25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs, ls it a fact, as reported in a national daily newspaper this morning, that the United States of America has asked Australia to send more combat troops to Vietnam, and that the Australian Government has agreed in principle to send them? Has any request been received from the Government of South Vietnam, or is any such request anticipated? If the reports are true, will the Government on this occasion show to the Parliament and the people more frankness than it did when sending the first Australian battalion to Vietnam? May I hope for a speedier and more accommodating treatment of these questions than 1 have received of the question I placed on the notice paper on 24th August last, on the subject of earlier requests for troops for Vietnam? That question is still unanswered.
– At present no request for an increase in our commitments in Vietnam has been made to us from any source. If such a request were made, we would consider it, but no request has been made; nor has any consideration been given, as has also been reported, to boosting the call-up of national service trainees. Both statements are without foundation. I hope the honorable senator is satisfied with the promptness of the reply.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs: Does the honorable gentleman agree that the main internal threat to Australia is Communism? Does he also agree that the main external threat to Australian security comes from Communists and Communism? Is it not a fact that the Communist Party in Indonesia is the strongest in Asia, outside of Red China? If the answer to each of those three questions is “ Yes “, will the Minister inform the Senate of the true position of
Mr. Aidit. the Communist Party leader in Indonesia? If he has been captured and killed, will the Minister give details to the Senate?
– I think it is perfectly evident .that the greatest threat to the peace of the world comes from aggression which, at this time in the world’s history, comes only from Communist sources. I think the threat posed by Communism inside Australia is more of a positional threat because of the positions held by Communists in some of our industrial organisations, and because of the verbal and written propaganda assistance they give to external aggression by Communism. I do not have any information on what has happened to Mr. Aidit, but I will seek such information as we have and will certainly let the honorable senator have it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Minister studied the report that a team of investigators from Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. is likely to visit South Australia within the next two weeks to examine facilities at the Adelaide airport? Can the Minister indicate the purpose of the visit and the likely effect on the development of the airport?
– I have read the report to which the honorable senator referred. It related to the fact that a technical team from Qantas is to visit Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and perhaps some inland areas of New South Wales with a view to extending its technical services into one of those areas. Qantas is running short of staff in Sydney, which is its headquarters, and it is finding it difficult to get staff. As I understand the position, the team is to survey the possibility of gaining staff from one of the areas mentioned. Adelaide is one of those areas and I presume that if the team is going to Adelaide it will be for that purpose.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is the Minister aware that the Australian and New Zealand producer boards in London are concerned at the sharp increase in the immediate entry price for apples to the European
Common Market countries? Has the Government been approached by the Australian Apple and Pear Board to make representations to the Common Market Commission to point out that the increase is a major one and to ask that it be reconsidered? If this approach has been made, is the Minister in a position to give any information as to the outcome of the representations?
– I am not aware whether an approach has been made to the Department of Trade and Industry, but if the honorable senator places the question on the notice paper, I shall get the Minister for Trade and Industry to furnish him with a reply.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, refers to the fact that I placed a question on the notice paper on 23rd March 1965 and it has not yet been answered. The various parts of the question were of interest at the time. I now ask whether an approach can be made to the Prime Minister to have parts (5), (6) and (7) answered. Parts (1), (2), (3) and (4) have not now the same interest that they had at the time the question was asked.
– I have not got the question in front of me, but I shall take the matter up with the Prime Minister to see whether I can get an answer to all of it or to part of it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will he draw the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to the fact that youths in the 19 to 20 years age group are being refused employment because employers state that they cannot afford to train lads who are likely to be called up for Army service? Will the Minister for Labour and National Service issue an order or an appeal to employers, whether they be government or private, to refrain from this policy as they too must play their part in the defence of Australia? Does the Minister not agree that the prestige of Australia’s servicemen would be damaged’ if it were thought that lads were enlisting in the Army because they could not get jobs?
– I shall bring that statement to the attention of the Minister. I suggest that if. the honorable senator has any corroborative evidence, or if he knows of any cases in which this has happened, it would be quite useful if he would make that available also.
– The Stores and Plant Branch of the Department of Works at Villawood.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister give the Senate information as to the way in which the recent rise in the price of wheat for consumption within Australia was brought about? To what extent is the price of flour expected to rise?
– The increase in the price of wheat has been brought about as a result of inquiries that have been made from year to year regarding the cost of production. Inquiries have been made from quite a large number of farmers in scattered areas. They have not all been made from the one source. As a result of the inquiries, it was decided that the price of wheat for this year should be increased to the figure which was announced either today or yesterday. I am not able to say, nor do I think that the Minister himself would be able to say, what the increase in the price of flour would amount to.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that youths under the age of 21 years who volunteer for Army service, either as cadet officers for entrance to Duntroon or Portsea, or as members of the Citizen Military Forces, must have the written permission of a parent or guardian before being accepted? If this is true, is such permission required before national servicemen under the age of 21 years are sent to Vietnam? If not, why not?
– I have not the details of the requirements of the Army in relation to this aspect. I suggest the honorable senator place the question on the notice paper. However, if she wants the . reply really urgently, I suggest that she personally approach the Minister for the Army.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation also relates to the survey to be conducted by Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. In view of the national advantages of decentralisation, and South Australia’s stable economic, industrial and housing policies, will the Minister recommend to Qantas that it give the utmost consideration to Adelaide airport as the site for one of its new jet bases?
– As Minister for Civil Aviation I am aware, of course, of the relative advantages of many localities in Australia, but I am sure that the very competent team which will investigate this matter for Qantas will know far more about it than I do and will not need my recommendation.
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise aware that an extraordinarily large number of imported war and horror toys are on display at the present time in retail stores throughout Australia? Does he consider that the type of advertising indulged in and the encouragement given to people to purchase such toys for their children rather tend to develop a cult of violence and brutality amongst the younger generation of Australians? Is he also aware that huge profits are being made from the sale of these implements? Will he review his powers under the Act with a view to recommending a prohibition in future years on the importation of such toys of violence and thereby encourage Australian manufacturers to engage in the production of creative toys for use by Australian children?
– In the first place, 1 think it should be made abundantly clear that I, as the Minister for Customs and Excise, have no jurisdiction over the production of toys in Australia. It may well be that many of the toys of the type mentioned by the honorable senator are Australian made. In the second place, it is not part of my function to concern myself about the profit associated with the manufacture of any particular type of goods. I do not think the Minister for Customs and Excise should be expected to exercise his powers in the matter of the profit . that a manufacturer makes on an article.
As to the importation of horror toys, it is known that I have issued a direction that any toys which have any lethal significance and can be used in some form to do irreparable damage to a person shall come under the influence of the prohibited import regulations. However, Senator McClelland is asking for a far wider application of those regulations and I shall have to take a very critical look at his request.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Australian Airlines Flight Engineers Association sought Government support to ensure that DC9 aircraft should include a flight engineer in its complement, that is, a minimum technical crew of three? Do air accident statistics confirm the view that all major airline accidents have involved crews of two?
– I have had a communication from the Association to which the honorable senator refers, lt is under consideration by the Department at the moment.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Defence. I refer to question No. 515, which was placed on the notice paper by me on 24th August last, concerning the despatch of further Australian combat troops to Vietnam. In view of the prompt answer given to another question asked by me a few minutes ago, by the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs, have I to abandon hope of ever getting an answer to the question on the notice paper?
– I shall endeavour to get as prompt as possible an answer to this question.
(Question No. 635.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
(Question No. 715.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
(Question No. 719.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Are there any legal provisions which prevent a parent removing a child from Australia without the consent of the other parent, where no custody order or other specific Court order exists in respect of the child? If not, will the Government consider the introduction of suitable safeguards to protect the rights of Australian citizens in this regard?
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
Section 62 of the Migration Act 1958-1965 prohibits the taking of certain children out of Australia and section 63 of that Act provides means whereby shipping and air transport companies may be served notice not to take certain children out of Australia. These sections of the Migration Act apply, however, only when the custody ofa child is the subject of a court order or of pending court proceedings. There is no statutory provision to prevent a parent removing a child from Australia without the consent of the other parent where no court action has been taken.
At the time of drafting of these provisions of the Migration Act, the extent to which parents could be provided with statutory safeguards against their children being improperly taken out of the country was most carefully considered by a special committee of the Immigration Advisory Council and by the Attorney-General’s Department. It was found to be impossible to provide practicable safeguards in relation to children whose custody was not the subject of specific court orders or of court proceedings.
By a long standing administrative arrangement, when one parent seeks inclusion of a child’s name in his or her Australian passport, my Department asks to see the written consent of the other parent.
If this is not produced, the non-consenting parent is given a period of at least two weeks within which to seek a court order or to take other legal action, before the child’s name is included in the passport. Inclusion cannot lawfully or reasonably be refused indefinitely by the Department in the absence of a court order giving custody of the child to the non-consenting parent. The procedure described, together with sections 62 and 63 of the Migration Act, represent the maximum safeguards that the Commonwealth can provide.
(Question No. 729.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
If so, what are the latest plans contemplated in this matter?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
If it is eventually decided to vacate the existing Customs House, the matter of its disposal will be dealt with by the Minister for the Interior. However, I have no doubt that before arriving at a decision, he would carefully consider the views of interested parties.
(Question No. 740.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
What are the details of Australia’s imports from and exports to Southern Rhodesia over the past three years?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
Details of imports from and exports to Southern Rhodesia have only been recorded separately for the year1964-65. Prior to that year trade with Southern Rhodesia was recorded against the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Appendices “ A “ and “ B “ contain the import and export details for these countries for the years 1962-63 to 1964-65. These figures have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– by leave - The Government has recently taken several decisions relating to the further development of Australian airports. I propose to outline these decisions and their relationship to our national airports programme to the Senate because of the additional large sums of public money involved and the recent keen interest shown by members of Parliament in the priorities being observed in our airports programme. Honorable senators will know that in 1962 my predecessor presented to the Government a five year programme designed to develop new and additional major facilities at Sydney, Melbourne - Tullamarine - and Launceston, as well as provide a number of other smaller projects, particularly associated with the proposed introduction of jets onto domestic services and the consequent deployment of Electras. The Government approved this programme and work commenced in 1963.
All of these projects had operational priority. That at Sydney and Melbourne was obvious - Sydney as our major international airport and Melbourne as the centre of our domestic aviation network. The priority given to Launceston was also based on operational grounds. The apron was overcrowded and understrength, and the runway length and strength were inadequate for any aircraft bigger than a Viscount. It is perhaps not always realized that Launceston is the busiest of our noncapital city airports. I might add, also, and only because the point has been raised in Parliament, that I was not the Minister for Civil Aviation when the Launceston project was approved, so there should be no assertion of local favouritism.
Earlier this year the Government was compelled to review theprogramme because of unpredictably large increases in both domestic and international traffic, the introduction of larger and heavier aircraft onto international services, and increased costs of construction. We accepted the additional commitments involved at Sydney, Melbourne and Launceston, despite the quite significant additional costs involved. The total revised cost of this part of the programme - that is, the three projects at Sydney, Melbourne and Launceston, together with other works, some of which were associated with the introduction of Boeing jets on to domestic services and which were started during 1963-64 and 1 964-65 - is now approximately £42 million. This is a considerable sum, particularly when it is remembered that it is for airport development alone and does not take into account the many additional millions we are spending and are committed to spend on air safety aids such as long range radar, on our air traffic control and navigational system, and on the very many other services we provide for all branches of the Australian aviation industry.
The Government also decided at the time to appoint an Inter-Departmental Committee to investigate further nine separate airport projects and a number of other routine developments recommended by the Department of Civil Aviation. The Committee comprised representatives of the Departments of Labour and National Service, Works, Civil Aviation, Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Department. Honorable senators will recall the nine particular projects - a new terminal at Canberra; strengthening of the runway at Brisbane to handle the heavier types of international jets; extensions to the Perth runway to enable jet service to South Africa and to maintain an alternative jet route to South East Asia; a new terminal at Port Moresby; terminal extensions and runway extensions at Adelaide; necessary runway works at Coolangatta and Mackay, and temporary extensions to the existing international terminal at Sydney to handle traffic satisfactorily until the new international terminal is ready for use in 1969. The other routine development’s are what might be described as “ bread and butter “ works involving additions, improvements and extensions at a large number of airports around Australia.
Three of the nine separate projects have already been recommended by the Committee, approved by the Government, and work has either started, or is expected to start soon. These are the strengthening of the runway at Brisbane, runway extensions at Perth, and temporary extensions to the international terminal at Sydney. The total additional cost of these three projects is approximately £1 million. Again the priority for those projects is obvious. Further consideration of the other six projects was somewhat hampered by other factors basically associated with the domestic airlines’ plans to expand their jet fleets. This situation has now been resolved and this has cleared the way for the Committee to go ahead with its consideration of the six projects and the other routine developments that I have mentioned. The Committee is now in the final stages of ils investigations and I hope soon t’o be able to report the outcome of its investigations to the Government which will, of course, make the final decision. The total cost of all these works still before the Committee is approximately £6 million.
Several weeks ago, in granting the domestic airlines permission to buy Douglas DC9’s and additional Boeing 727’s, the Government also accepted the consequential responsibility for the further development of a number of airports throughout Australia to enable them to cater efficiently for the operation of an enlarged domestic jet fleet and the operations of Electras and Viscounts which will be deployed on to other routes. This involves an additional £8 million and the money will be spent entirely on strengthening and/ or lengthening of runways and improvements to aircraft aprons and taxiways.
The Department of Civil Aviation is now discussing priorities for these works with the airlines and the various projects are planned to start to come into operation in 1967. I should emphasise that this £8 million is a special commitment and it will be spent on those airports where it is operationally necessary. I will announce the specific projects involved when the details and priorities are finalised with the airlines.
When you add these figures you find that the Government has already spent or committed itself to spend £51 million during its current five year programme on airport development. This total does not include the £6 million worth of projects still before the Inter-Departmental Committee. This is a programme of airport expansion unmatched in any period in Australia’s history. I think it also shows the breadth of planning undertaken by the Department of
Civil Aviation to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding aviation industry while retaining a sense of national perspective and financial responsibility.
There has been some quite unwarranted criticism in relation to the Sydney and Tullamarine projects - unfortunately some of it from members of Parliament - and most of it seems to be motivated by an illfounded suspicion that there is some underhand plot afoot to supplant Sydney with Tullamarine as Australia’s premier international airport. The Government can do no more than publicly promise - as it. has done on many occasions - that it is our intention to retain Sydney as our major international airport, and back that promise with hard cash to finance the necessary facilities.
Much has been made of the undeniable fact that the site of the existing Sydney airport is a “ difficult “ one. This is an inescapable fact of geography. We are committed to the Sydney airport site because there is no other suitable site within reasonable distance of the city. There also has been a tremendous Government investment in facilities already established at Sydney to make it into a good site and many millions also invested there by our. own overseas airline Qantas.
Most people apparently forget that the new Tullamarine jetport is being built primarily to enable the satisfactory operation of a large fleet of domestic jet airliners. The present Melbourne airport is incapable of further expansion because of residential and geographic factors. It is not satisfactory for the operation of an expanding fleet of large domestic jets, and the few Boeing 727 jets now operating into Melbourne do so under some restrictions. Melbourne is the centre of Australia’s domestic aviation network and if it could not accommodate increasing numbers of domestic jet aircraft, then, naturally, the aircraft on our domestic network would have to be limited to the types that could operate from Melbourne. This would have meant no modern domestic jet aircraft fleet and probably no domestic aircraft larger or faster than the Electra. In addition, a city of Melbourne’s size, legitimately justifies international services in its own right. As the cost of this additional facility was not out of keeping with the requirement, the Government decided that this should be done.
In all this, the Government and the Department of Civil Aviation have kept firmly in mind the Government’s promise and commitment to retain Sydney’s position as our number one international terminal. Anyone who cares to study the plans outlined to the Public Works Committee should not fail to be impressed by the work and planning that has been done to ensure this. Beside the very extensive and costly developments now under way at Sydney, the Department has plans, subject to Government approval, to build parallel runways when they are needed, and this is expected to be some time in the 1970’s. The Department’s master plan also provides, if necessary, for the development of a further set of parallel runways at Towra Point on the southern side of Botany Bay which could be operated, not as a separate airport, but as part of the overall Sydney airport complex. Several years ago the Department successfully negotiated with the Sydney planning authorities to have the area reserved. These developments are planned to handle all Sydney’s expected traffic demands up to the year 2000 and beyond, and with the major advances that have occurred and will occur in aviation. I think this is as far as we can be expected to go at this point.
Another point of criticism raised is that the domestic airlines should be shifted simultaneously to Sydney’s new international terminal site. A tentative order of cost involved in such a shift is between £10 million and £15 million. As I said earlier, the Department is planning that the domestic wings should be added to the new Sydney international terminal in the early 1970’s. The international terminal, the road network, and everything else is designed so that the domestic airlines can be accommodated in that area.
Mr. President, the Government takes full responsibility for our national airports programme and the priorities involved. We believe that any fair and objective study of the programme shows quite clearly that it is soundly based on a well defined order of national priorities, consistent with the operational demands of new aircraft and new services and the undeniable fact that our finances for airport developments are not unlimited.
I should also inform the Senate that the Government has considered Australia’s airport needs for the five to ten year period when the current five year programme ends in 1967-68. This involves major projects such as a new combined terminal complex and a second jet runway at Brisbane, a new airport for Canberra, new terminal facilities at Darwin, the shifting of the domestic terminals at Sydney to the north west terminal area where the new international terminal is now being built, the possibility of the need for parallel runways, and other possible airport improvements associated with the introduction of both supersonic jets and small jets on some country routes throughout Australia. All these developments will be very expensive. Whilst no accurate costs have yet been prepared, nor can they be at this stage, the order of cost could run as high as £100 million.
At the appropriate time, my Department will submit to the Government a second five year programme designed to meet the growing needs of Australian aviation. I am certain that it will be as soundly conceived and as expertly executed as the present programme.
Debate resumed from 25th November (vide page 1842), on motton by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill now before the Senate is designed to authorise a grant of £2,400,000 to the States for the purpose of capital works relating to tertiary education. Whilst this is a very considerable step forward in Australia’s educational programme, it is not by any means all that was expected as an outcome to the Martin committee’s report, which was presented to the Parliament in March last. Speaking in another place, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said that the Government had accepted the Committee’s central recommendation for the development of advanced education in institutions which will become virtually new types of tertiary colleges outside the universities.
The establishments referred to in this Bill are not new and do not measure up to the concept of the new types of colleges outside universities contained in the Martin report, since most of the institutions to be assisted through this “ measure are already in existence. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology has for a long time provided all the facilities referred to in the Martin Report.
