26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Treasurer received from traders who manufacture goods complaints about the difficulty experienced in assessing the correct rates of sales tax? Have some traders advised the Treasurer that it is extremely difficult to obtain skilled staff so that they can observe the sales tax laws efficiently?
-I have had no representations on this matter. I do not know whether any have been made to the Treasurer. 1 know the sales tax laws pretty well because I operated under them for many years. I know that skilled staff is needed to apply the provisions of the laws properly, particularly in general businesses handling a number of items to which the sales tax is applicable at different rates. In such a business, some goods are exempt from sales tax if used for certain purposes and are not exempt if used for other purposes. The sales tax has operated for many years, and I have not noted that any additional hardships have been imposed on traders recently. As a matter offact, the positron has become easier as the years have passed because this Government has consistently reduced the number of items subject to the sales tax. I will inquire from the Treasurer whether he has received any representations along the lines mentioned by Senator Benn.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Prime Minister or the Treasurer a question further to the question asked on 23 rd February by Senator Lawrie in relation to irrigation projects proposed by the Queensland Government and for which that Government is seeking financial assistance in the terms of the Prime Minister’s policy speech. Would the Treasurer or the appropriate Minister be prepared at this point of time to receive a deputation to discuss these proposals in detail, especially in view of the contributions that the Emerald proposal in central Queensland and the Kolan project in the Bundaberg area would make to drought mitigation in those areas?
– I cannot answer for the Treasurer, who, I think, would be the Minister concerned with the Emerald project. I have no knowledge of the Kolan project. However, 1 will certainly refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer and ask him whether he would be prepared to meet a deputation. The Treasurer would have to be satisfied first that the deputation was sponsored by the Queensland Government, because that Government initiated the request for assistance.
– My question to the
Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry concerns the national conference of the fishing industry which was held last month. Is it proposed to furnish the Parliament with a report of the findings of that conference so that members of Parliament may have an opportunity to study and appraise them?
– I do not know whether or not it is proposed to make this report available. I shall inquire and let the honourable senator know the position.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer a question which I preface by saying that it is in the interests of the residents of such islands as King Island and also other people who are far distant from specialist medical services. A deduction is allowed for income tax purposes of actual medical fees but not of travelling expenses incurred by the taxpayer in order to get specialist services which are available only in remote cities. Will the Treasurer give considerationto a proposition to allow the addition to the actual medical fee payable of reasonable travelling expenses, if such are certified by a medical officer to be necessary for medical advice that is not obtainable to the patient in the town of residence? It seems to me that in the interests of the outback this is a proposition that deserves very earnest consideration.
– This matter has been considered from time to time in relation to the expense incurred by persons in travelling from northern Australia to the city of Perth for specialist attention. When the honourable senator mentions King Island, he mentions something quite dear to my own heart. J received representations from the King Island Council on this matter and I should like to advise the honourable senator that the matter is in the hands of the Treasurer now. I passed it to him and asked him to give us some reply on it.
– Has the Minister for Education and Science been informed of an article in ‘On Dit’, the journal of the University of Adelaide, complaining that agents of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation attend University Union meetings and had broken into and searched the homes of two university students who were active in Vietnam protest committees? As the article further states that agents of the security service arc active within universities and keep files on the activities and expressions of various students - which is considered a breach of academic freedom - will the Minister make a statement condemning any breach of academic freedom that may be imposed or sought to be imposed on university students?
– I do not remember reading the article in ‘On Dit’ referred io by the honourable senator and therefore I do not know - nor has he indicated - whether there is any shadow of evidence adduced in the article or by anybody to substantiate what the article says. Nor will I do as the honourable senator suggests and say that it is a breach of academic freedom for activities of people to be examined, if they are indulging in activities and if these are examined. I merely want by this reply to indicate that I do nol see why any distinction should be drawn between people at universities and people outside universities in relation to any activities that they may be carrying on.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport direct his colleague’s attention to the serious dispute that exists between the
South Australian Minister for Railways and the Broken Hill mining companies over rail freights for the carriage of ore over the railway between Broken Hill and Port Pirie in South Australia, a distance of approximately 250 miles? Is it a fact that the companies threaten to use the New South Wales Railways to carry the ore to the eastern seaboard, a distance of approximately 700 miles, if the South Australian rates are not comparable with the likely New South Wales rates, thereby creating a great economic hardship to Port Pirie and a great loss of revenue to the South Australian Railways? Seeing that the Commonwealth has committed many millions of dollars to the standardisation of the gauge between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, including the provision of marshalling yards and facilities at Port Pirie for the easy export of ore, can the Minister use his good offices to see that this dispute is resolved and the freight retained for South Australia? Can the Minister state the freight rate per ton mile paid by the South Australian Government to the Commonwealth Railways for the carriage of coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta and the freight rate at present charged and the reduction sought for the carriage of ore from Broken Hill to Port Pirie?
– Quite clearly the question asked by the honourable senator is one which needs to be referred to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. 1 will most certainly refer the question expeditiously and hope that as a result of the reference to him the dispute which has occurred will ultimately and quickly be resolved.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the extreme concern and agitation at the Government’s failure properly to develop the international airport at Mascot? Is he aware of the proposed delegation of Government members to the Minister on this matter? Will the Minister arrange that Labor members of the New South Wales Government, who were responsible through Labor members of the Public Works Committee for the initial exposure of the Government’s policy on Mascot airport, be met by the Minister for Civil Aviation to discuss this subject?
– Along with other honourable senators I have read certain reports in the Press in relation to the international airport at Sydney. It is quite clearly the intention of the Government that Mascot will remain the chief international airport for Australia. I understand that following current Press publicity the Minister for Civil Aviation proposes after question time in another place today to make a statement in relation to this matter. Therefore I would not comment on it. However, at a later hour this day, or tomorrow if the Senate wishes, I shall make a statement in this place.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy: is it a fact that Mr B. Nolan, who is Victorian Secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australia and who is closely identified with the refusal of seamen to man the freighter Boonaroo’ which is scheduled to transport supplies to Australian troops in Vietnam, is the same Mr B. Nolan who is a member of the Victorian Central Executive of the Australian Labor Party?
– 1 do not know whether the answer to the honourable senators question is yes, but I will find out from the Minister for the Navy and let the honourable senator know.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation advise what pension, allowances or compensation are payable to servicemen who are partially disabled as a result of service in the Vietnam war, or totally disabled, or to their widows and children as a result of death of servicemen on active service?
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions have been published already. While I probably have the details in my file, I do not have them in my head at present. I will undertake to furnish to the honourable senator - I hope before this evening - the information he seeks.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Defence, ls not the Commonwealth Government making an all out effort to provide Australian built equipment and materials as far as is possible for defence purposes and particularly for Australian forces in Vietnam? Is the current attitude of opposition by the Seamen’s Union of Australia to the carriage of war stores to Vietnam likely to affect adversely the successful development of this policy?
– 1 would not think that the attitude adopted by the Seamen’s Union would be likely adversely to affect the Government’s policy or adversely to affect the situation of our troops in Vietnam because, as 1 understand the Union’s attitude, it is not endorsed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. As I understand the attitude of the ACTU, it believes that Australian troops in Vietnam should be supplied with all they need without obstruction and the Commonwealth Government has made it clear that it proposes to supply Australian troops in Vietnam with what is required. In that situation I do not believe the action of the Seamen’s Union could be effective. Of course, if it were effective it would have the adverse results mentioned.
– Although the Minister representing the Minister for Works said earlier this afternoon that it is the Government’s intention to retain Sydney airport as Australia’s main international airport, will he agree that on the evidence available so far Sydney appears to be losing the race against Tullamarine? Did the Minister for Works recently issue a statement that, in his opinion, one of the present runways at Sydney airport would have to be further extended into Botany Bay in order to cater adequately for supersonic aircraft? Can the Minister say whether, if this extension eventually has to be carried out, the dredge which was brought from Holland in connection with the existing extensions will still be available in Australia? Has it yet been returned to Holland?
– This question is related to the question asked by Senator Fitzgerald, to which I replied from the aspect of the interest in it of the Minister for Civil Aviation. Although this question is directed to me as the Minister representing the Minister for Works, I think the two matters are inseparable and 1 believe we should wait for the statement that the Minister for Civil Aviation proposes to make on the issues which have been raised by both Senator Fitzgerald and Senator McClelland. In the interim, 1 can say that there is no suggestion that Mascot should be anything other than the chief international airport in Australia.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will he inform the Senate whether there is any way in which honourable senators unavoidably absent from the Parliament on account of ill health may become associated with the vote on or the presentation of the No case in relation to the Constitution Alteration (Parliament) Bill 1967 and the proposed referendum?
– I have not considered that situation. When we last discussed this matter 1 thought it had become apparent that there could be a situation in which an honourable senator who did not vote on the Bill could be associated with the preparation of the No case if that were his wish. As to the vote, I think there is only one way in which an honourable senator can record his vote, and that is by voting Yes or No right here.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service investigate complaints emanating from the New South Wales branch of the Builders Labourers Federation to the effect that Tooth’s Brewery showed racial bias in rejecting Greek, Yugoslav and New Zealand born members whom the Union had sent for jobs at the request of the brewery?
– I will bring the honourable senators question to the notice of the Minister and suggest that he reply to it.
– The Standing Orders of the Senate require a certain form of circumlocution in the asking of questions, but I should like, in an attempt to elicit information, to ask a question elaborating on questions asked by Senator Gair and Senator Marriott. I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, ls it within his knowledge that the man Nolan who is responsible for holding up supplies or logistic support for Australian forces in South Vietnam is the same Nolan who is a member of the executive of the Australian Labour Party in Victoria?
– No, that is nol within my knowledge. In order to get a definitive answer from the Minister for the honourable senator, I think the question might well be placed on the notice paper. Then the whole matter will be public knowledge.
– Mr President, I raise a point of order in relation to Senator Cormack’s question. Is it correct for an honourable senator to ask a question when such question is based on a statement contrary to the facts?
– The point of order is not upheld.
(Senator Poyser having addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service)
– Order! That question will go on the notice paper.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: is it a fact that Australia is to meet a request from the Government of Ceylon for the supply of 500 tons of seed potatoes under the Colombo Plan? Can the Minister inform me who is the Australian authority responsible for the purchase of these potatoes and from what sources these purchases are made?
– Yes, it is a fact that Australia will provide to Ceylon under the Colombo Plan 500 tons, I think it is, of seed potatoes. The potatoes will be bought by the Department of Supply on tender. As I understand it, the Department of External Affairs is finalising the details of the tender now. The tender will be called through the Department of Supply in the normal way. i have been informed that the varieties required are Brownell from Tasmania and Sebago from somewhere else.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I refer to a statement made by Captain D. Salvo of Melbourne concerning Italian immigration. Captain Salvo is reported to have said that thousands of Italians were denied entry for no apparent reason’. Can the Minister say whether or not this statement is true and whether her colleague is considering setting up a special committee to review the applications? ls it true also, as reported in the same article, that the Italian Government is seeking recognition in Australia of Italian trade qualifications, and is this related in any way to the present deadlock existing in relation to Italian immigration? Finally, does the Minister expect any solution to this deadlock in the near future?
– Senator Davidson was good enough to let me know of his interest in this matter. I have received a reply from the Minister for Immigration in these terms: as with all other nationalities, applications from Italians wishing to settle in Australia are refused only in cases where the objection is real. Senior officers of the department and the Minister himself are constantly reviewing cases and no consideration has been given to the appointment of a special committee. The previous migration agreement with Italy expired on 31st January 1964. Negotiations for a new agreement are still proceeding. It is true that one of the matters under discussion is the recognition in Australia of Italian trade qualifications. The Minister is hopeful that the current negotiations will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion very soon.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise tell me what the position is with regard to the National Literature Board of Review? Has it yet been established? If it has been, who are its members and what are its terms of reference? If it has not been established, are the Literature Censorship Board and the Appeal Censorship Board still in existence? Further, have any States initiated legislation to grant immunity from certain civil actions to members of the new Board of Review?
– I issued a Press statement on this matter in December of last year setting out the results of a protracted period of negotiations between the Commonwealth - as Minister for Customs and Excise 1 was the responsible Minister - and the States on the question of uniform censorship. Negotiations had been continuing since May of last year. 11: it is the wish of honourable senators. 1 shall recirculate that particular Press statement which was a comprehensive one. It received Australia-wide Press coverage and gave details of the proposed National Literature Board of Review agreed to by myself on behalf of the Commonwealth and the Ministers representing the six States.
The understanding reached on how the Board is to be established, its composition and the methods involved in its operation will become subject to a formal agreement between all the parties. Such an agreement has been drafted by the Commonwealth and copies of it are at present in the hands of the Slate Ministers who are currently giving consideration to the implications of matters which in the broad had already been agreed to. I expect to receive the necessary approval of the States within a fairly short time, and when that occurs I shall seek formal authority to sign the agreement on behalf of the Commonwealth. As soon as the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States is entered into by all concerned it should be possible to promulgate amendments to the Customs Literature Censorship Regulations permitting the establishment and operation of the National Board.
