the Senate that before Australia becomes a party to a treaty the Parliament should be given an opportunity to express its views on the matter. The making of treaties is, under the law of Australia and other parts of the Queen’s Dominions, a prerogative of the Crown. The negotiation, signature and ratification of treaties are therefore executive acts. Admittedly, parliamentary action is required if legislation is needed in order to give effect locally to the provisions of a treaty, or if a treaty involves the provision of funds. But the process of treaty-making, be it signature, ratification or accession, is a matter for the Government and not for Parliament. Notwithstanding this, it can safely be said that the Government, before becoming a party to any treaty of major significance for Australia, has been at pains to ensure that the Parliament has been given the opportunity to discuss the matter. The Government in such cases has either introduced a bill or initiated a debate on a formal motion.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Menzies) has been considering whether further measures might be taken to keep the Parliament more fully informed about treaty matters. By way of explanation, I mention that obligations under treaties may be assumed in one of three ways. In some cases a treaty may come into effect upon signature, but such cases normally occur only where the treaty is of a routine nature or is of minor, or comparatively minor, significance. More commonly - at least in the case of treaties involving substantial commitments - ratification is required after signature, before binding obligations are assumed. In yet other cases, obligations may be assumed by accession to a treaty on the part of a state which has not signed it. There is, therefore, an opportunity in the case of important treaties to study their terms before a government commits itself formally to them.
Except in cases where a treaty will otherwise be brought to the attention of the Parliament - for example, in cases where a bill or motion relating to the treaty is to be introduced - the Government, as from the next parliamentary session, proposes, as a general rule, to lay on the tables of both Houses, for the Information of honorable members and senators, the texts of treaties signed for Australia, whether or not ratification is required, as well as the texts of treaties to which the Government is contemplating accession. Unless there be par- particular circumstances which in the Government’s opinion require that urgent action be given to the matter - for example, at a time when the Parliament is not in session - the Government will, moreover, as a general rule not proceed to ratify or to accede to a treaty until it has lain on the table of both Houses for at least twelve sitting days. By this means honorable members and honorable senators will be kept informed of treaties which have been signed in Australia and, in cases where ratification or accession is contemplated, it will be possible for them, if they so desire, to direct attention to any relevant considerations prior to ratification or accession.
For the information of honorable senators. I now lay on the table of the House the texts of -
The Government cannot undertake that it will not wish to proceed during the forthcoming parliamentary recess with the ratification of, or accession to, at least some of the treaties which I have just tabled. In future cases, however, the Government will follow the practice which I have outlined.
– I move -
That the papers be printed.
I assume that my motion will cover all six treaties referred to by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). If necessary,I am prepared to move six separate motions, one to cover each treaty. However, I do not think the forms of the Senate require that course to be followed, nor would it be necessary for purposes of debate. As I look at the subject-matters dealt with by the six treaties I am convinced that the Opposition would like an opportunity to peruse the treaties before continuing with the debate. I am sure that Government supporters, who generally display a very great interest in international treaties, will welcome an opportunity, if not immediately at least in the near future - perhaps even after the recess - of debating these treaties. In the meantime, I have no doubt that they would like to peruse the treaties in order the better to express themselves at some later stage. I welcome the new procedure announced by the Government. The Opposition believes that it is an improvement upon the existing practice. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
– by leave - Several questions have been asked in another place and elsewhere concerning the future of naval shipbuilding in Australia. On 26th April last, Mr. Calwell asked a question about this matter in another place. That question referred to other questions being asked in relation to this matter throughout Australia, and may be summarized as follows: -
I answer those questions in this way. The only new naval building programme which, so far as can be foreseen, is likely to be undertaken in Australia in the near future consists of a new survey ship, and possibly one or two small general purpose vessels. The survey ship will be built in an Australian dockyard, and building will begin next financial year. The ship will be built at a tender price, and not at cost-plus. Tenders have already been called by the Australian Shipbuilding Board.
This does not mean that several thousand employees at Cockatoo Island and Williamstown are in danger of dismissal or of parttime employment. In fact, the total number of men employed in these yards on new naval construction is 1,300. Williamstown dockyard employs in all categories, including maintenance of the dockyard, repair and refit of ships, and new construction, some 950 men. Employment for at least 800 of these men is assured until the beginning of 1963. Natural wastage from resignations, retirements and so on would account for a large proportion of the reduction in numbers between now and the beginning of 1963. Assuming no new naval programme by that time, the level of employment in 1963 would fall provided the refit programme was not increased and no other work was available for the yard.
At Cockatoo Island the total work force in all categories is 2,000. Here there is sufficient work in sight to employ the men engaged on new construction until mid- 1962 even if no new commercial work is obtained by that yard in the next year. That yard, however, has always done a proportion of commercial work. Employment for 282 men has been provided by the decision to refit submarines in Australia at Cockatoo Island for the first time, and there seems no reason why the yard should not obtain more commercial work in the next year or so. I may say that there is no truth in the irresponsible suggestions that have been made that the Government intends to sell Cockatoo Island dockyard.
For the following reasons the Navy ordered, in England, engines required for the minesweepers being bought in England: -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. President, the bill now before honorable senators proposes amendments of the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1960. In the main, the tariff changes are based on recommendations arising out of eight Tariff Board reports, which have already been tabled.
The first, second and fifth schedules of the bill provide for temporary duties on manmade fibre furnishing fabric, industrial nitrocellulose and edible gelatine.
Honorable senators will recall that last year legislation was passed to enable the Government, where necessary, to accord temporary protection to an industry whilst its case for new or increased protection was being examined under the normal Tariff Board machinery. As was stated on that occasion, it is not the Government’s intention that temporary duties should be introduced lightly. Indeed, any industry seeking such duties is required to demonstrate that, if holding action were not taken, it would suffer serious damage before the Government could receive and act upon a normal report of the Tariff Board.
Following representations from the industries concerned, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) referred to the Tariff Board for report by a deputy chairman the question whether temporary duties should be imposed on certain man-made fibre furnishing fabrics, industrial nitrocellulose and edible gelatine.
In the case of man-made fibre furnishing fabrics, the Tariff Board had submitted a full report on the subject on 20th June, 1960. The deputy chairman found that subsequent to the board’s report the advent of American type fabrics had placed the local industry in a position in which serious damage was occurring. He recommended that a temporary duty be imposed to raise the mostfavourednation rate of duty on these fabrics to 50 per cent, or 2s. 81/2d. per square yard, whichever was the higher. The tariff change proposed in the first schedule to the bill implements this recommendation.
In respect of industrial nitro-cellulose, the deputy chairman found that the local industry was suffering serious damage as a result of a volume of imports at nominal rates of duty and, further, that the reduced level of local production, if allowed to continue, would create increasing difficulties in respect of future production through the loss of highly-trained staff. The deputy chairman recommended that a temporary duty of 9d. per lb. be imposed in addition to the existing duties. This is provided for in the second schedule to the bill.
In respect of edible gelatine, the deputy chairman found that the local producer is experiencing very real competition from imports, the effects of which could be quite serious. He recommended that a temporary duty of 6d. per lb. be imposed on imports in addition to the existing duties. This amendment is provided for in the fifth schedule to the bill.
In each instance, as recommended by the deputy chairman, goods which were in direct transit at the date the commodities were referred for inquiry have been exempted from the additional duties.
As required by the legislation, these subjects are presently under reference to the Tariff Board for full inquiry and report. The temporary duties will remain in effect until such time as the reports can be received and considered by the. Government, but not beyond three months after the reports are received by the Minister for Trade.
I turn now to the remaining two schedules. The third schedule to the bill provides for changes in respect of timber, electric discharge lamps, cotton blankets and blanketing and parts for thong sandals.
In its recent report relating to timber, which the Government has already released, the Tariff Board recommended against any significant change in the tariff protection accorded the Australian timber industry. However, the board found that there were no imports of certain timber products, such as laths, palings and pickets, and recommended that the tariff items be deleted. This is done in the third schedule.
A reduction from 45 per cent to 20 per cent in the intermediate tariff rate on mercury and sodium discharge lamps is proposed. The reduction has been negotiated internationally as compensation in place of an earlier concession which Australia has now withdrawn.
The amendment relating to cotton blankets and blanketing is essentially of an administrative nature. The item has been redrafted, without alteration in duties, so as to provide for the item to cover lockstitched and netted as well as woven blankets and blanketing.
Increased protective duties are proposed for rubber and artificial plastic thongs of types suitable for use in thong sandals. The question as to the duties on this type of footwear was examined by the Tariff Board during 1959 and the rates recommended were introduced into the customs tariff on 20th May, 1960.
It has been found that some anomaly in the level of duties occurs in connexion with thong sandals composed of plastic and rubber and the parts, that is, thong and sole, when imported separately. Whereas the complete sandal is dutiable at ls. 6d. each or 3s. per pair plus certain ad valorem duties, no tariff provision was made in May last year for a proportion of the specific duties to be applied to the thong. It has been found that it has become common for manufacturers to import (thongs for attachment to locally made soles, to the detriment of Australian manufacturers of thongs.
Inquiries recently made suggest that an equitable breakup of the fixed rate duty of ls. 6d. per sole would be one-third for the thong and two-thirds for the sole. In addition, the ad valorem duties of 5 per cent. British preferential tariff and 25 per cent, otherwise will be payable. The tariff change now proposed allocates the duties presently applicable to the complete thong sandal on the basis of one-third to the thong and two-thirds the sole.
In the main, the fourth schedule provides for changes in duty on artificial flowers, foliage and fruit, saws and saw blades, wristwatch movements and cases and maize and maize grits, which arise from consideration of the Tariff Board’s recommendations on these goods.
The protective duties on artificial flowers, foliage and fruit are being removed. The Tariff Board has found that the extremely high level of duties which would be necessary to give adequate protection to local industry could not be justified. However, as- the principal, manufacturers of artificial flowers are also importers of such goods, the board considered that the reduced duties would provide some benefit to them in their role as importers.
Following a review of local industry, the Tariff Board has recommended a reduction in the protection substantively applicable to hand saws and saw blades, hand and machine types. At the same time, it has recommended that certain types which have until now been admissible at concessional rates of duty should become dutiable at the protective rates of duty recommended. The Tariff Board report indicated that there had been an expansion in the production of machine saw blades in Australia and that these developments can be maintained with less protection than appeared previously to be necessary.
The effective duties on most circular saw blades remain unchanged. However, certain diamond impregnated stone-cutting types, which were previously admitted at concessional rates, will now become dutiable at rates of 7i per cent. British preferential tariff and 15 per cent, otherwise.
In regard to hand saws and blades, there is little variation in existing duties. The British preferential tariff rate of 22i per cent, is unaltered and the intermediate tariff rate is being increased by 2i per cent. However, primage duty of 5 per cent, is removed, so that the effective level of duty on intermediate tariff imports is actually reduced by 2i per cent. Frames for hand saws, except hack saw frames, will be admitted at concessional rates under customs by-law.
The by-law item providing for a concessional duty differential of 7± per cent, on wristwatch movements which are to be inserted into Australian-made cases is being withdrawn, on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. These movements will now be dutiable at 27£ per cent. British preferential tariff and 45 per cent, intermediate tariff, that is, the rate now applicable to other wristwatch movements.
The Tariff Board has also recommended a reduction of 2i per cent, ad valorem in the duties on wristwatch cases. The new rates will be 25 per cent. British preferential tariff and 421 per cent, intermediate tariff.
In regard to maize and maize grits, the Tariff Board has recommended a level of duty which is equivalent to the sum of the customs and primage rates now payable on the goods. The net result, therefore, is that there will be no change in the present position.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed by the Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill are complementary to the deletion from the customs tariff of seven items relating to timber. In addition, the opportunity is being taken to make alterations to the form of the second schedule to the Canada preference tariff in accordance with suggestions made by the Parliamentary Draftsman. This involves remaking the schedule. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments proposed by this bill are complementary to those in the Customs Tariff Bill 1961 in respect of timber and edible gelatine. The provision in the New Zealand preference tariff relating to the use of Douglas fir timber for mining purposes is toeing deleted. This alteration is provided for in the first schedule to the bill.
The amendment proposed by the second schedule ensures that the temporary duty on edible gelatine will still apply when the goods are of New Zealand origin. In effect, the New Zealand goods will attract the same rates of duty as those entitled to entry under the British preferential tariff. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in 1960-61 on certain items of capital works and services. Additional appropriations totalling £2,955,000 are sought. However, as a result of savings on other items it is expected that the total expenditure on capita] works and services will not exceed the Budget estimate of £139,921,000.
An additional sum of £1,680,000 is sought for the additional capital requirements of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. For the former, £1,650,000 is required and for the latter, £30,000.
In the case of Qantas, the funds are needed to enable agreed progress payments to be made against the purchase of three new Boeing 707-1 38b aircraft and the conversion of the existing fleet of seven Boeings to turbofan operation. This project, which is costing more than £18,000,000, was approved early in 1960 on the basis that some 75 per cent, would be covered by a dollar loan, as has been the case with other recent purchases of aircraft by Qantas.
Subsequently, a loan of 30,000,000 dollars was arranged through the United States Export-Import Bank. The terms of this loan, which were approved by the Loan (Qantas Empire Airways Limited) Act 1960, assented to on 9th December, 1960. include a provision requiring the borrower to meet the first 20 per cent, of all expenditure on the project. Although this requirement was known at the time of the 1960-61 Budget, precise details were not then available of the incidence of payments during 1960-61 to the many suppliers involved, or of the extent to which the loan moneys would be drawn by 30th June. 1961. On such information as was available it was anticipated that other resources accessible to Qantas, including local loans, would be sufficient to cover the temporary lag in loan drawings to the end of the year. However, later information showed that the lag would be somewhat larger than originally thought, and that other Qantas resources would fall considerably short of estimates. These two factors have combined to produce the requirement of extra funds of £1,650,000 as at 30th June, 1961. It will be noted that £500,000 of the £1,650,000 is to be provided as an advance, which it is intended should be repaid during 1961-62, the balance of £1,150,000 being in the form of permanent capital for which shares will be issued.
The provision of £1,100,000 in the 1960-61 Budget for Trans-Australia Airlines included £600,000 to allow payment to Qantas for its New Guinea assets transferred during the year to T.A.A. This amount was insufficient by £100,000 to meet the subsequently agreed transfer figure, but it has now been ascertained that the domestic airline can meet a substantial part of this excess from its existing provision and that its need for extra funds reduces to £30,000, the amount now sought.
An amount of £393,000 is included under the Department of Civil Aviation mainly for further acquisitions of land for the development of the Tullamarine airport. A further £115.000 is sought for the Australian National University to make good fire damage in the Cockroft Building of the Research School of Physical Sciences and for additional equipment and furnishings.
It has been found that, due to an increasing volume and higher cost of stores, an additional working advance is necessary for the operations of the Commonwealth Stores Suspense Trust Account, and £120,000 is included for this purpose. Under the Department of the Interior, £60,650 is included for the purchase of homes vacated by officers transferred from Melbourne to Canberra in the movement of the defence departments. An increase in the average number of migrants occupying migrant hostels has made it necessary for Commonwealth Hostels Limited to purchase additional furniture and equipment and £53,000 is included for this purpose.
Under the heading “ Business Undertakings “, an amount of £135,000 is sought for miscellaneous plant and equipment for the Postmaster-General’s Department. This results from an adjustment of the Post Office works programme and will be offset by equivalent savings in the other items of the Post Office capital works vote. An amount of £35,000 is included under “ Broadcasting and Television Services “ for buildings, works, fittings and furniture for television transmission, arising from the Government’s decision to extend television to provincial and country areas.
A better rate of progress on the construction of water supplies, roads and stock routes in the Northern Territory results in an additional provision being sought of £69,000. As a result of the decision of the Government to form a company to operate the Canberra brickworks, a working capital advance of £65,000 is sought for Canberra Brickworks (Canberra) Limited. The previous operations of the brickworks were financed through the A.C.T. Brickworks Trust Account.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion of Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £54,988,000 to carry on the necessary normal capital works and services of government for the first five months of the financial year 1961-62. This will enable the Commonwealth works to be continued until the 1961-62 Budget has been considered by Parliament
The bill will provide funds for Commonwealth works in progress at 30th June, 1961. In addition, it is the practice to programme the capital works and services in the major Commonwealth departments, including the Department of Works, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Department of Civil Aviation. The appropriation will provide funds to ensure the orderly continuation of those programmes of work and to continue day-to-day purchases of minor plant and equipment.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9th May (vide page 817), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill is to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1954 to make the legal position clear, and to establish wine agencies in various parts of the world. That is a rather wide interpretation of the purposes of the bill, as I understand them. Specifically, the bill proposes the establishment of a wine centre in London. The Australian Wine Board is constituted to supervise the export of Australian wine and brandy. I do not quite know the reason for the differentiation between these categories, but I am sure that the Minister for Air (Senator Wade), with his vast knowledge of brandy and wine, will be able to explain that detail in his reply. I note the differentiation in some contexts, but for the purposes of this bill brandy is also known as wine. The board is financed by a levy of 12s. a ton of grapes used for the making of wine, which yields about £100,000 per annum. 1 should like the Minister to enlarge upon the purposes of the bill, which are not quite clear from his second-reading speech. A request was made at some time by the Federal Viticultural Council and, I understand, other interested parties, for the establishment of a wine centre in London for the purpose of assisting the sale of our wines in our principal overseas market, the United Kingdom, and in our second biggest market, Canada.