Western Australia receives a very good deal through this legislation. I am very pleased to see that’ the whole of the grant of £500,000 is not to bc spent in the metropolitan area of the capital city, as is being done in some other States. More than £61,500 is to be granted to the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie. I wish to express my very deep appreciation of the work which has been done at the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie for many decades. Western Australia relies very much for its prosperity on mining. In the early 1890’s, had it not been for the discovery of richer mineral deposits, it’ was doubtful whether Western Australia would have been able to continue its economic existence. Since that time, Western Australia has depended heavily on mining in its various forms, apart from its rural resources. The Kalgoorlie School of Mines has for nearly 60 years provided an excellent service in realms which have not been catered for otherwise at our universities and technical colleges. T pay a tribute to past and present members of the staff of that school, and to the student’s who have come from it because of the great contributions they have made to the economic welfare of Western Australia.
In addition, Western Australia is to receive more than £438,500 to assist’ in the completion of a new technical college being erected at Collier in the South Perth district. Some of the buildings there have been completed and others are nearing completion. They represent a great advance on the old type of technical college in Perth. Before I entered Parliament 1 was on the part time staff of the Perth Technical College. I was amazed, even at that time, nf the number of young people attending night school there to improve their status by obtaining better jobs, or who came just to improve their minds. I refer to students attending classes such as the literature class, with which I was associated. Many such students were tired out after a long day’s work - girls in domestic service and others - but they would come to night school simply because they enjoyed it’ and wanted to obtain the advantage of a little more education. Since those days, a big upsurge has occurred in the attitude of the Australian community - nay, of all the communities of the world - towards education.
Australia is not alone in facing the problems associated with the provision of more complex educational facilities. The new technical college being erected in South Perth is a far cry from the? old Perth Technical College which was a familiar landmark in St. George’s Terrace. Honorable senators who have not visited Perth should do so. In St. George’s Terrace is one of the very first of the old colonial schools. It has been retained as part of the Perth Technical College, even though it no longer comes up to the standards now considered necessary for teaching purposes. I hope that it will be retained even when the new building programmes are completed, and used for other purposes. Of course, there are many people in the community who do not go on to universities. That was one of the defects of our educational policy in the past. Too many of our educational programmes were based on the assumption that all people would go on to universities. Before the war, approximately 3 per cent, of children who started in primary schools went on to complete tertiary education at the university level. Of course, that figure has now increased to a very large extent. There is still a vast number of people in the community who do not go on to the university but who desire to have some form of education at the tertiary level. That fact has been recognised.
It is pleasing to see that the grants In Victoria are not being centralised. Although a large grant of £500,000 is to be made to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the School of Mines and Industries at Ballarat, the Gordon Institute of Technology at Geelong and the Bendigo Technical College are each to receive grants. I think it is a very good thing that these grants are lo be spent on decentralising education. There “ is just as much need to decentralise education in Australia as there is to decentralise industry. I hope that in the near future when consideration is given to establishing new institutes and colleges in the States, more regard will be paid to the desirability of extending them to rural areas. That will involve, not only the building of technological institutes, but also the development of these institutes side by side with residential facilities for students. Some students who live in country areas do not always have easy access to country towns. For the life of me I cannot see why some people who have lived their lives in the metropolitan areas, would not benefit from becoming students at institutes in rural areas if residential halls were available for them. 1 think it is as important that there should be residential halls at these institutes as it is that there should be residential halls at universities.
Victoria is setting a very good example in .spending a great deal of its grant on institutes in country areas. I am sorry to say that the grant to New South Wales is being spent on the New South Wales Institute of Technology in Sydney, although I believe a promise was made that institutes would be established at Wagga and Bathurst. The people of Bathurst are very irate that an institute is not to be established there in the immediate future. Recently a meeting was held in Bathurst te protest against the fact that the State Government had not participated in this scheme, although it had been invited to do so by the Commonwealth. I think it is very encouraging to see that people are so interested in this subject that they will hold a protest meeting when they believe that their district has a claim to have ah institute established there.
It is important that education should be decentralised. That is what is being done in Victoria. I regret that it is not being done in New South Wales. The policy of decentralisation is being adopted in Queensland, where, in addition to the Queensland Institute of Technology in Brisbane, there is an institute at Toowoomba and at Rockhampton. These are excellent signs for future development. The main institutes in South Australia and Tasmania at the present time are centred in the capital cities. I hope that what I am saying this afternoon will help to encourage the establishment of these centres of education in districts away from the capital cities, particularly in the larger States.
The Opposition always agrees with any grant for the purpose of education, but we are like Oliver Twist; we always want more. We would not like to think that this grant which has been made to the States on a £1 for £1 basis will be the be-all and endall of the decision to help with the development of tertiary colleges. The Martin report which was presented some time ago was excellent. I am pleased that it has not met the fate of the Vernon report. The Martin report has been acted upon and I hope that it will continue to be acted upon in the future. The grant of £2.4 million is only a beginning. The Government has said that only £1 million of this amount may be spent by June 1966 but it expects the remainder to be absorbed by the end of next year and that those States which have not already come into this scheme will submit programmes later to the Commonwealth Government for approval so that they, too, can receive the grant on the £1 for £1 basis.
Australia has to take its place in this competitive world. Other countries have already seen the necessity of having welltrained technicians - not only trained in the bread and butter aspects of their craft but trained also to provide a complete living for themselves and their families. We legislate for and give the people shorter working hours, but are we educating them to use the additional leisure time to the best advantage? It is in that regard that I feel this Bill is making a start on solving the problem that exists.
When I was. in America a couple of years ago I visited some colleges of a type which the Martin committee said should be encouraged in Australia. I was very interested to see the work being done there and I was hoping that some of those people who go abroad to study, perhaps with a Churchill Fellowship, might take up this aspect of education as their field of study. The three countries which at present seem to lead in tertiary education are the United States, the Soviet Union and Germany. They have accepted the challenge to provide a form of tertiary education over and above mere technical training.
A great deal more could be done in the schools in this regard. The Commonwealth has already faced up to the challenge of providing science laboratories in schools because Australia was lagging behind in the scientific race through lack of science teaching facilities. However, I believe we are also lagging behind because of the lack of technical equipment in schools. When I was teaching, the equipment available for woodwork, carpentry and domestic science was primitive. I do not know whether there has been much improvement since then. The artisan is just as essential to the community, if not more so, than is the intellectual. The two are interdependent. One cannot exist without the other. We all know that man cannot live by bread alone, and we must realise that any educational system must provide for the education of the whole man. We must teach him not only how to earn a living but also how to enjoy his leisure time. The whole concept of education is altering now. Previously, all of our education systems in Australia seemed to be orientated towards the universities. Everything depended upon the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations. All of the programmes of schools right from the infants’ classes to the higher classes in the secondary schools had only one object, namely, to push, shove or otherwise get as many people as possible through the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations, without any realisation of the fact that many of those children who did not have the mental capacity to go through to the university would become as worthwhile citizens as those who had a higher mental capacity, or the financial backing, or any of the other qualifications enabling them to go to universities.
I am pleased that for the first time the Commonwealth Government has assumed its responsibility towards this type of training. Every parent with whom 1 came in contact in my teaching days had only one object. That was to see that his children had a better chance than he himself had had. This was particularly true in depressed areas, where I spent quite a lot of my teaching life. I found there what was perhaps a greater regard for education than existed in other areas where there was not economic necessity. I found, for instance, that even when the fathers were out of work, some sacrifice was always made in order that the children would have their school books and their uniforms for gymnasium or sports so that they would not be different from the other children and they could get the very best from their school days. I am glad that today there is not the same great need for sacrifice as there was then. Many more opportunities are given to children from all walks of life to be educated to the very best of their ability. This education does not necessarily lie in an academic direction. As a matter of fact, I found the greatest satisfaction in dealing with children who were a bit backward, or even with delinquents. I suppose we were of a kind. I did get a great deal of satisfaction from being able to give them something to enable them to enjoy their school days, upon which they could build happiness for others later on.
So, Mr. President, while this Bill just makes a stark statement about giving so much in £ s. d. to the State Governments, to be matched on a £1 for £1 basis, for the development of these institutes for tertiary education, it really does far more than that. When something is done for the improvement of the community, for the development of happiness and goodwill, to enable people to earn livings, to become independent, and to develop that pride in themselves that comes from having their capacity recognised, we do far more than just give £ s. d. through an ordinary, dry parliamentary document. Therefore, the Opposition supports the Bill. We regret that the development of tertiary institutes in rural areas of New South Wales is nol at present being considered. We hope that that will not be the position for very long. We hope that this Parliament will be getting advice from time to time through the Wark Committee as to the work being done in this regard. I am quite certain that nobody on either side of the chamber begrudges one penny that is being given under this Bill to the various State Governments for the furtherance of tertiary education.
– in reply - I should like to comment just briefly on some of the thoughts expressed by Senator Tangney. This Bill is to appropriate from Commonwealth Government funds £2i million, to be matched £1 for £1 by the States, thus providing a total of £5 million for expenditure in this field of tertiary education between now and the end of the next calendar year. This is the beginning of the project, but the Government has already made it clear, and has announced to the Parliament, that this will be a continuing project. During the next triennium, commencing at the beginning of the 1967 calendar year, the Government will ask the Parliament to appropriate each year £4 million from Commonwealth funds for the capital requirements of these new colleges. This amount being matched £1 for £1 by the States, an amount of £8 million a year or a total of £24 million over the triennium will be provided to meet capital requirements. The Government has already announced that it has asked Parliament to appropriate £4 million a year from Commonwealth sources for recurrent expenses during that triennium, making a total of £12 million from the Commonwealth, which is to be matched £1 to £1.85, requiring some £19 million from the States, or a total of £31 million for recurrent expenses. Not only do we have this Bill for this appropriation. It leads us to the fact that, with the Government’s previous announcements, the Government will be asking Parliament for £55 million for this purpose over the coming triennium. I think every honorable senator will agree that that is a really significant contribution to the development of this field of tertiary education.
The Government will provide to the Parliament, as I have provided, information from time to time as to what is happening in the fields of grants to. science blocks and schools, grants of technical assistance to schools, and recommendations made by the Wark Committee as to what should be done in particular institutions.
– Will the reports of the Wark Committee be presented to Parliament?
– They will not necessarily be presented to Parliament in the same way as a statutory report from the University’s Commission. I would propose to -make them available as one normally does. Senator Tangney raised the question of technical assistance to secondary schools. In that field, again, I think that a great deal has been done. You may remember, Mr. President, that we have, as a Parliament, appropriated a sum of £20 million for last year and for the existing three year period for the purpose of providing buildings and equipment for technical schools throughout Australia at the secondary level, not at the tertiary level about which we are now speaking. Choosing my words 1 say that this has enabled, virtually a revolution in the capacity for secondary education teaching which has not yet been fully enjoyed by those going through secondary education. That is because there has been a period of time during which the State Governments, for example, have been physically unable to spend the money available to them and because there has been a period of time between, say, the ordering of new equipment such as lathes and other requirements for a technical college and their delivery and installation. But a good deal of that expenditure has become physical and has become effective in the hands of technical students at secondary level; and a great deal more will be flooding in as the initial delay caused by States having to plan and erect buildings and order equipment is overcome. I think it was only about a month ago that I was able to go to Western Australia and open a new section at a technical college at the secondary level which had been built with these funds. We will be supporting, I think to the extent of £1 million from Common^ wealth sources, unmatched by the States, what it appears from the plans will be a magnificent new technical college at the secondary level at Fremantle. This will be built entirely with funds provided by the Commonwealth.
– The Government soon will be able to get on to teachers’ colleges.
– We have done pretty well with the things I am talking about now. That is all I wish to say on this Bill other than to express my own hope - and listening to Senator Tangney I think it is one that she also endorses - that these technical colleges, with the advice, where they have them, of institutes of colleges, and of the Wark Committee, will not only develop their existing capacities in their existing fields but will provide a full rounded education in other disciplines which at the moment they do not have, and that they will be a really effective alternative method of tertiary education throughout Australia. 1 think that they will be.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 30th November (vide page 1885), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. President, the Bill now before the Senate is the Constitution Alteration (Parliament) Bill 1965. The Opposition welcomes this measure and supports the Bill. I find myself in agreement with what the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) had to say in his second reading speech. He has asked me to direct attention to a typing error in that speech which appears in the first paragraph at page 1884 of the daily proof issue of “ Hansard “ of 30th November 1965. He has asked me to invite honorable senators to delete the word “ electors “ in line 20 of that paragraph and to insert the word “ electorates “. That error will be corrected in the weekly issue and permanent volumes.
The Bill before us has its origin in reports that were made by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1958 and 1959. As honorable senators will recall, that Committee comprised six representatives from the Government side and six from the Opposition side of the Parliament. They produced, in all, some 22 recommendations but that did not cover a complete review of the whole of the Constitution. There are aspects which were not touched. It was very heavy labour over a period of some three years that led to the production of the two reports of the Committee. One phase of the Committee’s report dealt with Commonwealth legislative machinery. The whole of that phase is comprised in Part Two of the Report. Chapter 3 dealt with the matter that we are now considering - the question of settling the number of Sen ators and members of the House of Repre* sentatives. Chapter 4 dealt with disagree^ ments between the Senate and the House of Representatives; chapter 5 with the terms of) senators; chapter 6 with the rotation of senators; chapter 7 with casual vacancies in the Senate; chapter 8 with the division of States into electoral divisions and chapter 9 with the reckoning of population.
This Bill deals with the matter and the recommendation set out in chapter 3. The Bill that is to follow deals with the reckoning of population referred to in chapter 9 of the Committee’s report. The action in this matter has, of course, been long delayed. One can regret that but I, as a member of the Committee, have a deep appreciation of the long study and consideration that is necessary before deciding upon constitutional amendment. Not only must the idea be conceived, but also the work of reducing the idea to explicit terms for incorporation in the Constitution is very laborious. It is a job for skilled technicians and we of the Committee were indebted to the Parliamentary Draftsman and his officers for aid in formulating, in quite precise terms, the recommendations that the Committee put forward.
It is a pity that all seven of the recommendations on this subject were not implemented so that we might clear up at one time all of the very urgent questions relating to the legislative machinery of the Parliament. At the same time, I bow to the political wisdom which dictates that too much should not be submitted to the peopleat one referendum. All the recommended alterations are complex, although they are directed . to simple problems. They are technical and require deep study. However, I deplore rather mildly the fact that we have not the whole of the recommendations dealing with the Parliament before us at this time. If this referendum is successful, as I hope and believe it will be, having the support of the major parties in the Parliament, then perhaps the Parliament might be encouraged to go a little further. Whilst matters affecting the Parliament are important, I do not suggest that they are the most important of the recommendations made by the Committee. I think that, from a national viewpoint, other recommendations on matters affecting the economy might well have been given priority.
I trust that now that the Government has directed its attention to the question of constitutional reform it will be encouraged to look at other, far reaching recommendations which have been made by the Committee. In particular I think that the recommendations dealing with the division of the States into electoral divisions might well have been incorporated in this measure. Unfortunately a very lengthy and rather complex constitutional amendment would be required to give effect to those recommendations, but they are completely allied to the question of the number of members in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In particular, they provide for a safeguard in the Constitution against the gerrymandering of electorates. I think that is a vital matter and 1 regret that it, in particular, has not been placed before the Parliament for submission, in turn, to the people of Australia.
The recommendations of the Committee in this, matter were unanimous, with one exception. My colleague on the Committee and in this chamber, Senator Wright, was the one dissenter from the proposal of the Committee which, almost in exact substance, is contained in the measure that is before us. I propose later to refer to Senator Wright’s dissent and to- the reasons he gave for it. I anticipate that he will not have changed his mind in the interim and that we can expect from him during this debate arguments directed to the same end as that to which his dissent was directed. Therefore, I should like to put before the Senate some considerations in advance of the argument that I think the honorable senator will address to the chamber.
The central purpose of the Bill before us is to repeal section 24 of the Constitution and to rewrite it completely. If that is done there are three sections of the Constitution that will no longer be required. They are section 25, which has never been used and which is open to grave objections; section. 26 which has been a dead letter, for many years, and section 27, which will become quite unnecessary. I come immediately to the present section 24, which is the crux of. the matter. It provides - .
The House of Representatives shall be- composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, -
Those words are relevant when we come to consider the next Bill, which deals with the method by which we calculate the people of the Commonwealth - and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
There we have what is termed a nexus, a connection set up by our Constitution between the number of members in the House of Representatives and that in the Senate. It does not provide that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be exactly twice the number of senators. The reason for that is that on division of the population of the States by a quota there may, in some States, be a remainder which, while not a full quota, might justify an additional member. The words, “ as nearly as practicable “, were inserted to enable, where we have now 60 senators, the number of members of the House of Representatives to go slightly over - to some undefined extent - the figure of 120. So the first step is to divide the whole population of Australia by twice the number of senators, that is, by 120. That gives a quota which in turn is divided into the population of the States to determine how many members each State shall have. Our Constitution provides that if, on that : division, there is in a State a remainder which is greater than half the quota, that State shall get ‘ an .additional member. I repeat that it is against that possibility that the words “ as nearly as practicable “ were included in section 24. Section 13 of the Constitution provides that half the senators are to retire each three years and again the words “ as nearly equal in number as practicable” are used. The wording of the section is - the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable;
It was contemplated there, too, that there might be an odd number from each State - a number that could not be divided into two equal sections without cutting one senator into two pieces. So we run into those words once more. There are very strong practical considerations which require that the number of senators for a State shall be such that, when divided by two, the remainder shall be a number which is, firstly, without fractions and, secondly, not an even number and which, accordingly, is an odd number. To illustrate that let me point out what would happen. At the moment there arc tcn senators from each State, making 60 in all. If the number were increased to 11 from each State, when it came to retirement such retirement would have to take place in two sections - one body of six and one of five. The objection is that fundamentally you could not then get a substantial change of party representation in this chamber until the expiration of a period of six years because, owing to the general state of the political situation in Australia, when six members have to be elected, it is exceedingly probable that the Government will win half these seats - three - and the nongovernment parties will win three. If that were to be continued there would be, as the Minister said in his second reading speech, a constantly deadlocked Senate. The opportunity to disturb that situation would occur - and only in a limited way - every six years when five senators went out and the prospect of one party getting three and the other getting two scats would be established. So that is bad politically.
Again, if we take the next figure of twelve for each State making a total Senate of 72, we would have six senators in each State at an election with the danger that the Senate would be permanently deadlocked, the six being divided three to the Government and three to the non-government parties almost with unfailing regularity. If the figure were 13, we would have six and a half or anyway the number would be divided into two so that seven would have to retire at the end of one period of three years and six at the end of the other period. That would repeat in different figures the dilemma you were in when you had 1 1 senators.
The next step - and the only practical one - would be to increase the number of senators for each Slate from 10 to 14. Wilh 14 senators you would have seven retiring each three years. Then you would have a chance of altering the political climate of the Senate as the Government or the Opposition would get four places and so on. That number would vary from four to three and there would be a chance of the government parties or the nongovernment parties obtaining a firm majority in the Senate. It is unthinkable that we should be a party to any arrangement under which the numbers of members to be elected would lead to the deadlocking of this chamber for years ahead. That could and certainly would destroy all responsible government.