– It is not established yet.
– No. In the meantime work is proceeding on the main task associated with the creation and future operations of the National Literature Board of Review. The situation is therefore that the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board and the Appeal Censorship Board are still in existence. Apparently Senator Cohen is referring to legislation which is being introduced in a particular State.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. 1 have noticed in the estimates set out in detail in the Commonwealth’s Civil Works Programme 1 966-67 that the sum of $140,000 is to be spent this year at the Springbank Repatriation General Hospital in South Australia on the erection of an artificial limb and appliance centre and that $350,000 is to be spent on the erection of an outpatients clinic. Can the Minister give the Senate a report on the progress of these important and necessary buildings and can he say when it is expected they will be open for use?
– Prior to admission to the Works Programme these projects were the subject of hearings and investigations by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The Committee’s recommendation for the construction of both projects was approved by the House of Representatives on 28th September 1966. Since then further detailed design and planning have been undertaken by the Department of Works, and in January 1967 tenders were called for the construction of the artificial limb and appliance centre. Tenders for the outpatients clinic are due to be called later this month. At present the Department of Works estimates that the limb and appliance centre will be completed in March 1968 and the outpatients clinic in February 1969. Both buildings will be ready for occupancy soon after completion.
I would like to add for the benefit of the honourable senator that some criticism was expressed on the question of moving the artificial limb factory to the site selected. I inspected the present site and found that it was far too cramped and that the men did not have an opportunity to do their work in reasonable circumstances. For these reasons it was decided to establish the artificial limb factory adjacent to Springbank Hospital.
– I briefly preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, by pointing out that for some considerable time it has not been possible with the available shipping to move cargo interstate from certain Tasmanian ports. Will the Minister draw the attention of his colleague to the fact that through an inadequacy of shipping services it is not possible to move cargo offering at a number of Tasmanian ports and that this is causing concern and embarrassment to sections of trade and industry in Tasmania? Will he ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to call for a full report on this unsatisfactory position and cause steps to be lake.i to remedy it at the earliest possible date?
– Yes, I will ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport io investigate the matters raised by the honourable senator.
– 1 think I should clarify a ruling that I gave a moment ago in relation to a question about which a point of order was raised by Senator Kennelly. L point out. to honourable senators that the Chair is not responsible for arriving at any judgment on the correctness or otherwise of an honourable senator’s statement. That has nothing to do with the Chair.
– by leave- Mr President, I have my own views about what ought to be done in relation to the Boonaroo’, but the fact is that the man mentioned in the question was not responsible for the action referred to. A member of this House has used another man’s name and has blackened it over the air.
– He has done so for political purposes. That is mean and contemptible.
(Senator Marriott having addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence)
– Order! In my opinion there is no substance in the question. I uphold the point of order.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a question which follows upon a question I asked in this chamber on Wednesday, 1st March, and the Minister’s reply thereto about a report submitted by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the efficacy or otherwise of the sanctions which have been applied against Rhodesia. Will the Minister state whether this report has yet been received? If it has, is it available for perusal by honourable senators?
– Yes, the Department of External Affairs has received a copy of the report. It has not received a copy for the parliamentary library, but it expects to receive one within the next day or two.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, follows upon one asked by Senator Poyser and which the honourable senator was asked to place on the notice paper. Is the Minister aware that Commonwealth Hostels Ltd has issued summonses to thirty migrant families living at the Dundas Valley hostel in New South Wales, the summonses alleging non-payment of increased tariff charges imposed as from 29th January last? In view of the allegations made by Senator Poyser in the Senate last week, relating to the intolerable conditions under which migrant families are expected to live in these hostels, will the Minister request Commonwealth Hostels Ltd not to proceed with the summonses pending a full investigation of the conditions complained of?
– I think the Minister for Labour and National Service has made public statements on this matter before to the effect that the charges made for people living in Commonwealth hostels should be paid. If in fact summonses have since been issued and if they are to be the subject of some court action, I do not know that I should say any more.
Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers:
The Reserve Bank of Australia, which is responsible for the Australian note issue, has provided the following advice:
Counterfeit $10 notes first came under notice on 23rd December 1966, and since that time about 1,000 counterfeits have been detected in circulation, mainly in the Melbourne area. While counterfeit notes are still being detected in relatively small numbers, it would seem that no concerted effort has been made to circulate them since the Christmas period.
Since counterfeit $10 notes were first circulated, various people have been reported as saying that the $10 note appears to lend itself to easy forgery. The Bank does not consider however that the $10 note is any less secure than other Australian notes on issue now or in the past. In factall existing dollar notes incorporate in their design and printing, and in the paper on which they are printed, an extensive range of security features designed to provide maximum difficulties for a forger. It should be realised that no country has been able to produce a note which is entirely proof against forgery.
It has always been and will continue to be the aim of the Reserve Bank to produce notes which provide maximum protection against counterfeiting. To this end continuous research is being carried out at the Bank’s note printing branch for the purpose of applying to the production of Australian currency notes any improved techniques of banknote printing which may become available.
– On 22nd February Senator Poyser asked me, without notice, the following question:
I direct the attention of the Minister representing thePostmaster-General to the fact that the satellite town of Churchill in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria, with a population of approximately 700, has a telephone service consisting of one public telephone and one private telephone. Is the Minister aware that this service is available only at limited times at weekends and that this causes great inconvenience to people requiring urgent communication within and without the town? Will he give urgent attention to the establishment of an adequate and continuous telephone service to this rapidly expanding town?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
There arc currently four subscriber servicesand one public telephone in the Churchill area. These are connected to Jeeralang Junction exchange, where the postmistress is unable to provide service continuously at weekends.The exchange closes at 2 p.m. on Saturday and reopens from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 12 noon Sunday. Service is generally available at other times in the weekend for emergency calls and, upon payment of an opening fee, for other calls. A new automatic exchange is expected to be brought into service at Churchill in about four months time. All subscribers then requiring service will be connected. The post office is to be moved to the proposed shopping centre where an additional public telephone will be provided.
– by leave - The Administrator of the Northern Territory has today made a statement which outlines certain proposed amendments to the land ordinances of the Territory, designed to improve the law so as to encourage economic development in the Territory. Bills to give effect to these proposals will be introduced into the Northern Territory Legislative Council shortly. The statement has been made by the Administrator to enable wide public discussion of the principles involved in advance of consideration by the Legislative Council of the proposed legislation. As this matter may be of interest to honourable senators I have arranged for a copy of the statement to be distributed.
Debate resumed from 2nd March (vide page 235), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this Bill, which is designed to increase to ten the minimum number of senators for each State required by the Constitution - that is, to increase the constitutional minimum number of Senators to the present actual number. The Bill is also designed to destroy the nexus or link between the Senate and the House of Representatives. This would allow the number of members in the House of Representatives to be increased indefinitely by the Parliament, with no restriction limiting that number to twice the number of senators, provided that the number of members of the House of Representatives did not exceed one member for every 85,000 persons.
We support the Bill because substantially it will carry out recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review of 1959. That Committee reported that constitutional alterations should be made on a basis substantially similar to that proposed in the Bill, except that the number of persons to be represented by each member of the House of Representatives was to be 80,000 and not 85,000 as is now provided. We of the Opposition support the Bill, firstly, because the Australian Labor Party has contracted with the people of Australia to do so. In the ‘Federal Platform, Constitution and Rules of the Australian Labor Party’, a document which is available to the public, we have set out frankly our policy in respect of constitutional matters as well as many other matters. The document contains the general policy decision on constitutional reform which was adopted by the 1961 Commonwealth Conference of the Party. We then decided, as set out in our platform:
That the decision of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to support all the proposals of the Constitution Review Committee be approved.
So it will be seen that we have undertaken with the electorate to support any of these proposals when put by the present Government and, if in office ourselves, to put all the proposals and allow the people to vote on each of them separately. .
Underlying this Bill are some considerations which are common ground between everyone in this Senate. The common ground is that no increase in the number of senators is warranted. Indeed, no increase in the number of senators is desirable. There are sixty senators and no-one from any party has voiced the opinion that there should be any increase in the size of the Senate. We are all satisfied - and I think I am entitled to say that this is common ground - that the Senate does not need any increase in its numbers. We are able to carry on the committee work that we may need to do. Senators are able to ask the questions which they desire to ask. The legislative work is able to be carried on. The supervision of subordinate legislation is able to be carried on effectively by the Senate as it is now constituted. No complaint has been raised that it is necessary to have any increase whatever in the number of senators.
Senators are said to represent the States but in truth they represent the people of the Slates, and because they represent all the people in a particular State they do not have the peculiar local problems, the problems of representation of constituents, which seem to fall so heavily on the members of the House of Representatives. It is true that senators have some of these problems but they are not looked upon as constituency men in the same sense as are members of the House of Representatives. It is argued by the opponents of the Bill that the House of Representatives does not need an increase in numbers. This seems to be the crux of the proposal before the Senate, because the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty), in his speech in support of the Bill - a similar speech was made in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) - said:
Unless some measures are taken soon to increase the size of (he House of Representatives, it will become impracticable for members adequately to perform the functions on behalf of their electors that arc expected of them.
He, further said:
As Sir Robert Menzies said when introducing the corresponding Bill in November 1965: . . The problems being looked at by honourable members today are three or four times more weighty and more complex than they were when I first came into this House. I know this at first hand. I am not an idler; 1 have worked all this time and I know what it means. . . . We have the supreme duty to represent our people and to represent them effectively. To represent them effectively, there must be a proper proportion between the number of members of this House and the number of the electors in the nation as a whole.
Similarly, in the House of Representatives the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said, amongst other things:
We all agree in this place that it would be easier for us to carry out the duties that our constituents expect us to perform and which governments still permit us to perform if there were more members in the House and if we consequently represented fewer persons outside it.
In speaking of the purpose of the earlier Bill Senator McKenna is reported at page 1941 of Hansard of 1st December 1965 to have said:
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.
The present proposition is that the membership of the House of Representatives needs to be increased in order that members may effectively carry out their duties. The proposition is put on the prime basis that the House of Representatives is a representative House; that its members have undertaken the role of acting, not onlyto advise constituents, but also in the role of ombudsmen. This role should not be underrated. A member of Parliament in modern times has become the means by which an ordinary citizen can prevail upon departments to administer the law fairly and justly, to correct mistakes which have been made and to raise the matters of principle not only before departments, but also before Ministers. This is a great part of the role of members of the House of Representatives. This role is then a duty to individual members of electorates and it must be looked at as a role which becomes more burdensome as the number of electors increases. Indeed, it is a role which is exercised, not only in relation to electors, but also in relation to young people and aliens, who are not electors. All these functions must be carried out by a member of the House of Representatives.
At present each member of the House of Representatives represents about 100,000 persons. It is not very important whether it is exactly that number, or a few more or a few less, because the population is constantly increasing and we must look forward to an increasing number of electors for each representative if no change is to be made, lt is the view of the major political parties - the Australian Labor Party, The Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party - that the burdens on a representative are such that in his interests and the interests of those people whom he represents there must be an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. If a representative is to cater for more than the number suggested in this Bill 85,000 - he will not be able to carry out effectively his duties towards his constituents. lt may also be argued in relation to his activities in the Parliament itself that an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives will help to bring about a House which can include a greater range of specialists and of interests. If the number of representatives is doubled, it is only commonsense to assume that there will be more representatives who will be able to bring a special and better informed view on the various matters of legislation coming before the House than if there were only half that number. It is true that an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives will mean less opportunity for individual members to ask questions and to participate in debate, but the contrary position is that, by having a wider range of members from which to draw, the quality of the debates will be improved, there will be more persons upon whom to draw for the establishment of select committees
– Would not that argument apply also to the Senate?
– And there will be more persons upon whom to draw for specialised consideration of the Bills which come before the House. Senator Prowse has asked: ‘Would not that argument apply also to the Senate?’ If one looked at the matter on the surface only one would say Yes, but the real point is that members of the House of Representatives are so heavily engaged in their duties towards their constituents that it has been agreed on all hands - by the Government parties as well as by the Opposition- that they have not been able to engage in committee work. This is the limiting factor in the House of Representatives. We concede and agree on all hands that senators are able to cope with the committee work allocated to them. In fact, they are able to cope with more committee work than they have. The restricting factor in the case of members of the House of Representatives is the necessity to represent a tremendous and increasing number of constituents. We say: ‘Free them to some extent of the heavy burden of constituency work and they will be enabled to carry out their function as legislators’.
The experience of recent years has been that members of the House of Representatives have failed to carry out the functions we expect of them. There has been criticism from all sides that the House of Representatives is not performing as well as it might perform. There may be some explanation for this. One explanation is, perhaps, that the Government, by always having a majority in the House of Representatives to support its legislation, is able to obtain automatic endorsement of that legislation. In that regard the House of Representatives is becoming less and less a legislative chamber. If this is corrected it. will be because members of the House of Representatives are relieved of the burden of constituency work and are able increasingly to endeavour to reverse the tendency and once more to subject legislation to the critical review, by way of committees and otherwise, that it should be subjected to in the interests of the nation. This applies to both sides of the Parliament.