The Opposition supports the measure, because for many years it has not been happy about the way in which our wines have been advertised. I personally have never been satisfied with the replies we have had from the Australian Wine Board and others in regard to this matter. I have never been quite able to understand why we have heard about South African wines in London but have not heard about Australian wines. The bill seems to be a step in the right direction, because at long last we are establishing in London a centre where people will be able to obtain information about Australian wines and be cer tain of being able to obtain them. For many years Australian wines exported to London have been mixed with wines from the Middle East or similar areas to form a concoction which in Australia would be known as “ bombo “ but for which I suppose the. English people have a different name. That concoction has been sold cheaply and as being Australian wine, irrespective of whether or not some of it came from Australia. I understand the same thing has happened in regard to butter and other commodities.
I can recall a conversation I had some years ago with the late George McLeay, whom we all remember with affection, when the wine marketing legislation was being amended or perhaps when we were discussing a certain report. I mentioned what was happening in London and he told me about his experience in obtaining wine for the reception that was held following his daughter’s wedding. He said, “ I have demanded that Australian wines be supplied at the reception”. His agent - I use that term, because the person concerned may have been employed in one of the departments and I do not want to be specific - said, “ I am sorry, but we will not be able to get those wines for you “. George told him sharply and succinctly that he had to get them, and they were got. But he made a point of saying just how difficult it was to obtain Australian wines.
I spoke on this subject years ago and pointed out that 500 different brands of wine were exported from Australia through approximately 200 different exporters. It is just a sheer impossibility to export 500 different brands of a particular commodity and have, them all known on all the world’s markets. About six or seven years ago I noted that regulations were passed - on that occasion they were valid - which required exporters to register with the Government. That, of course, gave the Australian Wine Board an opportunity to control the number of exporters, to examine their credentials, and that kind of thing. I should like the Minister for Air (Senator Wade), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry in this place, to indicate, if he has the information available, just how effective those regulations were. Prior to the passing of those regulations wine was flowing out of the country without there being any possible chance of keeping a check on the brands. I hope the passing of those regulations had a very good effect; but I am wondering whether the problem still exists and whether the regulations should not be tightened.
It seems that this bill is designed to clear up the legal position in relation to the establishment of the Australian Wine Centre in London. I shall have a little more to say about that later. First, let me say that one of the interesting aspects of the bill - probably it has not been much discussed and it certainly was hardly mentioned in the Minister’s second-reading speech - is that apparently for the first time provision is to be made for the board to have power to acquire wine. I assume that that relates to wine as a finished product and not to grapes. The bill seems to me to give absolute power to the board to acquire, if it thinks fit, every drop of wine that is made in any area in Australia. What interests me is that this matter is being introduced so quietly. Usually such a step is given a lot of publicity; there is a poll of growers and very many conflicting points of view are expressed. I repeat that apparently for the first time power will be given to the board to acquire in part or in whole any supply of wine or brandy that it thinks fit.
– The board will be the only marketing authority.
– I understand the board will have the power to act as the sole marketing authority, but I believe it does not intend to do so.
– That is so.
– I understand that it is the intention of the board merely to acquire enough wine for the purposes of promotion in such places as London and Ottawa. Nevertheless, this legislation will make it possible for the board to become the sole marketing authority in the real sense of the word. That being so, it will be able to acquire the output in any area or in every area. I should like to have the Minister’s comments on this matter because, although the board does not intend, as the Minister has indicated, to act as the only marketing authority, we may be writing a bad provision into the act. It is certainly a radical provision. I have been interested in this Australian Wine Centre which has been opened, or which is to be opened.
– It has been opened.
– 1 am informed that it has already been opened. Senator Armstrong has been overseas, and I have no doubt that he visited the centre. There have been some rather conflicting remarks about this subject. The Minister for Primary Industry, in his second-reading speech, said -
The immediate object of this bill is to permit the board to acquire and operate, purely for promotional purposes, a suitable Australian Wine Centre in London.
I emphasize the words “ purely for promotional purposes “. At a later stage in his speech, the Minister said -
Efforts in recent years to obtain a foothold in the United Kingdom market for our quality table wines have been largely negatived owing to the inability of the industry to obtain a continuity of retail outlets. The wine centre operation is expected to provide a part-solution to this problem and its development will also serve to counter the criticisms of Australian publicity activities. . . .
The Minister’s statement would seem to imply that the establishment of the wine centre will not only open the way for promotional activities but will also partly overcome the difficulty of achieving a continuity of retail outlets. I should like the Minister to indicate whether the centre, in addition to its promotional activities, will operate as a bulk store or as a retail store.
Seeing there has been a reference to the loss of retail outlets, I wor. der whether there is a doubt about the effectiveness of such a centre. We are experiencing fierce competition all over the world in relation to a variety of commodities, and it is amazing to note that some Australian manufacturers are moving into various foreign cities and are setting up not only their own wholesaling establishments but also their own retailing facilities. I am wondering whether the establishment of this wine centre is really a tentative move on the part of the retail distributors and whether they are not leaning a little too heavily on what was the original intention of the board.
I should like to know just what was the board’s contribution to this centre. I understand that already it has put up £12,000 sterling to establish this centre in London and has made available £12,000 worth of shares which are being sold back as the Australian wine distillers require them. Undoubtedly this will be a profitable venture, and it is hoped that some day the stage will be reached when the board will be no longer interested in it. I did not learn that from the Minister’s speech, but rather from reading the interim report of the board, published last year, which seems to indicate that the purpose of this bill is to make it quite unarguable that what the board has done is legal and that what it will do in the future will be legal.
I have wondered, over the years, how serious we are about the export of wine. Ever since the end of the war, we have had the situation in Australia that wine consumption has been increasing, and that the industry has been expanding. I have wondered just how worried we are about obtaining overseas markets. I suppose it is true to say that wine-growing and winedistilling is not a highly competitive sort of business. At any rate, that is how it appears to my uneducated mind. There are well-known distillers who have been in the industry for a long period, and, although new people have come into the business, they have been able to keep on expanding. It would appear to me that it might not be good business for them, from a purely accounting point of view, to worry about overseas markets.
I notice from the consumer survey that was carried out by the board - I think in the spring months of 1959 and again in the autumn of 1960 - that the total consumption of wine increased from 1,753.000 gallons in 1955-56 to 2.679.000 gallons in 1959-60. That is a very large increase.
– The position of the dried-fruits industry has a bearing on it, of course.
– I am indebted to Senator Courtice for his interjection. The dried-fruits industry has a bearing on the position. I had not thought of that. I was thinking of the effect of the arrival of new Australians from wine-growing countries, where it has been natural for them, right from childhood, to drink wine. I think that they have increased the demand. In addition to that, we have probably made a greater effort to introduce wine to other people. Some people are starting to take more notice of wine.
I think that there has surrounded the drinking of wine an atmosphere of what I might term wine snobbery, and this has acted against the promotion of the sale of our wines. You hear some people say that it is quite infra-dig to drink a certain wine under a certain temperature or not at a certain time. They say that you must consider the bouquet and that you must pour the wine in a certain manner. I do not know how that affects the palate of a person who likes wine. Quite frankly, either I like a certain wine or I do not like it. To be more frank, let me say that I like practically all wines. If the beer people had said over the years that it was completely wrong to drink pale ale unless you had your left foot on the rail, or something to that effect, would that have made any difference to beer consumption?
– The temperature of the wine does make a big difference.
– The temperature of the beer makes a big difference, too. Of course, temperature makes a big difference; I think we all agree on that.
– The company makes a difference, too.
– I agree that the company makes a difference. I agree that temperature has an effect on salads, beer, wine, and so on, but will not Senator Kendall agree that there is a little too much of this wine snobbery and that it has caused people to become frightened. They are not game to buy a bottle of wine in case they may be buying something that will not suit their palate. The sooner people get down to saving that they like a certain wine, and that they like it to be cold, whether it is supposed to be served in that way or not, the better it will be. We should drink our wine and enjoy it.
– Some people think you are a .peasant if you do not swill it around your mouth.
– That might have something to do with the earthy taste and that type of thing. This snobbery has not crept into other industries, and I think it is a very good thing that we are getting away from it in the wine industry.
I have thought for some time that the increasing home consumption of wine has impinged on the drive for an export trade. The wine we export carries our name. We Australians kid ourselves a bit, but when we go overseas we find that there are some people who have not heard about us and that the things that other people have heard about us are not the things that we like. We have been a little remiss about putting out good wines under good labels in the past, but if we export good wines under good labels I think we should stick to the type names that are well known. However, we should make sure that the wines arc labelled as Australian and should not try to sell them as wines from other countries. I merely mention these matters because 1 think our export drive is not as good as it could be.
When I was young and very green in this place I spoke on a wine bill and later I met a member of the Wine Board. He was very wrathful. He said he thought that I had been impertinent in speaking on the measure at all, because obviously I was a person who did not know anything about the bouquet of wine.
– -You were a peasant, in other words.
– He did not use that word. In fact, he was neither a peasant nor pleasant. He said that I did not know the difference between a dry wine and a still wine, and so on. That set me thinking that the Wine Board, if he were a fair example of the members - I do not think he was - was rather a conservative body. I thought that the members of the board must have a vested interest in wine and that they did not like others to talk about the marketing of wine and so on. As a matter of fact, marketing was the only thing about which I had talked. I had not talked about something about which I did not know anything. I found that whenever I tried to get him back to taws and to talk about marketing, he was not interested. That made me think that we should look at the structure of the Wine Board.
The act sets out the composition of the board. It provides for one distiller representative for New South Wales and Queensland. That is one thing that I like about the legislation. New South Wales and
Queensland are represented by one member, whilst a smaller State is represented by two members. It is the only piece of legislation where such a provision exists, and I think it ought to be chalked up on the wall. There are three grower representatives but no consumer or retailer representatives. There is one member representing the Commonwealth Government. I assume he is an officer of the Department of Trade, or at least has a trade background. I should like to be assured of that by the Minister.
Without wishing to give offence to any one, let me say that I think there is room, particularly at this time, to move into the broader aspects of wine selling, both at home and abroad. I feel that vested interests have too much say at the present time. That was demonstrated by my friend of many years ago. The poor fellow is no longer a member of the board. I did not take him very seriously, because when I related the incident to another wine man later on he said that the poor fellow was probably very immature, very dry and very white, and that I should not take very much notice of him.
I have noticed a reference to the Wine Grapes Charges Act in reports of the board from time to time. Honorable senators will remember that an amendment to the act was brought in a couple of years ago in an attempt to bring backyard growers under some sort of control and to prevent them from having an unfair advantage over the distillers. I do not know how they could have an unfair advantage when they are working in backyards. In another report of the board I read that the amendment was brought in mainly for the purpose of ensuring hygiene. There can be no objection to that. Now that these people are bound to register, I am wondering whether the board has been able to control them, not so much from the point of view of production as from the point of view of hygiene. I note that last year a large tonnage of grapes was used for backyard production. I have wondered whether the necessity for these producers to register has assisted the industry. I should like to know what penalties the board can impose on these people. I should also like to know whether the power to impose penalties is available only under a State law and whether there are any statistics on this matter.
I notice in the financial statement published last year, or the year before, that of the £142,000 collected, £10 was received from the sale of publications. I wonder whether we could not do without that £10 and issue pamphlets and booklets free, although it may cost a few more pounds. It could be left to the officials, wise in thenways, not to misuse this form of publicity. I believe that this wine snobbishness has grown up because of a lack of publicity. Many people are very anxious to obtain information on wine from pamphlets and booklets. I do not know the nature of the booklets that are sold, but obviously not very much money is made out of them. The expenditure on printing has already been incurred, say a few hundred pounds. By distributing them without charge, instead of their being left on their shelves they would get into the hands of people with the. imprimatur of Australia. Instead of trying to sell them we should give them to people. That would be a very good way of distributing them.
As I have said, the Opposition supports this bill. Indeed, we would support any measure which would do something to improve Australia’s exports. I do not think that this bill will improve our overseas balances very much. We may gain £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, and perhaps a greater amount in the years to come, but wine does not represent a very high proportion of our exports. I do not think that is the end of the story with a commodity such as wine. As I said earlier, quite, apart from the export value of it, if we can get a good Australian article into the hands of people in the older countries of the world and show them that we can produce that article even with our high cost structure, it those people are receptive and ready to talk about Australia, its people and their ways, in my opinion that is a good thing. Foi those reasons the Opposition supports this bill.
– As Senator Willesee has said, this is not a controversial matter, but we all have an interest in it. I am speaking to the measure not from my knowledge of the value of wine but because I come from a wine-growing State. All South Australians have a pretty vital interest in the wine industry in their State. This is not a particularly important measure in comparison with other pieces of legislation, but I hope that it will be of some benefit to the wine industry and will help in the promotion of Australian wines on overseas markets.
This bill refers to the London market which is the greatest market that the Australian industry enjoys. We all know that there has been a degree of dissatisfaction about sales of Australian wines in the United Kingdom. A fairly heavy duty is imposed on Australian wines and that boosts their cost on the British market and militates against their sale. However, the aim of this measure is to give legal status to the centre which has been established in London. I did not see it when I was there. I do not think it had been established at that time. I understand that the centre has been in operation in Soho for some time. When the centre is given the proper legal status that is provided under the bill, it will be of more value than it is at present.
Senator Willesee mildly criticized the Australian Wine Board. He wondered whether it was functioning as effectively as it could. I am not in a position to answer that point, but I am perfectly satisfied with the composition of the board. The various States are fairly well represented on it. South Australia has two representatives; Victoria has one; New South Wales and Queensland have only one, as Senator Willesee said; Western Australia has one; the co-operative wineries, of which there are quite a number throughout Australia, have two; and the grape-growers have three. The Commonwealth representative is Mr. A. L. Senger. He is a representative of the Department of Primary Industry. The board seems to be fairly representative of the various States. If it is not functioning properly, there must be something wrong with its composition. Most of its members are pretty knowledgable people in the industry. I have never found the wine industry to be lacking in expert knowledge of its problems, and in my opinion its promotional activities in Australia may be described as being fairly effective. Of course, this bill does not have much reference to promotional activities in Australia; it refers to promotional activities in London or, if thought advisable, other centres throughout the world.
From time to time we hear criticism of board control. Whether we like it or not, such control seems to be an essential phase of our trade activities. The major Australian commodities are handled by boards. We have the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Barley Board and various other boards which handle and promote the sale of the commodities over which they have control. Whilst I am not a great adherent of board control, it is an essential part of modern trade. The boards are given statutory powers which are defined in the acts under which they work.
This measure will have some value in promoting the sale of wine and brandy on the London market in particular. As was mentioned by the Minister in his secondreading speech, the industry has a general interest in setting up and maintaining the centre of which we have been speaking. That is exemplified by the fact that the industry as a whole has come right in behind the proposal. Acting on the initial proposal of the Federal Viticultural Council, the Government has seen fit to give, by this amendment to the Wine Overseas Marketing Act, legal status to the centre in London which has been supported by the industry in general. The Federal Grape Growers Council and the South Australian Co-operative Winemakers Association are completely in accord with the proposal. The board wishes to obtain a lease of the centre in order to give it a sense of security. As the Minister said, a certain number of shares have been issued and the board has contributed to the cost of the establishment of this wine centre.
As far as I can gather from the remarks that have been made by Senator Willesee, the Minister and others, the legal doubt is based mainly on the fact that the board has been engaged in activities in a somewhat limited field, and in this extension of the powers of the board it is proposed to give it power to buy and sell wine in London. As far as I can interpret the purpose of the measure, it is not merely to make provision for an outlet for Australian wines in London but to promote sales generally. It has not been made clear whether there will be a retail outlet or a wholesale outlet, but there will be an outlet for Australian wines. We know that over the years a certain percentage of Australian wine has been exported to
England. As a matter of fact, England has always been a most important market for us, but our exports have been composed mainly of fortified wines - the ports and the sherries. 1 understand that this centre will give an opportunity to the people of London to see some of the better classes of Australian wines, table wines in particular. However, I. do not know whether the centre will achieve very much. I doubt that this move will have a very profound effect on the consumption in England of the better classes of wine that we have in Australia in such abundance.
I regret to say that when I was overseas I found it almost impossible to obtain some of our better known table wines under their own labels. Many other Australians, in common with myself, feel that shortcoming very much indeed. I am not a wine connoisseur - far from it - but I do appreciate wine in moderation. I enjoy drinking a good wine. In my short experience in London, I found it difficult to obtain Australian wines under the labels with which I was familiar. Most people will concede that our wines are very good indeed, and if this centre in London will promote the sale, under the familiar labels, of what we know are first-class wines in their various categories, it will prove worth while indeed. However, the programme must be extended considerably for it to be of great value. The present proposal is that the activities of the centre be confined more or less to London itself.