It is unquestionable that this House is now a party House. The great bulk of decisions in this place are made according to party political considerations and responsible government simply would not be possible if there were a deadlocked Senate. As we all know, if the Senate is evenly divided on any motion, the motion proposed fails. In an evenly divided Senate, you reach the position where neither the Government nor its opposition can succeed with any motion if it is opposed by the other side. The President has no casting vote because to give him one would destroy the equality of representation from ali States. So we are forced to do what the Labour Government did in 1948 when faced with the need to increase the representation in the Parliament: We have to increase State representation by four because of the considerations I have just related. If that is done - and it has to be done in each of the six States - it means that the membership of this chamber is increased by 24. Once you do that, you are obliged to increase the membership of the House of Representatives by 48 as the Constitution now stands.
So I put this proposition: If an increase in the House of Representatives is required, to achieve that position you have to add 24 to the Senate and 48 to the House of Representatives. That means making an addition of 72 members to the Parliament as the Labour Government did in 1948. The increase was clearly justified then because until 1948 there had been no real change in the numbers since Federation. Equally, such an increase in the House of Representatives is clearly necessary now as I shall argue later. But from a practical point of view, as our Constitution stands, we cannot achieve a slight increase in the House of Representatives at all. The practical position is that we must increase the size of the Senate by 24 and the House of Representatives by 48 to achieve any real change in the representation in the Parliament.
This is not the first Bill of its type that Has come before the Senate. Honorable senators will remember that early in September 1964 I introduced a series of Bills to provide for constitutional alteration of the whole of the legislative machinery of the Parliament in accordance with the seven recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee.
– The Leader of the Opposition should be highly flattered that this Bill copies his in large measure.
– In large measure. Before I conclude I hope to point out that there are differences between what the Constitutional Review Committee proposed, what I had the honour to propose on behalf of the Opposition in line with the Committee’s recommendations and the Bill that is now before us. I propose to traverse these differences; but if the honorable senator wants to know how I feel about this measure, I am completely pleased to be supporting the almost unanimous recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee and one almost in line with the three Bills I put before the Senate. I pause only to say that but for small differences, I might well have said today: “ I support the Bill”, and then have incorporated the speech I made late last year and left the matter at that. I might well have done that from the nature of the argument I have to address to the Senate.
But I come now to the differences to which I have referred. The Constitutional Review Committee put a complete draft of the proposed amendments to the Parliament and that was what I included in the principal Bill I submitted in September 1964. I had hoped that that Bill would have been carried beyond the second reading stage to fruition and that it could have been presented to the people at the Senate election in December three months later. The Bills we submitted were put to the Parliament deliberately to give the Parliament time if it wished to hold a referendum at the Senate elections in December 1964. The Opposition thought the time was particularly opportune because there is not the same high degree of political disputation at a Senate election as there is when the House of Representatives goes to the people. I think the time to have considered these matters was exceedingly opportune and I regret that opportunity to save a considerable amount of money was missed.
Now I want to make a rapid comparison between what the Constitutional Review Committee recommended, what the Bill I put forward proposed and what is provided in the new Bill. A number of alterations are purely drafting alterations. I approve them as improvements. I am quite certain that no matter how long one pondered a constitutional amendment one could make improvements. There is no quarrel with the drafting amendments and with one entirely new provision which is of a purely machinery nature and is unexceptionable. The first difference is that, whereas the Constitutional Review Committee recommended that there should be not fewer than six nor more than ten senators for each State, the Government’s proposal now before us sets no upper limit at all but provides that there shall be not fewer than 10 senators. Whereas the Constitutional Review Committee set a minimum of six and a maximum of ten senators, the Government now proposes that there shall be not fewer than ten.
– Until the Parliament otherwise provides.
– It proposes that there shall not be fewer than 10 senators. I do not object to allowing flexibility in that matter. On the argument that I shall put later, I see no reason for increasing the size of this House in the foreseeable future. Just as there were limits to the vision of those who founded the Constitution, there may be limits to our vision. I realise that we cannot see into the future so clearly as to be able to provide for every contingency that might arise. So I do not argue about that difference between what the Committee proposed and what the Government now proposes in the Bill.
The other difference concerns a minor matter. The Constitutional Review Committee proposed that, if on dividing the population of the States to determine the number of members of the House of Representatives there was a remainder of more than one-half, then an additional member should be elected. In this Bill the Government has departed from that recommendation and has provided, first, that if there is any remainder at all then an additional member shall be elected. But then it went on to provide that the Parliament may disregard a remainder or may fix the size of a remainder that is to be disregarded, and that the Parliament may alter or repeal any such provision. Again, there is an element of flexibility in that provision. There might be considerations that would justify varying the size of the remainder that would entitle a State to an additional member. I have no quarrel with that difference between the recommendation of the Committee and the provision that the Government has included in the Bill.
At this stage I should like to refer to what I said in September 1964 when I introduced a similar Bill. In my remarks I incorporated some thoughts from the report of the Constitutional Review Committee. The Committee had referred to the change in the character of the Senate as envisaged by its founders. In my remarks I pointed out that, whereas the founders of the Constitution thought that the Senate would function in two respects - first, as a House of review and, secondly, as a States House - that position had changed. What I put on behalf of the Opposition in September 1964 was contained in these words. -
The predominance of party political considerations in the election of senators is exemplified by reference to past electoral returns on the occasions on which elections for senators have been held concurrently with an election of members of the House of Representatives. Almost invariably, the party or coalition of parties forming the government following the elections has won a majority of the Senate vacancies.
The Committee’s conclusion, which it regards as inescapable, is that the original notion of the Senate as a States House was not realised and, therefore, does not justify further increases in the number of senators even though future increases in the number of members of the House of Representatives will probably occur. To the extent that the Senate should represent State interests, as distinct from Commonwealth interests, those interests are sufficiently safeguarded by a Senate of 60 comprising 10 senators from each of the original States. So far as the Senate expresses the notion of equality between the States, the proportionate strength of one State to the whole is the same whether the Senate comprises 6, 10 or 20 members lor each original State. In ordinary circumstances, where the government has a majority in both Houses, experience has shown that the Senate cannot be expected to exercise an independent role. The Committee considers, therefore, that the reflection in the Senate of a Party structure corresponding to that which exists in the House of Representatives has also been decisive in determining the extent to which that House is able or prepared to review the legislation of the other House. The Committee’s view is that the Senate can perform the orthodox functions of review only within the permissible limits of the party system of Federal politics. The Committee’s conclusion is that the functions which the Senate performs or may perform as a house of review do not justify any further increase in the number, of senators chosen for each of the States.
The effective performance of the function of review does not rest on numbers and, indeed, larger numbers could, as for example, by the need to impose restrictions on debate, impair the effectiveness of an upper House in the discharge of functions. Even in the United States, which has a population of more than 170 million -
That is what it was then; it is much greater now - and SO States and where senators, by reason of the legal powers, some exclusive, of their House and their comparative freedom from party discipline, are frequently able to vote independently, there are only 100 senators.
– How many members are there in the House of Representatives?
– Some hundreds - 500 or 600.
– There are about 435.
– The proportion is not as high as in Australia.
– On our present basis, they should have 3,000- members.
– The number of members is low. One has only to recall that the population of the United States is approaching 200 million, that there are 50 States and that there are two senators for each State, to realise that we are thrown quite out of alignment with their proportional representation. I continued -
The Committee considers that a Senate comprising 10 senators for each original State should always retain its prestige and standing. Dignity docs not rest on numerical strength. Nevertheless, it is proposed that the present power of the Parliament to increase, at its discretion, the number of members of the House of Representatives should be made subject to a constitutional restriction which will prevent the number of members of the House of Representatives being increased arbitrarily at the expense of the Senate. It is proposed that a provision should be written into the Constitution providing that the maximum number of members of the House of Representatives should be such that there are on average not fewer than 80,000 persons in the community for every member. On this ratio, the average electorate would comprise some 46,000 voters and the House of Representatives would consist of 137 members elected from the Slates.
That is what the Committee suggested in 1959. If the House of Representatives were elected today on a quota of 80,000 persons, the number of members would be 143, or an increase of 6 due to the increase of population in the period between 1959 and now. I doubt whether anybody would argue against the proposition that there is a need to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives.
– Who would argue that there is a need?
– I shall so argue, and 1 would expect most people to do so. Although this has nothing immediately to do with the Bill, there is an exceedingly great need for a redistribution. Today we have electorates that vary in size from approximately 40,000 electors to as many as 120,000. We are faced with an urgent need for a redistribution. There is no more appropriate time than now, on the eve of a redistribution, to consider increasing the numbers of members of the House of Representatives. At Federation there was one member for each 50,000 persons. When the Australian Labour Party in 1948 increased the number of members of the House of Representatives by 48, there was one member for every 66,000 persons. At present, working on a population of about 11 million, the proportion would be one member to every 98,000 persons. In other words, since the figure was determined at Federation at 50,000 people for each member, the number of people represented by each member has almost doubled.
– The honorable senator is disregarding the 60 senators who represent somebody, too.
– They do. They represent the States. We are referring now to the House of Representatives alone. I think an undue burden is placed on members of the House of Representatives and an increase in their numbers would do a great deal to reduce the enormous area of some divisions. The defect would certainly not be cured by a relatively modest increase in the numbers of members of the House of Representatives, but undoubtedly it would help to ameliorate its effects. I think the proposal to increase the numbers of members of the House of Representatives rests solely on the fact that there is need for effective representation of the people. That is not possible today when on average - and there are many worse cases - each member is representing about 100,000 persons.
I undertook to return to the dissent of Senator Wright who, if I understood him correctly, bases his objection to breaking the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives in the matter of their relative numbers solely on the ground that the less populous States may lose their constitutional strength at a joint sitting of both Houses convened for the purpose of resolving a difference between them. I wish to ‘ quote from paragraph 17 of Senator Wright’s dissent which appears at page 179 of the report of the Constitutional Review Committee. Senator Wright said -
The Australian provisions for a double dissolution have been invoked only twice in 59 years - once in 1914, and again in 1951. In each instance, the general election which followed solved the deadlock, without recourse to a joint sitting. This is- fairly strong evidence that those provisions have been sufficient for the political occasions of a most significant ‘period. The provisions established a ready procedure for a Government to appeal to ‘the electors, if Senate opposition prevented legislation carrying into effect its programme. But the history, which shows that a Government has ‘thought fit to invoke a double dissolution only twice, demonstrates that Senate opposition has not in fact proved any real obstacle to. the passage of importantlegislation.
I have already drawn attention to the ground of Senator Wright’s objection; that is, solely that the Senate’s influence might be less at a joint sitting. I point out that the only provision for a joint sitting in our Constitution is contained in section 57, which provides that in certain circumstances in which the two Houses disagree, after a period of time the Government may have a double dissolution; and that if the measure, the subject matter of the difference that provoked the double dissolution is, after the double dissolution, presented again in both Houses and there is still disagreement, only then may there be a joint sitting.
– That has never been resorted to at any stage, has it?
– It has never been used. As Senator Wright pointed out in his dissent, it has never arisen. Because it has not arisen in 64 years, I think it is safe to say that it is not likely to arise in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the argument that the possibility of a joint sitting should prevent us from breaking the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives rests, I suggest, on a rather small area. lt rests upon the possibility of a joint sitting in the exceedingly remote circumstances in which it can be held; that is, after a double dissolution, and when the measure that provoked the disagreement is again the subject of difference. The possibility is very remote.
I suggest quite seriously to the Senate that if there were virtue in the argument that there should be no breach of the nexus between the two chambers because the Senate might lose out at a joint sitting, it is infinitely preferable to repeal the provision for a joint sitting in those very remote circumstances, rather than force the Parliament to have 24 additional senators and 48 additional members of the House of Representatives, if a change is to be effected with all its costs and complications. Surely in the circumstances with which we are faced it is infinitely preferable, if the only objection to breaking the nexus is a joint sitting, to say: “ What is in the Constitution about a joint sitting?” The alternative is to do what we did in 1948 when 24 senators were added just because 20 members ought to have been added to the House of Representatives, and then add 48 members to the House of Representatives as well.
– It is a dangerous suggestion coming from the honorable senator that we should do what the Chifley Government did in 1948 on the nexus issue.
– Why does the honorable senator suggest that?
– Because the Chifley Government refused to interfere with the nexus.
– That is right. At that time it did not have the advantage of the advice of an exceedingly skilled Constitutional Review Committee. That is my short answer to the honorable senator.
– Would the honorable senator name those members of the Committee who have come to the Parliament since that time? The Chifley Government had ;he advice of some members of the Committee.
– I ,rely entirely upon the labours of my colleagues on the Constitutional Review Committee, backed in a small degree by my own labours, for the proposition I put. It was given very earnest consideration and at that time there was a need to do something. There certainly was not time for a referendum in the immediate postwar period. In due course, thoughts mature and I am delighted to see that the first seed of the Constitutional Review Committee has sprouted. It is my belief that, as the years pass, many more seeds will sprout. My great regret is that I do not see it happening more often.
I thought Mr. Calwell put it exceedingly well when quite recently in speaking on this measure he said -
It is not those who support this proposal who want an extravagant increase in the number of Parliamentarians; it is rather those who oppose it who would commit Australia in the quite near future to an excessive, extravagant and unwanted increase of both senators and members of the House of Representatives. This is the inescapable consequence of the opposition of the people to whom 1 have referred, if their opposition is successful.
I do not think there is any answer to that.
– Did he give any reason for saying that?
– Yes, he has given all the reasons, and I will repeat them. If the recommendation of the Government and of the Constitutional Review Committee, if I can bracket them together precisely, is accepted and a minimum of 80,000 persons is to be the quota for determining the number of members in the House of Representatives, on the basis of our present population, that would give 143 members instead of 122. In other words, there would be an increase of 21 members. But if the Parliament decided to make the quota 85,000 persons, under this proposal it could increase the quota but it could not reduce the quota below 80,000. Let us suppose that the Parliament made it 85,000. There would be 135 members in the House of Representatives. In other words, the present number of 122 members would be increased by only 13. I seriously suggest that the increase in the number in the House of Representatives wanted- at the present time lies somewhere between 13 and 21. That would be an ideal figure. If I am correct in that, and I believe I am, then how absurd it is to go through the present procedure under the Constitution in order to get that desirable increase. The Constitution obliges us to increase the number in this chamber by 24, as a practical measure, and the number in the other place by 48. That is the choice with which I think we are faced. 1 conclude what I have to say on this measure by most cordially supporting the Bill and pledging myself to do whatever I can to ensure its passage, not only here but in the electorate. I put quite seriously to the Senate that there are three courses open to us. The first one is to do nothing. That means that we allow the House of Representatives to operate on the basis that on the average each member represents 100,000 people and that as the years go by that number is going to grow and grow until it reaches 200,000 or 300,000. We do nothing and we do not have regard to the need for effective representation. That is the first course open to us.
The second course is to use the existing procedure, which means that every time we want to increase the number in the House of Representatives we are compelled to make a corresponding increase in the number in this chamber. That is completely unnecessary, in the view of the Constitutional Review Committee, in the view that the Government has adopted and in the view that the Opposition takes. Under the existing procedure, if we want to make an increase in the number in the House of Representatives, we have to increase the number in this place by 24 and in the other place by 48.
The third, and the common sense and obvious thing to do, is to adopt the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee - the one that is in effect now sponsored by the Government - and allow the number in this place to remain stable for the time being and to allow the House that needs some relatively minor expansion to go ahead with that expansion of between 13 and 21 members without the nuisance and without the expense of adding 72 members to the Parliament. I think that the proposition in the Bill is based upon common sense and on good financial considerations. I hope that the Bill will receive a successful passage here and that it will be accepted by the people of Australia.
.– My position in relation to the Bill before us, which provides for a referendum to alter the Constitution, is that I oppose the proposition in the referendum and I oppose the Bill. I think that a proposal for a constitutional alteration is not a matter to be decided in the heat of day to day politics, but that it needs to be looked at against the background of a period of time. The first assumption upon which the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) offered this Bill to the Parliament, copying a proposal which was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to the Senate last year, is that there is a need in this country for a greater number of members in the House of Representatives. That is the fundamental proposition that is put forward and the basis on which this Bill is advocated and upon which a “ Yes “ vote in the referendum is claimed. I deny that proposition.
I have been in this Parliament now for almost 16 years, and I have watched the performance of the House of Representatives. I have yet to find that the number of members in that House operates against its efficiency. In the electorate numbers count in relation to population only where there is a question of personal service to the electorate. If a member of the House of Representatives conceives that it is his function solely to fill in forms or to write letters on purely personal matters, then I believe that it is a level of outlook that is to be deplored.
Secondly, I affirm more strongly the proposition that this country does not need more senators. On a previous occasion when this matter was the subject of deliberate consideration by the Constitutional Review Committee - and I was one of 12 members of the Parliament who constituted that Committee - I said that it is not in numbers that the Senate will attain its efficiency. I believe that the ideal size of a debating and deliberative chamber is anything from 40 to 80 members. From my point of view, 60 is an ideal number to prevent undue log rolling, to provide a proper measure of diversity in debate and experience and to give a legislative chamber a chance of proper performance.
Why has this proposition been brought forward? Has this country, with its external obligations and its internal challenges, nothing better to occupy the Parliament’s time or on which to spend the country’s money and time than a constitutional alteration, the sole purpose of which is to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives? In my view the proposal indicates such a narrow and restricted outlook upon the affairs of this country that in itself it is a condemnation of the proposition. Those who take the wider view would scarcely have time to notice that the affairs of this country were being impeded for the want of a few more members in the House of Representatives. The proposal to allow an increase in the number of members in the House of Representatives, divorced from any relative increase in the number of members in the Senate, invades the fundamental proposition that the founding fathers put down as the very genesis of our Constitution. With a fortitude that was never equalled in the 50 years that followed their achievement of establishing this Constitution, men like Sir Henry Parkes, Sir Edmund Barton, Sir Samuel Griffiths, Andrew Inglis Clark and Sir Henry Braddon came to their conventions and advocated the constitution of a national government and the divorcement from their own State jurisdictions of powers that no longer properly belonged to the colonies but were appropriate to a national parliament. There is no such attitude today, either in the Federal Government or in the State Governments.
The kernel proposition that they advanced was that in order to get an agreement for federation there should be, apart from a House of Representatives numerically proportionate to the population of the country, a Senate representing the six States equally and acting as a House of review. In order that this fundamental .provision of the Constitution would work in proper balance, the founding fathers determined that the number of members of the House of Representatives should be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators. Those who wish to break that two to one ratio, to dissolve that nexus, to destroy that fundamental provision, should have a better reason than has been given to us so far.