The way in which the House of Representatives is able to carry out its work is quite unsatisfactory. It is unsatisfactory to the nation; it is certainly unsatisfactory, I think I can say fairly, to the representatives of most of the political parties in thu Parliament. We say that the proposal to allow the Parliament to increase indefinitely the number of members of the House of Representatives, subject to a restriction that there are not to be more members of that House than one to 85,000 persons, is a reasonable proposal. If one were to extend this indefinitely, as has been suggested on the earlier occasions when the matter has been debated, one could argue that the upper limit would mean that there could be an alarming number of members in the House of Representatives. In answer to thai argument, I say that the requirement is noi that there be one representative for every 85,000 persons. This is the upper limit. It is still a matter of the good sense not even of the Government but of the Parliament itself as to how many persons will actually constitute the membership of the House of Representatives. As the population increases, the proportion of members may increase at first in accordance with this ratio of 1:85,000. But I should not imagine that, wilh four times our present population, we would have four times the present number of members in the House of Represenatives.
– Why not?
– This is a maximum, . not an automatic increase which is being provided for.
– The honourable senator is only presuming.
– In this as in nil other matters, it is a question of degree. Because a limitation is being taken away, this does not mean that necessarily there will be an indefinite increase. In the days when one has become educated to the concepts of relativity, one no longer extrapolates indefinitely and in arguing the basis of the indefinite expansion of the population the suggestion that the number of representatives would be increased indefinitely on the basis of 1:85,000 is unsound. In parliaments where there are no authorised upper limits, the limits that arc imposed are limits of common sense and discretion imposed by the parliament itself. The parliament has to meet the electors and has to act responsibly. This proposal simply is to delete in effect the maximum limit that has been imposed upon the capacity to increase numbers. This is what the Bill boils down to. Once we get to the common ground that the Senate does not require any increase in its numbers, it is simply a matter of whether an increase should take place in the size of the House of Representatives. If there is to be such an increase, then the nexus or link between the House of Representatives and the Senate must be broken.
– It is a matter of simple logic. If we agree that an increase should take place in the size of the House of Representatives - and the real question here, as the honourable senator will agree, is that there should not be an increase in the size of the Senate as no increase is warranted - then it follows as night follows day that the nexus or link must be broken.
The question then is whether there should bc an increase in size of the House of Representatives. I would think that the debate would be conducted more logically if the attention of the Senate were directed to that point. This is the real question at issue here. The experience of the great political parties as voiced through their leaders is that an increase is not only desirable but also necessary if the functions of the members of the House of Representatives are to be properly carried out in relation nol. only to Parliament but also to constituents. If honourable senators do not approach the matter on the basis upon which I have put it. then they must drift to certain conclusions: there is no warrant for an increase in the size of the House of Representatives or, if there is, they must say whether they want to preserve the nexus and that there should be an increase in the size of the Senate. I think all come to the viewpoint that there should bc no increase in the size of the Senate. It would not be desirable for the functioning of the Senate that its size should be increased. I think that the contrary would be held to be true by all honourable senators. So, we remain in this position: no increase should take place in the size of the Senate. But if we believe that an increase should take place in the size of the House of Representatives, then the nexus or link between the Senate and the House of Representatives must be broken.
Mr Deputy President, there is one very serious matter that is at the back of this Bill. This is a constitutional provision. I refer to section 128 of the Commonwealth Constitution. That constitutional provision was invoked in 1965 when both Houses of the Parliament passed by an absolute majority the proposed law to alter the Constitution in a way almost identical with this proposal. I put it to the Senate, that, when that proposed law was passed, the Government had an obligation under the Constitution to submit it to the electors. The Government failed to do so and broke its constitutional duty. I will read to the Senate the provisions of the Constitution as set out in section 128. They are these:
This Constitution shall not bc altered except in the Following manner: -
The proposed law for the alteration thereof must be passed by an absolute majority of each Mouse of the Parliament, and not less than two nor more than six months after its passage through both Houses the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the Mouse of Representatives.
The provision is mandatory. This is made even more clear in the next paragraph of the section. This deals with the situation where one House passes the proposed law and the other House rejects or fails to pass it and this occurs again after an interval of three months. In that case, it is not mandatory that the matter be put to the electors. In this respect, section 128 continues:
Hut if cither Houses passes any such proposed law by an absolute majority, and the other Mouse rejects or fails to pass it or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the first-mentioned House in the same or the next session again passes the proposed law by an absolute majority with or without any amendment which has been made or agreed to by the other House, and such other House rejects or fails to pass it or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not. agree, the Governor-General may submit the proposed law as last proposed by the first-mentioned House, and either with or without any amendments subsequently agreed to by both Houses, to the electors in each State qualified to vote for the election of the House of Representatives.
So, there is a clear distinction between a situation where the Houses agree and where they disagree on whether a proposed law should be submitted. If they disagree then the Governor-General has a discretion to put the proposed law to the people. If both Houses of the Parliament pass the proposed law by an absolute majority the GovernorGeneral has no discretion. The Constitution provides that he shall submit the proposal to the people.
This means that the proposal which was introduced in 1965 and which was passed by both Houses of the Parliament invoked the constitutional provision in the first part of section 128. The constitutional obligation of the Governor-General and of his advisers was to put the proposal to the people. Neither the Governor-General nor his advisers had any excuse whatever not to put it to the people. Their omission to do so was a breach of the Constitution. It should not be forgotten that very often the subversion of the Constitution commences nol from the long-haired people in demonstrations or the small dissident groups but from the executive government itself.
I suggest that honourable senators opposite ought to re-read the words of Sir Owen Dixon in the proceedings on the famous Communist Party Dissolution Bill when he said:
History, and nol only ancient history, shows that in countries where democratic institutions have been unconstitutionally superseded, it has been done not seldom by those holding the executive power. Forms of government may need protection from dangers likely lo arise from within the institutions to be protected.
In the last several years we have had experience of a deliberate breach of the Constitution by the Government itself. Whether it was for political expediency or because of other motives, the Government deliberately broke the Constitution. It affronted both Houses of the Parliament which had passed this proposed law. The Government defied the will of the people who had set up the Constitution and who hold to it. Now. in this Bill relating to the alteration of the Constitution the Government has defied the Constitution.
Some people may regard this matter as not being of very great moment, but when the Government itself can embark upon the course of a deliberate ‘breaking of the Constitution in respect of its failure to carry out what was its clear constitutional duty, then one can never be certain in what other respects the Constitution of this country will be broken. But here in 1966 we witnessed the subversion of the Constitution by the Federal Government itself.
– Would the honourable senator repeat his last sentence?
– I said that here in 1966 we witnessed the subversion of the Constitution by the Federal Government itself, in that it deliberately refused to carry out the constitutional duty of submitting to the people a proposed law which had been passed by an absolute majority of both Houses of the Parliament. For Senator Mattner’s information, I shall read again the provision relating to the alteration of the Constitution:
The proposed law for the alteration thereof must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, and not less than two nor more than six months after its passage through both Houses the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representatives.
A proposed law substantially similar to the legislation which we are now considering was passed by both Houses of the previous Parliament. The Australian people ought to have had their say on this matter. Another cogent and overwhelming reason why this Bill should be passed is that the Australian people should have the opportunity of deciding whether the constitutional alterations should be made. They were wrongfully and unconstitutionally deprived of this opportunity last year.
– The Bill before the Senate is a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so that the number of members of the House of Representatives may be increased without necessarily increasing the number of senators. The Bill follows the Government’s announcement that it would proceed with this measure, following the passing by both Houses of the Parliament of a similar measure in 1965. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) in his second reading speech said:
The Bill now before the Senate is, in its substantive provisions, identical with the Bill on the same subject passed by both Houses in 1965, except in one significant respect. That is the substitution of ‘85,000’ for ‘80,000’ in sub-section (3) of proposed new section 24.
So the Senate is debating a measure which is substantially the same as that which we debated in 1965.
The Bill puts before the Parliament the basis of an alteration of the Constitution. Eventually the alteration must be submitted to the people for decision by referendum. I support the Bill now before the Senate because the basis of the Bill has been the subject of discussion generally by the people. When the Government decided not to proceed with the referendum on a similar matter previously, it indicated that it would proceed with this matter early in the life of the new Federal Parliament. In recent months, the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) indicated that this measure would he brought to the people for decision at the earliest opportunity.
I believe there has been some change in the attitude of the communication media since the time, some two years ago, when this matter was first submitted. My recollection of the position then was that in newspapers generally the argument put before the public was that it was a matter of the people deciding whether there should be an increase in the number of members of Parliament. I hold the view that that proposal would have been defeated. However from what I have read it appears that at the present time a different attitude is being adopted on this matter and I am not confident that it will necessarily be rejected by the people. I support the general proposition that the number of members of the House of Representatives should be increased. 1 invite the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his reply to lake the various points that are made and perhaps to base argument on the question, which the people may decide, whether any damage is being done to the Constitution or to the Senate by the adoption of the referendum proposals. lt is proposed that the nexus between the size of the Senate and the size of the House of Representatives should be broken and that the number of senators should at least for the foreseeable future remain at sixty. The reasons that are advanced in favour of this proposal are quite cogent. The proposition has been advanced that the Senate, with its present size, can adequately consider measures passed by the House of Representatives, that it has the ability to take public opinion into account and that it can make a calculated and unhurried decision. My particular concern is that, if the proposal put forward in the measure is accepted, the Senate will not be placed at a disadvantage and will not lose some status.
Senator Murphy, in his speech, said that the Australian Labor Party’s policy set out with frankness the Party’s attitude to this measure. I suggest that Senator Murphy’s argument was based on a need to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives. The honourable senator went little further than that. He did not direct his attention for one second to the possible effect on the Senate of the acceptance of the referendum proposal. It is rather easy to ascertain the Australian Labour Parly’s policy. I direct the attention of honourable senators to Labor’s platform as approved at the Party’s twenty-sixth conference in 1965. We know that the Labor Party changes its attitude quite regularly, but I believe this to be its latest attitude to constitutional matters. The Party’s platform provides for amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution to abolish the Senate. 1 emphasise that the Party’s attitude is directed, not to increasing the number of members in the House of Representatives, but to abolishing the Senate. The Government should take that fact into account when considering the seeming wholehearted support of the Opposition for the proposal now before us.
I have mentioned that I agree with the general proposition that there should be an increase in the size of the House of Representatives. But of course the breaking of the nexus between the two Houses is not the only means by which that result can be achieved. During the 1965 debate it was suggested that there was only one constitutional means of increasing the size of the House of Representatives and that was by increasing the number of members of the Senate by twenty-four. I believe there has been some departure from that point of view and that it is now believed that it is possible to increase the size of the Senate by adding at least one representative from each State, lt has been suggested, however, that this would increase the possibility of deadlocks occurring in this chamber. I may refer to that matter a little later.
As I have already indicated, the proposal enshrined in the Bill is that the nexus between the two Houses should be broken and that for the present the size of the Senate should remain at sixty. lt has been stated that this will not mean that the size of the Senate will never be increased. I would like to be assured that at some future date the size of the Senate will be increased. However, I very much doubt whether it will be done other than as a result of the creation of new States.
– We will become exclusive brethren.
– The honourable senator may know more about that sect than I. I cannot but believe that Labor’s support for the proposal now before us is motivated by the desire to abolish the Senate.
I believe that in preparing the citation of the Bill the Government is encouraging the passing of the referendum. Undoubtedly the wording of a proposal in a referendum could either attract support or do otherwise. Apparently the question set out on the referendum paper will follow the form of the citation of this measure. The citation of the 1965 legislation contained the words ‘To alter the Constitution in relation to the number of members of each House of the Parliament’. Such a proposal would be bound to attract a negative response. The citation in the Bill now before us reads: To alter the constitution so that the number of Members of the House of Representatives may be increased without necessarily increasing the number of Senators’. I suggest that that citation might well encourage an affirmative response.
The proposed alteration to the Constitution is a very substantial one. It is one that the Senate should examine very closely. As I have said, I am in agreement with an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. 1 believe that better government is obtained if an individual member of Parliament is able to give closer attention to the needs of his constituents and if his constituents are able to have more ready access to him. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Supply said: as a guarantee against excessive increases in the size of the House of Representatives, the Bill provides that the number of members of that House is to be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the States by a number determined by the Parliament, but not being less than 85,000. The 1965 Bill provided that the number of people was to be divided by a number not less than 80,000.
On reflection, the Government has decided that the higher minimum figure is to be preferred. Adoption of 85,000 as the population quota would permit a total increase of thirteen or fourteen members of the House of Representatives by about 1969. This, I stress, is a maximum increase, not a minimum increase. I recall that, at the time of the first Parliament in 1901, the average population per electorate was about 50,000. By 1947 it had risen to over 100,000, and the size of the House of Representatives was then increased from 74 members to 121 members.