We must always remember that the great bulk of our wine is consumed in this country. As was mentioned by Senator Willesee earlier, the considerable increase in the consumption of wine in Australia probably has been due to the advent of many continental people, who are accustomed to drinking wine and who appreciate a good wine. They know the value of the various qualities of a wine. We export to England only a comparatively small amount of our production, and it is mainly in the form of fortified wines such as rort and sherry. As a consequence, the Australian wines common on our dinner tables are comparatively unknown overseas. At one hotel that I visited overseas I was able to obtain an Australian wine, but it was completely unknown to me. There was no maker’s label on the bottle and it was branded simply as Australian wine. It was a white table wine of quite fair quality. I am afraid that the Australian wine industry will not be greatly helped if that state of affairs continues, and wines that we are so familiar with are virtually unknown to the wine connoisseurs of London and elsewhere.
I agree that there is a great deal of wine snobbery. I was very interested to read the report of the speech made by Mr. Haylen in another place, when he showed himself to be most conversant with the qualities of wine. I am not going to suggest that Mr. Haylen is a wine snob, and I think that he was on safe grounds when he was analysing the various qualities of wine. I could not do so to anything like the same extent. We all know that in this world there are a lot of people who look upon wine as a somewhat mysterious thing and believe that only a few people have a real knowledge of the bouquet and the rest of its qualities. I do not want to go into the various qualities of wine, because I should probably show up the gaps in my knowledge if I did so.
– You might surprise yourself.
– I might, but I do not think so. I feel that the idea of promoting the sale of our better classes of wine in London is sound. As has already been mentioned, our wine exports are in the vicinity of 1,250,000 gallons a year. I was surprised to hear Senator Willesee say that about 500 brands are being exported. I can think of only one winery in South Australia that exports wine in any quantity. There may be token shipments of certain of our wines by others, but only one winery in my State exports almost exclusively.
– What is the name of that winery?
– The Emu Wine Company. I am not sure, but it could have a backing of English capital. Certainly it is an exporting company. I believe that it exports wine in bulk to the United Kingdom, where the wine is used mainly for blending. That has happened with a lot of Australian wines, as with other Australian commodities. It is a fact very much to be regretted, but when these things go out of our hands we have no control over what happens to them. 1 believe that the company concerned has consistently exported its products for a number of years, and that has been of benefit to Australia because it has produced export income.
Over the years the Wine Board has operated with limited funds at its disposal. After all, £100,000 is not a great sum of money to spend on research, sales promotion and publicity both here and in England. We have to remember that wine is a product that needs a great deal of publicity. Individual wineries and producers are in the forefront in the matter of advertising their own products, but the Wine Board, with a restricted amount of money available, is limited in its publicity activities. The same can be said of its promotional work. I understand that the board is entitled, under the act, to contribute to research on wine culture. One matter that rather struck me as an anomaly was that the authorities at the Roseworthy Agricultural College are finding it difficult to continue classes in oenology, the science of wine culture, because of the lack of students who want to further their knowledge in this field. I am wondering whether the Australian Wine Board could grant scholarships to persons interested in viticulture, and thereby foster wine production in this country. I know that over the years the board has done what it could. It consists of persons who know intimately the problems of the industry.
I feel sure that in the long run this legislation will prove of immense benefit to the industry. Australia is determined to increase her export earnings. Without exports our development will stagnate. Although the income derived from the export of wines is comparatively small, the industry should be encouraged. I am sure that our export of wines will increase when .more overseas countries become aware of the quality of our wines. It is generally acknowledged that parts of South Australia have an almost perfect Mediterranean-type climate. The soil in some parts of the State is very similar to that in the south of France. The Barossa valley, which is a non-irrigated area, is noted for the wines that it produces. But that area is no. more superior, from a wine-growing point of view, than some other parts of South Australia, such at Watervale, the area just to the south of Adelaide, and the Coonewarra area in the south-east of the State. The winery at Coonewarra is situated on the lowest latitude of any winery in the southern hemisphere. Excellent claret and burgundy are produced there.
There is room for expansion of the industry in Australia. We know that in recent years the development of the cities has intruded into the wine-growing areas. For that reason some of our old-established wineries have transferred their activities to the irrigated areas along the river Murray. With irrigation it is possible to produce a much greater quantity of grapes to the acre, but unfortunately something is lost in the value of the product. Grapes that are produced in irrigated areas are used largely for blending purposes. They are taken in large quantities to wineries in non-irrigated areas and used there for blending purposes with grapes produced in those areas.
I feel sure that with some little stimulus we could improve the quantity of wines that we produce. In my opinion, the quality of our wines is very good, indeed. I have heard people from overseas speak in high praise of the quality of Australian wines. I do not confine my remarks to wines produced in South Australia, because I know that excellent wines are produced in, for example, the Hunter valley. I know that good wines are produced in Victoria and Western Australia. I have had some very good wines in Western Australia.
– You say that with some surprise.
Sennator HANNAFORD. - I do not wish to convey that impression. In my opinion, the wines that we are producing in this country compare more than favorably with wines produced overseas. I know that we do not produce the same quantity of wines as other countries. Probably we do not produce a sufficient quantity to ensure a stable export market. But with a little stimulus to the industry we could increase production and obtain a greater continuity of supply to overseas markets. If we had that continuity of supply we would have a better chance of maintaining sales in any particular field.
This measure, which is designed to give legal status to the wine centre in London, is a step in the right direction. I know that it has the support of the industry as a whole because, although the industry depends largely on the Australian consumption of wine, it pays due regard to the importance of the export market. If Australian wines can become established on the London market, which is our main selling centre, the industry will be strengthened and will be able to earn much needed export income for this country. The bill is well drawn. It will not achieve spectacular results, but it is a step in the right direction. It will prove of benefit to the industry, because we shall have in London a centre where Australian wines will be available to the wine-drinking public of England. Also, Australians visiting London will be able to obtain from the centre the wines that they know are so good. I am pleased that honorable senators opposite do not oppose the bill. I heartily support the bill, which will prove of very considerable benefit to the wine industry of Australia.
– During my last trip to London, 1 was fortunate to be able to inspect the wine cellar in Soho. I thought at the time how curious it was that the Government offers no financial assistance to Australian wine producers. The wine centre in London is purely an industry venture. It has cost the industry a substantial amount of money - in fact, a great deal more than was originally expected. The wine centre was under the control of Mr. Morris, who is one of Australia’s most enthusiastic wine representatives. Mr. Morris thinks of nothing but Australian wines. He is most diligent in his search for markets for them. Apparently, the Australian Wine Board assumed control of the retail wine centre in London from Mr. Morris. Although the centre has cost a lot of money, anybody who sees it will be proud of it. It is an excellent shop window for Australia’s wines. The decor is most unusual. The front window of the centre has the appearance of kegs with the butt ends of bottles protruding. Mirrors are so arranged that a wide variety of tops of bottles is seen. My description does not do the display justice, but when one sees it, it is an impressive sight. This shop, this retail centre, is in the toughest wine area in London where all the big wine people have their premises. The Australian Wine Board has been courageous enough to establish its centre in the heart of that area and, according to people with whom 1 have discussed this matter, business seems to be coming along very well.
I was impressed by the relatively cheap prices of Australian wines that are available at the centre, but 1 noted that not all Australian wines are obtainable there. I found that almost the only Australian wine that people outside Australia know anything about is the Emu brand, to which Senator Hannaford has referred. It had a mixed reception and I think it was a mixed wine in many ways. But at least the board has done a good job in pioneering the Australian wine trade overseas, where our wine is available at the retail price of 8s., 8s. 6d., 12s., and 13s. a bottle which, of course, puts it in the proper price range. I am quite sure that from now onwards more people will buy Australian wine. Because of our set-up in London, price no longer is a barrier to the sale of Australian wine.
I have been critical of the Australian Government for not providing financial assistance to help our wine-selling set-up in the United Kingdom. Now that encouragement is being given by the Government to increasing our exports, doubtless attention will be paid to this matter. At the wine centre, I met Mr. Nevin Ellis, who is approaching his task with the same degree of enthusiasm that characterized Mr. Morris. The Department of Trade is assisting the wine centre very effectively in the field of publicity. I have made these comments because, from the Minister’s second-reading speech, the position was not clear to - me. It would appear from the Wine Board’s report of last year that the wine centre is wholly an industry investment - a very heavy investment - and I wish it success. The Opposition supports the measure.
– in reply - I welcome the ready support that has been given to this bill by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. The measure is designed to facilitate and stimulate the marketing of our wines in overseas countries. After listening with great care to the speeches that have been made in this debate, I am convinced that this project will be of inestimable value to the industry. Not only will the centre encourage primary industry by sales promotion; it is supplementing that promotion by being actually a selling point. I believe that promotion can be fortified and strengthened immeasurably when those engaged in it are in a position to offer for sale the article they are promoting. The intention of the board is that this centre shall be developed as a trading post so that it will be able to supply the product that it asks people to buy if that product is not readily available elsewhere.
I am not an authority on wine, but I would like to make one or two general comments before I reply to some of the queries that have been raised by Senator Willesee and Senator Hannaford. In the first place, I think I should congratulate the industry itself on its realistic approach to the selling problem. From time to time, primary industries have themselves been prepared to subsidize their own research and promotion schemes from their own resources. The wine industry is no exception. It has adopted a realistic approach to its problems and has been prepared to dip into its own pocket in order to assist the promotion of its products. The Government has placed on the Australian Wine Board responsibility to implement the purposes of this bill. I think that is a proper procedure. The board is composed of eleven members, ten of whom represent the various branches of the industry, the remaining member represents the Government. 1 commend that policy for the very good reason that the industry, in addition to being well represented on the board, makes financial contributions to the board’s activities. I say, with very great respect, that the board therefore has available to it specialized knowledge that could not be gained by any government department. The board has a responsibility to find markets for, and to promote Australian wines, and it is very well equipped to do these things.
Senator Willesee referred to blending. I am advised that only this morning this subject was discussed at a meeting of the Wine Board. Like Senator Willesee, I had the impression that a good deal of blending was being done with our wines overseas, but I am authoritatively informed that the board is convinced that to-day very little blending of Australian wine is being done overseas. I am not going to deny the previous existence of the concoctions that Senator Willesee mentioned; they were produced in bygone days. I should like to add my own personal comment in relation to blending. It is this: Anybody who knows anything about wine acknowledges that Australian sherry, chablis and moselle - to mention only a few - are in world class. If we stand behind our products and ensure that nothing but the best is sent to overseas countries, we will be successful in capturing world markets. Needless it is for me to say that we live in a world of fierce competition and if we are to contend and compete for overseas markets we must send to those markets the best produce that this land is capable of producing.
Senator Willesee also asked, for information concerning the issue of licences. I am able to tell him that to-day the issue of licences is restricted generally to persons who are actively engaged in the export of wine. I shall not go as far as to say that the issue of licences is restricted to the traditional exporters; that could well create a wrong impression. The board’s policy is to endeavour to restrict the export of wine to those who are, in the main, interested in that type of trade. I can tell honorable senators that to-day there, is no flood of poor wine going overseas, for the very good reason that a strict control in relation to quality is exercised by the Department of Customs and Excise. That department is charged with the responsibility of maintaining the standard of wine exported and it is adopting a realistic approach in the matter. Senator Hannaford queried Senator Willesee’s statement concerning the number of brands of wine that are being exported.
– That were exported many years ago.
– I think Senator Willesee said that 500 brands of wine were exported.
– I asked what effect licensing had had on the number of brands of wine exported.
– I am glad that the honorable senator has clarified his query.
I am in a position to give him some interesting information on that point. It is true that one company exports about 50 per cent, of our total bulk exports of wine. Whether I should give that company a free plug, I do not know, but as I can see one or two honorable senators from South Australia looking at me very seriously, I am prepared to say that it is the Emu Wine Company Proprietary Limited. The wine is being exported to its parent company in London and is being bottled there. 1 am advised that very little, if any, of that wine is used for blending.
– You give it to your guest if you want to get rid of him.
– I am sure the honorable senator never entertains a guest and then tries to get rid of him by giving him wine. I understand that fewer than 50 exporters are exporting bottled wine under their own brands.
I have been asked to clarify the legal position regarding the proposed taking over of the wine centre in London. For some time now, the centre has been operated by a private English company. The Australian Wine Board has virtually completed negotiations for the taking over of the centre, and at this point of time it is actually waiting on the passage of this legislation to complete the signing of the contract.
Reference has been made to backyard production, and some concern has been expressed about the effect that it might have on the industry. I think it is fair to say that thousands of new Australians are making wine in small quantities, presumably for home consumption. Indeed, as Senator Hannaford reminds me, it must be for home consumption because to make fortifying spirit or brandy spirit from grapes in such a way would be an offence against the excise laws. As honorable senators know, the law provides for the imposition of heavy penalties for that offence.
– We know it, but the new Australians do not.
– The honorable senator says they do not know that that is so. I am afraid that some of them do know, and as time goes on more will know, because we are very jealous of the industry that is growing in our midst. We want to do all that we possibly can to foster it.
It is time that we in Australia appreciated fully the commodities that we produce, and that we stated publicly that those commodities are second to none in the world.I think it was Senator Willesee who referred to wine snobbery. I suggest that if snobbery enters our thinking in relation to the wine industry, it will do the industry irreparable damage. Many Australians go overseas and while, in most respects, they are magnificent ambassadors for their country, they sometimes ask for wines that are not Australian wines. Perhaps they are somewhat apologetic for our wines. Having listened this afternoon to some of the speeches that have been made during the debate, I have a reason for making that comment. I say that the board has an obligation to see to it that marketing arrangements are made overseas so that Australians who travel abroad will be able to enjoy Australian wines, and also to promote the sale of our wines and to cater for an ever-increasing demand for them.
Let me relate an incident which I know about from my own experience. A friend of mine, who is not a wine connoisseur, was visiting one of the continental countries and was wined and dined very lavishly by his host. He was so impressed by a foreign wine that he took a note of the brand. He was determined to entertain his friends on a similar scale when he returned to Australia. This is an instance of the wine snobbery that has been mentioned.On returning to Australia, he invited some guests to dine with him and ordered wine of the brand that he had enjoyed overseas. It was a magnificent wine and he dwelt on its virtues until he got the bill. He then found that it cost £2 6s. 9d. a bottle. He says to-day that no wine in the world is superior to Australian wine. I suggest that that is an attitude that more of us should adopt because if we do so, we shall be helping to foster the product of an industry which is bringing overseas payments to this country and which is worthy of all the support that the Australian people and this Parliament can give it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The bill proposes to give the board power to acquire wine production. The Minister has said, 1 understand, that such acquisition will be only for promotion purposes. Nevertheless, we are about to write into the law a power to acquire the product of an industry. I am wondering whether the Minister has any comment to make in this respect. It seems that this power is being given to the board without any of the usual procedure, such as a poll of growers, that is adopted in marketing arrangements for other primary products. Is the proposal a completely new venture?
– The bill is designed to permit the board to purchase wine specifically for the purpose of promoting the sale of wine.
– Compulsorily or voluntarily?
– I said “ to purchase “. It is perfectly true that the bill provides for the acquisition of wine and brandy, but the interpretation of “ to acquire “ is “ to purchase “. The board is to be given power to purchase wine and brandy for the purposes of promotion. It will also have authority to trade in those products, but the declared policy of the board is to purchase or acquire wine and brandy only for promotion purposes. It is not desired to interfere with the normal transactions of those who, traditionally, are traders and dealers in wine.
– We now have a statement from the Minister concerning the intentions of the board. The bill proposes to repeal section 17 of the principal act and to replace it by a new section which makes provision for the board to “ acquire any wine or brandy “. The Minister has said that the board can buy. We. accept that, but there is no provision about the fixing of a price. Customs and practices in the trade might cover that aspect. However, we are writing into the legislation quite untrammelled powers of acquisition, unlimited by time although, according to the Minister, limited by price. I should be interested to know in what way the price is to be fixed. A future board may change the policy, and decide to become the sole marketing authority for Australian wine.
.- I regret to interpose but, upon having this matter recalled to mind, one feels that it deserves some little attention. The proposed new section 17 provides that the board may, for the purpose of promoting the sale of wine or brandy outside Australia, acquire any wine or brandy. The only limitation is that the power of acquisition may be exercised only for the purpose of promoting the sale of wine or brandy outside Australia. I wish to observe with the greatest of moderation that the Minister might be reminded that at various times the idea has prevailed that for the purpose of promoting external trade in a primary product it is necessary to make a total acquisition of the commodity inside Australia and to introduce in regard to internal sales a relationship to external trade.
I am quite sure that when the Minister put the bill before us he had no idea of taking such power as that. I remind him that in many primary industries our external trade is based upon a severe control of internal trade, so that the safeguard whereby the power is limited to acquire for the purpose of promoting external sales might not be so limiting as one was first disposed to think. The bill does give complete and unqualified power of acquisition. It is obvious from the trend of the debate that that is not fully appreciated. I shall not do more at the moment than make that observation, in the hope that it might underline the need to introduce proper safeguards to prevent expropriation of the product contrary to the ideas of free enterprise. Acquisition for the purpose of promoting external trade is good, but if it is to be practised for political purposes to which I am opposed, and is not hedged about with safeguards, we are entitled to be apprehensive. I feel a little disquiet in relation to it.