Why did the founding fathers decide that there should be an equal number of senators from each State and that the House of Representatives should be as nearly as practicable twice the size of the Senate? Unlike the Upper House of the United Kingdom, the Senate was to be an elected House, elected directly by the people and on the same franchise as applied to the House of Representatives. Unlike the Parliaments of the six States of Australia, the entire Federal Parliament was to be elected on a franchise of adult suffrage, thus anticipating certain States by three or four years. The Legislative Councils in the great majority of the States were not at that time so constituted. Some were appointed and others were elected on a restrictive franchise. The founding fathers were quite cognisant of the fact that they were constituting in this Senate a House which, by virtue of its structure and constitution, was a House of great strength. Dr. Strong has referred to this in his work on modern political constitutions as the. most powerful second chamber in the British Dominions. It was because this States House, this democratic House of review, was to be constituted with that genuine purpose and real strength that the. founding fathers asked: “ What will happen if there is a deadlock between the Senate and the House of Representatives”? Such a situation cannot arise in the United Kingdom Parliament because gentlemen of hereditary title accede tq their seats in the House of Lords. If a government wishes, for political purposes, to overcome this situation created by the accident of birth it simply recommends to the Queen that she create a few more peers. In the Australian States the appointed Legislative Councils were subject to executive appointment and so to the will of the government of the day.
So the founding fathers, creating a Senate on a democratic basis and giving it the higher responsibility of State representation, said to it: “ We expect the Lower House to be rather purposeful when it grows to maturity. It may buck our assumption of responsibility and develop either dictatorship or near dictatorship, based upon an ever-growing and strengthening Public Senvice. Its idea of responsible government may be to call to its aid the convention that a defeat in the Senate on any matter, however insignificant, will demand the resignation of the Government.” All these artifices have been developed over the years to give impregnability to the Cabinet which, as honorable senators know, is constituted by a majority party or parties in the other place and so controls the other place.
Foreseeing a democratically elected Senate of great strength, representing the States and having great responsibility, particularly in financial matters - a responsibility that has grown enormously as the Commonwealth’s financial strength vis a vis the States has expanded over the years - the founding fathers said: “This Constitution requires a deadlock provision.” There is no such provision in the United Kingdom Constitution; there is no such provision in any State Constitution; there is no such provision in the Constitution of the United States; but there is such a provision in the Constitution of Australia! One of the secrets to which we in this place, and the people, should have one eye alerted is this: When Senator MeKenna introduced his bill last September or October to break the nexus, he introduced it hand in hand with another bill designed to alter the deadlock provisions. But the Government, which is now echoing Senator McKenna’s provision to break the nexus, has left in the waste paper basket for the time being the . other bill which seeks to alter the deadlock provision.
We should understand that Senator McKenna, in his support for this Bill today, expressed the hope that the measure is but a contribution, not the beginning and the end. We should understand that those who promoted this proposition in the Constitutional Review Committee promoted it not as a solitary measure but as a measure married to the other proposition to destroy the deadlock provision in our Constitution. First of all, the deadlock provision in our Constitution applies only in relation to bills initiated in the House of Representatives. It was, therefore, designed to give a solution to the position wherein the Senate might reject a bill initiated in the House of Representatives. It does not apply to a bill initiated in this chamber. Though the Senate may reject that interminably, the deadlock provisions of section 57 do not apply. Secondly, section 57 provides that if the House of Representatives, within an interval of three months, twice passes a bill which the Senate does not accept, the GovernorGeneral may dissolve both Houses of the Parliament for a general election by the people. The founding fathers, foreseeing that Australian politics might be conducted with a vigour, provided that if, after such a dissolution and a consequent election, the
House of Representatives again passed a bill and the Senate again rejected it, the GovernorGeneral may convene a joint sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the difference would then be resolved by an absolute majority of the senators and members in that joint sitting.
The proposal of the majority of the members of the Constitutional- Review Committee is to eliminate from that process the reference to the people. I am very pleased that the Federal Constitution equipped this Parliament with a voice that can go direct to the country, because -the people should understand that an essential part of Senator McKenna’s proposal last year to break the deadlock provision’ was to eliminate, in the resolution of any differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate, any reference to the people. The honorable senator sought to provide that when a money bill was rejected by the Senate for 30 days, or when any other bill was rejected by the Senate twice in a period of 90 days, the Prime Minister could haul the senators to another place arid say: “ Vote with us in joint sitting.” Then, on present numbers, 60 senators would submit their votes alongside the votes of 122 members of the House of Representatives, and the Parliament’s decision would be recorded in that way. That is not the present position. That would be the position if the majority of the members of the Constitutional Review Committee had their way and, if Senator McKenna’s bill of last year had been passed. If the Labour Party perseveres, as it will, and some day - whatever be the assurance of people on this side of the chamber - again comes to power, it will not neglect the opportunity, when it is in a position of popularity, to put through its proposal to undermine the deadlock provision.
So this proposition to break the nexus is not a matter in which sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. When looking at the application of a constitution, one looks at a period and does not neglect the possibility of great political development. One looks with some spurn at Senator McKenna’s idea that just because there has been no joint sitting in 65 years there will not be one in the next 65 months. It is of the essence of constitutional development that as the Senate develops, as it has on a basis of proportional representation since 1949, and becomes more mature in handling its jurisdiction and the measures that come before it, minorities are emerging in the Senate. First, the split in the Australian Labour Party has given representation in the form of a new party, the Democratic Labour Party, whose outlook with regard to national affairs is one of very great respect. Would anybody think that in the National Parliament one should contribute to the exclusion of that Party from this House of Review? On the other hand, within the old Labour Party, there is still the caucus system.
– It is still in the Liberal Party.
– I shall come to that in a minute. The Labour Party still has the caucus system, whereby every matter on which a vote is taken here is the subject of a prior secret vote by senators and members of the House of Representatives, and a majority in the party room predetermines their parliamentary vote. I refer to Senator McKenna’s record in that respect which he was good enough to put in “Hansard” in 1951. There are on the Liberal Party side those who would wish us to be a pale imitation of that system, but there are others who do not. So far as 1 am concerned, over a period of years one has been cast in the role of a rebel but has been really acting in pursuance of a determination to give a deliberative vote.
Senator Kennelly chides me that, once a vote has been recorded one way and the Government has insisted upon the passage of a bill, the vote has been withdrawn on the second occasion. 1 maintain a perfect right to exercise a judgment to make the bicameral system work, with a recognition that this chamber is a chamber of review and not a chamber of definitive govern.went, except in matters of State interest or of fundamental political interest. As minorities are emerging in the Senate, it is said by Senator McKenna - and it is in the Prime Minister’s speech - that if there is an acceptance of the party system we have to expect every division to be exactly on party lines, otherwise government from the House of Representatives will be deadlocked in this chamber. That is a very poor conception of the performance that is to be expected of senators, I submit, lt is positively to be deplored; but it is implicit in every statement made by the big functionaries of the party who go out to the electorate and say: “ I want this team to be returned so that the Government may have control of the Senate.” Or the Government will say: “ A vote in the Senate against this Bill is an obstruction of the Government.”
These things, Mr. President, are anathema to the idea of a democratic representative parliament. So, far from subduing minority opinion in this place, or preventing a free vote in this place uncontrolled by party decision in the party room, we should develop this place so that there will be deliberative decisions according to the measures publicly debated. 1 remind the chamber that when this matter came up for consideration by the Constitutional Review Committee I debated it at great length with my colleagues. I am no more enamoured of the 65 years of independent performance of the Senate than is any other senator, but I am not prepared to despair or disparage the opportunity for performance in the future. So I said: “ Well, let us look at it. If we can get written into this Constitution a provision which guarantees the financial independence of the States, whose disciples we are in one rspect, I will have a look at even these proposals.” But everybody, particularly the Commonwealth Treasury, shunned the idea that you should ever give a constitutional guarantee to the States regarding a proportion of the revenue that would make them independent. It was from that moment that I determined, and put my decision on the record, that I would not write out of the Constitution one word or one syllable that would weaken the right of this chamber to represent the States.
This measure could result in dissolving the nexus and’ weakening the position of the Senate when it meets in joint sitting, either under the present Constitution after a double dissolution or under the Constitution as it would be if amended as the Australian Labour Party desires. As I have said, I resolved that I would not be a party to removing the nexus - the 2 to 1 ratio - and so weaken the Senate. Notwithstanding that, do not let me give the impression that
I regard this matter as a great political issue. 1 have said that I regard this proposal as being of such significance that 1 do not think it is worthy of debate in a forum that is concerned with our external security or internal challenge at the present time. I regret that it is put forward today to dim the great and expansive outlook that the Liberal Party had in constitutional reform in 1949 when we proposed a constitutional convention as the basis for a grand and expanded reform which withered away. Certainly the Constitutional Review Committee brought forward 22 recommendations or whatever the number may be. Now, five or six years later, we have gone through those recommendations and picked out two little weak husks and put them before the Parliament as our contribution to constitutional reform. I think it is a pitiable proposition; not less so when I remind you, Mr. President, that the cost of the last referendum in 1951 or 1952 was £222,704. Today the cost of this constitutional referendum will be, I estimate, not less than £400,000.
The last thing that I want to say, observing the conventions of the day as I wish to do, is this: We have been treated to the proposition that included in this proposal is not merely a provision to break the nexus, but also one to substitute for the word “ six “ the word “ ten “ in section 7 of the Constitution. We have been told that that would give an assurance to the Senate that the Senate would then consist of not less than 10 members from each State. I regret that those statements have been made because incomplete and unbalanced statements such as that are simply untrue and unreliable. After the alteration there would be no greater guarantee than before because when the word “ ten “ is substituted for the word “ six “ the relevant part of the Constitution would read: “ Until the Parliament otherwise provides there shall be ten senators for each Original State “. Therefore this Parliament would be just as much at liberty after the passage of this alteration to section 7 of the Constitution to alter the number of senators as it would be if this alteration were not made. It is no security. We do not want any security. I regret that it has been put forward as a pretext, I think, that may be mistaken by people who have not the opportunity to study these things closely for a form of security.
I warn people not to rely upon it and to take the point of view that whatever be the failings of the Senate as an institution it is so constructed that its opportunities in this democracy in the next 50 years are great indeed. As there is a need in this Constitution for deadlock provisions which provide for a joint sitting, it is my view that the nexus should not be broken and so damage to the degree I have mentioned the status and performance of the Senate.
.- Mr. President, I confess that I found it somewhat difficult to follow Senator Wright in his dissent from the measure which is before the Senate. In the early part of his speech I had thought that he was fighting with his indignant back to the wall against the invasion of principles which to him were absolutely fundamental. He spoke as though what the Senate were considering in this Bill was some far-reaching proposal to abolish the Senate or, at the very least, to destroy the essential federal character of the Constitution. He waxed eloquent in pursuit of those themes until near the end of his remarks when he propounded the extraordinary proposition that this was a measure not worthy even to be debated; that it was so trivial that it was something we should not be talking about.
– That was in comparison with the things which we should be talking about.
– We can all talk of something that this Bill does not deal with. That is what Senator Wright spent most of his time talking about. I rise to support the case put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in indicating the attitude of the Opposition to this Bill. In what we heard from Senator Wright we missed a concentration on what the Bill set out to do. It sets out to do something sensible and reasonable because it is based upon the unquestionable proposition that no case of any substance can be made for increasing the number of members of the Senate. I do not propose to go over the careful argument put by the Leader of the Opposition in indicating that if we wanted to increase the number of senators we would need to go as far as 84 before we got a coherent and sensible proposal. Under section 24 of the Constitution, that would involve increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives to 168 or even more.
As 1 understand it, the simple proposition in this Bill, which comes to the Senate as one of the recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, subject to the dissent of Senator Wright with which I will deal in a moment, is this: When the case is made, as it is .frequently being made, for some increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives, that purpose should not be frustrated by the need to keep on increasing the number of senators by multiples of six until a sensible number is attained which might occur upon - reaching the number of 84,-1 do not see any sinister attempt in this Bill to destroy the right of States to be represented “ equally in this chamber.. Indeed, that- constitutional provision is specifically preserved in what is being put forward in this Bill for a referendum. I do not see any difficulty about the Senate carrying on the essential functions that it has under the Constitution after this Bill has been passed. We have to recognise the reality of the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. The Committee expressed its conclusion in these words-
That inexorable historical processes of the 20th century have precluded the Senate from becoming the practical expression of the intentions of the Founders of our. Constitution. These intentions were that the Senate should serve as a chamber pf review ‘ and. more importantly, that the Senate should be a States house. 1 think it was recognised by the realists at the convention debates on the Constitution that a party system would eventually emerge in the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. I do not think that was anywhere better expressed than by Alfred Deakin at the Sydney Convention in 1897, when he said -
The men returned as radicals would vote as radicals; the men returned as conservatives would vote as conservatives. The contest will not be, never has been, and cannot be, between States and States … it is certain that once this Constitution is framed, it will be followed by the creation of two great national parties. Every State, every district, and every municipality, will sooner or later bc divided on the great ground of principle, when principles emerge.
That very distinguished statesman, Alfred Deakin, was of course speaking at a time before our party system had crystallised, as it did in the 20th Century, but he foresaw that great national issues would eventually come up, which would be the subject of debate between great party institutions. This has come about. Great dominating national issues take up the time of the Senate as well as that of the House of Representatives. That is not to say that there is no place in the Constitution for adequate representation of State interests. Indeed, there is the same number of senators from each State in this chamber and there are occasions when matters affecting particular States are brought forward with great force here, just as they are often raised with special emphasis in the House of Representatives. I have not at any stage understood the proposal in this Bill as denying the character of this chamber as a States House, haying as it does equal State representation. But there is no reason whatever why the numbers in this chamber should be governed by the numbers in the House of Representatives, or vice versa.
When Senator Wright was the. dissenting voice on the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review he laid no great insistence upon any ratio of members of the House of Representatives to .senators. He rested his dissent upon the difficulties, that arose because, as he saw it, the less populous States, despite equality of representation in the Senate, could - to use his own words - lose their constitutional strength in the event of a difference with the more populous States. He was speaking of the constitutional provision for a joint sitting to resolve a constitutional deadlock between the Houses. He said, quite specifically - - It is only for this reason that I disagree with the majority recommendation in paragraph 110 of the Committee’s Report.
And that majority recommendation was substantially what is contained in the Bill now before the Senate for approval. He then went on to speak as though the Committee, in another of its recommendations - he made some criticism of Senator McKenna’s observations on this point - had proposed to eliminate reference to the people; that is, through a double dissolution. In fact, the Committee’s recommendation provided for a joint sitting as an alternative to a double dissolution, and of course the government could always get a double dissolution.
I think we have to recognise that over the years since the founding of the Constitution many national issues have come to dominate the life of this nation in such a way that the power of the Commonwealth relative to the States has increased. In an admirable part of its report - paragraph 81 at page 12 of the document and in the following paragraphs - the Committee drew attention to those national themes which had emerged to weld the people of the Commonwealth into a homogeneous unit, and which had provided evidence of the expansive nature of the national unity attained since federation.
Without wearying the Senate I will refer briefly to some of the matters pointed to by the Committee. They were the fact that Australia had been through two costly world wars; the fact that, internationally, Australia had developed independence as a country, negotiating agreements in its own right and maintaining an active and increasing interest in the course of world events; that the Australian economy had become national in character and no longer capable of being assessed in terms of six separate colonial economies; that there had been substantial increases in the national population and a great migration programme to assist in that increase; that there had been rapid industrialisation and rapid progress in the evolution of new methods of transport and communication, breaking down the isolation of the States; and that the Commonwealth had become the financially dominant member of the partnership of the federation. All these were factors which, whilst not destructive of the influence of the States, tended to crystallise in a different kind of relationship from that which existed at the turn of the century when six colonies banded together for a very limited set of purposes. After all, those were the horse and buggy days, days when there were no motor cars, let alone aeroplanes, and when there was barely radio, let alone television. We are dealing today with events which make it possible for men to take a walk at 18,000 miles an hour in outer space. The world itself is now different and the whole conception of the national approach is different. It is inevitable that these great developments should have their effect on the national legislature, on the relationship between the two Houses, and on the kinds of issues that come before the Houses.
I believe that with a developing sense of nationhood and with an increasing population, a case can be made out for an increase in the number of members in the House of Representatives. I am not disposed in this debate to seek to make a case for a large increase or, for that matter, for any immediate increase at all. I think that is a matter which will have to be determined as the years go by and I think that the Bill we are debating, in fixing a figure of some 80,000 odd for each electorate, lays down the kind of criterion that will have to be adopted.
– That is people, not electors.
– I appreciate that.
– There has been an attempt to mislead.
– There has been no attempt to mislead. This is what was recommended by the Committee. It is not a rabbit pulled out of a hat.. This is something we have had an opportunity to study over a number of years. The only regret the Opposition has - and it was forcibly expressed today, as in the past, by my Leader - is that the Government has not seen fit to put forward the whole of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. I was very interested in one statement in Senator Wright’s speech. He seemed to be saying by inference that he is prepared to run as an independent at the elections in 1968, and I gathered that he was making a plea for the right to retain some sort of independence.
– When the Party I support tells me I am not wanted as I am.
– I did not mean that. The honorable senator was very critical of people running in a team and using the argument that if elected this would mean more strength to their own party - control of the Senate, in the case of the Government.
– No, I was deprecating being caucus bound.
– Right or wrong, wise or unwise, they vote as they are told.
– I would remind Senator Gair that at one time he was a member of our Party and acknowledged its caucus discipline.- So far as Senator Wright is concerned, I was delighted that he realistically acknowledged that the time was coming when there would be a Commonwealth Labour Government in this country.
– Will the honorable senator get rid of it?
– Nobody will get rid of anything. At a time that the Labour Government chooses, it will put forward for the approval of the people of Australia all the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, and it will have the backing and authority of an all-party committee for that approach. I am not saying whether it will do this all at once or bit by bit, but the Australian Labour Party has never made any secret of the fact that its policy is to support all the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee including those which dealt with economic powers.
This particular proposition coming from the Government deals with only one aspect of the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament. Of course, the whole of our policy on these matters was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition when he introduced four bills in the. Senate last year. There is a relationship between those bills, and it may be taken from the fact that he introduced the bills as Leader of the Opposition and on behalf of the Opposition that all the matters in those bills would have found support on this side of the chamber. We would have hoped for support from the Government side of the chamber as well; but the Government on this occasion has chosen, for reasons which seem good to it, to make a much more limited approach to the people and indeed to combine with this particular proposal another relating to section 127 of the Constitution which will, of course, be the subject of a separate Bill.
But let us not have any song and dance about these things except insofar as it is necessary to make the point. Senator Wright made some quite extraordinary points, including one about the expense of holding this referendum. I do not know whether it will cost £200,000 or £400,000; but when the present Government went to the people a year early and forced a separate Senate election on the people of Australia with all its incumbent expense a year ago, did we hear any pleas from Senator Wright, or anybody else who thinks as he does, that this was a waste of public money? Of course we did not. It was done for cynical reasons of political expediency. We did not hear a word from those who supported the Government on that occasion.