It is suggested that the proposal before us seeks to tie down any increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. This is rather important. I would need to be convinced that this is necessarily so. The people will be asked to decide that under today’s conditions there should be one member of the House of Representatives for every 85,000 electors. If we read the debates in 1948, when the proposal to increase the number of members of the Parliament was first put forward by the Labor Party, we find that the argument presented from both -sides of the Parliament was that, although there was a wider field of problems to be dealt with at that time, the difficulties that a member experienced in moving around his electorate and interviewing people were not nearly as great then as they were at the beginning of the century because of the facilities that he had available to him in the form of telephones, motor vehicles and other means of communication. We all would agree with that.
– He would not have had as many problems to deal with, would he?
– I mentioned that the problems are greater today. That has to be assessed. I believe that the Government has done so in arriving at the decision that there should be one member to every 85,000 individuals. The Minister may be able to answer this question, which I pose: what is the future of this proposition? Does he agree that, if the nexus is broken, in 30 years time when the population is, say, 24 million, we will have a Senate of 60, if no additional States are created, and a House of Representatives of about 290? That is the point which I believe needs to be put before the public. In this proposal there is nothing to say that there will be some control on the number of members of the House of Representatives increasing to an enormous figure.
I realise that the argument is at the present time the strength of Senate chambers in other countries is not affected by numbers in another place. We hear references to the American Senate being so strong. But it has inbuilt strength which this chamber does not have.
– fs not this the question: if there were 290 members of the House of Representatives, should there be 60 senators, as we have at the present time, or should there be 145? There would have to be 145.
– I do not agree with that proposition. I believe that in relation to increase in members a second look would be taken when it is realised that the number of senators also has to be increased.
– Under the Constitution as it stands, a House of Representatives of 290 members would call for a Senate of 145 senators. There is no other alternative, unless the nexus is broken.
– I do nol know whether that proposition would be correct. I query what may be done to increase the number of States in Australia. That is a principle with which many of us agree. The fact that the number of senators from each State will not fall below ten is brought in. I doubt whether that has my full approval. I believe that if one or more new States were created we might be able to increase the size of the House of Representatives and perhaps decrease the number of senators from each State, which we are able to do under the Constitution, provided that the number of senators from each Slate is the same. 1 do not agree with the proposition that, the alternative suggested by the Minister is the only one. The methods by which a member of Parliament is able to deal wilh his electorate have been such that we have seen the number of electors per member increase from 50,000 to 70,000, to 80.000 two years ago and to 85,000 this year. It may not be many years before we will find that a member can do his job adequately with many more thousands of electors in his electorate.
The two to one ratio is raised and it is said that it leads necessarily nol only to an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives but also to an increase in the number of senators. 1 see that as having no detrimental effect. J see it as one of the brakes on the growth of the number of members of Parliament. With the approval of another honourable senator, I quote the following comments on the two to one ratio, which we have had before us in respect of another matter:
This ‘two to one ratio’ is a rigid element and basic requirement of much importance and significance; it is embedded in the Constitution, it is beyond the reach of modification by the Federal Parliament, and can only be altered by an amendment of the Constitution. It was adopted after due consideration and for weighty reasons, lt was considered that, as it was desirable, in a constitution of this kind, to define and fix the relative powers of the two Houses, it was also but fair and reasonable to define their relative proportions, in numerical strength, to each other, so as to give that protection and vital force by which the proper exercise of those powers could be legally secured. lt was considered extremely necessary to prevent an automatic or arbitrary increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives, by which there would be a continually growing disparity between the number of members of that House and the Senate. . . .
I believe that that point is particularly well made in relation to the proposition that has been advanced to the effect that it is all right to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives but it is bad to increase the number of senators. The quotation from ‘Commentaries on the Constitution’ continues:
It was argued that if the number of the members of the Senate remained stationary, whilst the number of the members of the House of Representatives were allowed to go on increasing with the progressive increase of population, the House would become inordinately large and inordinately expensive, whilst the Senate would become weak and impotent. It was said that to allow the proportion of the Senate towards the House of Representatives to become the merest fraction, would in course of time lead practically to the abolition of the Senate, or at any rate, to the loss of that influence, prestige, and dignity to which it is entitled under the Constitution. In reply to the argument founded on the danger of disparity, arising between the number of members of the Senate and the number of members of the House of Representatives, attention was drawn to the Constitution of the United States of America under which Congress had unlimited power to increase the number of members of the House, without increasing the number of senators; which power had not been recklessly or improvidently exercised. The power and status of the Senate had not been prejudiced by the gradual increase in the number of representatives. In answer to this it was contended that the Senate of the United States of America had maintained its position in the Constitution largely owing to its possession of certain important judicial, legislative and executive powers, which had not been granted to the Senate of the Commonwealth, such as the sole power of trying cases of impeachment; the power to ratify or to refuse to ratify treaties made by the President with foreign nations; and the power to refuse to confirm executive appointments made by the President. These powers were the main sources of the strength o£ the American Senate, which prevented any wide disparity in numbers between it and the House of Representatives from causing it to drift into the insignificance of a small committee or board. The Senate of the Commonwealth, being deprived of such powers, should be protected against the danger of disparity in numbers. As regards the necessity, which might hereafter arise, of increasing the number of representatives to meet the demands of an increased and increasing population, it was not likely that the Senate would deny an increase in the House of Representatives when it secured an increase itself.
These points need to be argued to show whether any damage would be done to the Senate by this measure. When we compare the size of our two Houses it is interesting to note that Canada, with 18 million to 19 million people, has a Senate of 102 and a lower House pf 269.
– Senators are appointed for life in Canada.
– The honourable senator may have an opportunity to speak on that. I point out that if this Senate is to be restricted to sixty members there is a strong possibility that it will be swamped in numbers by the House of Representatives and will become impotent. I should like to be convinced that if this proposition is accepted it will not act against the preservation of the Australian parliamentary system. I hold the view that the present nexus between the two Houses acts to control the growth of the House of Representatives and that it must be demonstrated that an enlargement of the House of Representatives without an increase in the size of the Senate would not present grave danger to the Senate. The ratio of two to one was mentioned in the debate on the Commonwealth of Australia Bill on 13th September 1897 at the Australasian Federal Convention. Speaking on that occasion, Sir John Downer said:
Supposing we have a house of 30 members resisting, and trying, as it would be said, to dominate a house of 200 or 600 members, we should have a vehement outcry sounding throughout the land; we should have constant attacks both in newspapers and in every shape or form in which attacks could be made. 1 say that a solid phalanx does have an effect; that mere manhood, sympathy, influence, and force have an effect: and it is useless to talk in the way in which the right honourable member talked - I hope with not much earnestness - that numbers are of no consequence, and that the whole point is authority. I admit we must have the power, or the numbers will be useless; but given the numbers, and you get your power to exercise the authority - strong in one way though it may be weakened in another. We truly enough produce the differences of opinion that will come from the association together of a number instead of a few; but in those very differences we produce strength and confidence; and although there may be a certain amount of weakness in action, there is weakness in the corporate body through the confidence which exists in the whole largely through numbers. I think this is a sound and good provision. We all agree that it should exist at the start.
Those comments were made before Federation and I see no reason to believe they ure not valid now. Again in the debate on the Commonwealth of Australia Bill in 1897, Sir Edmund Barton stated, as reported at page 704:
On the other hand, why there should be a ratio is this, that in the use of those powers, if there is to be a wide disparity in numbers, so that as between the Senate and the House of Representatives the former becomes transformed into a small committee or board in the range of the powers given to it, it dwindles in popular approval and loses the support of the people in relation to the performance of its duty. I contend that it is not desirable to place the Senate in that position, and the principle of these clauses should be maintained, which principle we, who believe that there should be a measure of justice between the two Mouses, regard as a vital principle.
I believe that proposition by Sir Edmund Barton is very relevant to this matter and I should like the Minister, in replying, to comment on these matters. At page 706 of the report of this debate in 1897, Sir Edmund Barton is shown as having said:
The smallest modicum of common sense will tell anyone that to make the proportion of the Senate towards the House of Representatives the merest fraction, as you will in the lapse of time, will certainly lead to the practical abolition of the power of that Chamber. While I am not an ardent upholder of the Second Chamber, I think there should be preserved to it a certain power, and in fact it is an essential in a Federation.
Those points were very well made, in my opinion. The speakers foresaw that we would arrive at the position we have now reached. As I commented previously, this Bill has the wholehearted support of the Australian Labor Party and 1 see in thai a strong reason why we should have a second look at the implications of giving our wholehearted support to the referendum proposal. This support by the Australian Labor Party is suspect because it is in line with the Party’s policy of the abolition of the Senate.
There are other factors which merit consideration by the smaller States. In this connection the rate of growth of the populations of the States is important. If the quota for electing members to the House of Representatives is 85,000 persons, how is it proposed to bring about some equality of representation of the States in the House of Representatives? At present New South Wales and Victoria are growing rapidly in population; they are outstripping the other States in rate of growth. In the present House of Representatives, with 124 members, there are forty-six members from
New South Wales and thirty-three from Victoria.
– There used to be fortyseven for New South Wales. The number is declining.
– There are forty-six members from New South Wales and thirty-three from Victoria, making a total of seventy-nine members from those two States in a House with a total membership of 124, or 122 if we exclude the representatives of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The proportion of members from the larger States will grow if tha size of the House is increased. As the Senate is a States’ House, senators representing the smaller States should certainly have another look at this proposition.
The demand for this enlargement of the numbers in the House of Representatives might not have come from the outer metropolitan areas. It might have been promoted by those who represent internal metropolitan areas, where the populations are decreasing. Certainly there will need to be a redistribution of boundaries, and this is a matter which has wide ramifications. In his second reading speech the Minister said that an increase in the number of senators by one from each State had been considered and he commented that the possibility of a deadlocked Senate could be increased by such a change. 1 am not convinced of this and I should like the Minister to support his statement. 1 am anxious to return to my own State of Victoria and argue in favour of the referendum proposals but I need to be convinced on the points I have made, and particularly that an increase in the number of senators from each State by one would lead to a greater possibility of deadlock.
– There could be a deadlock if thirty-three retired at each Senate election.
– Perhaps that comment can form the basis of my argument on this matter. Although Sir Robert Menzies was not speaking on this point - he was referring not particularly to this two to one system but generally to the Senate’s composition - as reported at page 1002 of the 1948 Hansard record of the Representation Bill debate he said that the system ensures that ai all times minorities are democratically elected. I believe that to be the position. I think that we have here a problem of which senators should take careful note, as there is generally an opinion abroad that the Senate is of little worth. There are senators on the other side, I think, who believe this, and some senators in the corner have stated that opinion before today. .1 believe that we need to stand for the protection of this chamber. At limes legislation is rushed through the other House. During the short time I have been a member of the Senate my attention has been drawn to a number of matters in which the Senate has certainly stood for principles, in which it has argued and certainly shown its worth. I mention in particular the Judiciary Bill 1966. The Labor Party played a great part in amending that legislation. Our attention may be drawn, perhaps, to the peculiar circumstances of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill 1965. Again, the strength of the Senate has been shown in its requirements in relation to the ordinary annual services of the Government, which came up for debate between the two Houses. Statutory rules under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations have been the subject of particular argument in the Senate. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate has done its part in directing attention to regulations relating to air navigation and the tuberculosis ordinance applicable to Christmas Island.
There is one item in respect of which the Senate received no great publicity for the strength that it showed. Currently Australia is in the process of getting into action the laws provided under the Trade Practices Act. There are many on both sides of this chamber who would agree with the general propositions put forward in that legislation. Public attention was not drawn to the amendment proposed by the Senate and accepted by the House of Representatives in that connection. The amendments were of the utmost importance to a piece of legislation that was required in this country. I shall just take the time of the Senate to refer to two points in relation to which amendments were made. The Trade Practices Bill was a 55 page document. The House of Representatives, with the brains and legal authority which exist in it, was prepared to pass it. Clause 39 (.4) of the Bill as presented to the Senate provided:
In determining whether a person (other than a trade association or a person acting as a member of, or on behalf of, a trade association) has engaged, is engaging or proposes to engage in an examinable practice, regard shall not be had to -
a term or condition imposed or to be imposed by the owner of land, in connection with the grant of a lease or licence in respect of the land, being a term or condition by which the grantee, or a person deriving rights in respect of the land through the grantee, is, or is lo be, required to acquire from the owner (or, if the owner is a corporation, from a related corporation) all or any of the goods or services required in connection with the conduct of a business on the land . . .
There was a proposition that in general where there was a connection in relation to ownership of land, this was unexaminable. The sub-clause continued:
This also was to become unexaminable. In short, the Senate had presented to it a Bill which excluded 95% of the transactions in trade practices in the community, and it was the strength of the Senate which directed attention to this position and led to the rejection of those two matters.
I have seen the existence of a second House as being most important for the good management of the government of this country. I hold the view that in relation to the proposed referendum there is some doubt as to the future strength of the Senate. I support the Bill because I look forward to assurances by the Minister that the power that the Senate holds at present will not be diminished by an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives to such an extent that we may find that the Senate is not one-half of the size of the House of Representatives but only onefifth of the size at the end of this century. I look for assurances of a continuation of ministerial representation of the Senate in relation to the general government of the country. I suggest that this is in doubt. I look forward to some assurance that the voices of senators at party meetings - whether of the Government or Opposition parties - will not be diminished. I cannot visualise that this will not happen if there are only sixty senators compared with 290 or 300 members of the House of Representatives. The same position as we have at present should apply in relation to joint committees. Although there may be propositions abroad for some change, which would be for the good, in relation to committees of this chamber, I fear that in the present circumstances the Senate may be disadvantaged by the passing of the proposed referendum. I look forward wholeheartedly to hearing from the Leader of the Government on these matters and I hope that he will be able to put on record something that will allay these fears.