– I say categorically to the committee that there is no intention to acquire the crop in the manner in which some boards are empowered to acquire crops, for the purpose of selling the finished product on overseas markets. There is no confusion about the intention. Another safeguard was overlooked by Senator Willesee. The board is composed of ten members, only one of whom is a government nominee. The other nine are direct representatives of the industry. I suggest that if the board were to transgress the policy of the producers, those representatives would soon be removed from their positions. In that respect there is a safeguard that no comparable industry enjoys. The members of the board are, with the exception of one, directly nominated by the industry. Those members are responsible to the industry, and not to the Government. For that reason, there is no need to fear the activities of the board in regard to acquisition.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 till 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 9th May (vide page 647), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the Senate adjourned last night I had just concluded my remarks in relation to the deficiencies of the electoral provisions that existed some 50 years ago when voting was optional. I turn now to the size of election posters. In referring to this subject I am reminded of a statement made by Senator Hannan last night during his contribution to the debate. The honorable senator, when referring to the avenues that were open to political parties and candidates, said, as reported in “ Hansard “ -
In these days, when the medium of television is freely and openly available to all political parties . . .
I admit that he qualified that statement later by using the words -
The medium of television is available to all political parties and candidates in the same sense that Rolls Royce motor cars and steam yachts are available to basic wage earners. They can buy those things if they have sufficient money. It will be agreed that the use of television during election campaigns would involve the parties and the candidates concerned in the expenditure of astronomical sums of money. To suggest that television is freely available is to stretch the point a bit.
I now refer to the Government’s proposal to increase the size of electoral posters. Under the existing law no political party or candidate who takes part in a federal election is permitted to display posters of a size larger than 10 inches by 6 inches. I believe that that has worked quite well for all political parties. It has reduced the cost of election campaigns and has prevented parties from having scattered all over the countryside huge posters which would detract from the beauties of the Australian scene and in no way help the parties concerned. It is too much to expect the electors to regard with equanimity candidates’ photographs 8 feet by 6 feet in size leering at them from every hoarding they pass on their way to their place of employment each day.
– You are rather photogenic. You should not worry.
– I am under no illusion about that. Probably you and I liked to see such photographs in days gone by, but we are too great realists to suggest that now our photographs would be likely to impress Australian electors. Let us hope instead that they will be impressed by the parties to which we belong when it comes to a matter of electing parliamentarians. If my memory serves me correctly, the size that the Government has in mind now is 40 inches by 30 inches, or 1,200 square inches. A poster of that size would be a little bigger than the poster I now have in my hand.
– Is that poster about the credit squeeze?
– Yes, it has something about the credit squeeze on it. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea to have it incorporated in “ Hansard “. It might serve to remind the Government about something which it would rather forget.
– Order! I think it would be better if the honorable senator were to stick to the subject-matter of the debate rather than to become side-tracked bv other issues.
– I shall endeavour to do that, Mr. President. However, I can fairly say that I was dealing with the size of electoral posters. I suggested that the size proposed in the measure now before us would be approximately the same as that of the poster which I have just displayed to honorable senators.
– You also suggested that it be incorporated in “ Hansard “.
– I said that following an interjection.
– Order! I ask honorsenators to cease interjecting.
– I was just seeking to emphasize the point, Mr. President. As I indicated earlier, I can see no virtue in departing from the size of 60 square inches that is at present prescribed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act. No doubt honorable senators on this side of the chamber will support me when I say that probably it will not be long before another amending bill is introduced to increase still further the size of posters. An increase of the permissible size of posters will result in political parties becoming involved in greater expenditure without any useful return. I believe it can be said truly that the Government parties have more financial resources than has the Labour Party. Undoubtedly their attitude to the enlargement of posters for Commonwealth electoral purposes is dictated by the advantage that their greater wealth will give them over the Labour Party. Be that as it may, and looking at the matter dispassionately, I believe that any one with a sense of the fitness of things would say that the smaller we kept such election material the better it would be for all concerned.
I turn now to a very important aspect of the activities of political parties at election time - the permissible expenditure of £500 in the case of a senator and £250 in the case of a member of the House of Representatives. I am sure honorable senators will agree with me when I say that the circumstances which surrounded the writing into the Commonwealth Electoral Act of those two amounts were vastly different from those which exist to-day. There is no need for me to stress that in these days of inflation one cannot get anywhere near as much for £500 and £250 respectively in the form of electoral propaganda as one could get when those amounts were inserted in the legislation. The time has come for us to bring the limit of permissible expenditure into line with present-day costs. We suggest, therefore, that the Government ought to consider increasing the amounts to £750 and £500 respectively. I do not think there is any doubt that in some instances candidates and political parties perjure themselves at the end of election campaigns when submitting their returns to the various electoral offices.
– 1 hope you have evidence of this.
– I remind the honorable senator that the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that those who participate in an election campaign - that includes not only the candidates but also the parties which are involved - must not spend more than a certain sum of money during the campaign. I suggest to Senator Vincent that it is quite absurd for him, for me or for anybody else who has any knowledge of electoral matters to come into this chamber and say that candidates of the Government parties on the one hand, and candidates of the Labour Party on the other hand, keep their expenditure within the limits prescribed by the act.
– You were talking about perjury a moment ago.
– I suggest that although the actual figure that is arrived at may conform wi.h the requirements of the act, it does not conform with the amount of money that is spent by the parties. It has been clearly stated in another place that the system adopted in most cases is that candidates refuse to notify the returning officers in the States of the amounts first, that they themselves have expended, and secondly, the amounts that have been expended on their behalf. Candidates know that if they did so they would render themselves liable to prosecution. I do not think that what I am saying is absurd. Everybody knows that all political parties spend much more than the act prescribes. I think it indicates wide-eyed innocence on the part of Senator Vincent if he does not know that his party violates at every election the requirements of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in regard to the amount that may be spent by and on behalf of candidates.
– I refute your allegation of perjury.
– Perhaps my selection of the word “ perjury “ was unfortunate. I seek your permission, Sir, to withdraw that word, and I shall content myself by saying that political parties knowingly send in returns that do not conform with the Commonwealth Electoral Act, that a much larger amount of money is expended on behalf of candidates, both individually and collectively, than is prescribed by the act.
If that point is acknowledged, I think we ought to be practical and increase the amount prescribed. The element of reason should prevail. There should be a relationship between the actual expenditure by or on behalf of a candidate and the amount prescribed by the act itself. I ask the Government to give consideration to the matter and take a step towards achieving a practical s.ate of affairs. 1 suggest that the Government should increase by £250 the amount that may be expended by or on behalf of candidates for election to both Houses of the Parliament.
– I thought you were talking about the money spent by parties.
– I am talking about the total amount that may be spent on behalf of a candidate and by the candidate himself.
– The more money the candidate spends, the less the party will have to spend.
– I do not think that is necessarily true. I think it could be argued that that is an incorrect statement, but I do not want to be diverted from my advocacy of the point I wish the Senate to consider, namely, that the limitation should conform with present-day requirements. The allowable amount should be sufficient to buy the same amount of propaganda, as it were, as it would at the time the limitation was first inserted in the act.
I make it clear that I am not suggesting that we return to the situation in which an unlimited amount of money could be spent either by a candidate or on behalf of a candidate. That is undesirable in the extreme. I do suggest, however, that we should have a look at the matter in the light of present-day requirements. The Senate should seriously consider my proposition. This, of course, is one of the proposals that the Opposition would have submitted if we were permitted to move amendments to the act other than those effected by this amending bill. 1 come now to the vexed question of the definition of what constitutes “ the entrance “ to a polling booth. Those who have assisted in Commonwealth and State elections down the years know that when a polling place is situated in a school which has three or four separate entrances, the presiding officer may, if he so wishes, interpret the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act literally by regarding all the gates leading to the school as entrances. On occasions, presiding officers have done this. In such cases, of course, the persons helping the various political parties have had to attend at all those entrances. I am prepared to admit that this does not happen on all occasions. We have known, and no doubt honorable senators opposite have known, presiding officers to adopt the practical view of deeming the entrance to the polling booth to be the entrance to the school building itself. That means, of course, that people handing out how-to-vote cards to electors, in order to assist them, may stand at a position 20 feet from the entrance of the room where the voting is taking place. I suggest that the definition of “ the entrance “ in the act ought to be broadened, in order to overcome the present anomaly. It would be a simple matter to describe what shall be regarded as the actual entrance to a polling booth. I think that honorable senators opposite will agree with me that at each successive election this vexed question crops up and disputes occur between canvassers of the respective political parties - each contending that the other is infringing the act. This occurs because the presiding officer insists on the precise terms of the act being carried out. I hope that consideration will be given to this subject, as it is a matter of urgency.
Another matter with which I wish to deal briefly is the controversial question of the order of candidates’ names on the ballotpaper. As one of those whose name commences with a letter towards the end of the alphabet, I have a very real interest in this matter.
– It is just as well that your name is not Zechariah.
– I do not think Senator Vincent is very well served in this matter, nor is Senator Wright. It must be absolute merit on the part of Senators Wright and Vincent that determines their places in their own political party, in view of the position of their names on the ballotpaper. They certainly do not get any real assistance from their names; I say that seriously.
– They have not got much competition either.
- Senator Ridley is being a little unkind. I am not going to suggest that. I say that all candidates should at least have an equal opportunity at the commencement of a poll. I am referring at this stage to those who contest House of Representatives seats, because in the Senate elections the parties draw for positions. At least before the draw takes place each of the contending parties has an equal opportunity of gaining the coveted left-hand side of the ballot-paper. That procedure is departed from in elections for the House of Representatives, preference being given to candidates according to the initial letter of their surname. If your name is Arnold or Arnott, automatically you get a position at the top of the ballotpaper.
– Or if it is Anthony or Anderson.
– I think this matter ought to be corrected. Any person who contests a political election is entitled at the beginning of the contest to have an equal opportunity with all other candidates. The number of extra votes that a high position on the ballot-paper is worth has been variously estimated. It varies according to the number of candidates who may contest a House of Representatives seat.
– What do you think of a circular ballot-paper?
– I think it would be fairer than the present ballot-paper. Sometimes we are too conservative in our attitude. Somebody in the other place suggested that we ought to use a circular ballot-paper and then somebody else, without any specific knowledge of the matter, replied that it would probably increase the number of informal votes. Just because an ob jection is raised we should not say that we will forget about the proposal. We should give it a go. Any proposal that would give everybody an equal chance ought to be supported.
Before that interjection was made, I was saying that various estimates had been made of the value of the top position on the ballot-paper. Admittedly, it varies according to the number of candidates. In a ballot with four candidates I think it is true to say that the candidate in the top position on the ballot-paper would have at least a 3 per cent, start on his opposing candidates. Unless you have a circular ballot-paper, it is not possible to give everybody a position of equal value. But if you draw for positions you conform to the principle that is adopted in Senate elections, and everybody knows that he has had an equal chance to occupy the top position on the ballot-paper. A candidate named Wright has the same chance as a candidate named Arthur.
I can see nothing wrong with a draw being held. I can see nothing wrong with the principle used in Senate elections being give a trial at least to see how it pans out. We know how potent the advantage of having the top position on the ballot-paper is. We can recall the days when political parties deliberately selected men whose surnames began with the letter “ A “. They did that for the electoral advantage that would flow from it. Everybody knows that that happened. I suggest that some consideration should be’ given to that point.
In the few minutes that I have left I want to deal with the one-fifth margin for the number of electors in House of Representative electorates. This has produced a situation which is out of all proportion to what we consider to be fair and reasonable. At the moment, the number of electors in some Australian electorates is as low as 33.000, and in other electorates it is more than 80,000. I know that the electorates are usually adjusted after each census, and at times the one-fifth margin is wide enough to cover the position. But I believe that it is too wide. We should keep the number of electors in electorates within reasonable limits between censuses, which are not taken at very frequent intervals. In order to do that, the margin should be reduced.
– What would you say would be a proper margin?
– I believe that a margin of one-tenth would be fair. I do not think that anybody can be happy with the present position in which one electorate has as few as 33,000 electors and another has more than 80,000 electors. Such a situation negatives all the principles of equity in democracy as we know them. In my opinion, the one-fifth margin is far too high, and we should attempt to reduce it. If necessary, we should hold censuses more often than we do. I know that taking a census is a mighty task, but we should be prepared to pay any price to attain the proper operation of our democratic electoral system.
– We should have commissioners, and not wait for the census to be taken.
– Of course, there are all sorts of ideas. Senator Dittmer says that we should have commissioners constantly watching these matters. There is nothing wrong with that. We should be constantly moving towards the ideal voting system. If the ideal system is not capable of achievement, let us get as close to it as we can.
I have attempted to cover the amendments which the Labour Party would have moved if the opportunity had presented itself. I am not cavilling about this. The Standing Orders prohibit those amendments being moved. That is the position in which we find ourselves.
– And intolerance, too.
– I am not suggesting that. All T am saying is that the Standing Orders prevent the Opposition from moving these amendments.
– We can still hope.
- Senator Ridley says that we can still hope that some consideration will be given to the suggested amendments. In my contribution to this debate I have attempted to tell the Senate what is in the minds of members of the Opposition in regard to their present attitude to the electoral system. One aspect that the Labour Party had very much in mind was the voting rights of aborigines. I refrained from dealing with that matter because of the time that it would take to do so. and because it will be one of the matters that will be considered when the Senate resolves itself into committee to discuss the Government’s amendments. 1 believe that I have placed before the Senate some propositions that deserve its most earnest consideration. They are designed to make our voting system the best in the civilized world. I hope that my advocacy has not fallen on deaf ears.
– Senator Toohey, who has just resumed his seat, began his speech last night from the point where Senator Dittmer concluded his speech; that is, by referring to malpractices in elections. In fact, he spent a good deal of the earlier part of his speech in stating that malpractices occur at election time. He then went on to accuse supporters of the Government of poohpoohing the statement that malpractices do occur. He accused us of burying our heads in the sand. During my short experience of elections, I have not known of any malpractices that have taken place. Perhaps they have occurred, but I did not know, and I still do not know, even after listening to Senator Dittmer and Senator Toohey, what the malpractices are. I know only that those honorable senators and their party have told us that malpractices have taken place. At no time in their speeches did they tell us what the malpractices were, what form they took and where and when they took place. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that because honorable senators opposite say that malpractices take place in their own party they naturally think that they take place in other parties.
– They occur in every party.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order!
– I suggest that if Senator Toohey and his colleagues know of any such malpractices having occurred, they have the remedy in their own hands. Courses are open to those honorable senators to take the appropriate action, and courses are provided in this bill.
I support this bill, which contains a number of amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I support it on a number of grounds. First, I believe that our present electoral system is one of the best in the world because it allows each elector the maximum opportunity to cast his vote with out any hindrance, interference, intimidation, bribery or any other malpractice. I support the bill because I believe that the principal requirement of any electoral system in any country that claims to be a democracy is to ensure that every elector shall have the chance to record his or her vote without hindrance or interference. Believing this, I was therefore particularly pleased to see that one provision of the bill now enables members of enclosed religious orders and people whose beliefs preclude them from voting before sunset on a Saturday to avail themselves of postal voting facilities. This is a very good move that has been needed for a long time. Such people in the past made a number of representations to the Government for such action.
I have listened with interest to the debate. I agree with some of the many points made by the various speakers but not with others. I do not want to delay the Senate by going over what has already been said, but I should like to touch upon a couple of matters that have been raised. First of all, I support Senator McCallum in his contention about the advantage obtained by the group in the No. 1 position on the Senate ballot-paper. I know that we ballot for positions on the left-hand side of the ballot-paper and perhaps that is fair. That position has a tremendous advantage in a Senate election. It would be much fairer to all of us if the Minister could devise alternative ways of setting out the Senate ballot-paper. I feel sure that a circular ballot-paper or some other device as subgested by Senator McCallum would be much fairer to all parties.
– Would you still show the candidates in groups?
– Yes. I want to turn to the point made by Senator Dittmer that the closing hour for polling booths should be varied from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. He made that suggestion because a large majority of people in this country knock off work at midday on Saturday, and he contended that there is no reason why they should not go to the polling booths on their way home from work, or before they go to afternoon sport or do whatever else they do. In this way, he suggested, all the voting could be done by 6 p.m. Senator Toohey came into the argument and suggested that if the polling booths were closed at 6 p.m. the officials could get on with the counting sooner and the general public would know the figures that much earlier. As a member of the Country Party, I would not stand for a minute for the closing of polling at 6 p.m. Many federal elections have been held in the months of November and December, a time when farmers throughout Australia are. busy harvesting. We all know that in the early stage of harvesting in these months the weather is very unpredictable. The days may be cold and on other occasions hailstorms can occur.
– Cold in December?
– If you have done a bit of harvesting you would know that some days then are cold. When the farmer gets a good warm day, he likes to push ahead and get as many bags off the land as possible. He works long hours and sometimes well after sunset on a good, hot day.
– In December that is after 8 p.m. Why not close the polling at 10 p.m.?
– That is all right. You want to close polling booths at 6 p.m. The farmer would much prefer that the booths stay open until, 8 p.m., as at present, than that he should be obliged to knock off at 6 p.m. to go and cast his vote and then resume his work. He would prefer to carry on until 7.30 p.m. or so and then cast his vote. In the past my party has always fought for amenities for country people but r.ow you want to prevent them from voting. I know that most people in this country live at five points scattered throughout the Commonwealth. At election time the Labour Party tries to woo the farmers, but on occasions such as this they quickly forget them and suggest some amendment in the legislation to hinder them in casting their vote. Senator Dittmer went on to suggest that if the farmers did not want to knock off work they could cast a postal vote. That is all very well for the man who lives beyond the minimum distance from the polling booth, but what of the farmer who lives within the stipulated radius? He cannot cast a postal vote.