I have spoken in support of the proposition that has been argued by my Leader. I join with him in supporting this Bill and I hope that the referendum which will result from the passage of the Bill in this chamber, as in the other chamber, will be carried by the people of Australia.
– Under Standing Order No. 410, I wish to make a statement correcting a remark by which I myself may have contributed to a misunderstanding.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Does the honorable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim that I would be be misunderstood if the statement stood. I referred in my speech to section 7 of the Constitution and said it was a pretext to give some security. I wish to withdraw unreservedly the statement as to the second reference where the number 10 is substituted for the number 6 because that provision giving 10 senators to each original State is not subject to the proviso “ until the Parliament otherwise provides “. I thought I should take the earliest possible opportunity while the proceedings are being broadcast to correct that statement.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. President, the Australian Democratic Labour Party is opposed to the Bill, which provides for the conduct of a referendum of the electors of Australia on 28th May next on the question of breaking the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives that is provided for in the Australian Constitution. The purpose of breaking the nexus is to increase the numerical strength of the House of Representatives by from 25 to 30 members. My colleague and I are opposed to the proposal. Hence we are opposed to, and will vote against, the Bill.
The speech delivered by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), who is in charge of the Bill in the Senate, was similar if not identical in detail to that delivered by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in another place. It was a remarkable speech, to say the least, not because of what it contained but because of what it failed to deal with. I should have thought, and had expected, that the Prime Minister, a man with a high reputation as a constitutional lawyer, would, for the benefit of the electors of Australia, have traced the history of the nexus. But the Prime Minister, who unquestionably is an astute politician, deliberately sidestepped the most vital point in the matter under discussion and relied upon presenting a case which was purely political in character and which contained what I regard as being several Aunt Sallies. I propose to knock them over in the course of my speech. I had hoped also that Senator McKenna, the Leader of the Opposition in this place, would have dealt with the history of the nexus. But he, too, followed the pattern of the speeches that were delivered by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in another place, and the speech delivered by the Minister in charge of the Bill in the Senate.
The Democratic Labour Party is opposed to the Bill on constitutional as well as practical grounds. Before I proceed further on that line, I should like, on behalf of the Party that I represent, to clear up a suggestion that was made in another place and by a section of the Press to the effect that the D.L.P. is opposed to this measure because it does not provide for an increase in the number of senators. Let me say here and now with all the emphasis at my disposal that that statement is baseless and untrue. The Democratic Labour Party is opposed to this measure because it desires to break the nexus. We are definitely opposed to any increase of the number of senators just as strongly as we are opposed to any increase in the number of the members of the House of Representatives. I hope that I have cleared up that point. Let me repeat that we do not favour an increase in the strength of the Senate because we do not believe that an increase is warranted. Nor do we believe that an increase in the size of the House of Representatives is warranted.
When we reflect upon the history of Federation, surely we must appreciate why the fathers of Federation, in their wisdom, provided that the numerical strength of the House of Representatives should, as far as is practicable, be no more than twice that of the Senate - the nexus as it has become known. That decision showed vision and foresight. It showed a very sincere and genuine outlook on the part of those who drafted the Constitution, which until now has worked with a great measure of success in the interests of Australia as a whole and particularly in the interests of the States as individual sovereign States of the Commonwealth. The fathers of Federation realised, and those of us who have studied the history of Federation now know, that they had no chance of having Federation adopted by the smaller States without provision being made for the Senate and for the nexus between that House and the House of Representatives. We have Federation today only because of the provision for the Senate and for the nexus which it is proposed to destroy if the referendum is carried.
It has been implied that the breaking of the nexus would not impair the value of the Senate as a States House. Anybody with an elementary knowledge of our parliamentary system under Federation must realise that the stronger the House of Representatives is permitted to grow, numerically, the weaker will the influence of the Senate become. Moreover, the protection of the smaller States will diminish proportionately. I cannot for the life of me believe that this proposal has been brought forward because the leaders of the Government and the official Opposition seriously believe that the 124 members of the House of Representatives are breaking down under the strain of representing the people of their respective electorates. They might hope to pull the wool over the eyes of some of the electors in that respect, but they certainly will not fool me. My knowledge of parliamentary duties in both the State and Federal spheres, it will be conceded, is pretty wide and has extended over a very long period. In the event of the referendum being carried, it will do nothing but favour the bigger States at the expense of the smaller States. Is not one of our troubles today the difficulty of maintaining a correct balance between the major States of Victoria and New South Wales, with their bulging populations, and the smaller States? I repeat that if the proposal is carried it must disadvantage the influence and power of the Senate because of the influence of the increased numbers of members of the House of Representatives over the limited number of senators in the respective caucuses.
During this sessional period, we have had an example of the advantage of the power of the Senate. It was very easy for the Government to get through the House of Representatives an order in council or a new regulation in respect of the Ipec-Ai, Pty. Ltd. case, but when it came to the Senate, that unfair and clumsy piece of administration was arrested. The fathers of federation undeniably had good reasons for creating the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives. As far as I am concerned, those who propose to break the nexus have given no satisfactory reason for what they propose to do. The House of Representatives can become a rubber’ stamp and, providing this Government retains its majority, the other House will go on approving of every Executive decision. But if the Senate functions as it was intended to function and as it should function - as a States House rather than a strongly disciplined party House - again we will see senators, acting with greater responsibility than simply doing as the party says, rightly or wrongly, wisely or unwisely. 1 could hot imagine that some senators, either on my right or on my left, would be so devoid of their appreciation of their responsibilities as representatives of the States in the Senate, which was established as a States House, as to carry their party affiliations and loyalty to such lengths.
Some people believe that the Senate has ceased to be a States House because senators vote according to party rules. The occasions on which the Senate has been required to declare itself on State matters have not been numerous, but when so called upon it has responded and has done the right thing. Because the Senate is a States House, I believe that the Government in charge of the other place, irrespective of its political colour, is circumspect about what it sends to the Senate for approval and ratification. I contend that the Senate is in a much better position than the other place to arrest legislation which is considered not to be in the best interests of the community.
We must not disregard or dismiss too lightly the reasons for which the fathers of federation included in our Constitution provision for the establishment of the Senate and the nexus of two to one between the numbers in the House of Representatives and the Senate that has been preserved since federation. When a Labour Government was last in office there was a desire to increase the numbers of the House of Representatives, but it did not attempt to secure approval from the people to break the nexus. Instead, it increased the numbers of senators as well as the numbers of members of the House of Representatives.
Much play has been made in the speeches by supporters of this Bill on the fact that it results from a recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and everyone who has spoken in this debate so far has gone but of ‘his way to remind us that this legislation is the result of one of the recommendations of that Committee, but none of them has told the people that it is only one of 22 recommendations made by that august committee of reform. It could be said with safety that it is not the most important recommendation made by the Committee.
– Far from it.
– Far from it. Yet the Government, with the collaboration and support of the official Opposition, has decided to spend £750,000 of the people’s money in finding out whether the numbers of members in the House of Representatives should be increased. Such an increase will cost the taxpayers an additional £200,000 approximately each year in salaries, travelling expenses, transport charges, telephone services and everything else associated with the work and lives of Parliamentarians. That increased annual cost will be additional to the £750,000 which is to be provided by the taxpayers to conduct the referendum.
– That is twice as much as Senator Wright’s estimate.
– I am not responsible for what Senator Wright said with regard to the cost of this referendum. I am reliably informed that it will cost in the vicinity of £750,000. While I am not responsible for what Senator Wright said in that connection.
I am reminded to thank him for his historical review of the Constitution and the nexus, which I believe was timely and very important in the interests of the electors whose responsibility it will be to decide this issue.
A great deal of play has also been made on the figure of 80,000. I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister on this issue and on reading one passage of his speech - at a quick glance - the figure of 80,000 was used not less than four or five times. But he did not say whether they were 80,000 electors or 80,000 people.
– They are people.
– But that is how it went out to the public. During the weekend people asked me: “ Does it mean that each electorate will have 80,000 people in it? “ Of course, that will not be so. Was it done to mislead the people? I hope not.
– The population is going to increase.
– But we are dealing with the present population. Just under half of that number of 80,000 people would be persons under the age of 21 years. Let us get down to the real facts in connection with this very important matter. I know that many parliamentarians are hoping that they will succeed in leading people to believe that they are going to represent 80,000 people. Do not let us pretend, because members of the public - the wiser ones, anyway - will certainly ask: “ What percentage of your electors have any occasion to come to you? What percentage of your people ever seek your advice or assistance on any matter? “ Not I per cent, would do so.
– The honorable senator should speak for himself.
– I have had longer experience than Senator Ormonde has had. As a State member and later as a Cabinet member I know the amount of Federal work that I did in the absence of Federal members.
– But the honorable senator had a busy life.
– I had a busy life, and I like to be occupied. But I also know that there are no Federal members breaking down under the strain. The question has been asked: “Who looks after their elec torates when they are making their periodical overseas trips? “ 1 suppose the answer is that the State members do it.
– Or the senators.
– Or the senators, but on many occasions the senators are away, too. These are the people who need an increase in their number in order to lift the heavy burden that rests upon their shoulders in 1965.
– ls the honorable senator ever home at the weekend?
– I am at home, but half the time 1 am interviewing people who have confidence in me and who seek my advice.
I am doing the work of members of the House of Representatives as well as that of State parliamentarians. But let us come back to some of the Aunt Sallies that have been put up by the Prime Minister and others. In the course of his speech the Prime Minister said that if the quota was fixed at 80,000 it would mean, an increase to 143 in the number of members in the House of Representatives. It could be 143 or it could be 148.
Let us examine the position to see where the additional members would go. On a State basis, the representation for New South Wales would be increased from 46 to 53 members. Victoria, which has 33 members at the present time, would have an additional 8 members, making a total of 41. Queensland could get 3 additional members, making a total of 21. South Australia’s representation could be increased by 3, from
II to 14, Western Australia’s by 2, from 9 to 11, and Tasmania would receive no increase at all. On these figures the Australian Capital Territory would have 2 representatives as against 1 at the present time, and the Northern Territory’s representation would remain at 1; making a total representation of 148. In addition, there would be 60 senators who were never taken into account in the figures which were presented by the Prime Minister and by Senator McKenna. The Prime Minister did not divide the total population by the number of members in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. He led one to believe that senators represented nobody but the States; that they had no work to perform for the electors at all. Let me correct that impression.
The Prime Minister also said -
In 1949, following the increase in 1948 of the House of Representatives from 74 to 122 members and of the Senate from 36 to 60 senators, each member of this House represented, on the average, 66,000 people. Today, such is the growth of the population that each member, on the average, represents not 66,000 people but 94,000 people.
They were exactly the same figures as were used by Senator McKenna. This proves that the Prime Minister is juggling with figures and is totally disregarding the Senate. The figure of 94,000 refers to the ratio of the 122 members in the House of Representatives to the present population of 11.3 million.
– In other words, we do not do any work.
– That is what is conveyed by this arithmetic. It has been worked out with a view to creating the best case for those in favour of the amendment. If the right thing is to be done in assessing these figures, we should include the representative for the Australian Capital Territory, the representative for the Northern Territory and the 60 senators. The two Territory representatives should be included because the people whom they represent are included in the population figure of 1 1 .3 million. If this is done, the correct representation figure becomes 61,400. Further, the Prime Minister said -
Should the Senate be increased … to 66 - each Senate election . . . would require the choice of one half of II senators, that is, of five and a half senators which as our late lamented friend Euclid would have said, is absurd.
That is fair enough, but section 13 in Part II of the Constitution states -
It is not practicable to divide it on a five and a half basis, but a division into five and six is as nearly equal in number as practicable. Under such a scheme, five senators would be elected at one election and six at the next election. This scheme could operate if six senators were elected at every other election.
The Prime Minister said that if the numbers in the Senate were increased to 72, it would mean that there would be 12 senators from each State, six to be elected at each Senate election. He said that this would also guarantee the election of three
Government senators and three Opposition senators, which would produce a deadlocked Senate, with every motion and every amendment defeated. Prior to the increase in the number of senators to 60, with the previous representation of 36, which is half of 72, the Senate operated very successfully for many years. However, if one wants to argue on the basis of Party realities, the Democratic Labour Party has not been taken into consideration. With six senators to be elected at each election, the quota is lowered to 14.3 per cent - a percentage not beyond the Democratic Labour Party.
The Prime Minister went on to say that parliamentarians today have three to four times the weight and complexity of problems which faced members when he was first elected in 1934. In 1934 the number of days on which Parliament sat was the second lowest since 1901. If parliamentarians now have three to four times the weight and complexity of problems that they had in 1934, why are they not meeting for three to four times as many days as they are? This would work out at 105 days a year, which is by no means a record. The sittings have often extended beyond 105 days. In the period from 1946 to 1949 Parliament sat for an average of 82 days a year. In the years 1961 to 1964 Parliament sat for an average of only 60 days a year. This represents a decrease in sitting days of 25 per cent. The work has increased but the number of sitting days has decreased. Does that support the statement that the work of members of the House of Representatives has trebled and is more complex than it was? Of course not.
When the people know these facts, they will not fall for this proposal. They believe that Australia already has sufficient parliamentarians. They do not subscribe to any increase in the number of parliamentarians. They are beginning to recognise that Australia is a much over governed country when it is compared with other countries of similar size which have a much greater population. Let us make some comparisons in this connection. I think the best comparison we can make is between Australia and the United States, a country similar in size to ours but having a population of 195 million people compared with our 11.3 million. What do we find? There are 435 members in the American House of Representatives, and in the Senate there are 100 senators - two from each of the 50 States. On Australia’s present basis of representation, America would have 2,500 members in its House of Representatives. hike America, we have our State Parliaments. They are increasing in size too, something I do not approve. Taking Federal and State Parliaments together, America has one parliamentarian for every 23,000 people. In Australia we have one parliamentarian for every 16,000 people. Yet we are asked to believe that we have too few members of our House of Representatives to represent the people of Australia adequately. I am sure that no one who gives any thought to this matter will believe that.
Let me turn to Canada, where there are a House of Commons of 265 members and a National Senate of 102 members. Canada has 641 parliamentarians in 12 Provincial and two Territory Councils and Assemblies, a total of 1,008 parliamentarians or one parliamentarian for every 18,000 people. In the United Kingdom there are 630 members in the House of Commons-
– Is this an argument for fewer State members of Parliament?
– I have already indicated that I do not subscribe to this ever increasing number of parliamentarians in State Parliaments. Invariably the numbers are increased as a means of adjusting electoral boundaries. I know that when a government cannot cut up a State as it would like to do without increasing the number of parliamentarians, the Government goes ahead and increases the number of parliamentarians. I suspect that there is a little collusion in this National Parliament as a set off against the Liberal Party having to surrender to the pressure of the Country Party on the matter of the 20 per cent, margin mentioned in the Electoral Act. The present proposal has .been advanced in the hope of appeasing some organisation by creating additional seats.
I have cited the figures to indicate where the additional seats . will be created. Of course, they will be created in the biggest States because those States show a marked increase in population. It is elementary that Victoria and New South Wales must get the greatest number of the additional seats yet we are told that this proposal is in the interests of democracy.
An honorable senator mentioned State parliamentarians. We have in all in Australia 709 parliamentarians for a population of 1 1.3 million people.
– Not enough.
– I enjoy Senator Cavanagh’s humorous interjection.
– He believes in full employment.
– Yes, he believes in full employment; but if he votes for this Bill it will mean that many members of Parliament will have a lot less to do so they will not be fully employed. Now I come to a point which is very dear to my heart. I have already informed the Senate that I estimate the additional cost involved if this proposal is carried will be in the vicinity of ?200,000 a year.
– Not the price of a warship.
– I would sooner see that amount expended on improved research facilities in the Parliament of this country to assist parliamentarians to improve their knowledge and to improve themselves as parliamentarians. Instead of having more parliamentarians we then would have better parliamentarians, and I am sure that would give the electors a great deal more satisfaction than they will get if this proposal is carried.
I should like to cite some figures relating to sitting days over the years. Mr. Calwell himself, speaking on 28th October last to a motion for the special adjournment of the House, compared the number of days on which the Parliament sat in the periods 1946-49 and 1961-64. He would have been speaking about the House of Representatives. These were the figures -
Mr. Calwell went on to say ;
The Opposition does not object to sitting on four days a week. It is prepared to sit for as many weeks as desired, and for four or five days a week, if the Government has worthwhile legislation to discuss and we of the Opposition have worthwhile business for the Parliament to consider.
In these times when the work of parliamentarians has allegedly increased threefold and is more complex, one would imagine that there would be a real necessity for a greater number of sitting days than we have on record for the last four years. What do we have on the question of efficiency? Mr. Calwell has led people to believe that if they vote “ Yes “ in the referendum, and the strength of the House of Representatives is increased, the efficiency of the Parliament will increase. Nothing is so far from the truth. Of course, an increase in numbers would not increase the efficiency of the Parliament at all. He knows full well that that is not the case, and he could not hope for that result.
I think that I have given sufficient reasons to the Senate and to the Australian public why they should reject this proposal when it comes before them on 28th May. I have given sufficient facts and figures, undeniable and indisputable, on the question of representation in the Parliament of this country, and I have compared those facts and figures with the position obtaining in comparable countries of the world, particularly America. It will be seen from them that rather than being under-represented we are over-governed to- a great extent. Any deficiencies in our parliamentary system of Government exist not because we have not sufficient members in the House of Representatives but, perhaps, because we have too many members in our parliaments who are not giving full time to the office to which they have been elected by the people.
– Is that a . general criticism of all parties?
– Of all parties, excepting ours. We made a survey of the position and we estimated that, with varying degrees of participation in side interests and occupations, 40 per cent, of parliamentarians in the Federal Parliament have outside interests.
– What would be the breakdown in the percentages in all of the major parties?
– That is 40 per cent, overall. I am not concerned about parties.
I am concerned about all representatives in the Parliament and the Parliament itself. I am concerned about the people being properly and adequately represented, by men who will accept their responsibilities and discharge them to the best of their ability, conscientiously and well in the interests of our democracy.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Gair, speaking on behalf of the Democratic Labour Party and giving its views as to why the nexus between the two Houses should not be broken. This Bill, I believe, is one of the most important that has come before this chamber in the history of this Parliament. The Senate has to decide whether it will agree to the proposition, put up by another place, that we should have a constitutional amendment which will mean that the Senate, instead of maintaining its membership at approximately half the number of members of the House of Representatives, should allow the relationship to be broken to enable the Lower House to have a greater number of members in proportion to the Senate.
– An unlimited number.