– As one who is generally known to be in opposition to this proposed legislation 1 would like to say that if I had any doubts about the result of the projected referendum, I have little doubt now after hearing the very feeble case submitted in support of the Bill by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). His effort to convince the Senate of the great increase in the duties of members of the House of Representatives fell, I believe, very flat and would not be accepted by any thinking member of the community as being based on good grounds.
However, at the conclusion of Senator Murphy’s speech he said that the Government breached the Constitution when it postponed the proposed referendum in 1965. 1 am in total accord with him in that view. The Australian Democratic Labor Party agrees that the Government acted wrongly in that connection and we protested at the time. We said that if the referendum were to be postponed a repealing Act had to be passed. Parliament should have been called together to consider a repealing Act, but we did not hear at that time the voice of Senator Murphy or of anyone connected with the Australian Labor Party. We heard no criticism of the Government for blatantly breaching the Constitution on that occasion.
The Democratic Labor Party raised the matter with the Constitutional Association of Australia and received a very timid reply. I do not propose to read all the letter, but it stated in conclusion:
While the Association does not condone what transpired, it does not think that any action is warranted by it on this occasion.
The defence by Ministers of the Government’s action was that the writ had not been issued. 1 agree with Senator Murphy in this regard that if the Government is prepared to breach the Constitution as readily as that, it is a poor lookout for tha people of this country.
– The honourable senator has spoilt Senator Murphy’s argument on that subject. I asked him to repeat it.
– That is so. I sympathise greatly with Senator Webster because he has made out an excellent case for the preservation of the prestige, power and influence of the Senate. He is fully apprehensive that in the event of this Bill being passed, that influence, power and authority given to the Senate by the fathers of Federation will be greatly whittled away. He is apprehensive of that danger. Although he is conscious of it he said that he will vote for the Bill. He feels that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) is in a position to give him assurances as to what will happen in the future. What Minister in this House or in any other Parliament can commit the Prime Minister of tomorrow, whoever he might be? It is particularly stated in this legislation that with the increase in population for every 85,000 additional people the strength of the House of Representatives can be increased. That figure of 85,000 is a quota included in this legislation and can be altered only by a further referendum. No Government can say: The figures are excessive now and it is time for an increase in the membership of the House of Representatives, but we will do nothing about it.’ I will come back to that point later when I reach the appropriate part of my speech. I wished to make those few observations about the two speeches already delivered in this debate.
This legislation has three stated objectives: The first is to break the nexus. When I use the word ‘nexus’ I would like to explain it, because I find when I discuss this matter with people outside Parliament that many of them do not understand its meaning. It relates to the link between the Senate and the House of Representatives, or the two ro one ratio between the sizes of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Tho second objective of this legislation is to enable an immediate increase in the membership of the House of Representatives by twelve or thirteen or, perhaps, even by fifteen. The third objective is to establish a minimum representation quota of 85,000 persons - not electors, but men, women and children - for the House of Representatives. To those three stated objectives I would add two others: fourthly, this Bill is also intended as the first step in weakening the position and power of the Senate in the National Parliament. Fifthly, it is a politically motivated attempt to sidestep objections of the Australian Country Party to an immediate redistribution of electoral boundaries on the basis of population distribution revealed in the last census and in the census of 1961.
Government supporters and members of the ALP do not draw attention to the two hidden objectives, but i believe that those objectives were largely responsible for this arrogant and cheeky attempt to mislead the Australian people. I have stated briefly the viewpoint of my Party on the referendum, but it is worth restating in detail because a further attempt was made at misrepresentation of this viewpoint by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in another place on Wednesday last. The Australian Democratic Labor Party is opposed to the breaking of the nexus. We are opposed to any increase in the size of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. I have stated that viewpoint over and over again.
– That is not in issue now in this proposal.
SenatorGAIR - Of course it is.
– It is not.
– Of course it is, because the aim of the legislation is to break the nexus. That statement is clear and unambiguous.
– You cannot stop an increase.
– - If the honourable senator listens to me attentively I will show him what he is in for if the referendum is carried. We will oppose the intended referendum on the size of Parliament with as much force as we have at our disposal. We will similarly oppose any like move for an increase of six in the size of the Senate and twelve in the House of Representatives, or thereabouts, should Mr Holt attempt to take that action after the referendum is rejected.
I said in the Senate recently that for any Government to conduct a referendum, the main issue of which is an increase in the number of members of Parliament, to have it convincingly rejected by the people and then to use the Constitution as a justification for retaining its point of view, is to commit an act of political immorality. I could not imagine any government being so brazen as to attempt or even contemplate such a course. If the supporters of this referendum proposal hope to convince the electors that they should vote Yes, then they must establish three things. The first is that it is desirable to destroy for all time the two to one link between the House of Representatives and the Senate. The second is that we in Australia are under-governed. They would be very hard pressed to establish that.
– We are over-governed.
– Does the honourable senator agree that we are over-governed?
– With the State governments, yes.
– The third point the supporters of the referendum must establish is that there is a need for an immediate increase in the size of the House of Representatives. Those are the three points on which they must convince the people. In the debates which have taken place to date on this proposal not one of these points has been established in the public mind. Indeed, when a gallup poll was taken on the proposal in January 1966 the result was that 47% of those interviewed said they intended to vote No, only 23% said they intended to vote Yes and the remainder were undecided. It is my view that public opinion since that gallup poll was taken has hardened against the proposal.
I should have thought that most honourable senators had some consciousness or appreciation of the reason for the nexus. If one reads the debates at the convention prior to Federation one cannot help but admire the wisdom and vision of the fathers and founders of Federation. I was glad that Senator Webster read the extract that I read the other day from Quick and Garran, because there you have a very strong and undeniable case in support of the nexus.
I believe it is informative to trace the history of the nexus provision in the Constitution, because the justification for its existence and continued presence in the Constitution then becomes apparent.
Firstly, I should like to refer to the original national convention debates in 1897 on the proposed Australian Constitution. The questions of quotas and the nexus were thoroughly discussed at that time, and no arguments have been advanced in opposition to the nexus on this occasion that were not advanced, discussed and rejected in those debates nearly seventy years ago. During those debates the strongest supporters of the nexus provision and the strongest opponents of the quota were Sir Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia, and Mr Richard Edward O’Connor, Q.C. O’Connor is probably not as well known as is Edmund Barton, and for the benefit of the Senate I will outline his wide legal and parliamentary experience.
O’Connor was a Master of Arts from the University of Sydney. He was admitted to the New South Wales bar in 1876 and became a Queen’s Counsel in 1896. For eleven years he was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council and in 1891 he became Minister for Justice. He represented New South Wales at the Federal convention debates and was appointed to the constitutional committee of three which drafted the final convention Bill which became the Constitution. He was elected to the Senate in 1901 and became a member of the first Cabinet under Barton. He was also the first Leader of the Government in the Senate. In 1903 he was appointed a Justice of the High Court of Australia and later became first President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. On his death in 1912 the London ‘Times’ wrote:
O’Connor was probably the least partisan statesman known in Australian history.
I hove described the history of this man in detail because he was the father of the nexus provision and in those early years was one of its strongest protectors and advocates. As I have said, the questions of a quota and the presence of the nexus provision were thoroughly debated during those quite extensive convention proceedings. Indeed the matter resolved itself into a choice between a quota of 50,000 and the nexus.
– That is 50,000 electors, not 50,000 people?
– It was agreed on 13th September 1897 by a substantial majority that the nexus provision be inserted in the Constitution. I might point out that all Tasmanian representatives who voted on this question supported the nexus.
– How could they do otherwise?
– Quite. How could they do otherwise today in view of the fact that the nexus provision protects the interests of the smaller States? The position is no different now from what it was then. Also of interest are the statements by Sir John Downer of South Australia, the father of Australia’s present High Commissioner to the United Kingdom who is a former Cabinet Minister. He showed that he had wisdom, foresight and vision. He has been quoted already today, and what he had to say was very sound. He could see what would happen if the quota system were adopted. Why was the nexus provision preferred and why was the quota idea rejected? This is what O’Connor had to say in that connection:
If the Senate is to bc a House representing the States, and if it is to be made effective for certain purposes, we ought to be very careful that we leave no germ of inoperation in the Constitution itself which will gradually sap the power and vitality of that body. … I say that if we once concede the principle of equal representation for the purpose of making the Senate a body which shall represent equally all the States, if we once give it certain powers which will make it an effective body, and as strong as such a body ought to he, we should take care that there is no principle in operation in the Constitution which may detract from its strength: and I say that the gradual increase in numbers in the House of Representatives which would go on if there was no proportion fixed, and no limit placed on the increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives, must gradually reduce the Senate to a position of comparative inefficiency in regard to its weight in the community.
That is as inevitable as night following day.
– But is not all that qualified by the first statement about the Senate representing the States? That is the qualification. The Senate does not represent the States, it represents individual parties.
– It is a States House and was agreed to as a protection for the smaller States against the larger States. I should have thought that a student of politics of the honourable senator’s standing would know that. In regard to the quota O’Connor very wisely noted:
If the 50,000 quota goes on without check or hindrance, as long as that quota remains, the numbers will go on rapidly increasing . . . out experience in these colonies is, that it is a very different matter to reduce a House, and for the same reason it would be a difficult matter to reduce a quota.
The same truth applies today. The nexus is a much more powerful guarantee against any unwarranted increase in the size of the National Parliament than any specific quota provision inserted in the Constitution. If a quota is substituted for the nexus clause in the Constitution, I cannot envisage any government holding another referendum to increase this quota. Can any honourable senator? Of course not. Just as there has been no reduction in the number of seats since Federation, there would be no increase in the quota. The size of the House of Representatives would grow and grow, and when Australia achieved a population equal to the present population of the United States of America, we would find that there were some 2,350 representatives in the lower House. This is why we reject the substitution by the Prime Minister of the quota of one representative for every 85,000 persons instead of-
– It is only the minimum. The Parliament itself can increase it.
– The Parliament itself? It is accepted as a reasonable number of people that a member in the House of Representatives should represent. The former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said 80,000 and left the impression that it was to be 80,000 electors. He went on to talk a lot of poppy-cock about the additional and onerous duties that members of the House of Representatives have to perform. He said that these duties had trebled since he was first elected to the House of Representatives. I exploded that statement pretty effectively. I will do so again today by saying that the number of sitting days of the House of Representatives has fallen from 92 days to 60 days and even 50 days in some recent years. This fact does not substantiate the claim that members of the House of Representatives are working harder and that their problems are more complex and have increased three-fold.
Let us have a look at the debate that took place in 1948 on the question of the nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate. It was discussed at that time when the Chifley Labor Government introduced legislation to increase the size of the Houses of the National Parliament. In both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the then Liberal-Country Party Opposition moved an amendment designed to have the nexus section put to the people at a referendum so that it could be removed from the Constitution. If there are so many people in our National Parliament concerned about the Senate, why on earth have they not sufficient courage to support the submission to the people of a referendum for the total abolition of the Senate rather than attempt to whittle away its power, its influence and the purposes for which it was initiated? Why have they not the courage to do what they would like to do?
– Would the honourable senator support this if it were done?
– No, I would not support such a proposal in the light of the experience that I have gained and because of the importance of the Senate and particularly as proportional representation has been introduced into our electoral laws.
– The honourable senator has seen the light. He is in favour of the Senate now.
– I can see the necessity for having an active Senate. The Senate is only commencing to function now as it was intended because with the introduction of proportional representation the imbalance that obtained for so long with thirty-three members on one side of the Senate and three on the other side has gone.
– Quite right.
– We are trying to do a job of work now. Already we have shown that we can. Even with the large majority that the Government has in another place, the Senate has the influence and the power today. By properly exercising that influence and power, we can prove of advantage and benefit to the people whom we represent.
Let me refer to the 1948 debate. The Liberal Party and the Country Party in the House of Representatives and the Senate wanted the Constitution amended in order to break the nexus but the Labor Party opposed the proposal and defended the presence of the nexus section in the Constitution. Some of the ALP parliamentarians who supported the retention of the nexus then are still in the Federal Parliament today. There are eight such members. I doubt very much whether they will be playing an active part in the referendum campaign once the public become aware of their very strong statements in support of the nexus section at that time. Mr Kim Beazley, the member for Fremantle in another place, had this to say on 28th April 1948: 1 have no doubt that those smaller States would resist any proposal for the enlargement of the Parliament that failed to preserve the present relative strength of the Senate and the House of Representatives, in which the larger States, owing to the operation of a democratic system of election, have go many more representatives than the smaller States … the proportion of senators to members of the House of ‘Representatives is not merely a mathematical question … the existing arrangement was designed to protect the interests of the minor States.