– He could if you and your colleagues provided for it ir. this measure.
– If he applied for a postal vote and polling day turned out to be cold or damp, what reason would he have for asking for a postal vote? I have dealt with the points that I wanted to canvass in this debate. Perhaps I shall deal with the other points at the committee stage. 1 do not want to delay the Senate. 1 support the bill.
– Senator Drake-Brockman commenced his speech by chiding Senator Dittmer and Senator Toohey for having dared to suggest that the principal act contains loopholes for malpractices in postal voting. It is true that both senators mentioned that fact in the course of their speeches. I intend to do so too. If Senator Drake-Brockman wants to chide somebody for daring to suggest that there are loopholes in the principal act for malpractices, I suggest he chide some members of his own party, because in the debate on this bill in another place, after certain members of the Government parties had attempted to make the same reply as Senator Drake-Brockman has made, some of the more frank and honest members of the Government parties admitted that they knew of their own knowledge not only that the principal act afforded opportunities for malpractice, but also of specific instances in that respect. The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) qualified the statement of Labour Party speakers only to the extent that although it might not be true to say that all members know of such malpractices they are most certainly known to all members who have taken part in an election campaign. If that qualification lets Senator Drake-Brockman out of the net and allows him to say that he does not know this practice is going on, I suggest that he take up the matter with the honorable member for Bowman, who will tell him that a candidate cannot take an active part in an election campaign without being aware of malpractices.
– You made an allegation.
– I will make it again. There are loopholes in the present legislation which permit of malpractices. There is plenty of room for malpractice when a postal vote is able to pass through a number of hands before finally reaching the ballot-box. To those who deny my allegations I say: There is none so blind as he who does not want to see. I have been asked to give instances where malpractices have occurred. To do so would serve no good purpose. Senator Dittmer has pointed out that court records of instances of malpractice are available to anybody who wishes to peruse them. Anybody who has taken part in an election knows that malpractices occur.
– Perhaps your conscience is uneasy.
– If the honorable senator will listen without interjecting I will make it clear to him that one may be aware of malpractices without taking part in them. To know of these things and yet do nothing about them is a travesty of democracy. Not only is it necessary that justice be done; it is equally necessary that justice shall appear to be done. Not only must we see that malpractices do not occur; we must also see that the people are confident that they will not occur. If a canvasser for a political party is believed to have taken advantage of a loophole in the act and to have committed a malpractice, canvassers for other political parties will feel that they have a right to <lo likewise.
Let me cite an instance, not of malpractice necessarily, but of an action that could be suspected of involving malpractice. This incident took place in connexion with a State election in South Australia. The conditions governing postal votes were similar to those specified in the Commonwealth legislation. A district nurse in Glenelg was a member of the Liberal Party. When canvassing the old people in Glenelg for postal votes, she missed out on one old lady. The district nurse subsequently brought that old lady to the polling place. However, the lady was so old that she could not leave the district, nurse’s car and permission was sought for her to cast her’ vote in the car. I was acting as a scrutineer at the polling booth and I was asked if I had any objection to the old lady casting her vote in the car. I said that I had not. I went to the car with the officer in charge of the polling booth. The old lady’s hand was shaking so much that she could not mark her ballotpaper. The question then was whether somebody should mark it for her. The district nurse said that the old lady wanted to vote for Mr. Smith. That is not a fictitious name; one of the candidates was named Smith. 1 asked the district nurse how she knew that the old lady wanted to vote for Mr. Smith and the district nurse replied, “ They all want to vote for Mr. Smith. He is the mayor of Glenelg.” The old lady was suffering so much that I left the matter in the hands of the presiding officer. He had to decide whether she wanted to vote for Mr. Smith or somebody else. The district nurse involved in that incident was a Liberal Party canvasser. The suspicion in my mind was that she had influencd her patients to vote for the Liberal Party candidate. I admit that if the district nurse had been a supporter of the Australian Labour Party she would probably have influenced her patients to vote for the Labour candidate. With so many loopholes in this legislation, I think many people will feel that a person’s decision for whom to vote is made not so much by the person casting the vote as by the canvasser.
Let me tell honorable senators what happened at a recent by-election in the district of Frome in South Australia. In the Peterborough hospital there were eleven patients who applied for postal votes. As everybody knows, it is possible for canvassers to find out from the deputy returning officer whether the postal votes of the patients in the hospital have come in. It is also possible to find out at what time the votes will be cast. In a town the size of Peterborough, everybody knows not only everybody else’s business but also everybody else’s political inclinations. It was well known that the majority of the eleven people in the Peterborough hospital had voted for Labour all their lives. For that reason, if for no other, the Labour Party was interested in seeing that their postal votes reached the returning officer in time.
– Could you not win the election by more than eleven votes?
– As a matter of fact, the winning margin was seven votes, but that has nothing to do with my point.
Those eleven votes were just as important to the canvassers as any other votes. The canvassers for the Labour Party ascertained, as did no doubt the canvassers for the Liberal Party, that the postman reached the hospital at, I think, 10 a.m. Those canvassers made a point of being at the hospital to canvass the patients immediately they received their postal-vote papers. The canvassers were told by the secretary of the hospital that it was npt then convenient for the patients to be disturbed. The canvassers were told to come back later in the afternoon, which they did. Upon their return in the afternoon, the canvassers were told by the secretary of the hospital that they were too late, that the patients had cast their votes. The Liberal candidate in that election was a former chairman of the hospital board. There was a suspicion in the minds of the Labour Party canvassers that everything might not have been according to Hoyle, so they checked with the district returning officer and found that only ten votes, instead of eleven, had come back. They went to the hospital and interviewed the secretary. They informed him that only ten votes instead of eleven had been returned, and he said, “ That is right. I have one of them in my pocket. I forgot to post it.” When the time came for the votes to be counted, the scrutineers for the Labour Party asked that the votes returned from the hospital be kept aside and counted separately. Ten votes went to the Liberal Party, and the eleventh, about which there had been suspicion that it would not go in, went to the Labour Party.
I am not suggesting that there was any malpractice in that respect; there most certainly was no malpractice that could be the subject of a legal action. But I am suggesting that there was a definite suspicion in the minds of the people concerned with the by-election at Peterborough, in the district of Frome, that there could have been malpractice. If honorable senators know of instances in which there has been even the possibility of suspicion of malpractice during an election, they will do a service for the Australian people, and certainly for the democratic principles that we boast about upholding, if they bring forward the relevant facts when a bill such as this is being discussed in the Parliament. Senator
Drake-Brockman has suggested that a person who is of the opinion that malpractice has occurred during elections should come forward and name the person or persons concerned with the malpractice. I suggest, Mr. Deputy President, that many people in the ranks of the party to which the honorable senator belongs are of exactly the same opinion on this subject as are the majority of honorable senators, if not all, on this side of the chamber.
Senator Drake-Brockman was not guilty of complimenting the Government for having introduced this minor amending bill, but other honorable senators opposite certainly were. It is ludicrous to compliment the Government for having done so. Even the Minister, in his second-reading speech, did not claim that the intention of the Government was to do much more than make a few minor amendments of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Any intelligent person who has made a study of the act, or of the results of ballots conducted under its provisions over the years, must have reached the conclusion that there are anomalies associated with it, apart from the scope for malpractice to which I have referred. If the Government had tackled some of the things that really need to be done and had turned its attention to matters that really affect the outcome of ballots, such as some of those mentioned by Senator Toohey, there might be reason for congratulation. As honorable senators know, after each general election the newspapers of Australia print leading articles deploring the high proportion of informal votes that have been cast, especially in Senate elections. This bill does not propose any action to reduce the huge number of informal votes that are cast. From memory, I think that approximately 500,000 voters vote informally at general elections. Although that is a matter which concerns every Australian, this bill does not propose to do anything about it.
Although the Minister stated that the bill proposes a number of relatively minor amendments of the act, honorable senators opposite have said that the Government is to be commended for bringing it forward. Not only are the amendments of a minor nature. Mr. Deputy President; some of them are also ill conceived. Reference has already been made to the provision which relates to aborigines. Like everybody else, I think it would be foolish to suggest that the problem of granting voting rights to aborigines was not a difficult one. It would be foolish, too, to contend that merely by amending the act to provide for aborigines to be given a vote, aborigines would be placed in the same category as are other voters. At the same time, it is wrong of the Government to highlight the fact that we are prepared to treat aborigines of other countries differently from our own aborigines. We propose to give voting rights to aborigines of Asia, for instance, while we deprive Australian aborigines of those rights.
– That is not true, of course.
– As I understand the bill, it is proposed to widen the terms of section 39 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to permit British subjects of nonEuropean origin to enrol and to vote, provided they are not subject to any impediment under the Migration Act which would prevent them from remaining in Australia as permanent citizens. That statement was made by the Minister in his second-reading speech. He went on to say -
The holders of temporary entry permits or prohibited immigrants under that act will not be entitled to enrolment.
The bill also removes the objectionable and outmoded reference to aboriginal natives of certain other countries. Under the existing law a British subject born in, say, Hong Kong, Singapore or Fiji, even though he may hold a certificate of registration as an Australian citizen, as distinct from a certificate of naturalization, is not entitled to enrolment. This anomaly is remedied.
It is proposed to remove the anomaly that has existed in relation to such people, but the anomaly that exists in relation to Australian aborigines is to remain. When this bill becomes law, there will be aborigines in some States of Australia who are entitled to vote under State laws, while in other States there will be aborigines who are not entitled to vote because they have not been given the right by this legislation. If that is not an anomaly, I do not know what an anomaly is. I do not suggest that it is possible to treat aborigines in exactly the same way as white people are treated, by compelling them to exercise a vote, but for the life of me I cannot see why the bill should not give them the right to vote.
It is quite anomalous to provide that while an aboriginal living on one side of the Queensland-New South Wales border may vote, another living on the other side, with perhaps greater qualifications, may not. It was suggested in another place, and canvassed by Senator McCallum in this debate, that the appointment of a select committee - which, incidentally, is without representation from the Senate - should preclude discussion of this subject, and that we should await recommendations of the committee before amending the act in any way in relation to aborigines. This bill corrects one anomaly and perpetuates another. If the Government were sincere in suggesting that we should await the findings of the select committee, it should not have touched in any way provisions affecting aborigines. It has merely highlighted, not only to Australia, but also to the rest of the world, that an anomaly exists, and that we do not allow aborigines in one State to vote, although they may have higher mental qualifications than some white persons, while aborigines in other States are permitted to vote.
– Should not the Government have made the basic approach that as some States had given the right to aborigines, the right should be given to all aborigines.
– My understanding is that the right to vote in Commonwealth elections is not given to aborigines by virtue of any provision made by the Commonwealth Parliament. I understand that under the Constitution those aborigines that have a right to vote in State elections must be given a similar right to vote in Commonwealth elections. It seems logical to suggest that if no States gave voting rights to aborigines, this Government would give none of them the right to vote in Commonwealth elections. If the Government were sincere in contending that so many difficulties surrounded the question that it should not be decided at this stage, the matter should most certainly not have been brought out into the open. Members of the Labour Party do not require recommendations of select committees in order to determine how to vote on this question. The Government has left so many necessary amendments out of the bill that there was no need for it to mention aborigines at all.
Senator Toohey mentioned sixteen matters which, in the view of the Labour Party, were proper subjects for amendment. However, the Government has ignored those matters, and has put members of the Labour Party in a position of either opposing the removal of the anomaly to which I have referred or placing its imprimatur on the continuance of a provision that we have long believed should not be in the act. In this regard I support the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who went on record as saying that the least that the Government should have done was to defer consideration of the whole question until the select committee had considered the matter. In the .minds of most thoughtful Australians, this question is of much greater importance than the matters to which the Government directed particular attention.
The bill will enable members of enclosed religious orders, and other persons whose religious beliefs preclude them from voting before sunset on Saturdays, to avail themselves of facilities for postal voting. I suggest that no burning of midnight oil was needed to consider the inclusion of that provision. All that was required was for somebody to raise the matter. There could not be any possible objection to that provision. The surprising feature is that its inclusion was delayed for so long. The only possible explanation is that when the act was being amended previously, no one happened to think of this matter.
The bill will also enable an elector who is entitled to a postal vote to apply to the registrar for a subdivision which has been declared a remote subdivision. That provision required no burning of the midnight oil. Another provision relates to the observing of local times. This provision is in the same category. It clearly did not require any great consideration by the Government or its advisers. It is a commonsense provision that should have been made earlier.
I have dealt with the provision relating to aborigines. Senator Toohey covered the subject of election pamphlets. There are several factors that might influence voting at elections to which the Government should have given attention in order to ensure that votes were cast in an intelli gent way. I do not think that the size of election pamphlets or propaganda sheets is a significant factor in producing unintelligent voting. The provision relating to this matter would have been better left unaltered. The amendment will help nobody. It will, as one speaker said, cause the countryside to be cluttered up with posters, without making any worthwhile addition to the publicity of candidates. I conclude by saying that while there are certain aspects of the bill that nobody could oppose, it is to be condemned for what it does not contain.
– It is true that the bill contains a number of minor amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. For once, 1 think, both sides of the Senate are in agreement. From that point we may start our discussion of the bill. One of the amendments seeks to improve the facilities for recording a postal vote. Senator Ridley referred to sidelights of the Frome byelection in South Australia, but he omitted the most interesting sidelight of all. How it was done I do not know, but I point out that at that election a financial member of the Liberal and Country League of South Australia stood as a Labour candidate. That is the most remarkable thing I have ever heard of.
– How does that come into the question of postal voting?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order!
– That is quite extraneous.
– That man was a financial member of the Liberal and Country League and had no affiliation with the Labour Party.
– What is wrong with that?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -
Order! T ask Senator Dittmer to remain quiet.
– I am not saying that he should not have done it. I am merely saying that it was one of the interesting sidelights of that by-election.
– Had you had his
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -Order! The honorable senator must not interject.
– I say again that that was one of the interesting sidelights of the by-election. I should think that it would be a very interesting problem for Senator Dittmer, with his incisive brain and his ability to dissect anything, to work on in order to ascertain whether this little matter should not be cleared up within his own party.
– How is this related to postal voting?
– You are not suggesting that they are all Liberals over there, are you?
– We are, with a small “1”.
– I wish Senator Dittmer would stop crying out for a moment.
– It was your own mate who interjected.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask honorable senators to remain quiet while Senator Mattner is speaking.
– His was just a voice crying in the wilderness.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I say to Senator Toohey, who is now interjecting, that as far as 1 am concerned, when an honorable senator has the call he has the right to speak, irrespective of which side of the Senate he belongs to.
– We have been told by honorable senators opposite that there are all sorts of malpractices under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, but not one specific instance has been mentioned.
– That is not so. I told you about a U.A.P. man in the Oxley electorate.
– I am as much interested in the administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as is any one else, and I invite honorable senators opposite, if they have any concrete proof of malpractice, to bring it forward.
– We were referring to postal voting.
– In regard to postal votes, it is rather interesting to look at the position in New South Wales. In that State postal voting at State elections has virtually been abolished.
– That is not true.
– I repeat–
– That is not true. The avenues are available if the people want to use them.
– I ask the honorable senator to contain himself for a moment. I know it is difficult for him to do so at times.
– If you say things that are not factual, I cannot let them pass.
– You do not mind my interrupting you, do you?
– No; I like it.
– Well, perhaps you will allow me to interrupt you for a moment now. I repeat that in New South Wales, postal voting at State elections has virtually been abolished. It has been abolished as a political expedient, because no one in New South Wales can apply for a postal vote unless his place of abode as shown on the roll is more than five miles from a polling booth. I think the honorable senator will agree with me when I say that that in effect has virtually eliminated the postal vote.
– Is it rubbish? It is unfortunate for the people who want a postal vote.
– Did the people of New South Wales vote in favour of the abolition of the Upper House?
– No, of course they did not. The Commonwealth electoral system is a good one. We have adult suffrage, and the electors who elect the members of the House of Representatives also elect the members of the Senate. That is why the Senate will maintain its preeminence as a house of review. The fact that the one set of electors elects both Houses gives strength to the Senate. I believe that for the foreseeable future the Senate will remain in existence under our electoral legislation as a second House of the Parliament.
– What are your views on the restricted franchise?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask the honorable senator not to interject.
– 1 think Senator Toohey must have misunderstood me. I said that we had adult suffrage. I do not know whether he regards that as being restrictive. 1 again make the point that we have adult suffrage. Surely you could not have anything more democratic than that.
– Do you think that ought to apply in South Australia?
– What would you suggest to take its place? 1 reiterate that we have adult suffrage for both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that we are debating the Commonwealth Electoral Bill and not State matters.
– Every person has an opportunity to cast a vote as he or she desires. If people do not have a sufficiently good reason for failing to vote, they are dealt with by the imposition of a fine.