– One could say “an unlimited number “. But the whole case that Senator Gair made was to the effect that we are over-governed, that we have too many parliamentarians and that we are weakening the powers of the Senate. Let us go back to the original thoughts of our founding fathers, who designed the Federal Parliament and decided that there should be two Houses. They made provision for the size of the Parliament to be increased from time to time as required. Now, after 65 years, there is a move to increase the membership of the House of Representatives by about 15 or 20, leaving the Senate with 60 members. In the original Parliament there were’74 members in the House of Representatives and 36 senators to serve a population of fewer than 4 million people. The population has now increased to about Hi million people. It has increased threefold. It has been estimated that the population will increase by 7i million in the next 15 years, which will give a total of about 19 million by 1980. We can safely reckon that by 1990 we will have 21,120,000 people. I suppose it would not be over-estimating to suggest that our population in the year 2000 will be 30 million. If we do not allow the nexus to be broken and we have a member of the House of Representatives for every 50,000 people - not electors - as envisaged originally, by the year 2000 there will be 600 members in the House of Representatives. If we do not break the nexus it will mean that we will have, of necessity, 300 senators. That would be a total of 900 people governing Australia.
The whole argument put forward by Senator Gair was that we had too many members of Parliament. He said that this referendum would cost the country £750,000, as stated by some other honorable senator. I say that by the year 2000 the. savings brought about by breaking this nexus and keeping the number of senators down will be more than £700,000 a year. Under the original conception of Federation it was thought that 50,000 people should be represented by one member of the House of Representatives. We have said, and the Constitutional Review Committee has said, that we believe that there should be about 80,000 people to one member of the House of Representatives. It is interesting to note that when the original Parliament was formed, having decided that there would be one member for every 50,000 people at the inception, the founders evidently thought that for every 30,000 additional people there should be another member of the House of Representatives. I have given honorable senators those figures because I believe they are of great importance. I think every honorable senator will agree that the founders of the Constitution and of the Federal Parliament were unanimous in their opinion that you could not create a single Federal Parliament to govern the country without’ a Senate to represent State rights. It was said quite frequently in debates of those days that the States would not agree to the formation of a single house in the Commonwealth Parliament unless they had equal representation. As Senator Gair has said, it was considered that the two large States would dominate Australia - and they have dominated Australia. On thai concept rests the whole existence of the Senate.
Senator Gair went on to say: “I do not believe that the Senate or the House of Representatives should be increased “. This was not the opinion of the people who formed the first Commonwealth Parliament or who drew up the Constitution. Their views were that for every 50,000 people power should be left in the hands of the Government to increase representation as required. It was said then, in the interests of the States, that every time there was an alteration in the numbers of members of the House of Representatives there should be provision whereby the number of senators should be half the number of members of the House of Representatives. This is the whole argument that we are talking about tonight. Senator Gair quoted various cases that have happened since he has been in this chamber. He said: “What about the I.P.E.C. case?” Well, what about it? I will take up that challenge. Would it have made any difference if we had had .60 or 120 senators in this chamber provided that they were equally divided as they were at that particular time in that situation? Of course it would not.
Let me go on to other arguments Senator Gair put forward. He put up quite a number. Another point he made was that in the United States of America there were 435 members and 100 senators to govern 195 million people. We in Australia, wilh a population of 11.3 million, have 123 members in the House of Representatives at the moment. If we had one representative for every 80,000 people, and had the same population as the United States, we would require 2,500 members in the House of Representatives. If that were the case we would then require, under the present Constitution, 1,250 senators to look after the individual rights of our States. This is completely ridiculous. It could not happen. In our Federal Parliament if a person requires to see his parliamentary representative he faces no problems in getting an interview, but in the United States it is an impossibility.
– The honorable senator would not get to first base.
– I heard an American in Australia say the other day: “What a wonderful set up you have here in Australia because you can just walk in and talk to your senator.” But as Senator Toohey has said, in the United States you would not get to first base. Senator Gair also said: “ I believe in this Senate “. I know the honorable senator and I do not want to be personal but he was Premier of Queensland for a number of years and was the Leader of the Australian Labour Party in that State - the boss cocky of the political machine in Queensland. At any time that he wished he could have re-introduced an upper house in Queensland. Was it done? It was not done. Yet he says, now that he refers to the Senate, that he believes it should remain as it is and have half the number of representatives that there are in another place. He went on to refer to a 20 per cent, margin in another Bill. Concerning that 20 per cent, margin, I want to say that it has always been in the Electoral Act, to the best of my knowledge, and it still remains there. Referring to other Houses of Parliament in the world, we find that in the House of Commons there is one member for every 81,000 people. In the Canadian House of Commons, under the federal system, they have one member for every 64,000 people. Because our leader in another place stated that there will be one member for 80,000 people Senator Gair said that we are trying to put it over the electors of Australia. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) clearly stated in his second reading speech what the Bill provides. The number of members in the House is to be ascertained by dividing the total number of electors by such number as is for the time being determined by Parliament, that number being not less than 80,000. In other words the quota for election to the chamber is to be not less than 80,000. Honorable senators will be interested to know that if the Parliament were to decide that the quota should be 80,000 the membership of the House of Representatives would rise to 143. If it decided that the quota should be 85,000 - under the amendment it could not be less than 80,000, but could be more - then the membership of the House of Representatives would be 1 35.
The Bill provides that there will be not less than 80,000 people for each member of the House of Representatives and not less than 10 senators to represent each State.
The Senate has performed its duties as a States House. There have been occasions on which honorable senators have got together, irrespective of political party, and voted in the interests of their State. Is it right that, as a States House, we should have half the number of members of another place? If that is right, when our population reaches the present American figure - as it will one day - and if we adopt a quota of 80,000 electors for the House of Representatives, we will have 1,250 senators. I do not believe that this is sound commonsense. I think this chamber as it is now constituted can readily look after the interests of the States. Quite often since I have been here I have seen members of the Senate voting in the interests of their States, irrespective of party affiliation. I refer the honorable senators to a book written by Mr. J. R. Odgers, the present Clerk of the Senate, entitled “ Australian Senate Practice “. At page 5 he states that in June 1952 there was the memorable spectacle of all 10 senators from one State voting on the one side of the chamber in a division. Mr. Odgers continues -
The incident occurred during the consideration of the Land Tax Assessment Bill 1952, when Senator R. C. Wright, Tasmania, moved an amendment that land tax assessments should not be based on a value of more than double the previously pegged value of land on which previous assessments had been based. The ten senators from Tasmania, who comprised five Liberals and five Labour senators, voted solidly for the amendment, and the Government, which opposed the amendment, was defeated by two votes.
– And in the next year there was the Federal land tax measure.
– Yes, and in 1939 the gold measure was defeated. This occurred often in the early years of the Senate, when many customs tariff bills were thrown out because of the way they affected various States. The Senate is the watchdog of legislation. Any responsible government will be careful about legislation it introduces in another place when it realises that the measures will be reviewed here and that the rights of the States will be looked after. There is no justification whatever for the oft made assertion that the Senate is a failure as a States House. It cannot be said that the Senate, when faced with a proposal that is harmful to State interests - the words “ State interests “ are used advisedly as meaning something different from political interests - will shirk its responsibility as a States assembly. Few such situations have arisen and they have not arisen for the very good reason that we are here to look after the interests of our States. If it came to a question of whether or not our States were to get a fair deal I believe that every honorable senator on either side of the chamber would vote in the interests of the State that he or she represents in preference to voting on party lines.
It is said that the Senate is the watchdog of the Parliament because a government in another place knows that its legislation has to get the concurrence of the Senate. What happens if the watchdog does not bark? Well, what happens if the policeman makes no arrests, if the fire brigade puts out no fires? Is there an outcry that these safeguards of society be summarily dismissed, or does commonsense prevail and does John Citizen ask why the watchdog does not bark, why the policeman does not make arrests and why the fire brigade does not put out some fires? Yes, he asks why and he discovers that there have been no intruders to make the dog bark, no need for arrests and no fires. Having found that out, does John Citizen say “ Very well, we do not need watchdogs, policemen or fire brigades “? No. He goes on feeding his dog and paying his taxes as insurance against anarchy and the frailities of human nature and paying senators, to come to this place to look after the interests of their States.
Are we, as representatives of a growing nation, going to say that we cannot look after the rights of the States in this place or that we believe that those who drew up the Constitution did not envisage any alterations to it? Because they did, and we have the right to ask the people to alter the Constitution. That is what this Bill is all about. It is legislation to form a referendum to alter the Constitution in order to break the nexus between the two chambers and I do not think the breaking of the nexus will alter the powers of the Senate. The Senate will then be just as effective as it is now and the House of Representatives will have more members. It will require more members from time to time to look after the increasing population of the Commonwealth. I do not believe that the size of the House of Representatives should be just automatically increased from time to time, although on this occasion it may be right to do so. I think that while we are a growing nation .a quota of between 80,000 and 90,000 electors for each division of the House of Representatives is reasonable. When Australia has a population of 30 million - and I believe we will reach that number by the turn of the century - we must provide that a member of the House of Representatives represents more than 80,000 people. This could be done without a referendum and we will probably need to make such a provision. The number of people represented by a member of the House of Representatives could be increased to 100,000 or 120,000.
– Why not do it now?
– I do not think there is any need to do it now but it will be necessary as our population grows. When the number has increased as I have suggested, some sort of additional provision will have to be made for assistance for members of Parliament including senators. They will need more secretaries and other personnel to do some of the heavy duties they now perform.
– Each member of the House of Commons represents only 40,000 electors.
– That is correct. Each member in the House of Commons represents about 81,000 people. That means that each member of the House of Commons looks after the interests of just over 40,000 electors. I conclude by saying I believe the Senate will be just as effective as it has been in the past when the nexus between this House and the House of Representatives is broken. I listened to Senator Gair’s proposals and not one of them will stand up to careful analysis. I can see many good reasons for breaking the nexus. One of these is the cost of government. Therefore the proposal has my complete support.
– After listening to Senator Scott, I am satisfied that there is much truth in the saying that politics makes strange bedfellows. I listened with great interest to Senator Wright. It is true as he has said that possibly the main purpose of the Bill and the proposed referendum is to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives. I believe that he and his 11 colleagues on the Joint Committee of Constitutional Review did not raise any objections to the provision that a member of the House of Representatives should represent in round figures 80,000 people. I am sure the record will show that he was one member of that Committee who favoured that provision.
– That is quite right.
– To do that, provision would have to be made for a much greater increase in the number of people in an electorate than is contained in the second reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty). It would mean an average electorate of 38,000 to 40,000 electors. Electorates in some of the inner suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney might cover fewer people but the average electorate of the House of Representatives now would include more than the 80,000 people agreed upon by all 12 members of the Constitutional Review Committee. We have heard a lot in this debate about the work that is done by honorable senators and I do not want to decry it. Why should I? But let us face the hard facts. I believe firmly that members of the House of Representatives are contacted much more in proportion to their numbers than are honorable senators. I think that is a fair statement. I am not implying that honorable senators do not perform the electoral duties they are asked to do; but a member of the House of Representatives who represents 40,000 or 50,000 electors is better known to the individual electors than is an honorable senator who represents an entire State. If a member of the House of Representatives is asked to represent more than 40,000 electors, the people will not be getting the efficient representation to which they are entitled.
Senator Wright said that the discussion of this Bill was impeding the national work of the Parliament. The honorable senator could not prove a statement like that. It was merely a matter of words and hardly needs any answer. Surely no-one can say truthfully that the time that will be devoted to these two Bills will mean an impediment to the work of the nation. We will fulfil the work of the nation even if we have to sit in this place next week and the week after. That was one assertion by Senator Wright to which I do not think I should pay any further attention.
Senator Wright also said that the provisions of the Bill invade the fundamental purposes of the founding fathers. I give great credit to the founding fathers for the work they did to bring about Federation in Australia but we must remember that at that time they were dealing with a population totalling about 3.8 million. It could be true that their big minds envisaged the growth of Australia. I do not take away from them their breadth of vision; but one wonders whether they could have envisaged the tremendous growth that has already taken place in Australia. They believed that the House of Representatives ought to be only twice the size of the Senate. That might have been a sound judgment based on the facts before them and the size of the population at that time. But if the founding fathers were here today, would they submit the same argument in support of their judgment of the number of members who should sit in each House?
Senator Wright said further that in his estimation 60 members was a good size for the Senate. The honorable senator could help to achieve that result by supporting the Bill. If the Government adopted the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee, of which the honorable senator was a member, that the average size of an electorate for the House of Representatives should be 80,000 persons, it would mean, if the nexus were not broken, that the size of this House would be greater than what he regards as being ideal.
The honorable senator said further that the breaking of the nexus would put the Senate in an invidious position in regard to deadlocks. Today New South Wales has 46 representatives and Victoria 33 representatives in the other place, or 79 of a total membership of 122 if we leave the representatives of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory out of account. I ask Senator Wright and others who oppose the Bill whether the smaller States have suffered as a result of that set-up. I cannot recall any way in which Tasmania, the smallest State, or even Western Australia, which is the second smallest State in terms of population, has suffered. Whatever the numerical strength of the House of Representatives might become if the referendum proposals are adopted and the nexus is broken, one would be extremely game if he were to suggest that the smaller States would suffer.
Senator Wright went on to say that the Cabinet controls the House of Representatives. That is so. But I remind the honorable senator that the Cabinet is elected or chosen, according to which party is ia power, from the members of the party that is successful at’ the polls and that those members in turn are elected by the people. If Senator Wright can tell me of any other way in which the Parliament can be run, 1 shall bc pleased to hear from him at a later date.
– It is much better to preserve the independence of the upper House.
– We shall come to that later. That has been a point of great interest as between the honorable senator and myself. If one were not informed about the way in which the Parliament operates one would think that the 24 members of the present Cabinet were separate and apart from the elected representatives. I am certain that Senator Wright did not mean to imply that that is so, but anybody outside who was listening to him would be justified in forming that opinion. To show his independence, the honorable senator often votes a certain way when a vote is taken on a bill or a clause, but when it is recommitted and another vote is taken he, having satisfied himself that he has struck a blow for liberty, walks out of the chamber. That might suit Senator Wright, but it would not suit me. He is elected as a member of a party. May I say with great respect that, if he were not on a party ticket, he might find the going a little heavy.
– Not he.
– Senator Webster would not have been heard of. Under the system that has been in operation for a number of years in Tasmania people are prone to choose an independent candidate as their representative in the State Parliament. A person has a greater chance of being elected to this place from that State without being on a party ticket than he would have in any of the other States. Whether or not that is good, we have seen it happen. That is one of the things I have never been able to understand, but of course one cannot be expected to understand everything. I say with the greatest of respect - I have respect for Senator Wright - that he is bound by the decisions of his party just as I am bound by the decisions of mine. This is a party House. That is not as the founding fathers wanted it to be, but it has grown to be a party House. I do not see how one could think that the Senate would be other than it is.
Senator Wright said that the cost of the referendum would be £400,000. I think that was the sum that he finished up mentioning. Actually, he had two bites at the cherry. Really I do not blame anybody for having two goes. Senator Gair said that the cost would be £750,000. Let us see how much it would cost the country if the nexus were not broken. If a member were elected to the House of Representatives for every 80,000 electors, the size of the House would be much greater than it is now. But, as the opponents of the Bill will agree, if the nexus were not broken the size of the House of Representatives could not be increased without the size of the Senate being increased. Then how would the sum of £400,000 mentioned by Senator Wright fit into the picture? I shall leave it to some of my accountant friends to work out what proportion of a budget of more than £2,000 million a sum of £400,000 would represent. To me it is pennies. I must give credit to Senator Wright for correcting a very bad mistake that was made. I am not saying that we do not make mistakes and the only reason why I am referring to the error now is that Senator Wright’s speech was being broadcast. Senator Wright stated that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) had said that each State could have representation of no less than 10 senators. Senator Wright contradicted that statement and said that it was misleading. It is true that after Senator Cohen had spoken, Senator Wright corrected the error. I want to impress anybody who is listening to me with the fact that in the present circumstances there can be no less than 10 senators representing each State. Parliament may approve of a decision to have representation of each State by more than 10 senators, but there cannot be less than 10.
– Not without another referendum.
– There cannot be less than 10 senators representing each State unless the people decide on such representation. It cannot be done by an act of Parliament.
I regret that Senator Wright has left the chamber. He said that he based his objection to the breaking of the nexus on the provision in section 57 of the Constitution for a joint sitting of both Houses. There has never been a joint sitting of both Houses. The only time that a joint sitting can be held is when, following a double dissolution, the Senate again rejects the legislation. In those circumstances both Houses should meet and attempt to iron out the differences between them. It has not happened in 64 years. I am not a prophet of what will happen in the future, but like most of us, I am prepared to have a gamble. I think I would be on the right side in saying that another 64 years is likely to elapse before a joint sitting occurs. Senator Gair opposed the Bill. He said that, under it, the number of members in the House of Representatives would be increased by between 25 and 30. I do not know whether my arithmetic is correct, but I divided 11 million by 80,000 and got an answer of about 137.
– My calculation was based on 1 969, when the next election takes place.
– When this legislation comes into effect the population will have increased.
– The population seems to have a habit of increasing and it is just as well that it does. Senator Gair said that the stronger the House of Representatives becomes the weaker will be the Senate. I cannot follow his reasoning, because it is stronger now. Time was when two members of the other place could have ruled it if they had been foolish enough to do so. If extra members are elected to the House of Representatives, I cannot see how the Senate or the States will suffer. If the nexus is broken, the States which are called in the Constitution the Original States will still have similar representation. To me, Senator Gair seemed to say that breaking the nexus would favour the bigger States. I cannot see it. He also said that it would disadvantage the influence of the Senate. I cannot see that, either.
The honorable senator referred to the IPEC-Air Pty. Ltd. case. I think that the decision arrived at by the Senate in that case was reached because the majority of senators believed that what was proposed by the Government was not the right thing. I do not propose to go further into that. Senator Gair said that the Senate is supposed to function as a non-party House. That may have been the thought in 1901, but because of the development of political wisdom or otherwise - call it what you will - that is not now the case. Only one honorable senator has but himself to please.
Senator Gair also said that he was surprised at the Australian Labour Party’s adopting only one out of 22 recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. I assure him that we would be delighted to see the other 21 recommendations included in legislation. The honorable senator knows as well as I do that for years we have wanted to support many alterations to the Constitution. I pay great tribute to the fathers of federation in 1901, but they could not have been expected to anticipate the events of today. That is why it is often said that we are living in the atomic age governed by a constitution drafted in the horse and buggy days - in 1901.
Senator Gair said that we are overgoverned; that we have too many members in the various Parliaments throughout the nation. I am not sure whether my friend was Premier of Queensland in 1950, but if he was not, he was certainly a Minister of the Crown. I just cannot call to mind what portfolio he held. But in 1950 the number of members in the Queensland Parliament was increased from 62 to 75. I am not going to say that 75 members are too many members to represent his State.
– There has been an increase since then.