The late Dr Evatt stated that the removal of the nexus ‘would completely destroy the balance set up by section 57 of the Constitution’. Senator McKenna, who is present here today, stated: 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.
I do hope that Senator McKenna still possesses that view. If he does not, I would like very much to hear his reasons for the change. Senator McKenna described the proposal to break the nexus as ‘a subtle and very strong attack upon the position of the States in the Federal legislative scheme’.
– Who was this?
– It was Senator McKenna. I give quotations from the Convention debates of 1897 and the parliamentary debates of 1948 to point out that the nexus section was discussed on both occasions. In .1897 the nexus was adopted in preference to a quota system similar to that now proposed by the Holt Government and supported by the ALP. In 1948, the Liberal and Country Parties strongly at tacked the nexus. It was firmly defended by the A.L.P. All the arguments advanced in support of the nexus on those occasions are just as valid today. I cannot see any new circumstances that have arisen, and that demand the removal of the nexus section from the Constitution. The Government and the ALP have put forward no new argument against it.
So, the position of the Democratic Labor Party on the nexus section is clear. We believe that it is a valuable section with an extremely useful purpose. It is better than a quota as a check against unwarranted increases in the size of the National Parliament. It preserves the position of the Senate in the National Parliament. It is a guard against any attempt to weaken the position and standing of the Senate. We hold that whenever an increase in the number of national parliamentarians is warranted, it should be made in the present ratio of 2:1. The point is that, whilst we support the nexus, we do not believe that there is any warrant for an increase in the number of national parliamentarians today. Indeed, we believe that there is an over-representation at present and that we should wait for the population to catch up with our present parliamentary representation. When the Parliament does catch up with the present number of parliamentarians, any warranted increase should be on the basis of the ratio of 2:1 so that the position of the Senate and the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives are preserved. However, I do not believe that the population will catch up within my lifetime; nor do I believe it will catch up in the lifetime of most honourable senators present in this chamber today, so far are we ahead.
– What does the honourable senator think is a- good ratio between members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate?
– I think it is the ratio of 2:1 which I recommend.
– The honourable senator does not believe in basing representation on the number of electors?
– Does the honourable senator mean quotas?
– We must have regard to the fact that in Australia we have a representative in our National Parliament for every 62,000 people in the country. In the United States of America which is a country comparable in size with Australia there is a representative in the national parliament for every 355,000 people.
– How many senators are there in the United States of America?
– There are senators in the national parliament.
– But how many? There are two from each State.
– Yes, there are two senators from each Slate. But I am talking about representation in the national parliament.
– There are 100 senators.
– The honourable senator cannot dispute that, despite the quite apparent lack of necessity for the referendum, there is a highly suspect political motive behind the intention of the Government to proceed with the referendum on the Parliament proposal. In June 1961 a census of the Australian population was taken. Between April and July 1962 the electoral boundary commissioners in the various States set about determining the changed geographical distribution of the population in the light of the new census figures and the necessity for alteration of the electoral boundaries established in .1955 after the 1954 census.
When the reports came before Parliament in the first week of December, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Labor Party voted together to defeat their adoption. They voted against the proposals for purely political reasons. Faced with this impasse the Government sought alternative ways of overcoming the objections of the Country Party and the ALP. An indication of what the Government was planning came from a comment made by the present Federal Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in an interview with Mr Peter Coleman of the Bulletin’ during 1963. The Treasurer is reported to have said:
I think we should have some amendment to the Constitution to permit an increase in the size of the House of Representatives without increasing the number of senators.
Less than two years later Sir Robert Menzies announced that a referendum would be held to change the Constitution along the lines mentioned by his colleague, Mr McMahon, in 1963.
The choice of a constitutional alteration instead of a redistribution was made for obvious reasons. Neither the ALP nor the Country Party favoured the redistribution proposal because of the possible effects on certain seats which they regarded as strongholds. An increase in the total number of seats however would go a long way towards overcoming these objections. Both Parlies realised that any new seats would be established in the more populous provincial and urban areas. The Country Party knew that although it might not gain extra seats it also would not lose any existing seats. The ALP thought that it would have a reasonable chance of winning a share of these new provincial and urban seats. Both Parlies were aware of the fact that under the present constitutional provisions, an increase in the size of the House of Representatives would mean a proportionate increase in the size of the Senate. Neither Party wished to see the Senate increased, so the referendum proposal was suggested. In my mind, that is the genesis of the whole matter. That is the complete story of why the Government is holding this referendum. When the people hear of this story they will not feel very disposed towards voting Yes. Instead there will be a significant number who will vote No as a protest against the sordid political motives behind the referendum. Added to these will be the people who will wish to preserve the nexus and the position of the Senate and who are against any increase in the size of either of the two Houses of the National Parliament.
We must be quite clear on the issues involved in increasing the number of national parliamentarians. A Yes vote in this referendum does not mean, as has already been very snidely represented, a vote for a lesser increase in the number of parliamentarians. A Yes vote means an immediate increase of something in the vicinity of thirteen extra parliamentarians with additional increases as the population expands. However, a No vote will mean no increase in the number of senators and members of the House of Representatives. Let us look at this question of population.
If the people vote Yes they will break the nexus. They will give to the House of Representatives an open cheque to increase its numbers provided there is an increased population.
I have gone to the trouble of obtaining from the Australian National University figures which show that in 1971, which is four years hence, our population is expected to be 13.2 million. On the basis of a quota of 85,000 persons, the number of members in the House of Representatives will be increased to 156. In 1976, which is five years later, our population is expected to be 14.8 million and the number of members of the House of Representatives will be 175. It is expected that our population in 1981 will be 16.5 million and our representation in the House of Representatives will be 195 members. In 1986 it is expected that our population will be 18.3 million and the number of members of the House of Representatives will be 216. In 1991 our population is expected to be 20.4 million and our representation in the House of Representatives will be 240 members. It is estimated that in 1996 our population will be 22.6 million and there will be 266 members in the House of Representatives. At the end of the century, which is only thirty-three years hence, it is estimated that our population will be 24.6 million and our representation in the House of Representatives will bc no fewer than 290 members.
– What will be the representation if we do not break the nexus?
– It will not be that figure by any stretch of the imagination.
– What will be the population of the moon?
– An honourable senator has asked an inane question. He does not often open his mouth. He wants to know the population of the moon. That shows how little concern some members show on an important matter. It shows the mentality and the thinking of some members in this national Parliament. Is it any wonder that people are opposed to increasing the number of parliamentarians? Is it any wonder that they feel they are overgoverned and that we are not worth the huge amount of money that is spent on the government of this country?
Mr President, in the referendum campaign the Party that I lead will state quite clearly that the question is a vote on the nexus and on whether there should be an increase in the number of parliamentarians at the national level. We shall tell the taxpaying public about the future likely increases in the size of the House of Representatives and the associated financial cost of supporting an unnecessarily large National Parliament. I say to Senator Murphy that he is not entitled to read into the Bill that the Government can limit the number of members as it chooses.
– The Prime Minister said that.
– The Prime Minister cannot commit his successors, and Senator Ormonde knows that as well as I do.
– That is a recognised thing.
– Yes. The Bill seeks to put a quota into the Constitution and that will be the ultimate result. I have already told the Senate that if the United States had representation on our basis, it would have a parliament of approximately 2,500 members. We also will tell the people that the first increase of twelve or thirteen or whatever the number of new members will be - and I have read a comment of a newspaper writer who says it will be fifteen - will add an extra $200,000 to the cost of running the National Parliament and that this cost will increase further if the 85,000 quota is used as the basis for creating additional electorates.
– The honourable senator’s best argument to defeat the referendum would be to have a salary increase a week before the holding of the referendum.
– I agree, and that is possible. Do not treat that very lightly, either. We will show them the projected population statistics. They indicate that in 1986 we will have a House of Representatives of nearly 200 members, if there are regular increases in parliamentary numbers based on the 85,000 quota minimum contained in this Bill. We will demonstrate to them that when the population of Australia reaches the size of that of America today we are likely to be saddled with a House of Representatives containing 2,350 members if there are regular increases based on the quota. We will add that America, with such a population, has only 435 members in its lower House. We will support our argument that Australia is over.governed by pointing to the fact that America has only one national parliamentarian for 355,000 people while Australia today has one national parliamentarian for every 62,000 persons. We will state that Australia has no need for extra national parliamentarians, that it is already overgoverned, and that we need a lengthy period of time to elapse for our population to catch up with our present overrepresentation.
We will expose the deceptive statements of the Prime Minister, Senator Henty and the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) that members of Parliament are faced with increased work loads and that they cannot adequately represent their electors. We have only to take a plebiscite to see how many people seek the job that is burdening members and bowing them down almost to the grave. In contradiction of these obviously incorrect statements to which I have referred we will point to the fact that our investigations have revealed that no fewer than 40% of the members of Parliament have no trouble in managing their own businesses, professional and otherwise. How can they be overburdened in their electoral duties if they have time for these other activities? As well, we will ask why the number of sitting days has decreased since 1949 when it is alleged by the Minister for the Interior that the work and the volume of legislation have grown tremendously since that time. We will point out that in 1947 the Parliament sat for ninetytwo days, in 1948 for ninety days, in 1949 for eighty days, in 1964 for only sixty-five days, in 1965 for seventy-six days and in 1966 for no more than forty-three days. I concede that 1966 was an election year, but there was plenty of business on the business paper that warranted more sittings than took place.
We will outline the story of the travelling politicians who abandon their electorates and proceed on lengthy tours overseas. The public will not be predisposed to vote Yes when they hear about the politician who embarked on a world trip three months before he was due to retire. Such examples completely explode Government members’ allegations that the work load has become heavier and therefore more members of Parliament are required so as to spread the load more evenly. We will quote the very forthright editorial of the ‘West Australian’ of 30th January last in which it was stated:
There are quite enough politicians in Canberra to do the work now offering. Till some time in the future the Government can make out a convincing case that more politicians are essential, for the practical reason that there is work for them to do, and not as a party manoeuvre, there is no need to put this question to the vote.
Equally, we will fight for the preservation of the nexus section in the Constitution. Our aim is that by the end of the referendum campaign every voter will know and appreciate the origin and purpose of the nexus section. We will circulate the quotations that I included in the early part of my speech, and through our efforts the name of Richard Edward O’Connor will become as widely known as the names of Barton and Deakin. Every misleading and evasive statement advanced by Messrs Holt and Whitlam in support of a Yes vote will be crushed and more than adequately answered. More than 20,000 members of the DLP throughout Australia will spread the No argument amongst their work mates and friends.
I predict that on the day of the referendum thousands of Australians will ignore the voting advice of the Liberals and the ALP even though they might be traditional supporters of one or other of those Parties. Indeed, Mr President, I believe that the referendum will go down in history as the most wasteful and unnecessary blunder ever carried out by the two major Parties in the National Parliament - the Liberals and the ALP. Already $200,000 has gone down the drain for the postponed referendum. I conclude by saying with all confidence that the people of this country are sane and have wisdom and judgment, and that they will give a very decisive vote against this attempt to increase the size of the House of Rep-, esentatives and to break the nexus between the two Houses.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
- Mr President, I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has made a statement on Tasmanian bush fire aid in another place. I propose to repeat the statement. Where the personal pronoun is used it refers to the Prime Minister. The statement is as follows:
I desire to inform the House thatI have this day informed the Premier of Tasmania that the Government has agreed to his request to provide special financial assistance to the State of Tasmania in accordance with the broad terms and conditions set out in the report prepared by officers of the Tasmanian Government and agreed to by officials of the Commonwealth Government, based on the case presented on behalf of the Government of Tasmania. As agreed, the measures of assistance that will be introduced will be State measures with the Commonwealth standing behind the State to provide adequate support for the Slate’s overall financial position. This would accord with the arrangements agreed with the States of New South Wales and Queensland in connection with assistance for drought measures. Estimates of Che maximum assistance likely to be required by the State indicate that the total amount that will have to be provided by the Commonwealth will be about $14.5m. This estimate is however tentative and may be subject to substantial revision.
As in the case of the drought measures, the Commonwealth’s overall financial assistance to the State will be provided partly by way of interest-free loans and partly as grants according to the proportions in which the State’s own expenditures, under the various measures, take the form of loans and grants respectively. Loans made by the Commonwealth will be interest-free and have a term of fifteen years. Repayment will be sought in twelve equal instalments over the last twelve years of the loans. The Commonwealth is proposing to provide loans to the State free of interest on the understanding that the State will charge interest, where appropriate, on advances for housing and loans to businesses and primary producers. The interest received by the State is regarded as being available to enable the State to meet any losses arising from bad debts. We also expect that any excess of interest received by the State over its requirements should be applied to reduce its dependence on special grants.