Another great privilege for which we should be grateful is the secrecy of the ballot. We have heard a lot about that aspect during this debate. The secrecy of the ballot was won in days gone by after a fairly hard and tense struggle. It is the duty of every one of us to strive to maintain that right. It does not matter how excellent the electoral legislation may be, voters must be prepared to vote in such a manner that informality will be avoided. A lot has been said about informal votes, particularly in relation to the Senate. Only by means of giving advice and, if I may use the term, education in the electorates themselves will we be able to impress upon people the need to record a formal vote, particularly in Senate elections. In regard to the Senate, the Opposition says that if there are five vacancies and a person places the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 before the names of five candidates respectively, that should be accepted as a formal vote. I was rather attracted to the results of some research that has been done on the informality of votes. From the meagre information that was available, it seemed apparent that people could vote correctly from the number 1 to the number 8, but that after that there was a tendency for them to make a mistake. I thought that if perhaps we required persons to mark the ballot-papers only from the number “ 1 “ to the number “ 8 “ that would be sufficient to overcome a great number of the informal votes.
– Even to mark the ballot-papers 1 and 2 is too much for some people. I
– Yes. Let us cast our minds back a few years. Preferential voting was introduced in 1919. From 1919 to 1931, where three senators were to be elected you had to vote for double that number plus one. In other words, you had to go from 1 to 7 to record a formal vote. It is interesting to note that the level of informal voting under that system was 8.91 per cent. That ruins my argument. I thought that marking papers with numbers 1 to 8, perhaps, would be effective. From 1934 to 1958 inclusive, when we still had preferential voting, the aggregate percentage of informal votes cast was 9.08 per cent. That is not a great increase by any means. In 1953, a Senate election only was held and the percentage of informal votes was only 4.56 per cent. Perhaps the reason was that more interest was concentrated upon the Senate vote at that time. It is a remarkable fact that in 1953 only 4.56 per cent, of informal votes were cast.
– How many candidates were there?
– I have not those figures. I may have some figures a little later that will assist the honorable senator. Fewer informal votes have an effect on the exhaustive potential of the votes that are cast. We have to consider two factors. Some elections are closely contested and a decrease in informal votes may not really constitute a gain. It may be possible to change the figures of the last person elected because of the exhaustive value of the votes.
A study of informal votes discloses that numerous factors have a bearing on such votes. Just as numerous factors have a bearing on informal voting, contradictions in the results are obtained. A study of informal votes might lead one to believe that the greater the number of groups standing - I am speaking of Senate elections - tends to produce a greater number of informal votes. As I said earlier, an intense interest in an election always tends to reduce the number of informal votes. Unless there is something to fire the imagination or catch the enthusiasm of either party or of the public at an election, there is a tendency for electors to become a little lax and not to pay the same attention to their voting as they would if there were some specific matter in which they were vitally interested.
We know that some people make no effort whatever to cast a vote. 1 do not know what can be done to correct that. Some mark their ballot-paper with a nought and others mark it with a cross. As a scrutineer you sometimes find that where there is a block, A, B, C, D and E, an elector might vote only for A, B, C and D. Then again within the various blocks an elector may show a preference for individual candidates of a party. Suppose there are five names in one block, he may spread his preferences among those five. These are some of the things that have occurred to me. To be perfectly blunt I think that only two great parties are involved in elections - the Liberal-Country Party and the Labour Party. I think that all the rest are in the nature of an excrescence. Let us be frank about these matters. As far as the Liberal-Country Party is concerned, electors should by all means vote 1, 2 and 3 for that party. That is fundamental. However, I would not mind electors giving their next preference to the Labour Party. I am quite serious when I say that, because after all there are only two great parties.
Each party hands out how-to-vote cards. The practice has been for each party to print in bold type the names of its candidates and in smaller type the names of the candidates of the other parties. I think that this practice leads some people to believe that it is only necessary to vote for those candidates whose names are printed in heavy type, and that this is a reason for many informal votes. If we put all the candidates’ names in the same type with the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, as the case may be, I think we would reduce the number of informal votes. We should try to instil into the public just what constitutes a valid vote. After all, that is what we want to achieve. We want people to record a valid vote, no matter for which side of politics they vote.
Some senators suggest that we should have a square or a circular ballot-paper. Frankly, I am not in favour of either because I think such a change would lead only to confusion. In the case where there were five or six parties you would need a ballot-paper at least 15 inches or 20 inches square. I think it would create a schemozzle. Senator Toohey referred to 6 o’clock closing of the poll. If we had circular ballot-papers I think the poor wretches who had to count the votes would get more than a headache. I am quite satisfied with the present Senate ballotpaper. We have the luck of the draw, and surely in this year of 1961 it should be our ambition to try to educate electors to record a formal vote. I think that square or circular ballot-papers have many weaknesses that far outweigh any of their advantages. The present ballot-paper is much simpler than the square or round ballot-paper. I know that a discussion such as this has taken place for years. It has certainly taken place ever since I have been in this Parliament. The counting of votes on those ballot-papers would be a mighty tedious job.
– Would you like a look at this circular ballot-paper?
– Yes, I would. This ballot-paper is for only one set of candidates. I am not very much in love with it. Our present ballot-paper is a good one. How informality could be reduced with this circular ballot-paper I would not know. The confusion that would arise from using it would far outweigh any temporary advantage that might be gained from the number one position or the position on the left-hand side of the ballotpaper.
– Are you going to have that circular ballot-paper incorporated in “ Hansard “?
– No, I would not have this incorporated in “ Hansard “. One or two other minor amendments to the act are made by this bill. Senator Ridley mentioned them. The provision in regard to the time for postal voting is an excellent one. The other provision which gives postal votes to members of certain religious organizations is all to the good. Any provision that will give improved voting facilities to people in religious organizations, which do such good work for the community, is all to the good.
As I said earlier, this bill makes only a few minor amendments to the act. I am all in favour of having a select committee to investigate thoroughly the voting rights of the indigenous people. In his closing remarks Senator Ridley agreed that we should have more knowledge of this matter. The only way that we can obtain correct knowledge is to have a select committee to inquire into this matter, so that when we make an alteration to the Commonwealth Electoral Act the indigenous people will be treated fairly and justly, and their environment, mode of living and places of residence will be considered. If that is done, they will be able to record a vote that will be a true reflection of their real feelings. I finish as I started, by saying that this bill contains only minor amendments, and I support each and every one of them.
.- We all know that Senator Mattner, who comes from South Australia, is an honorable gentleman, and that he would not say anything which would mislead any member of the Senate or any member of the public. I understood him to say quite clearly that postal voting was not carried out in New South Wales.
– I said that it was virtually not carried out.
– The true position in New South Wales is that postal voting is still in operation. Furthermore, an improved method of voting is made available to persons who are unable to attend polling booths on election days. In that State they have a system of voting which allows a visitor to go to homes, hospitals and similar places and collect the votes of infirm people, or people who are unable to travel to a polling booth on election day. The manner in which that system is operated is above suspicion or reproach, because a paid officer of the electoral office goes to collect the votes.
I heard Senator Drake-Brockman speak about malpractices. He ventured the opinion that malpractices do not occur to-day at all, and that nobody tries to crib an advantage.
– You could not have been listening.
– I have never forgotten what I read many years ago in Dickens’s novel, “ Pickwick Papers “. Dickens explained how elections were conducted in England in his day. To-day, elections are carried out in much the same way except that this is a different age from that in which Dickens lived. I remember well a passage written by Dickens. When Mr. Pickwick was instructing one of his disciples how to cheer and how to applaud certain parts of speeches, the supporter of Mr. Pickwick said to him: “ But supposing there are two political parties. Which one shall I cheer? Which one shall I support?” Mr. Pickwick laid down this unalterable rule: “Always the larger party “.
When I look at the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which this bill proposes to amend, I find that section 3 (1.) reads -
The several Parts and sections of the following Acts, namely: - The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1905, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1906, the Disputed Elections and Qualifications Act 1907, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1909, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911, the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902, and the Electoral Divisions Act 1903, are repealed as from such dates as are respectively fixed by Proclamation.
The present Commonwealth Electoral Act really re-enacts the legislation that operated prior to its introduction in 1918. All Commonwealth elections since that year have been conducted under this act. As we sit here we cannot recollect any serious criminal act having been committed by any one during an election. When we read the provisions of the act we find that they were framed with the full knowledge that misdemeanours would be committed by some people, and with the intention to safeguard the public interest in such cases.
It is well known that if a person in an election can crib an advantage over his opponent he will unhesitatingly do so, and will have no scruples in doing so. I do not say that, because we do not hear of malpractices being committed, they are not committed at all. It is only human that if a person can crib a vote from his opponent in some way he will do so, although perhaps not too blatantly. When we examine the propaganda which is issued during election campaigns we always find in it a vein of unfairness. No political party has a copyright on unfair propaganda. We can match the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party in issuing propaganda, and no offence is committed when we engage in misrepresentation during election campaigns. If some one oversteps the mark, the person offended may issue a writ out of the supreme court and silence him. So we find that over the years since the Commonwealth has been in existence the elections have been fairly conducted. There has been no serious complaint about them.
I am holding the act in my hand at present. If I were to gointo the street and assemble 100 voters around me and give each one a copy of the act with a request that he carefully examine it and tell me any amendments he has in mind 1 am afraid that I would not receive too many. This act has been amendedno less than sixteen times since 1918. Naturally, on occasions it has been found essential to titivate it in some way to improve the voting conditions applicable to certain groups and to bring it up-to-date..
One of the amendments in the bill deals with posters. Unhesitatingly I say that that is an attempt by the Liberal-Country Party to grab an. advantage over the Australian Labour Party. At present under the act. a small poster is necessary, but when this amen dment is carried candidates will be entitled to use a much larger poster for the purpose of advertising the wares they have to offer the electors. A larger poster is going to cost more money, and that is where the candidates representing, the Australian Labour Party will be handicapped. They lack the funds to buy posters of larger dimensions. A sign writer charges more for a bigger advertisement.The Government has an advantage under that proposed amendment. It has advantages in many other ways that we do not enjoy. I would say that the daily press as a whole throughout the Commonwealth is always pro. Liberal Party and; Country Party.. The: press safeguards vested interests. I had a look at what the act had to say about advertising and I found something rather interesting at page 58, something that evidently has been forgotten by the electoral office. Section 146 provides -
A candidate shall’ not, in respect of any candidature, incur or authorize any electoral expense except in respect of -
I want to emphasize those words - advertis ing and broadcasting. The section goes on -
A candidate shall not, in. respect of any candidature, incur or authorize any electoral expense except in respect of - and then it lists; the prohibitions. I leave the subject of posters and move on.
One of the amendments in the bill relates to the appointment of scrutineers. Of course, it stems from the experience of somebody at a past election. I know that now and again difficulties do arise and that some squabbles occur between scrutineers and between the representatives of the different political parties. I say this about scrutineers: They are not sufficiently informed to carry out in all respects their duties on election day. Certainly they can take charge of the ballot-box, the ballotpapers and the various forms that they have to complete at the end of the day. They can issue ballot-papers to electors. They can see that the ballot-papers are placed in the ballot-box and that everything is conducted with decorum. But if an odd question is raised between the scrutineers and the different parties or different candidates you will not find in any corner one person capable of giving a ruling. The official will say, “ Well, I must refer to my returning officer “. What happens? He finds that he has no telephone and no way in which he can readily communicate with his returning officer. So, this unsatisfactory state of affairs continues.
I have had personal experience of these things. I have visited polling places that are, perhaps, galvanized iron huts. Every honorable senator travelling around the country has come across the galvanized iron shed that is used for local public meetings, dances on Saturday night and, perhaps, for church services on Sunday. It is in such a hall that many ballots are taken. I have entered one of these places and have seen posters that were used by the Country Party for previous elections still displayed on the walls. I have seen posters used in the current campaign still hanging on the walls.
– The Country Party is the only party to advertise.
– It was using the posters for advertising purposes. That is the point, and the honorable senator has seen it. When I have spoken to the returning officer about the matter he has pointed out to me that it is not his function to clean the walls of the hall and that he is there only to conduct a ballot in one corner of the room. I find that some of these halls are badly lit and inappropriate for the conduct of a ballot, especially when black-lead pencils are being used. That is one provision that the Government should set about amending immediately. Pencils are specifically mentioned in one section of the act. In Queensland a blue pencil is used for marking ballotpapers at elections, and it is not easy to erase a blue mark. Under our legislation the elector can use an ordinary black-lead pencil. Goodness me, anybody with an eraser can rub out a lead pencil marking in half a second and insert on the ballotpaper a view differing from the one indicated by the elector.
– You must have some extraordinary people in Queensland.
– I mention this because there are differences between our legislation and that of other States. In reply to the honorable senator, the people of Queensland are not extraordinary. Let him wait until I finish my remarks. They do not differ greatly in this regard from the people in Western Australia. The act was framed so that elections could be conducted fairly. The draftsman had to bear in mind that malpractices might occur. The ordinary black-lead pencil was outmoded years ago. Pen and ink should be provided, particularly in country areas.
The Opposition has seriously suggested that polling places should close at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. The hours prescribed for the casting of votes have not changed since the electoral legislation was first enacted in 1902. At that time, there was no such thing as a universal half-holiday. Subsequently, throughout Australia, a halfholiday came to be observed on Saturdays. The great majority of people in Australia do not work on Saturday afternoons. The present polling hours were fixed many years ago, before the advent of the five-day working week. Now, in cities and towns most people who are governed by awards work a five-day week and they have a whole day available to devote to their voting responsibilities. The Electoral Act was passed in the horse-and-buggy days, when the dairy farmers did not have milking machines; a milking machine was a rarity in 1902. But to-day, wherever there is electric power - and sometimes where there is not - the dairy farmers have milking machines. At the time that the first electoral legislation was enacted, the farmer looked to the horse when undertaking ploughing and other heavy work. To-day, tractors are used for ploughing and general farm work. In 1902, there were no good bitumen roads in country areas and no motor cars travelling at 40 or 50 miles an hour through those areas. The rural life of Australia has changed considerably since the Electoral Act was passed. It is high time that serious consideration was given to reducing the hours of polling by closing the polling booths at 6 p.m. Fifty years ago, Queensland adopted 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as the polling hours and you never hear of any man in Queensland failing to record a vote on election day.
– Do the farmers complain about the shorter number of hours for polling?
– They would complain if the hours were extended. I said earlier that I do not have a great deal of confidence in the presiding officers who are appointed. I concede that they are honest and that in their own field of work, they are competent, but they do not carry out their main duties in a commanding way. They do not impress one as being particularly confident. I know that when I have put some of them to the test they have reacted unfavorably. This situation could easily be overcome. The presiding officer in a large town could engage assistants a week or two before election day. As I was a State returning officer for six years, I know what I am talking about. The presiding officer could call his assistants together before polling day and give them instructions. He could form a class. If he did that, I am sure he would greatly increase their efficiency.
I would now like to say something about the manner in which ballots are conducted in rural areas. I refer to areas where large grazing properties are conducted either by managers or owners. In the divisions of Maranoa, Kennedy and Leichhardt in Queensland there are at least 200 polling places which are conducted by station owners or station managers. On polling day, those people perform the function of presiding officers. Before election day, they receive the ballot-papers, the ballot-boxes and the necessary forms. On polling day they set about holding the ballot. They cast votes, their wives cast votes and their station hands cast votes. The station owners or managers act as presiding officers. They issue ballot-papers to their station hands. They watch their station hands record their votes and place their ballot-papers in the ballot-boxes. The station owners and managers are appointed as presiding officers in the interests of expediency. On outlying stations, nobody else is available to do this work. But this is a practice to which I have always objected, because the situation is not above suspicion. I concede that the station owners and station managers are honorable men. They are honest. But they themselves would tell you that their operations are shrouded in an atmosphere of suspicion. In most situations, the Electoral Act cannot be applied to safeguard the interests of political parties. It would be impossible to get scrutineers to travel 50 or 60 miles to watch a ballot at which no more than ten or twenty people recorded votes. Let me cite a few figures in relation to the polling places about which I have been speaking. At one place, 40 votes were recorded for one candidate and only one vote for the other candidate. At another place, 63 votes were recorded for one candidate and only one vote for the other candidate. At still another polling place, 36 votes were recorded for one candidate and none for the other candidate.
– Were those 36 votes recorded for the Country Party candidate?
– Yes. In another instance, 27 votes were recorded for the Country Party candidate and no votes were recorded for the Labour Party candidate. Those figures are typical of the voting returns from some of the small polling places. I expect some honorable senators from New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia to support my remarks. It is high time, that the returning officers submitted to the Minister proposals designed to overcome the things to which I have referred. We would then have some safeguard to the ballot in the interests of electors. What is the basic principle of electoral legislation? Is it not to ensure that every elector shall have the right to go to a polling booth on election day and record his vote in a proper manner? Is he not entitled to believe that his vote will be recorded and counted in the proper way? I have no suggestions to make for the amendment of the act, although I have given consideration to it for a long time. I object to the system.
We are all politically minded. Station managers and station owners are political partisans; yet, they conduct ballots. I am not making an imputation against one of them, or against all of them as a body. As a matter of fact, a check was made in Queensland during an election. Certain men were singled out because they were officials of the United Graziers Association. The check showed that the ballots had been conducted in a scrupulously fair way. There were no complaints at all. Perhaps those men would be fair, in any case, but we have no guarantee that all the ballots that are held at outlying places are conducted fairly. In the cities and towns, where there are scrutineers, the position is entirely different. I venture to suggest that no honorable senator has a complaint to make about the manner in which an election with which he was concerned was conducted. Neveretheless, the system that I have mentioned still obtains in outlying areas, and I should like to see something done about it.