– In 1960 the number was increased from 75 to 78. I am certain that Senator Gair, or the Government of which he was a member, did not increase the number of members so that the boundaries could be fixed. The number of members was increased so that the people of Queensland could get the representation that they desired.
– lt is questionable whether they got any better service.
– 1 am certain that the honorable senator would not have said that in 1950.
– 1 said it at the time and I still believe it.
– 1 accept my friend’s word. 1 believe that the case which has been submitted is unanswerable. To use Senator Wright’s words, 60 is an ideal number in this House, and the only way in which we can maintain that number is to break the nexus. Australia has grown very rapidly in recent years. Let us hope that it is able to continue this growth. People are entitled to proper representation. If they do not get it under our franchise, it is their own fault because they have a choice. I believe that the Bill and the proposed referendum are in the interests of the nation. As the Government and the Opposition are united on this occasion, I feel quite confident that this is one referendum-
– The honorable senator must remember that on two previous occasions all parties agreed on the subject that was put to the people but they were knocked over.
– I think that the honorable senator is right. One referendum was on the question of marketing back in 1933. But I believe that with the passage of time the people will accept the proposal on this occasion. I hope they do. Let us hope that, whatever the outcome, it will be for the benefit of the nation.
– I rise to make my contribution to the debate on the Bill we are now discussing. Perhaps at the outset I might confound Senator Kennelly by saying that I rise in opposition to the Bill, which perhaps again goes to prove that politics make peculiar bed mates. I express my opposition to the Bill according to the dictates of my conscience. Although I may be one of the minority of senators on the Government side who oppose the Bill, I believe that I am compelled to speak as I feel and to vote as I feel. I feel strongly on this question. I realise that as this matter is going to be referred to the electors, by way of a referendum, I could have expressed my opposition and left it to the electors to decide. But I believe that in doing so - even if I am in the minority - I would not be making my presence felt on the question of the expense that is involved in the referendum. If the majority of the members of the Senate held similar views, we should not permit this expense to be incurred.
I am not in favour of increasing the number of members in the Senate or in the House of Representatives. I make that point clear because I do not want to be misunderstood in this direction. Some people may say that there is no alternative but to increase the number of members of the Senate. What I hope will be achieved is that there will be fewer parliamentarians. I believe that the only sure course is to retain the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives so that it may prevent an increase in the representation in the Senate. If the electors say “ No “ to this referendum, which I believe they will, I cannot imagine any government increasing the number of members in this House by 24, which would seem to be the only other course open. The more sensible and practical approach seems to me to be to increase the number of electors in each electorate - even to the extent of 70,000 or 80,000 electors as against the present average of 50,000.
From time to time we have heard it said that we are the most over-governed country in the world. I have heard that said for many years, but I have never gone to the extent of testing it. Recently I took the trouble to investigate this matter. I have here figures which were compiled by officers of the statistical section of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. I find that Australia has 6.5 parliamentarians - this is at State and Commonwealth levels - for every 100,000 people. Canada has 5.18 members for every 100,000 persons, France has 1.58, Great Britain has 3.01, India has I, New Zealand has 3.5 and the United States of America has 4.42. I asked the Library to give me the figures for countries where there was an upper house and a lower house of parliament. I understand that the figures I have given relate to such countries.
– There is only one house in New Zealand.
– I shall correct that reference. It has been proved that at least in this respect we are the most overgoverned country in the world. As Senator Gair pointed out each parliamentarian in Australia represents only 16,000 people whereas in America with its 8,365 parliamentarians in Federal and State spheres there are 4.42 representatives for each 100,000 people. With the concurrence of honorable senators I incorporate the table in “ Hansard “.
We might ask ourselves this question: How do we get better representation? I say quite honestly that I do not believe the answer lies - nor will it lie for some considerable time - in increased representation. As a newcomer to this place I am hesitant about expressing my view although I believe it to be fairly prevalent among people throughout Australia, including not only people in this Commonwealth Parliament but also people in all State Parliaments. I have heard it expressed by supporters of all shades of political opinion. While I do not, as a newcomer to this Parliament, propose to pass judgment on this question, I believe there is some substance in the opinion which is freely expressed. I have occupied executive positions in fairly important organisations of a Federal nature and I recognise the difficulties associated with this matter. I know that an executive must initiate policy and that the policy must be considered by the council or, relating the matter to parliament, by the members of the government and by the parliament itself before it becomes a determined policy. While recognising the difficulties, I believe there is an obligation on an executive - I am speaking now of the Cabinet - to refer those matters to members of parliament generally as far as it is possible to do so.
Surely, then, those who object to the power of the executive must recognise that increased representation in the House of Representatives will aggravate the position. In my opinion, if the Parliament becomes too large the backbenchers will be still further remote from the executive or Ministry. This is not an entirely satisfactory way for a government to function.. My experience in the organisations with which I have been associated is that the best work is done by a comparatively small . body. A comparatively small body in an organisation can make decisions quicker than can a cabinet which has to confer with a large parliament.
Why should’ there be a bigger Parliament? In the first place every party should ensure that its candidates for election are capable, sincere and of undoubted integrity. Then the Parliament should ensure that each parliamentarian has the proper facilities and sufficient staff made available to him, even to the extent of the services of a research officer. The provision of this assistance would allow every member of the House of Representatives and every senator to give more time to the. really big issues. Many parliamentarians have to spend a great deal of time on fairly small jobs, which could be handled just as effectively by a competent secretary or a research officer. If these tasks were taken from parliamentarians, they would be able to do their jobs considerably better.
I do not believe that we wilt encourage people of the highest quality to offer themselves for Parliament simply by increasing representation. They will realise that they will have less chance of ever getting to the top and reaching ministerial rank. I cannot see that a parliamentarian who is capable of doing the job and has adequate assistance will not be able to represent at least 80,000 electors as satisfactorily as he now represents an average of 50,000 electors. We must remember, as I have already indicated to the Senate, that if our population increases to 20 million people - let us hope that it will in the not too distant future - we will have 250 members in the House of Representatives on the present basis of 80,000 people in each electorate. I do not think this will make for the best type of government. Rather 1 believe that we will get more efficient government by having the right type of people in Parliament and by allowing them to get closer to the work and functions of government. Instead of increasing membership, every effort should be made to make the most effective use of every member of Parliament. They should be made to feel that their services are required and appreciated. 1 have been told - it may be hearsay - that in the bigger legislatures such as the House of Commons a private member does not very often have the opportunity to speak. This is natural. If we increased our membership to 200 in the House of Representatives, honorable members would not have the same opportunities to speak and to express a view as’ they have now. I repeat that we must make the most effective use of our parliamentarians. We should make more use of the committee system to deal with the various problems that come before the Parliament. Committees could offer advice to the Parliament on matters that they have considered. I believe this system would function very satisfactorily. I have had recent experience of assisting a better understanding of a matter that had to come before this Parliament.
Every elector will have the right to ask in this referendum whether the proposed alteration to the Constitution will give the elected representative a more important and effective role in the affairs of government, or whether it will push him further into the background so that he will become disillusioned and will contribute little to the activities of the Parliament and to the welfare of the nation to which he had willingly, and even enthusiastically in many cases, offered his services. I believe that the latter is more likely and that his chances of having a definite say in this direction are fairly remote. Believing that an increase in membership of either the Senate of the House of Representatives is unnecessary, I must oppose the Bill.
Further, I believe that the people would turn this proposal down as involving an unnecessary additional and unjustifiable expense. I do not refer so much to the expense of the referendum as to the expense of government generally. Senator Gair and Senator Wright have referred to the cost of the referendum, which will be fairly high. I understand that it will be over £700,000. I am not referring to that so much as to the added cost of government in a country which, in my opinion, is already over-governed. This proposal, if approved, would do nothing to uphold, let alone improve, the image of Parliament in the eyes of the electors. I recognise that I have a responsibility to my Party and to the Government but, new though I be to this chamber and to the Parliament, 1 have spoken and shall vote as my conscience dictates.
– The Democratic Labour Party will oppose this Bill and, if it is carried, will campaign during the referendum in favour of u “ No “ vote. We shall do so because we believe that there is no necessity to increase the membership of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Senator Gair has already produced figures, which nobody has attempted to controvert effectively, which show that we are probably the most over governed country in the world - that we have more politicians, on the average, than has any other country. In those circumstances, we believe that1 a majority of the people will decide that they do not desire to have membership of the House of Representatives or the Senate increased and will vote “ No “ on the occasion of this referendum.
I have been amused to see in the Press references to statements by personalities in other parties to the effect that our attitude springs from the fact that we believe that in an enlarged Senate we might win one or two more seats. May I point out that the parties that make that allegation are holding out both hands in the belief that they will get 10 or 11 seats each if the referendum is carried. It is an old political trick to try to get your hands into the gravy bowl and then to accuse somebody else of wanting to get into it. May I say with all conviction that this proposal to alter the Constitution would never have been heard of if the Bill to permit redistribution of seats had been passed last year. It was not passed because the Australian Country Party jacked up on what it believed would be a blow to its representation in this Parliament. The Australian Labour Party - foolishly, from the point of view of tactics - allowed the Country Party to trap it into supporting it, with the result that the redistribution proposal was defeated.
This proposal to alter the Constitution springs from the disappointment and the chagrin of the Liberal Party and the Australian Labour Party over the fact that the Country Party out-manoeuvred them. The Liberal Party proposes this because it believes that of the 21 or 25 extra seats it will get at least half and will take a solid step towards the day when it can govern in its own right and ditch the Country Party. The Australian Labour Party supports the proposal because it believes that it, too, will get 10 or 11 extra seats and, by breaking the nexus, will ditch the Democratic Labour Party. So there are no noble motives about this proposal to alter the Constitution. It springs entirely from self-interest. I have no doubt whatsoever that proof that it springs from self-interest lies in the fact that those who brought in this Bill in the other place and in the Senate made no attempt to discuss or to consider in any way the very powerful reasons which induced the founders of our federation to include this provision in the Constitution.
May 1 say that this Parliament is being treated with contempt when we have a proposal to alter the Constitution treated purely as a mathematical exercise. Neither the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in another place, nor the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) made any attempt to consider the powerful reasons why tie nexus was included in the Constitution. Having failed to do that, they showed a profound contempt for the Senate in particular and for the Parliament in general. Let me briefly consider these mathematical calculations which in the view of the Prime Minister and of the Acting Leader in this place, seem to constitute the only matters deserving of consideration in regard to this issue. We were told that it would not be possible to increase membership of the Senate from 60 unless it were increased to 84. We were told that it was essential to have an odd number of Senators elected for each State because unless there were an odd number the Senate would be deadlocked. We have an odd number now, and in two of the Parliaments of which I have been a member in the last nine years the Senate has been deadlocked. So, how can it be argued that we must have an odd number and therefore must increase the Senate’s membership to 84? We have an odd number already and we have not been able to avoid deadlocks. The sole reason for mention of the number 84 is to suggest to the people that there will be an altogether disproportionate increase in membership of the Senate.
I believe that if the people vote “ No “ there will be no increase in membership of the Senate and no increase in membership of the House of Representatives. To suggest that we could do nothing else but increase membership of the Senate to 84 because without an odd number we would not be able to avoid deadlocks is completely to ignore the fact that we have an odd number now and we are still getting deadlocks. Might I point out to those who draw these dreadful pictures of the Senate flouting the will of the House of Representatives that I was in the Senate from 1956 to 1959 when it was supposed to be deadlocked, and the Government carried every Bill except one without a single amendment. That indicates the way in which a deadlocked Senate thwarts the will of the Government. I repeat that from 1956 to 1959 every Bill except one was carried without a single amendment. On the recent occasion on which this so-called deadlocked Senate resisted the Government on the Ipec matter, even Ministers confidentially said that what we did was right. In relation to the proposed amendment of the Repatriation Bill, I think that the general body of the community would be of the opinion that the Senate was right.
It has been said by some people that they propose the change because they object to an unlimited increase in the number of members of the Parliament. Yet we are told that from now on increases will be automatic. From 1900 to 1949 we had the numbers of both Houses virtually static. Then we had an increase, and 16 years later we have a proposal which suggests that from now on there will be automatic increases. Senator Scott saw the danger. He said that from now on we shall see that each member will represent 80,000. I hope that he did not mean 80,000 electors, I think he meant 80,000 men, women, children and babies in arms. Senator Scott said that members will be representing 80,000 persons but we could not keep increasing the size of the House of Representatives when the population reaches about 30 million. There has to be an upper limit. He says that when that happens, of course, they will have to represent 100,000 people or 120,000 people, or more. In those days in 30 years time the problems are going to be a lot more complex. If Senator Scott is prepared to cheerfully endure a situation in 30 years time whereby members will have to represent 120,000 people, why the urgent necessity today to see that they represent only 80,000 people?
There is a saying: “ Oh, that mine adversary had written a book “. Tonight I say: “ Oh, that mine adversary might make a speech “. I say that because this is not the first time that this proposal to break the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives has been considered in this Parliament. In 1948, under the Chifley Government, when a proposal was made in the Representation Bill to increase the size of the House of Representatives and the Senate, a move was made by the Liberal Party, now in government, to reject any suggestion to increase the number of members. The Liberal Party did not think it was so urgent then to increase the number of members of Parliament. It violently opposed the move. But the people now forming the government move, at least with some consistency, that the nexus should be broken.
The Liberal Party’s opposition to the Representation Bill of 1948 was based on two grounds: First, that there was no need to increase the numbers in the House of Representatives and, secondly, that there was no need to increase the size of the Senate. It decided: “ Let us break the link which keeps the Senate half the size of the House of Representatives”. On the first point the then Leader of the Opposition, now Sir Robert Menzies, vehemently opposed the suggestion that even in 1949 it was necessary to increase the number of members of Parliament. At page 998 of “Hansard” of 21st April 1948 Sir Robert is quoted as having said -
Under this new proposal, New South Wales and Victoria will have 80 members and the rest will have 41, which means that the two States will have an absolute majority in voting strength over all other States, not of 22, but of 39. I want to say at once to those honorable members who represent the smaller and the more distant States that these simple facts are not to be explained as a matter of simple proportion. These facts represent a further enormous movement towards central control, through two States, of the entire Federal system of Australia.
The situation of the States under this Bill which we are discussing is going to be infinitely worse. The margin of the two bigger States over the four smaller States is going to become infinitely worse. Yet Sir Robert, 20 years ago, warned the people of Australia that this move would mean centralised control of Australia by Victoria and New South Wales. He even went on to add in those remarks -
That should be of interest to Senator McKenna, Senator Wright, Senator Lillico and other honorable senators. If Sir Robert meant that the influence of Tasmania would diminish then he also meant that Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia would suffer too. Mr. Harold Holt was equally firm that even in 1948 we did not need these large numbers of members of Parliament. In “ Hansard “ of 23rd April 1948, at page 1103, Mr. Harold Holt is reported to have said -
One reason why the Government advocates an increase of the number of members in the Parliament is that during and since the the war it has grabbed functions, powers and responsibilities which could more conveniently and properly be exercised by the States. Having grabbed both these powers, the Government is determined to hang on to them . . .
Hence the increase in the numbers of members of Parliament. Mr. Harold Holt also said on 23rd April 1948, at page 1102 of “Hansard”, referring to the Labour Government -
Further, it hopes that the public outcry against an enlarged Senate will eventually lead to the abolition of that chamber.
Mr. Calwell also was a firm protagonist at that particular time for the nexus between the two chambers. At page 1010 of “ Hansard” of 21st April 1948 Mr. Calwell is reported to have said -
There is no need for a referendum or an alteration of the Constitution. All this Government has to do is to discharge its responsibilities and accept the verdict of the people when the new electorates are determined . . . senators are elected to the enlarged Senate at the same time.
Mr. Calwell also defended the founding fathers. He said -
Wc have to increase the size of the Senate before we can increase the size of the House of Representatives. That is provided for in the Constitution and it was placed in the Constitution by the mcn who framed it with a full knowledge of what it meant and what would He before the nation after the federation was established.
I am indebted .also to Senator McKenna. On the same occasion, speaking on 6th May 1948, “Hansard” shows him at page 1474 as having said, in a clear exposition of the reasons why the nexus should not be broken - -
The Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues
Members of ‘ the Liberal and Country Parties - have admitted . . . that they see no danger in the proposal that the number of members of the Senate should not be increased. As 1 have said, the founders of federation did see a danger, and they provided very particularly for it in section 57 of the Constitution’.
This is- Senator McKenna speaking-. I will mention this matter when I come to the conclusion of the quotation. He .continued - .
Section 24, which provides that the House of Representatives shall be approximately twice the numerical strength of the Senate, must be read in conjunction with section 57 . . . That section provides that, if the two chambers disagree twice under various conditions, there may be a double dissolution. But it carries the matter one stage further than that and provides that, if the same deadlock occurs after a double dissolution, then the Senate and the House of Representatives must sit and vote together to clear the deadlock and determine the matter. If honorable senators opposite can see no threat to the position of the States in the federal legislature in a joint meeting of only 36 senators and 121 members of the House of Representatives, then 1 shall bc surprised indeed. They must recognise that the States will be in a very much better position if the ratio of two to one between the House of Representatives and the Senate is preserved, lt is clear to me that members of the Opposition either did not know the import of their proposal … or planned it as a subtle and very strong attack upon the position of the States in the Federal legislative scheme . . only one course lies open to them unless they are convinced that the position of the States should be weakened. That course is to withdraw the amendment … I point out that that is a deliberate attack upon the States now that the honorable senator knows the reason why tha founders of the Constitution designed that procedure - to protect the States at a joint sitting of the two Houses.
Senator McKenna also said ;
I agree . . . that it would be completely futile for the Parliament to go to the people with the suggestion that there should not be a proportionate increase of the membership of the Senate. The people would never, in any circumstances, weaken the position of the Senate in the Federal legislature.
When the Select Committee of 1950 was formed, on which the Liberal and Country Party members refused to serve, the Labour Party provided the- sole membership. The Committee reported as follows -
Section VI - Merits of Ratio of Numerical Strength of the Two Houses.
By section 24 of the Constitution it is provided that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall bc “ as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators “. This is known as the “ two-to-one ratio “.
It was argued at the Convention which drafted the Constitution that the two-to-one ratio would safeguard the constitutional powers of the Senate. A substantial increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives, while the number of senators remained stationary, would, it was contended, lead to a diminution of the influence of the Senate, even perhaps to its abolition. Except in the case of a joint sitting tinder section 57 of the Constitution, there does not appear to be any great substance in these contentions, because the House of Representatives, no matter what its numerical strength, cannot take from the Senate any of its great constitutional powers.
Here is the point made by this Committee on which the Labour Party had 100 per cent, representation and whose chairman was Senator McKenna.