As soon as possible a Bill will be presented to the Commonwealth Parliament to authorise payments of Commonwealth financial assistance to Tasmania. I expect that the Bill will be drawn in general terms to authorise a grant and a loan to the State of Tasmania for measures associated with the fire.In the meantime, our officers will continue to be in contact on detailed arrangements. From the outset 1 have, on behalf of the Commonwealth, assured the Tasmanian Government and people that the Commonwealth Government would approach their difficulties in a helpful and, indeed, a generous fashion. I knew that this would be supported by the people of Australia as a whole. I am glad therefore to be able to report to the House that we have met in substance the requests which have come to us from the Government of Tasmania and we hope that this quite substantial assistance will quickly enable the people of that State to be restored to full economic operation.
– I find that 1 shall probably have to traverse matters that the Senate considered when the predecessor of this Bill was before it in 1965. Honourable senators will recollect that at that time Senator Ridley and I, by the grace of the Senate, had been seconded to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. Therefore we missed the opportunity to participate in the matters that concerned the Parliament at that time. I have given myself the duty of going through the record of the debates and examining the arguments that were adduced in them.
When constitutional matters of this nature arise J believe that honourable senators, and indeed members of another place, should arm themselves at least by an examination of the record of the debates of the Conventions that preceded Federation and the contributions that were made from time to time from 1892 onwards by the various delegates on the problems of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia that ensued therefrom. Anyone who does that will see a spectrum of opinion which is not always made clear or presented to the Parliament. lt is quite clear that there was not unanimity on the course that the Commonwealth was to pursue. As is well known, there was substantial opposition to participation by some States. To illustrate that in just one sentence I point out that it was some years before the States of Western Australia and Queensland acceded to the Federation. It is also true that there was a great deal of disturbance in the minds of many delegates who went to the Conventions prior to Federation about the functions that the new Commonwealth should have and how it should be organised in parliamentary terms.
One of the discoveries that 1 made while spending a weekend going through, fairly exhaustively, the debates that took place at the Conventions was that there were two specific points of view on the form that the Commonwealth of Australia should take. The question was whether the proposed Commonwealth of Australia was to be a confederation or a federation. This was a matter of substantial interest to the delegates who attended the Conventions because they were within a measurable distance of the great struggle that convulsed the United States of America. They were about the same distance away from that struggle as we arc from the great war of 1939-45. The concept of the United States of America was a federation, whereas Jefferson Davis and others declared the southern States to be the Confederate States, or part of a confederation.
Interestingly enough, this was a matter of substantial discussion and argument among the delegates to the Conventions. Itcaused Higgins - one of the delegates to the 1897 Convention - to say, in the course of a speech dealing with the problem of the Senate, that in the discussions on the role that it was proposed should be adopted by the Senate, it had been turned into a house of confederation and the House of Representatives had been turned into a house of federation. In other words, he drew a sharp distinction in that the role that was being accorded to the Senate was that of a confederated member of a federation, whereas the House of Representatives became a house of federation. 1 pay tribute to honourable senators from South Australia, on whichever side of this chamber they sit, because one thing that always strikes me when I wade through the record of the debates at the Conventions preceding Federation is the high average quality of the South Australians who attended the Conventions. Perhaps they did not produce men whom historians now arcapt to regard as the great giants of Federation in terms of a high level of what might be called professional political competence; but South Australia probably sent to the Conventions men of a higher average quality than the delegates from any other State.
Something that I propose to quote to the Senate in order to illustrate some of the problems wilh which we are involved here tonight, in relation to this Constitution Alteration (Parliament) Bill, came from a quite extraordinary and very able man - Patrick McMahon Glynn. He dealt with the problem of the Senate and its relationship with the House of Representatives. He was near the problems of the nineteenth century - the problems of the federation of Germany and of the United States of America. All these problems were in the minds of the founding fathers. He said:
The world increasingly requires the consolidation of States. Therefore, equality of States in the Senate is necessary. It is necessary because we have to obtain federation. On that basis it is justified, but the States cannot interdict the whole expression of the popular will.
The opposition to the Bill displayed in this chamber tonight and on a previous occasion is an attempt to prevent the popular will from being expressed, or, in Glynn’s words, to interdict the expression of the popular will. I support the Bill because I think times have changed. The nexus was the price of Federation. It was clearly demonstrated in the pre-Federation debates that unless there was this nexus between the proposed Senate and the proposed House of Representatives there was very little possibility of Federation being obtained on the terms and at the time when the great mass of the Australian people obviously desired it. Therefore, the eminent men whose opinions have been quoted from time to time were obviously men who had made compromises in the interests of obtaining the widest area of agreement in order to produce the Federation.
Constantly, as we go through the preFederation debates, we are left, as practising politicians must be in these circumstances, in view of the intuition that we develop as members of Parliament, with the definite feeling that deals had been made and that men who were great proponents of Federation were prepared to argue for a case in which they did not really believe in order to obtain something that they considered desirable in the interests of the Australian people. One of these men was Sir Isaac Isaacs, who became the first Australian-born Governor-General of Australia. He first argued the case against giving the Senate some of the powers that were suggested but eventually he came round to accepting them.
The founding fathers, the organisers of Federation, were practising politicians and mcn, on the average, of very high quality. They knew what drives men into Parliament, and they understood that the Constitution was not the final solution to the problems of Federation. They provided that, in respect of parts of (he Constitution which were obscure, the High Court of Australia should have the responsibility of deciding the meaning of those parts. Secondly, and most important - this is what the Bill before us is about - they decided that if in the final analysis the Constitution as conceived in terms of compromise at that time was in need of change, the device for suggesting a change to the people would be the process of referendum.
When we come to deal, for example, with the problem of whether the House of Representatives should be enlarged, and whether it should be enlarged pari passu with the Senate in accordance with the provision of the Constitution that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators, obviously we are involved in the problem of what the High Court, would determine to be ‘as nearly as practicable’. My guess on that point would be as effective as that of anyone else. In terms of practicality and of the times in which we are involved, and notwithstanding anything that was said earlier by Senator
Gair, 1 believe that fundamentally the House of Representatives must be enlarged. What is more, I do not believe that the Senate should be enlarged in order to provide the means for the enlargement of the House of Representatives. In other words, I believe that the nexus must be broken.
Those who should decide whether the nexus should be broken are the people. It is not for us to determine. The issue tonight is whether or not we should give the people the opportunity to determine that issue. That is what the argument is about. Opposition to this Bill is opposition by people who are determined not to give the people an opportunity to decide this matter. I remind honourable senators again of Glynn’s statement in his contribution to the debate of 1897 that the Parliament had no right to interdict the will of the people.
Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) drew attention to a doubt in his mind in relation to section 128 of the Constitution. He said he was doubtful whether the previous Parliament and the Government it supported had behaved constitutionally in not sending the Bill that was passed at that time to the people. This disturbed me, so I sought some constitutional advice. I say without any attempt to belittle Senator Murphy that the opinion given to me should be at least equal in terms of authority with his. The effect of my advice is that the previous Parliament did not behave unconstitutionally. With the Senate’s permission, I should like to read the opinion which was given to me. It is. to this effect:
It is nol a breach of the Constitution not to put the proposed law to the people. Regard must be had to the introductory words of section 128.
The relevant introductory words of section 1 28 of the Constitution are:
This Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner. . . .
The advice that I have received continued:
Regard must be had to the introductory words of this section, which states that ‘the Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner’ and then provides: ‘The proposed law for the alteration thereto must be passed by an absolute majority of both Houses of the Parliament’. It goes on to lay down the conditions under which the proposed alteration shall become law. The use of the expression ‘the proposed law shall be submitted to the electors’ must be read in the light of this, lt does not impose an unqualified duty to submit the law to the people, lt merely indicates that if this is nol done the proposed law will nol become law.
I thought, it proper that at this stage I should reply to that objection, which was mentioned in passing, but very properly, by the Leader of the Opposition.
I move on now to a matter which 1 am sure will excite some disagreement from various members of the Senate. 1 say quite categorically that the problem in which the Senate has found itself involved in the past sixty-six years arises from the fact that the generations of senators who preceded us and we who sit here now have been pursuing what can be described only as a constitutional mirage. That constitutional mirage, as I see it, is that the draftsmen of the Constitution and the founding fathers gave the Senate equality with the House of Representatives except in one area relating to finance. This area comes within sections 53. 54 and 56. I hope the difficulty there will be solved so far as the Senate is concerned, and that before this session is ended papers will be laid on the table of the Senate which will make the position clear. In its attempt to pursue total equality with the House of Representatives over the past sixty-six years the Senate has, to use my word again, pursued a mirage. The men who are constantly quoted in the Senate as having supported equality with the House of Representatives - I mention Deakin, Isaacs and Barton as men who said the Senate had to be armed with coequal powers with the House of Representatives - were men who, when they entered the Commonwealth Parliament in the first election, chose to stand as candidates for the House of Representatives, not for the Senate. These were the men who, when they took their seats in the House of Representatives, set out to make it the house of government which it is to this day. So the very people who argued that we had to have co-equality in terms of capacity between the Senate and the House of Representatives were the men who subsequently, in judgments when they went to the High Court after they left the Parliament, and when they sat in the Parliament itself, began to create at once from the very first days of Federation inequality between the House of Representatives and the Senate. So in terms of what the lawyers call de facto, in terms of the actual facts of legislative and parliamentary life, in the last sixty-six years the Senate has not been a house of equality with the House of Representatives, because the house of government is embedded in the popular House, the House of Representatives.
Sena:or Mattner - What does that prove?
– lt proves that what was intended to be a house of total equality with the House of Representatives is not so in fact. The effluxion of political time and political practice have changed the position that it was anticipated the Senate would hold and the role that it would occupy in the Parliament. The factual position is that after sixty-six years the Senate is not fulfilling the role that was organised for it by those who, in terms of compromise to get Federation, created the circumstances in which the Senate was armed with constitutional powers co-equal with those of the House of Representatives except for the sections that 1 have mentioned.
Here .1 must turn my attention to the Australian Labor Party. I find from Senator O’Byrne, the Opposition Whip, that my old friend Senator McKenna intends to speak later in this debate. This is of enormous importance, lt has been my privilege and honour to know Senator McKenna for many years and he is a man whose opinion in constitutional matters of this sort are, I think, at least as valid as some of the quotations of sixty or seventy years ago that have been bandied around. I hope that Senator McKenna will reply specifically to the matters that 1 intend to raise. The Australian Labor Party embraced the concept of a Socialist political organisation in 1921. That was its right. I do not believe in Socialism but the Australian Labor Party does, lt is true that in the Constitutional Review Committee the Australian Labor Party accepted - in the words of one of my Labor friends tonight - a package deal. As alluded to by Senator Webster earlier, the Australian Labor Party’s platform proposes to clothe the Commonwealth Parliament with unlimited powers and so on and it proposes, in the terms of sub-clause 2 of the provision, to abolish the Senate. Of course, there is a reason why a Socialist party should wish to abolish the Senate.
The Senate is armed with extensive reserve powers. These are reserve powers which a Socialist party, in Australia or any other country for that matter - I am not worrying particularly about Australia - would wish to abolish. It is characteristic of the dogma of a Socialist party that if there exists a bicameral legislature the Upper House or House of Review must be abolished if it holds power that can impede the requirements that will lead to the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. This comes from an older order, in the nineteenth century of Socialist practice, by which it was thought that the upper House was a house of privilege. By no means can it be said in 1967 that senators who occupy their seats in the Senate at the present moment represent privilege in the community. As I look around the Senate and see my senatorial colleagues on this side and on the opposite side, I do not think there is anyone in this chamber who can be said to represent privilege in the terms of the usual Socialist dogma.
Therefore it is proper that we should look at this time at whether in fact the Australian Labor Party is devoted to the abolition of the Senate. I do not believe that the Labor Party will ever be able to abolish the Senate for the curious position is that it is part of the morality of the Australian electors that, whereas they might not like to see an increase in the number of parliamentarians, they do not altogether trust their politicians and they want lo see their upper chambers, and particular this upper chamber, remain as a guard against what they see as an overbearing intrusion of government into the everyday life of the people.
– The Labor Party gave the Senate new life by proportional representation at the time of the enlargement.
– I am not talking about that. I accept the comment. 1 shall deal with the role of the Senate in a moment. Having said that it has not coequality with the House of Representatives, I should like the Senate to agree to give me a little extra time to elaborate on the role that the Senate has to fulfil in order to justify the hopes that the founding fathers had for it. There is another curious thing. The Labor Party espouses the concept of the abolition of the Senate and therefore a senator, whatever his political complexion, must view with some care the means that might provide an opposition with an opportunity to abolish the Senate. It can do so only by referendum unless it is driven at some future stage that 1 cannot foresee to deal with the problem in the manner in which the French Senate was dealt wilh in 1797 when young Napoleon Bonaparte came into the Senate in Paris with a number of soldiers. The distressing memory that I always have is of the French senators in their red robes leaping out of the windows before Bonaparte’s soldiers could get them. I hope that if these circumstances arise some subsequent President or Deputy President in this chamber will act to take down the boards across the windows in the Senate so that a successor of mine may be able to escape the wrath of some future dictator in Australia. 1 must make a passing reference to one of the almost nostalgic claims made from time to time that this Senate must model itself on the Senate of the United States of America. The Senate of the United States is not all that it is cracked up to be. lt is true that it has certain areas marked out to its own jurisdiction by the constitution. It is equally true that it has marked out areas of jurisdiction for itself. It is fair for me to say that the United States Senate represents a problem of some importance when people claim that the role of the Senate in the Commonwealth of Australia should be somewhat analogous to the role of the United States Senate. One of the theories that I hold - and I assert it - is that probably the world war of 1939 would never have broken out if the United States Senate had not refused by its treaty-making supervision the right of the government to make the country a member of the League of Nations. I think that by its constant erosion of the executive power it probably led substantially to the depression of 1929. As a further passing reference, let me say that the last time I looked at the problem of the United States Senate - it has a problem and there are plenty of books about it - about 3,000 Bills had been bottled up and had never seen the light of day.