Section 101 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that -
Polling booths shall have separate voting compartments, constructed so as to screen the voters from observation while they are marking their ballot-papers, and each voting compartment shall be furnished with a pencil for the use of voters.
This is not 1902, Mr. Acting Deputy President. To-day, that provision is rather idiotic. I want to see provided a pencil or some other means of writing which will make a mark that cannot be erased. Alternatively, I want to see a ballot-paper from which a pencil mark, or a mark made with some other writing implement, cannot be erased without disclosing the fact. These are serious matters which could easily be dealt with.
– An even stronger argument could be made out in regard to postal votes that go outside the hands of the returning officer.
– Yes, that is true. Reference has been made to the granting of voting rights to aborigines. In principle, I believe that aborigines should be granted the franchise. At the present time, Torres Strait islanders at Thursday Island and aborigines at several of the mission stations have the right to vote, while other intelligent Australian aborigines do not enjoy that right. It is only in principle that I support the granting of voting rights to aborigines. Before aborigines were given the franchise, I should want to be doubly sure that they were quite capable of exercising their vote on election day.
I have referred to the way in which ballots are conducted on pastoral properties in Queensland, and I have described the way in which station hands, musterers and others are called in on election day.
Station owners and managers do not always strictly observe the time for voting; that is to say, if it suits them, they will conduct the ballot either the day before the stipulated date or a couple of days before, and nobody is the wiser. I know this to be true. A station manager was seen in a rural town on a Saturday on which an election was being held - as a matter of fact he was a Labour supporter. When he was asked, “ What are you doing in town today? Should you not be out looking after the ballot? “ he said, “ You have nothing to worry about, old man. I looked after it yesterday.” The ballot had been conducted on the Friday. Such matters are regarded as of minor importance out in the western part of the State.
What is to happen to the aborigines if they are granted the franchise? If a station owner had nine or ten aborigines employed on his property, it would be an easy thing for him to cast ten votes while he was casting his own. There would be nobody to prevent that from being done. Everybody knows that aborigines are very trusting. They are like children in some respects. I was once with a gentleman, in one of the pastoral towns of Queensland, who spoke to me about an aboriginal who had received a flogging from the manager of a pastoral property. I said, “ What happened? “ He said, “ The station manager was brought before the court and fined “. I asked, “ What happened to the aboriginal? “ He said, “ There he is across the street “. I said, “ Get him over “, so my friend called the aboriginal over and offered him a cigarette, which he accepted. My friend said to him, referring to the station manager, “ Him a good man “. and the aboriginal said, “ Yes “. My friend asked, “ He look after you well? “ and the aboriginal said, “ Yes, he look after me “. He was given the rest of the packet of cigarettes.
I have told honorable senators of that incident to illustrate how easy it is to get an aboriginal to agree with you, if you give him a cigarette or two. What would happen to aborigines on election day? How easily they would be swayed to vote one way or another!
– Apparently, much would depend on which side had the most cigarettes.
– It might be cigarettes; it might be a glass of beer or a nip of rum. Until the aborigines are educated, it would be dangerous, at least so far as Queensland is concerned, to give them the franchise. Perhaps the Commonwealth Electoral Act will be amended again in a few years’ time. If it is, I hope that amendments in accordance with the suggestions I have made will be embodied in the act.
– For the last half -hour, we have listened to a speech from Senator Benn in which he painted a picture that became increasingly melancholy. Those who heard the honorable senator’s comments must have gained a rather startling impression of the conditions that obtain at elections in Queensland. It is extraordinary to hear in this chamber unsubstantiated allegations to the effect that station owners and managers rig ballots, lt rather surprised me to hear the honorable senator make such allegations because they relate to serious offences. The law provides for the imposition of severe penalties on people who offend in that way. If persons are either aware or suspect that such things are occurring, it is their duty to see that information about them reaches the right quarters so that prosecutions may be launched. A public man has a particularly onerous duty in this respect.
It is extraordinary that an honorable senator should make vague allegations of gross misconduct and criminal offences in regard to the conduct of elections, without substantiating those allegations by specific information, or make a complaint in the proper way so that the law might take its course.
– You know what goes on in Western Australia.
– I do know what goes on in Western Australia. I venture to say that both the Labour Party and the Liberal Party conduct elections in Western Australia very much more satisfactorily than in Queensland, if Senator Benn is to be believed. T do not for one moment suggest that anybody in Western Australia makes .a practice of rigging ballot-boxes. I do not believe that it happens even in Queensland. Hit is a terrible thing to make insinuations of that sort in this chamber.
– You are easily shocked.
– I am not easily shocked, but I am astonished that persons have the effrontery to say such things in a public place.
– Get on with what you have to say.
– I shall get on with it. Then we had another melancholy picture in relation to the inefficiency of electoral officers. Senator Benn said that although many of these good persons knew their jobs others were inefficient. Again we did not cite chapter and verse. In my experience, electoral officers are efficient and extremely courteous. Only on rare occasions does one find an electoral officer who does not know a particular point, and then he finds out about it very quickly. I have the utmost respect for them. They are not professional electoral officers or professional civil servants. Usually they are school teachers, bank clerks, or others in all sorts of avocations, who on polling day do a job for the public weal and do it jolly well. I am astonished to listen to vague insinuations about the inefficiency of our electoral system, and I should like to hear some evidence in relation to matters of this sort. A select committee is inquiring into one aspect of electoral matters. I am rather sorry that the committee is not so constituted as to be able to hear evidence from Senator Benn about these peculiar practices that go on in Queensland.
His third little piece of melancholy was that the bill is rigged to suit the Liberal Party, because it provides for posters of a larger size. That is a unique slant. Senator Toohey, in a very thoughtful speech, also attacked this provision, but very properly did not suggest that this was a rather shrewd bit of work on the part of the Liberals to give themselves an advantage. I do not think that any one except Senator Benn would maintain such an attitude. We all have our opinions on whether election posters should or should not be of a particular size, but this is the first time that we have heard a member of the Labour Party suggest in this chamber that the Liberals are proposing this amendment for some political advantage. What a ridiculous assertion!
On the other hand, we find the Australian Labour Party sponsoring a move to spend more money on elections. I cannot quite reconcile the two attitudes. I think that Senator Benn is fast getting to a stage of complete melancholia about this sort of thing. Other members of the Labour Party want to spend more money per candidate in elections. Senator Benn does not want more money spent, because it would give the Liberals an unfair advantage! That is the way in which Senator Benn’s mind works. His speech reflected that rather peculiar attitude.
I listened with great interest to Senator Ridley. He criticized the bill for proposing to give voting rights to aborigines from overseas nations while not giVing the same rights to our own native people. I cannot follow that argument, for two reasons. In the first place, aboriginal people from overseas who have obtained citizen rights are of an intellect and education far superior to those of Australian aborigines who do not vote.
– Some Australian aborigines have equal educational qualifications but cannot vote.
– I shall come to that. Senator Ridley is really complaining because we are giving a vote to overseas aborigines. He was not prepared to advocate that a vote be given to Australian aborigines. How can he, in all honesty, argue that we are wrong in giving the right to overseas aborigines who are all persons of such calibre as to deserve a vote?
– My complaint is that the Government proposes to remove one anomaly while allowing another one to remain.
– We have not actually refused to give a vote to our own aborigines. Honorable senators opposite must be aware of the fact that already a select committee of the House of Representatives is inquiring into ways and means of giving a vote to Australian aborigines. It is in the nature of misrepresentation for honorable senators opposite to accuse the Government of refusing to give a vote to aborigines. A select committee is sitting now to try to work out a way of overcoming this problem. This is an important matter. There are many good-hearted people who do not understand the problem of voting rights for aborigines. In this respect, curiously enough, I agree with much of what my friend Senator Benn said. There are many different types of aborigines in this country. It is so silly merely to parrot-cry a claim for voting rights for aborigines. Anybody doing so just does not understand the problem.
– In your State there are aborigines with as good an education as your own who will still not have the right to vote after this bill becomes law.
– Of course, and the committee of the House of Representatives will do something about it, I should think. As I see it, the problem is not simple. If it were simple it would have been tackled long ago. After all, the Labour Party has done nothing about giving aborigines the right to vote in Commonwealth elections, and it has had two or three periods in office in my lifetime. It has been left to this Government to start thinking about the rights of aborigines. Honorable senators opposite are very vocal, but this is the first government in the ^history of the federation that has started to do something about the voting rights of aborigines in Commonwealth elections.
– Who gave aboriginal returned soldiers the right to vote?
– I am talking about voting rights. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that what I say is true. Every successive Labour government has completely ignored the rights of the Australian aborigine. For the first time in Australian history, something is now being done about this matter. It must be admitted that that is true. Having admitted that, we must go a stage further. The select committee now considering the matter will have its work cut out. In some parts of Western Australia we find aborigines whom the good townsfolk describe as detribalized. But we find people who live in Perth and many of the other capital cities and towns saying there are two classes of aborigines - -tribalized aborigines and detribalized aborigines. The tribalized aboriginal is a wild man; he is a savage. These people in the cities say that the tribalized aboriginal must have a vote but that the detribalized aboriginal must not. That sort of talk is quite silly.
There are not two but many classes of aborigines. To classify them as being detribalized and tribalized for the purpose of voting is foolish. One can go to Kalumbaroo and there find natives almost as they were when the white man came to Australia, who very rarely see a white person, who cannot speak our language, who do not know what an election is, and who could not understand the nature of an election. They could be trained, of course; but at the moment they are not able to understand what we mean by an election. I understand that there is no such term in their language as the verb “ to vote “ or the noun “ election “. They just would not understand these things. As I have said, the aborigines at Kalumbaroo might see a white person only two or three, or half a dozen, times a year. On the other hand, you could find natives up there who speak almost as well as most honorable senators speak. They have had a secondary school education, and they can play the piano much better than perhaps many honorable senators can play it. They are, in fact, part of our culture and civilization. No one would argue that those fine men and women should not have a vote. But I have over-simplified this problem by talking about the situation at Kalumbaroo because there are many other gradients of culture and intellect between the two classes I have mentioned. It is there that you would find trouble.
One very interesting suggestion that has been made about giving natives the right to vote is that we should regard all natives as having a prima facie right to enrol but that they should be allowed to do so voluntarily and not be compelled. Further, it has been suggested that voting should not be made compulsory for any native. That view has certain merits. If that suggestion were implemented, it would have the effect of eliminating natives who do not even know of the existence of the Commonwealth Parliament, or who, if they did know about it, would not understand what it was all about and would not be able to comprehend the nature of an election or enrolment. There are many thousands of such natives. On the other hand, it would give to those who to a degree have been assimilated in our culture and civilization the right to enrol voluntarily and to vote if they so chose. That is a suggestion which could well be considered by the gentlemen who are now considering the very intricate problem of the voting rights of the native in our political democracy.
To describe lightly this Government’s actions as being foolish because it has not given all natives the right to vote is a very immature attitude to adopt. If the right to vote were given to all natives, electoral officers would be required to go into the middle of Western Australia where no white man has ever been - at least since the time when John Forrest explored it - and to enrol compulsorily all these natives who are wild, some of whom have never yet seen a white man and some of whom have seen perhaps only an occasional missionary. Those officers would be obliged to record, in all seriousness, the names, ages, sex and addresses of those aborigines on an enrolment card, place those names on the roll for the division of Kalgoorlie and then, when the aborigines did not record their vote, ask them why they did not do so. Then, if they did not furnish a suitable answer, they would have to be fined. I should imagine that those people who are screaming out for giving aborigines the right to vote would also logically have to think about that matter as well. How foolish it is to try to imagine an unfortunate electoral officer trying to enrol 200 or 300 quite wild Western Australian aborigines who have never before seen an electoral officer.
It is not to be inferred, of course, that I advocate the withholding of voting rights from aborigines. That is not my attitude at all. I believe that ultimately all aborigines will have the right to vote. It _ is only a matter of working out how that right can be given to them in the kindest way possible. I again agree with Senator Benn when he says that in some respects the aboriginal is childlike and will agree with anything that most people suggest to him. He does that because he is one of the most gentlenatured persons in the world. There is no real vice in him; he does not understand the nature of the white man’s vice. For that I respect him very much. But to treat him as a white man is terribly unkind to him. I deplore the idle arguments that have been adduced in this chamber and in another place in relation to these very fine people.
I turn now to one or two of the relatively minor aspects of the bill, because I believe they deserve some mention. Senator Toohey referred to ballot-papers. Senator McCallum, too, in a very thoughtful speech, referred to the placing of names on ballotpapers. I agree with Senator Toohey when he suggests that the same rules should apply to the placing of names on ballotpapers for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. As is probably well known to every one, the Senate teams ballot for positions on the ballot-paper but candidates for election to the House of Representatives do not ballot for position. If a person by the name of Aaron stands for election to the House of Representatives, he has an advantage over a person whose name happens to be Zacharias. That is because the name Aaron would appear first on the ballot-paper. Although Zacharias might belong to the same church, his name would appear last on the ballot-paper.
Whilst it is commonly claimed, with a certain amount of right, that the position in which a candidate’s name appears on a Senate ballot-paper is very important, to a lesser but still large degree the position in which a candidate’s name appears on a House of Representatives ballot-paper is important. The names of only four or five teams appear on the Senate ballot-paper - there would be six at the most - but very frequently there are four or five names of candidates on a House of Representatives ballot-paper. I should say that a House of Representatives candidate whose name appeared last on- the ballot-paper would, be at a distinct disadvantage: If it. is fair for four or five Senate teams to ballot for the best position on the ballot-paper, it should, be fair for House of Representatives candidates to ballot likewise for their position, on the ballot-paper. I can: see no distinction, because after all some elections, for the House of Representatives are very close; every vote counts. There is nothing, unfair in drawing for positions, but there is everything unfair when a man with a name like Wright or Vincent wants to stand for a- House of Representatives election. I agree with Senator Toohey. I think his point was well taken. I think that the House of Representatives’ system should b*. altered.
I am not so keen about Senator McCallum’s suggestion that a circular ballotpaper should be introduced. I know there is a very good reason why a circular ballotpaper has not been introduced. The Government feels that a further change to a circular ballot-paper, for Senate elections would make, confusion more confounded for the. unhappy elector. If the proposal were adopted, he- would be confronted with a circular ballot-paper for Senate elections and a rectangular ballot-paper for House of Representatives elections. The change might not achieve the desired effect because it would cause certain confusion in his mind. I think there are other reasons, too, why a circular ballot-paper would not be as satisfactory as may be thought at first sight.
– What about the American system of voting?
– I shall come to that in a moment. That is another argument. I suggest to the Senate that the intellectual or mental effort involved in numbering names around the circumference of a circular ballot-paper “ 1 “ to “ 28 “ would be just as great as that involved in numbering names on a rectangular ballotpaper. There would’ be just as much likelihood of an informal vote occurring if an elector followed the circumference of a circular ballot-paper as there would be if he started at the left-hand’ top corner of a rectangular ballot-paper and numbered the names on it from top to bottom.
Again, instructions must be- printed on ballot-papers. If an elector picked up- a circular ballot-paper and read the- instructions, immediately the ballot-paper would have a top and a bottom so far as he wasconcerned,. In effect, if would cease to be a circular ballot-paper in the- true sense. The “top” of the ballot-paper would’ depend! on. where the instructions were printed and how they were- printed’..
Another aspect of the suggestion to change the form of the ballot-paper must be considered’, namely, the number of informal votes that are cast in Senate elections. The number of informal votes has varied from about 5 per cent, to 10 per cent.
– And up< to 12 per cent.,
– I think that for one State the number did exceed. 10 per cent. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason for such disparity in. the rate of informal voting. No one can explain why, in two Senate elections in which the teams were the same, there were a similar number of candidates and the circumstances were similar, the number of informal votes in one instance was as low as. 5.2 per cent, and in the other as high as 9 or 10 per cent. I think that disparity is significant. I have often wondered whether the real reason for informal votes is not ignorance, but carelessness. That is the only reason I can ascribe for the big disproportion in the informal votes in two consecutive elections when all’ other factors were the same.
– Do you think that informal voting could be the result of a deliberate action on the part of the electors?
– There is always a proportion of voters who deliberately cast informal votes. Of course, they have a perfect right to vote informally.
– There would not be many voters in that category.
– I do not think there are. I am still not satisfied that casting of 9 per cent, or 10 per cent, of informal votes in a Senate election is due wholly to the inability of electors to mark a ballot-paper properly, 1 to 21, because there is such a big disparity in the number of informal votes at elections. This indicates the necessity to educate the electors. I think that is the main factor. If electors deliberately wish to mark their ballot-papers informally, that is their business. I think it is the right of every elector, if he chooses, to vote informally rather than formally.
– Do you not think that the popularity or otherwise of a government at the time of the election is a factor?
– That factor does enter into the matter. I think that the major parties should see to the education of the electors in this field, in an attempt to whittle down the high incidence of informal voting in Senate elections.