The real virtue of the two-to-one ratio is its incidence en section 57 of the Constitution dealing with disagreements between the Houses. That section provides that, following a double dissolution, a joint sitting of the two Houses may be held to decide the question involved if the dispute between the Houses continues after the election. At such a joint sitting a proposed law must be carried by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Now the merit of the two-to-one ratio becomes manifest, because it gives to the Senate, by virtue of the necessity for an absolute majority of the two Houses, an effective and influential role, although the House of Representatives commands the preponderating vote. But if the disparity between the number of members of the two Houses were permitted to increase beyond two-to-one, the influence of the Senate at a joint sitting would be diminished as the disparity increased, a danger which is not allowed to arise because of the constitutional principle that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of Senators.
The Committee, therefore, did not recommend any alteration in the nexus between the two Houses. 1 have a great deal of regard for Mr. Beazley, who is a member of another place. He is one of the thinkers of the Opposition. I will quote his statement upon this vexed question, which I think is admirable in its clarity. As appears at page 1168 of “Hansard”, of 28th April 1948, he said -
Honorable members opposite have asked that the people be consulted in a referendum. They say “ Let us suppose that you are going to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives. Then get rid of this constitutional provision which requires the Senate to have half the number of members of the House of Representatives. Enlarge the House of Representatives if you like, but do not enlarge the Senate.” That argument ignores one very important thing. The Commonwealth Constitution does not make the two chambers of legislature absolutely separate, lt pro?vides that if there is a deadlock between the chambers, which cannot be otherwise resolved, the two Houses shall sit as one.
The framers of the Constitution in providing that the Senate in which the States have equal representation should have half the numbers of the House of Representatives, had in mind to preserve the representation of the smaller States on controversial issues. Suppose the House of Representatives increased to 120 and the Senate stayed at 36.
This was before the enlargement of the Parliament to its present numbers -
Then Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia would have only 18 senators when the two Houses sat as one, whereas if the present proportion were maintained the three Stales would have 30 senators at a joint silting and their voting power to that degree would be increased.
Thus the provision for a Senate half the size was inserted in the Constitution to prevent the Senate being swamped in a joint sitting of the two chambers. It was intended to safeguard the rights of smaller States and I have no doubt these States would resist any proposal to enlarge Parliament not preserving the relative strength of the Senate.
In his final paragraph, Mr. Beazley was admirable. He said -
The proportion of senators to representatives is not merely a mathematical question. The existing arrangement was designed to protect the interests of smaller States which would not have entered Federation if their position had not been safeguarded by equal representation in the Senate, and a further provision that in joint sittings on controversial issues the Senate would not be swamped by the Representatives.
I understand that when the Constitutional Review Committee sat four or five years ago and made a large number of recommendations, the gossip around the House was that the Government did not act on the recommendations because it felt that the Labour representation on the Committee had put it all over the Government representation. All I can say is that the Labour Party representatives went into the Committee powerfully bound to the nexus, and came out repudiating the nexus. So it would appear that the Government representatives put it over the Australian Labour Party representatives. I can only say that in the coming referendum the Democratic Labour Party will support the attitude of the Chifley Government to the nexus, and that the Australian Labour Party will support the attitude of the Menzies Government.
There is a suggestion that after all the nexus is not important because there has never been a joint sitting and probably never will be one. I think there is more chance of a joint sitting occurring in the next few years than there has been in tha history of Federation. We have all seen the steady advance of the Executive and the bureaucracy whittling away the powers of Parliament. The one House which has at least attempted to maintain the powers of Parliament has been the Senate. We all know that that attitude on the part of the Senate has been greeted with anything but enthusiasm in another place. I understand that in the period during which I was absent from this Parliament efforts were made to take from the Senate certain of its powers in regard to financial matters. Those efforts had to be resisted and in view of the suggestion made in relation to the Repatriation legislation and other matters, the Senate ought not to possess certain powers and - if it does, in fact possess them - should be deprived of them, I believe that the possibility of a situation arising in which there could be a joint sitting of the two Houses is more likely in future than it has been in the whole period of Federation.
It is very easy for the people of this country to give away what should be a fundamental provision of the Constitution. It is very easy for them to listen to those who say that the Constitution of this country does not - matter and that all we should be interested in is mathematical problems. It is very easy to give things away, but it is very difficult to get them back when one realises the loss one has suffered. I say, therefore, to the people who are listening to the broadcast of this debate, and particularly to those in the smaller States: “ The matter you will have to vote on in the referendum is an item which was inserted in the Constitution to preserve the rights of the smaller States to a fair share of the financial and economic cake of this country. Without that safeguard a number of the smaller States would have refused to be associated with Federation. So think very carefully before you give away something which is fundamental to the balanced development of the whole of the Commonwealth.”
The second thing I say to them is: “ Do not be misled by any suggestion that members of this Parliament are overworked and are breaking down. The Parliament functioned for its first 50 years with about 74 members in the House of Representatives and 36 in the Senate. When, 16 years ago, the numbers were increased . to 126 and 60 respectively, the people of this country made sure that the Parliament would not be overworked for quite a number of years to come.”
This proposal to alter the Constitution does not spring from any noble desire to facilitate the work of the Parliament’. It is simply something that springs from self-interest. It would never have been brought before us if the Bill dealing with the redistribution of seats in the House of Representatives last year had been carried. In those circumstances I hope that the people of this country will treat this proposal with the contempt it deserves. I hope they will vote “ No “, preserve the Constitution and indicate that they agree with the Democratic Labour Party that we do not need any more senators or members of the House of Representatives than we have now.
– In the course of the debate tonight we have heard a number of speeches which did great credit to this chamber. We have heard different points of view, some of them sincerely held and genuinely put, on this matter of national importance. This is the kind of debate that we should have on a matter of this sort. I trust that honorable senators in turn will give me the credit for being sincere when I say that I believe this proposal for a referendum should be supported. In my opinion, the arguments that have been advanced against it are not logical or reasonable arguments and I believe that on examination they have no great significance.
Senator McManus suggested that if the referendum were passed it would be likely to lead to provision for more members of Parliament. I believe that the effect would be exactly the reverse. Whether the referendum is passed or not, there is nothing to prevent an increase in the number of members of Parliament in both Houses simply by both Houses accepting that increase. But if the referendum is passed, it will be possible to have fewer members of Parliament because it will enable the numbers of one House to be increased without requiring an automatic increase in the number of members of the other House. If Australia continues to grow as I believe inevitably it will, whichever political party is in government in the other House will provide for more members of the House of Representatives to serve the greater population. If the referendum is not passed, automatically and inevitably there will be more members of Parliament in the Federal sphere than there will be if the referendum is passed. It is quite misleading and wrong to suggest that the passage of this referendum will lead to more members of Parliament; in fact it will lead to fewer.
It has been said in the debate that there may be some diminution of the constitutional power of the Senate if the referendum is passed. Another proposition was that in some way the smaller States would be disadvantaged by the passage of the referendum. The fact is that if the referendum is passed, there will be in the Senate, as there are now, ten members from each State. Any of the smaller States can match the ten members from the larger States. The representatives of the smaller States will have precisely the same voting strength as the representatives of the larger States. Their votes will have precisely the same significance and the same influence as they have today. There will be no diminution whatever in the relative power in the Senate of any Australian State.
But those who hold the other point of view have said, in effect: “ Perhaps we will accept that proposition but a situation might arise where there is disagreement requiring a joint sitting of both Houses of the Parliament. If we do not have a larger number of senators, the smaller States or somebody might be disadvantaged in the event of such a disagreement”. Let us examine that proposition. Senator McManus himself said a few minutes ago that the Senate has been deadlocked twice in the time he has been a senator although we have had an odd number of senators. There was also some suggestion in his speech that it might be better to make certain the Senate is not deadlocked by having an even number going out in each State. At times we have had a Senate equally divided or with one or two votes separating the Government from the Opposition or the Opposition from the Government. I have been in the Senate when there were only one or two Opposition votes against the Government and that was a pretty poor time too. If we have this equality of representation on both sides of the Senate, in the case of a disagreement with the House of Representatives there will be a margin of not more than one or two votes in this House whether the Senate has 60, 84 or 96 members; that is, if we carry on with proportional representation. If there are 84 senators, there might be a margin of one or two. If there are 60 senators, the margin will bc one or two. If there is a joint meeting with the House of Representatives the position in relation to the Senate will be exactly the same whether there are 84 or 60 senators. The power of the senators would not be diminished in the event of a joint sitting.
It is all very well to say one should not look at these things mathematically, but one has not only to look at the requirements but also to consider whether matters can be worked out properly on a mathematical basis so that there will be no diminution of the capacity of the representatives of the smaller States in this place or of the Senate to express appropriate views in the event of a joint sitting with the House of Representatives.
We have heard it suggested in the debate that Australia is vastly over-governed. I do not see any justification for that claim. It is true that we have two Houses of Parliament as they have in the United Kingdom. It is true also that a member of the House of Representatives represents approximately the same number of electors as does a member of the House of Commons in England although some of our members of the lower House have to represent twice as many people as does a member of the House of Commons. It is true also that we have a number of State Parliaments. I have drawn an analogy between the Federal Parliament of Australia and the central Parliament in the United Kingdom and I admit that there are not State Houses of Parliament in England. But they do have county councils there to which people are elected and they carry out the same functions as do the State Houses of Parliament in Australia.
– The United Kingdom is also much smaller in area than the continent of Australia.
– That is true but I was concentrating on the number of people in an electorate and the paid positions for the number of individuals represented. I believe an examination of the situation would show that, if anything, the United Kingdom is more over-governed than we are. We have heard about the political representation in the United States of America and that Texas with some 10 million people has 23 representatives in the central Congress. But the State of Texas also has two State Houses with more members than we have in our State Houses. They have a State Senate and a Stale Lower House in the American States.
It is a matter of opinion whether a member of the House of Representatives in Australia should represent 40,000, 100,000 or 200,000 people. There is no way of proving what is the appropriate figure. A number of people believe that a member of the House of Representatives is able to give a better service to 40,000 electors than he would be able to give to 100,000 electors. I believe that when a nation is divided into electorates of about 40,000 electors it is possible to give a better expression of opinion in a House of Parliament than would be possible with a nation divided into electorates of 100,000 or 120,000. In an electorate of 40,000, the Parliamentary representative might have a majority of 5,000 votes. He would come to this Parliament and express his views or what he thought were the views held in his electorate. In an electorate of 120,000 he could have a majority of 5,000 and still come here to express his views, but those views would not necessarily be the same as they would be if that electorate were divided into three electorates each of 40,000 electors. I believe that, if the electorates are not too large, a greater opportunity exists for expressing the spread of opinion that exists amongst the people than otherwise would be the case. But as 1 said, that is a matter of opinion. 1 do not want to speak for long at this stage. I rose really only to make three points that arose out of the speech of Senator McManus. Even at the risk of wearying the Senate, I propose to reiterate those points. The first is that acceptance of the referendum would not lead to there being more members of Parliament but would make it possible for there to be fewer members. Rejection of the referendum would inevitably lead to there being more members of Parliament than if it succeeded. The second point is that the representation of the States would not be altered in any way, because there would still be 10 senators from each State. If the referendum is successful, it will guarantee that there will never be fewer than 10 senators from each State until some other constitutional change is made. The third point I wish to make is that, that being so, there will be the same opportunity in this House now as there always has been for- each State to be heard and, in the possible but unlikely event of a joint sitting of both Houses being held, there will be the same opportunity for the voice of this House to be heard.
One other matter comes to my mind. Senator McManus said that it was wrong to suggest that an odd number of senators from each State should retire at each election. He said that those who argued in this way - I am one who does - do so because they say that there is less chance of having a deadlocked Senate, and that if six retire from each State it is almost certain that three from one side of politics and three from the other will be returned whereas if seven retire very likely four will be returned from one side of politics and three from the other. Senator McManus said that to argue that way was wrong because, in spite of the fact that an odd number retire now, we still occasionally finish up with a deadlocked Senate. Factually, the honorable senator is right. That did happen on two occasions. On the first occasion it was not because of the number that retired but because of the hangover from a Senate that had previously been in existence and because a previous government had jiggled its term. On the second occasion it just happened. It could still happen. But to say that it might happen when an odd number of senators retire surely is no argument for saying: “ Since it might happen, let us not have an odd number retiring but let us have an even number retiring and make it virtually absolutely certain that we will have a deadlocked House on every occasion “.
I am sure more of these points will be heard as the referendum campaign gathers momentum. I hope that the points that I have made will be impressed on the minds of electors, more particularly the point that if the referendum is passed it will open the way to there being fewer members of Parliament than would otherwise be the case.
From the viewpoint of the functioning of the Senate, I suggest that, if in the years ahead the size of the House of Representatives is increased so that each member may represent 40,000 electors and the size of this House is not increased, the significance of this House in the national councils will be enhanced rather than diminished. If, as I believe is likely to happen, in the years ahead the functions of the States become increasingly subordinated to those of the National Parliament, then a Senate of enhanced significance will do much more to take care of the rights of the States than would a Senate of diminished significance. The significance of the Senate might well be diminished in the councils of the nation each time the size of the House of Representatives is increased - it will be increased - if at the same time the size of the Senate is automatically increased. For those reasons, Mr. President, I am as sincere as those who have spoken against the motion, in advocating that the proposal be carried here and in the country at large.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) [10.461. - Most of the arguments that I have prepared have already been well stated by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton). However, I think thai all of them will bear repetition, though perhaps in a different form. I was a member of the Parliament when the membership was increased in 1949. Some of the arguments that were advanced then for increasing the size of the House of Representatives still hold good today. I believe that most people realise the vast increase that has occurred, not only in the duties of individual members of the Parliament, but also in the duties, responsibilities and power of the Parliament itself. The work of the Commonwealth Parliament has increased considerably over the last 25 years, due in part to an earlier referendum that gave the Parliament power to legislate in regard to social services. A great deal of work that was previously done by the State Parliaments is now done by this Parliament. In the realm of international affairs the stature of Australia has grown considerably, with the result that increased work devolves upon members of this Parliament, particularly members of the House of Representatives.
I say with all due respect that the founding fathers who established the Commonwealth in 1900 must have been very farsighted indeed if at that time they looked into the future and saw exactly how this continent and the powers of this Parliament would develop. We just cannot allow the Parliament to lag behind in this era of change.
I fail to see how those who oppose this legislation can justify the emphasis with which they argue about the need to retain the nexus between this House and the House of Representatives. Much more important than retaining the nexus is the need to maintain equality of representation in this House as between the States. That situation will not be altered by this legislation. We have been told that the smaller States, one of which I represent in this place, would not agree to this legislation if they had not been assured that each State would have equal representation in the Senate irrespective of the size of that State or of its population. This Bill will not alter that equality of representation in any respect whatever. Every State of the Commonwealth will have the same number of representatives in this place as every other State. I think that is the most important point. As Senator Gorton has said, there may come a time when there will be a joint meeting of both Housesalthough it has not happened in 64 years since federation - but the enlargement of the Senate would not materially affect the position, because it is unlikely that the whole representation of the Senate will be swung to one side of the argument. Therefore I cannot see any force whatever in the argument advanced by those who oppose this legislation on the basis that it will affect State representation, because it will not be altered one iota.
I was rather surprised to hear Senator McManus read our points of view expressed 15 years ago. It might be a rather interesting exercise to explore the records of those years to find out what were the views of Senator McManus on various aspects of politics at that time and compare them with his present views. It might be found that his opinions have also changed, but that his previous views are not so well recorded as “Hansard” has recorded the views of members of this Parliament at that time.
– I would be interested if the honorable senator could dig them up.
– Perhaps Senator McManus is sure that they could not be dug up. I do not know about that.
– I will supply a few.
– Perhaps I will take the honorable senator up on that, one of these days. Reference has been made to a deadlocked Senate. If the opponents of this measure had their way, that would not only be a possibility, it would become a certainty. I have been a senator for nearly 23 years. On some occasions, the Senate has been deadlocked but they have been very few. We cannot legislate to ensure that deadlocks do not ever occur, but if the Senate is enlarged in the way advocated by Senator Gair and Senator McManus, it is quite certain that deadlocks would occur.
I was rather interested to hear some of the arguments put forward in opposition to this legislation. I refer particularly to the view expressed that members of the Senate are not overworked. I would not say that we are overworked, but it is up to each senator as to how much work he does. I do not know whether the people who speak so glibly about senators not being overworked are speaking of themselves. I point out that in addition to the work done by senators with electors, time is also spent in research. I know, from listening to debates in this chamber that some honorable senators spend a great deal more time on research than others spend. I agree that something could be done to improve the standard of representation if we had more facilities or took greater advantage of the present facilities for research. However, I think it ill becomes honorable senators to decry the work of members of Parliament, because sufficient people outside do so already. Such talk by members of this House can have nothing but a harmful effect, not only upon this legislation and the referendum to be conducted, but upon the image of Parliament as a whole. It should be our aim through our work and example to build up the prestige of this Parliament, which could suffer from some of the arguments put forward tonight in an effort to rouse public consciousness against Parliament as an institution. We can do so much as members of Parliament, working for the national good. If we are to have snipers within the Parliament, as well as those outside, the value of our contributions to the nation will be considerably impaired.
I hope that this legislation will be passed. I believe that the responsibility of senators will be considerably increased by this legislation. I take no notice of those who draw comparisons between this Parliament and overseas parliaments. For instance, I do not know what would happen in the Parliament of Great Britain if all members attended at one time. Accommodation is not sufficient for them all. A true comparison cannot be made between the Senate and the House of Lords, where many people occupy their seats purely because of the circumstances of their birth. At times of crisis, or as a reward for parliamentary or party service, some peers have been created, but members of the House of Lords are not elected as are senators. I think that the Senate is one of the most democratically elected chambers in all the legislatures, not only in Australia but also outside the Commonwealth.
I have attended the United States Senate and I do not think we have anything to learn from that or other overseas parliaments I have visited as to the way in which we represent our electors and are available to them at all times to assist them with their problems. While we are here to work on a national level, we must also remember as members of this Parliament that a nation consists of individuals. The happiness and rights of those individuals are under our guardianship while we are members of this House.
I hope that this legislation will be passed because, by increasing the numbers of the members of the House of Representatives, we will give to the people better representation. By maintaining the quality of State representation in this chamber we are not doing anything that will be detrimental to the Constitution established by the founding fathers more than 60 years ago.
.- The object of the legislation before the Senate is to create a law which, under the Constitution of the Commonwealth, will be referred to the people of Australia for their acceptance at a referendum. It purports to achieve two alterations to the Constitution. The first proposed alteration is the omission from the third paragraph of section 7 of the Constitution of the words “six senators “ which twice occur, and inserting in their stead the words “ ten senators “. The second proposal to be put to the people is that sections 24, 25, 26 and 27 should be eliminated and that in their stead should be inserted particular items which will give a separate-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects -
Chain and chains.
Magnetos and parts.
Tinned iron and steel hoop, strip, plates and sheets.
The report on chain and chains does not call for legislative action.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19651201_senate_25_s30/>.