I do not think it would be wise to introduce innovations at this stage. If, after a number of years has elapsed, we are satisfied that there will always be a very high informal! vote in Senate elections, we can make what will be fundamental changes from the electors’ point of view. These changes might not be fundamental to us. The change of the shape of the ballotpaper from circular to rectangular might not seem such a big change to us, but it would be a big change to an elector who thinks about voting only once every three years. He would get into a highly excited state of nervousness were he to be confronted in a ballot-box for the first time with a circular ballot-paper after having for so many years marked a rectangular ballot-paper. We might have to start by educating our electors in the use of a circular ballot-paper.
With great respect to the Australian elector, I think he takes elections rather casually. Both parties must face up to the challenge of educating their respective supporters. I do not agree with the American system. In response to an interjection by Senator Toohey, let me say that I feel that the block system of voting that the Americans have adopted takes the party approach too far. An elector can go into an American polling booth, and, by pressing a button, vote for every candidate of a particular party from the President down to the village policeman. I do not think that that system is in the best interests of democracy.
– It is voluntary. He has the option of voting in the orthodox manner, if he so wishes.
– I do not think we should give our electors an option to vote in that way. We are still basically English in sentiment. The English idea is that it is desirable for an elector to use his brains when marking a ballot-paper. For the reasons I have outlined, I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– This bill to amend our electoral machinery is useful as far as it goes, but, unfortunately, it does not go far enough. I would have hoped that the Government, in bringing down a bill to reform our electoral machinery, would have had some regard to the fact that 500,000 electors - nearly 10 per cent, of the electors in the last federal election - voted for the Australian Democratic Labour Party, yet in the House of Representatives, which comprises 124 members, the Australian Democratic Labour
Party did not obtain any representation at all. That means, in effect, that 10 per cent, of the Australian people have been disfranchised as far as that House is concerned.
I think that an attempt should have been made in this measure so to alter the electoral system that there would be a reduction of the number of informal votes, about which so much has been said here to-night. Informal voting presents a serious problem, and it seems strange to me that nothing has been done to solve it. Thirdly, I should have liked something positive to have been done to remove the corruption that exists in postal voting. I use the word “ corruption “ advisedly, as one who for five or six years was running election campaigns as an official of the Australian Labour Party. I have heard some honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber deny that that corruption exists. I do not know whether they have been indulging their sense of humour. If there are any honorable senators on the Government side who do not know that in many instances there is corruption in postal voting, all I can say of them is that they are the only people whom I know who have engaged in politics and managed to retain their baptismal innocence.
Unfortunately, this bill is a rather timid measure, even allowing for the necessarily cautious approach that has to be made to the matter of voting. Many of us have ideas of about how voting can be improved, but we are rather conservative in our outlook. The tendency in a political party is not to say, “ Is it for the good of the community? “ but “ Is it for the good of my party? “. That is one of the troubles. I commend -what is being done in this bill to allow certain people who are under disadvantages because of their religious beliefs to vote by post in future. Previously they were not allowed to do that. There are people who belong to enclosed religious orders, and who previously were unable to vote. Members of the Seventh Day Adventist and Jewish faiths will now be permitted to vote by post in certain circumstances. I commend the Government for what has been done in that regard. All of us must wonder why that was not done before. In my opinion it is a commendable advance. Those people should have received this concession many years ago.
Another matter that has been much discussed, and which is an important one, is voting rights for aborigines. I have done a lot of thinking on this question because it is a very thorny and very difficult one. It came to my mind recently when I saw on television a film made by the News and Information Bureau, showing the natives of New Guinea voting for the members of their Legislative Council. The impression that we were supposed to get from that film was one of admiration for the fact that those natives were being called upon to vote to set up a semi-democratic body. To some extent my feeling was one of intense pity. Here we were hurrying these people from the stone age to the atomic age in a period of 40 or 50 years.
Some time ago, Dr. Schweitzer, who has established a great reputation in Africa, was asked to comment on the demand for self-government for many of the people, of that continent. We realize that some of them are educated, civilized and advanced, but others are not. I believe that Dr. Schweitzer made a very true statement when he said, “ You have to remember that the black man is your brother, but he is 500 years younger than you “. He was referring to the natives of Africa. When I saw the New Guinea natives being lined up to vote - who of us here will say that they all understood what they were doing - I had a feeling of intense pity for the way in which they have been hurried over centuries of time and forced to undertake procedures which they do not understand and which they know nothing about.
I have to decide, what will be my attitude in regard to voting rights for aborigines. I have come to the conclusion that if the question arises I will vote for voting rights for aborigines. I realize that there are some aborigines who are well qualified to vote and others who are not. But if it is a question of being qualified to cast an intelligent vote, I have seen many white people who, in my opinion, are not qualified to cast an intelligent vote.
– But not in the same sense.
– Perhaps not, but such people exist. I have come to the conclusion that I would vote to give aborigines electoral rights for one main reason. I do not believe that we are doing all that we ought to do for the aborigines of Australia. I am perfectly satisfied that if they had voting rights a great deal more would be done for them. I would support giving them voting rights in the belief that it would force or induce - however you like to put it - governments to do far more for our aborigines than they are doing at present. I say straight out that I do not believe that any government can take unto itself credit for the situation of the Australian aborigines.
In my opinion, a very necessary move has been made in this bill to increase the opportunities to provide scrutineers. I believe that this could have been done before. I strongly approve the proposed amendment. I come now to what I call corruption in postal voting. As one who has seen something of running campaigns, I repeat that corruption in postal voting does occur on both sides of politics. In another place the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) set out what happens. I do not say that this happens in all cases. I would be the last person to say that all people who go after postal votes are dishonest. Only a minority is dishonest, but in most cases it is an experienced minority of people who take pride in the fact that they have been handling postal votes for years. I will quote what Mr. Whitlam said because it is true. This is what he said happens, as reported in “ Hansard “-
A person who applies for a postal vote is known to have applied for a postal vote by any person who cares to make inquiry at the Divisional Returning Office. The time at which the postal vote will be received by the applicant is similarly anticipated by anybody who inquires at the Divisional Returning Office. Supporters of any candidate armed with that knowledge can call at the address given by the applicant and are likely to offer their services to the applicant and accordingly to know how the applicant has voted . . . If the applicant casts a vote in accordance with the wishes of the canvasser or the supporter of one of the candidates, that canvasser or supporter will ensure that the vote is duly delivered. If the applicant casts a vote otherwise, the vote can be and very often is invalidated or altered. If the ballot is marked in ink and cannot be altered, then it is otherwise marked by the canvasser, or the supporter, so as to invalidate it
One of the methods used is for the person who goes to get the vote to take it from the poor old person or sick person and say, “ I will save you the trouble of putting this vote into the Returning Office”. Then he turns over the flap, and in a number of instances he pretends to seal it, but does not do so. In other instances he seals it down and later tears it open or steams it open. If the vote is easily altered he will alter it in accordance with his own wishes. If it is not easily altered he will interfere with it in such a way as to make it informal.
I repeat that I am not saying that there is not a great number of people who are honest in regard to this matter. But I am saying that malpractices happen, and I have had brought to my notice instances where they have occurred on both sides of politics. In one instance, in the days before the Labour split when I was an official of the Australian Labour Party, I stopped it.
– You are not saying that, you would not stop it now.
– I would stop it now also. I definitely would. But do not let anybody say that these malpractices do not occur. They are committed mainly by people who pride themselves on being experts on postal voting. As one can see, they are experts, but not in the best sense. Many of you know people who work for your parties and who take particular care over the postal voting. I do not say that all of them would do it, but there exists a hard core of people in every party who will go out to achieve a result and see that it is obtained. Why be horrified about it when nothing is done to try to stop it? Suggestions were made in another place that official electoral visitors should go out to obtain these postal votes. That would clean it up to a large extent and I cannot understand why that obvious reform was not adopted by the Government.
– It operates in three States.
– If it operates in three States for State voting why not have it in Federal voting and stop this holeandcorner business where people who are old and ill are unfortunately betrayed and deceived by those who ought to know better? 1 suggest also that people in the administrative side of both major political parties know that this practice is going on. Their general attitude, even when they have placed before them clear facts, is to say, “ Both sides are doing it. We will not do anything because if we put one of their people into court, in a few weeks’ time it might be one of ours.” A kind of unfortunate agreement exists allowing the practice to go on.
– It might not be an agreement; it might be an understanding.
– It might be an understanding, as Senator 0’Flaherty puts it more felicitously. I say again that the Opposition in another place urged the Government to take some action to clean up this matter and I am sorry that the Government did not accept its proposal. To those who say that this could not happen I reply: How can you say that, when both parties have introduced legislation to try to stop corruption in trade union elections? The Government has introduced legislation against corruption in trade union elections and the Opposition did the same in 1948. Is any one going to tell me that a person who is not honest will be any better in a political election than he would be in a trade union election? I suppose the postal voting business does not affect a great number of votes, but corruption exists and it can be eliminated. I do not know why the Government will not act.
As to the order of candidates on the ballot-paper, my party would not have any objection to drawing for lots for the position on the House of Representatives ballotpaper, although there has been a lot of reference made to my party, which has been singled out in a number of speeches, particularly in another place. When I first arrived here some people said that I was elected only because I landed the No. 1 position on the ballot-paper.
– It is all right to be on the rails.
– It is an advantage. Any one who knows anything about the voting on that occasion and who looks at the figures will know that I would have been elected whether I had the No. 1 position or not. All parties have offended in this regard. We know Mr. Beaton was elected for Bendigo because his surname starts with “ B “. It happens on the other side. Members have won seats on this side simply because of the commencing letter of their surnames.
– Did you ever hear of the four “ A’s “?
– I heard about them; that was a famous instance. 1 simply say that my party has no objection to the names being drawn from a hat. lt would even things up in the long run. If people want to eliminate that advantage, as it turns out at present, we would have no objection to that course either. I think that on occasions a large number of informal votes are cast because people deliberately do so. One of the biggest percentages of informal votes ever recorded was in the election five years ago when I was elected in Victoria. A lot of Labour people in Victoria were so disgusted over the split that they would not vote for either side and they voted informally. I know that that is true. Generally, I doubt whether a great number of people deliberately vote informally. One reason for the increase is that our system of voting by numbers is new to many new Australians. They have not voted in that way in their homeland and here they find it difficult to comprehend, particularly in a Senate election. It would have been a good thing if this bill had contained provision for optional preferential voting in Senate elections. I am all in favour of that, for it .would be a powerful factor in eliminating much of the informal voting that goes on. A good result would be achieved from it and apparently it would eliminate a considerable number of informal votes- I think that the system would be perfectly fair to both sides.
– What do you mean by optional preferential voting?
– There are various systems, but I suggest the one in which the people are asked to mark their ballot-papers for at least one position more than the number of candidates to be elected. If five are to be elected, their vote would be formal so long as they put 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the paper. That is a reform which I hoped would be in this bill. It is a sensible reform that would prove efficient. I hope the Government will give consideration to it even at this late stage.
More publicity should be given to the method of voting, at Senate elections if we are to retain it as at present. I suppose that television is very costly, but if the Australian Broadcasting Commission could arrange to screen a picture of Mr. Justice Foster being insulted on the wharfs the other day, it ought to have the facilities to show people the method of voting at elections. There is no reason at all why, before elections, the people could not be shown on their television screens a couple of times a night how a person should mark his ballot-paper at a Senate election. If that were done, with the tremendous number of people who now view television, you would cut a swathe in the number of informal votes. I suggest also that some newspaper advertising should be indulged in to illustrate the correct method of voting. A good public relations expert should be engaged to advise on those advertisements in the public press to make clear to the people what they have to do to cast a formal Senate vote.
A lot more has to be done in the reform of our electoral machinery. I do not know whether it already contains provision for equality of treatment for all parties. I wish that that were so. When the next federal election takes place at the end of the year, money will be provided out of Commonwealth Government funds for the main parties to broadcast not only their main policy speeches but also small speeches two and three times an evening while families sit around the tea-table, for two or three weeks before the election. By contrast, if the Australian Broadcasting Commission runs true to form, my party will not get even sufficient time to broadcast the whole of its policy speech. I repeat what I have said before. Our electoral machinery ought to provide for equal treatment of all candidates. It is totally wrong that government money should be used to give candidates of any party a considerable advantage over those of other parties.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate,. I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator HANNAN! (Victoria) EL 1.0]. - Mr. President,, unlike most honorable senators when commencing, an: address- on the: adjournment, 1 do not- propose to apologize: for detaining, the Senate: because: the matter that I wish to raise is of great interest to thousands of Australians and the impending evil, if not corrected now, may well prove to be irremediable. I refer to the threatened cessation of frequency modulation broadcasting in- all capital cities,, a service that has been provided by the. Australian Broadcasting Commission, through the Postmaster-General’s technical channels for the last fifteen years.. During an earlier address this session I had occasion to make a plea to the Government for the extension of the experimental A.B.C. frequency modulation transmissions. I was heartened at the interest which the Postmaster-General took in these highfidelity broadcasts. I had earlier suggested that full use was not being made of the frequency modulation transmissions in Melbourne because of the large percentage of speech and non-musical matters being broadcast. The Postmaster-General corrected that position by an instruction. Towards the end of April this year, after the announcement had been made that frequency modulation was to cease, on 30th June next, I directed a question to the Postmaster-General asking that the Frequency Allocation Committee examine the situation and endeavour to find a spot in the frequency spectrum for permanent frequency modulation transmissions. The Postmaster-General replied that he would give the matter further consideration. His reply was so encouraging that I am prompted to make this plea in somewhat greater detail. To-day, the correspondence columns of the Melbourne press carry a reasoned and temperate plea for the continuance of frequency modulation broadcasts, and one Sydney newspaper this afternoon carries a large article on the matter headed, “ Sessions to End Soon. Anger at A.B.C. Over F.M.”
The Senate is not the place for a detailed discussion of technical matters, but the irony of the position is that technical matters are in fact disposed of, encouraged or killed by votes in the Senate and in the other chamber. However, there is no insuperable mystery about frequency allocations, no more so than the question of how many farms could be established on a given area of land. Stated briefly, frequency modulation is a means of transmitting music of superb quality. It enables the full frequency range of an orchestra to be transmitted. In practice it is not susceptible to ordinary static, heterodyne or most man-made noises which interfere with ordinary radio reception. It causes no interference to interstate transmissions since it is normally limited to line-of-sight range. It is normally conducted in the high-frequency part of the spectrum. For a number of reasons, which I will not discuss here, high quality reception of normal amplitude modulation stations is impracticable in most parts of Australia at the moment.
Some thousands of Australians have purchased special frequency modulation receivers in the last fifteen years because they wanted the best possible reception of musical items. The average price of a frequency modulation tuner would be between £40 and £70. Since I have no way of calculating the number of people who own frequency modulation receivers, I have estimated roughly the price of these instruments. At a rough estimate the value of these special receivers already in use, or on dealers’ shelves, must amount to a figure in the vicinity of £1,000,000, which is a very tidy sum indeed. This equipment will become virtually worthless if these transmissions cease on 30th June next as has been announced.
The reason given for their cessation is the necessity to secure extra space in the frequency spectrum for three new television stations. I do not challenge the establishment of the new stations, but surely the Postmaster-General and the A.B.C. should look ahead ito the day when here, as in the United States of America and other countries, frequency modulation is an almost automatic adjunct to the existing medium-wave sound services which can never be reformed to provide high quality transmission and reception. I plead with the Government to give consideration to the reservation of a segment of the spectrum to make provision for the resumption of frequency modulation services. A segment only about 50 kilocycles wide - more for preference - would be required between 1 50 megacycles and 200 megacycles. Honorable senators will appreciate that one kilocycle is equal to one-thousandth part of a megacycle. It will be seen that only a small amount of space is required to keep this channel open. One channel only would be sufficient to serve all Australian capital cities, because at that frequency there is little danger, in normal conditions, that a transmitter in one State would interfere with a transmitter in another State.
The cost to the Government of the changeover would be negligible. I think the Sydney newspaper estimated that the cost would be £25. I can well imagine that it may be less. Most existing receivers could be converted. I would willingly donate to the Government the sum of £25 if it would ensure that frequency modulation services were retained. I do not make that offer because I own a frequency modulation receiver. If executive or legislative action which affects green peas, iron pyrites, scallops or berry fruits is before this chamber, honorable senators quite rightly present the point of view of the persons affected. I do not think it necessary to apologize for presenting the point of view of the discerning music lover who is being deprived of something which he cherishes, or the point of view of a section of the electronics industry whose valuable equipment and supplies will be rendered worthless.
I commend my suggestion to the earnest consideration of the Government. I plead with it to take action now. Once these transmissions are abolished and once the new frequency allocations are assigned, it is very probable that frequency modulation transmissions in Australia, so far as sound broadcasting is concerned, will be a dead letter.
– Senator Hannan has expressed concern at the proposal of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to cease frequency modulation broadcasts. This matter has been before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board since 1959. The points raised by Senator Hannan are of such a technical nature that only the PostmasterGeneral is adequately equipped to consider them. I undertake to bring Senator Hannan’s remarks to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
.- Notwithstanding some of Senator Hannan’s later remarks, with which I did not entirely agree, I was so impressed with the substance of his plea that I would like the Minister for
Air (Senator Wade), who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, to undertake to place the Postmaster-General’s views on this matter before the Senate. All honorable senators are interested in the case submitted to-night by Senator Hannan. I would like to know the Postmaster-General’s attitude to this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 May 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610510_senate_23_s19/>.