I now turn my attention to Senator Gair who 1 hoped would have been here tonight. Gair on the Constitution’ has been an extraordinarily interesting exercise on my part, because he has used figures in a most ingenious way. As a friend of mine said, if you tried to block up one hole there would be a horde of rabbits pouring out through another hole and you could never block enough. You could never block half of Senator Gairs statements. Each required some analysis and on being analysed each would be upset. He has gone through a tremendous conversion on his march, not from Damascus to Jerusalem, but from Brisbane to Canberra. A great change has overtaken him. The former Premier of Queensland who now sits on a corner bench of the Senate has said today that it is a dreadful thing that the number of members of the House of Representatives should be increased and that the function of the Parliament is to keep the situation pegged. He said, inferentially of course, that he was one who kept the numbers of members of Parliament pegged. And indeed, he kept them pegged because there is no upper house in Queensland. What is more, the business of the State was conducted in the Queensland Executive Council. Decisions were made there and then taken down to the corner by the Botanical Gardens. In half an hour business that would probably take us weeks to deal with would be whistled through in an hour. I do not say that Saint Paul should be condemned because he was struck by blinding light, but I have noticed the conversion process that exists here because it is very refreshing to see someone change his opinion so dramatically.
The substantia] role of the Senate in relation to being the House of the confederation or States House has passed really out of the purview of the Senate. In great substance the function of the Senate as envisaged has moved to other areas. Senator Wright, who will follow me in this debate, 1 am sure would under no circumstances argue that the problems that now occupy and are administered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission should be taken over by the Senate, if the Senate is to fulfil the role designed for it by its constitutional draftsmen. Is that not so? In fact, the needs of Tasmania are managed and looked after not by Senator Wright, Senator Turnbull or Senator Marriott in terms of the financial needs of Tasmania, but by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
When I turn to some other developments that have taken place in past years I come perforce to the Australian Loan Council.
What are representatives of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania doing at Loan Council meetings when thirty senators represent those States and are willing and able to do the work of saying how much loan money should be allotted to those States? In accordance with the argument on the rights of the States, surely this is a function that should be taken up and accepted by the Senate because it is the House of the confederation - the States House. In the sphere of management in the wide context of national affairs, it is not honourable senators who represent the States. Another agency has come in as part of constitutional growth, namely, the Premiers Conference. These matters are decided at Premiers Conferences and not by sixty senators representing the six States.
A whole host of administrative and political matters that should occupy the attention of the Senate, on the argument I have heard so often here, is in fact accepted and dealt with by Premiers Conferences. As to anomalies in the Constitution in the area and realm of concurrent powers, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth examines such matters. The first indication that honourable senators - and indeed members of the House of Representatives - have as to what arrangements have been made in relation to the area of concurrent powers is when Bills are brought down in the State Houses of Parliament and in this Parliament by agreement that has been made by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. If I were to go on in this vein it might lead to the conclusion that there is no role for the Senate. In fact there is a substantial and important role for the Senate, but it is a role that I suggest the Senate has not been pursuing because it has been pursuing, the mirage of co-equality.
One of the fundamental problems that confront the Senate at present is the role of Parliament and of the Crown - or what used to be the problem of Parliament. Parliament has spent 300 years trying to reduce the power of the Crown. It has succeeded, but in its place it has created a monster that now stands between the Crown and the people; that is the Executive. Surely this is an aspect to which the Senate should direct its attention. The first revolution that took place, in modern terms, in the English speaking world occurred in England when the people got rid of the Crown after the Cromwellian rebellion. The Long Parliament sat down to assume the role that was thought fitting and proper and looked at the Cromwellian directorate - the Cromwellian Ministers. The sight caused a member of the House of Commons to exclaim, as honourable senators who are familiar with their history books will remember: ‘Why, the new presbyters are but the old priests writ large.’ History has that sort of characteristic of reflecting itself in all sorts of ways.
A problem of parliamentary life, not only in Australia but also in other countries - certainly in the United Kingdom where the Mother of Parliaments sits - is that the power that Parliament once wrested from the Crown is now embedded in another focus. J accept the role of a strong Executive. 1 think that modern society with all its technological, scientific, financial and economic complications demands a strong Executive. But if it demands a strong Executive - and it does - then the responsibility of Parliament to supervise the strong Executive becomes of greater importance.
I think I have spoken a little longer than 1 intended. If I were to go on to elaborate on some of the other matters 1 have laid down I would be depriving other honourable senators of an occasion to speak on matters which interest them. Therefore I shall move on to suggest to honourable senators present tonight that the Senate has a constitutional function and role of enormous importance to see, maintain, observe, overlook and supervise. It has to guard the constitutional proprieties. It certainly has to guard against unilateral invasion of the States, which is the constant tendency of the central beast. Its duty is to impose a delay when necessary. Its duty is to review constantly, and certainly one of its duties is to examine legislative sanctions that it has given in the past. Therefore the role of the Senate is to pursue these responsibilities and it can do so only when the Senate itself, with nothing to do with numbers, whether sixty or 100 -
– But numbers count.
– Numbers count, as Senator Kennelly has so often said, quite truthfully. Numbers count in the end, but ideas exist in the minds of men. When the concept of the role of the Senate pene- trates and permeates the will of this Senate, then it is endorsed by Senators at that stage. Therefore I suggest that the Senate has to develop a corporate responsibility in relation lo the responsibility which it must assume in the future and the problem of numbers in relation to the pursuit of that corporate responsibility which the future marks out for the Senate has nothing to do with whether there are twenty senators from each State or ten. It lies in the hearts, breasts and minds of men, and nowhere else. I commend the Bill.
– I rise in an atmosphere of confessed confusion following the speech of Senator Cormack. I would hope to have an opportunity to review that speech after an interval for consideration because, illuminated as it was by transitory references to constitutional history from all sorts of sources, the application of those incidents as guides to us in politics and in dealing with a proper judgment of this Bill is at least doubtful. I take only one matter to illustrate what seems to me to be a glaring fallacy. Reference was made in terms of due respect to the founding fathers. T was pleased to hear it, because in this place last week there were a few interjections that seemed to denigrate the founding fathers. Anybody who gives to that period a proper study will credit not only constitutional delegations but men like Barton and others with great sagacity.
Nowhere in the Constitution is Senate equality asserted and nowhere is equality claimed in practice. Power in relation to finance was acknowledged to be the very kernel of power political, and to accord primacy to the House of Representatives under that predominant head of power was to acknowledge that in the most important field of activity of the Federal Parliament that could then be foreseen, the House of Representatives would ultimately develop predominance in the Parliament. That learned constitutional authority, Alfred Deakin, said that with financial power there would follow all political power and we would find the House of Representatives, by virtue of that financial power, having great predominance. No-one disputed the position that the House of Representatives was to have primacy in finance, and the Constitution was written making the Senate not co-equal with the House of Representatives but with powers in all things other than finance equal to those of the House of Representatives. But when one refers to powers in all things other than finance one accepts the lot. No-one who lived through the experiences of 1943 when the Commonwealth arrogated to itself the richest field of revenue in Australia could fail to see the terrific growth ut Federal power then, not granted by the Constitution but obtained by the practical application of financial power. The Commonwealth’s control in the fields of health, education, university research and housing stem from the overflow of financial power.
I have taken leave to expand my preface and to say that it is a complete fallacy to claim that the Senate’s undoing for sixtyseven years is because it has been pursuing a political mirage, thinking it has equality with the House of Representatives. That equality exists only in the imagination of anyone who states it today. But the Senate had a role to play. It was a dual role. Firstly, it was the role of representation of State rights, and secondly, the role of review. Those who think that the Senate still has a function to consider State rights will not be persuaded to think otherwise by references to the fact that such organisations as the Commonwealth Grants Commission have been set up, anymore than they would be persuaded by references to the fact that the Australian Universities Commission, the Australian Loan Council or the Premiers’ Conference have been set up. All these bodies have developed their functions, some greater than was foreseen, and all have their role to play, but they leave to the Senate the general responsibility of representing the States in this Parliament when any peculiar interest of a particular State is challenged. We have seen evidence of that in our time, but that function of the Senate has withered under the shadow of ambitions profiting more by executive advancement. There is a very easy inclination to accept the Executive’s viewpoint if it leads to agreement and probable promotion.
In the very brief debate that was supposed to allow the exclusive fountain of wisdom in this Parliament - the House of Representatives - to decide this important issue, reference was made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) to party discipline. He said it was rigid party disci pline that enabled the Government members - I rely only on what is printed in Hansard - to go into the House of Representatives last Wednesday evening, having had no notice of the Bill before 10 o’clock tha: morning, and, with the overflowing majority that is supposed to bring sapience to Parliament and provide for unremitting and earnest representation of the people, give the whole expression of their wisdom in, I should think, less than 120 minutes, or not quite one and a half minutes for each member. I remember that when our evil predecessors, those men against whom we were able to summon up our spirit in 1948 - the members of the Chifley Government - proposed to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives from 72 to 121, we said that that was subverting Parliament and making a monster of the idea. It was said that they were making their own seats secure by enlarging the area of opportunity to go back to the most precious parts of their electorates and seek a renewal of confidence.
When I came into Parliament the nineteen Ministers of the day were in the chambers for most of the time while debates were proceeding. Now one can never come into this chamber and find more than one Minister representing the Ministry, and he is sitting here as if to keep the House in order, not to heed the debate. Cabinet is meeting all the time. It takes the occasion of parliamentary sittings to conduct the whole of its considerations. That is why the executive function has drained the interest that would come from real work either here or below. Everyone is seeking to see the light through a niche in the wall of the Cabinet room. I have heard it said: ‘Let us continue our committee debates down below’. I would say in an old fashioned way that my habit is to listen to the debates. Why? Nothing is achieved by the debates. Senator Cormack believes that it is proper to increase the executive power. 1 do not deny that in view of the complexity of modern life, but I make a modest protest against it becoming the exclusive power. Everyone thinks it is only a matter of Cabinet making a pronouncement. When did any member of Parliament last see a vote in the House of Representatives against the Government except by the Opposition? What a remarkable performance of intelligent unanimity by these people whose numbers we are being asked to increase. What is the increase for? It is not to give political advantage. Oh, no! But we are told that the whole purpose of this exercise is to provide better representation for the people. The Senate has been drained by sycophantic succumbing to the will of executive power rather than the making of an independent judgment on the floor of a house of review after purposeful debate.
The Bill that we are debating tonight simply says that there shall be excluded from the Constitution the words which provide that the House of Representatives should at all times have as nearly as practicable a membership of twice the number of senators. Now, the whole basis upon which this Parliament was constructed was the initial proposition that the six federating States should have equality of representation in the Senate. After that matter had been fixed, the next thing was to arrive at the number of members of the House of Representatives. In that House representation was to be according to the number of population. So, the Constitution proceeded to arrive at the number of members in the House of Representatives by dividing the population of Australia by twice the number of senators.
Madam Acting Deputy President, when I hear the leadership of my own Party putting forward the proposition that better representation of the electors will be achieved in Parliament by increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives, I pause for thought. Quite frankly, I look to the House of Representatives and see, as Senator Gair said this afternoon, that the time it sits has dwindled from approximately eighty days a year five years ago to approximately sixty days a year in more recent times. Then, when I think of more than 124 members advancing the causes of their constituents better in the shorter time I consider that Sir Robert Menzies ought to reconsider his views on the representation of the people. Of course, it may be that his successor did this when, fired by the spirit of thirsty liberalism, he sought to displace a then somewhat arrogant government. I refer to the remarks of the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) when speaking on the Representation Bill 1948. At page 1097 of Hansard of 23 April 1948, Mr Holt is reported as having said: . . but a mere increase of population is not the proper test of what a member of Parliament has to tlo. The population has grown substantially, but so have the means, conveniences and amenities that enable us to cope with the increased numbers of people.
Then Mr Holt said:
He was referring lo his electorate of Fawkner. On page 1098, Mr Holt is reported as saying of the Chifley Government: lt makes a specious plea to the public that as there are more people lo be represented there should be more members of the Parliament. . . .
I say that the matter deserves a little attention. Not that I say it for the first time, but 1 think it is completely specious. When a proposition of this sort is put forward simply for Party manoeuvring, it is disruptive to say that more members of Parliament will better represent the people.
Let us see how we stand. I picture myself coming in from the cowyard having just completed tonight’s milking and about to have my evening meal. I am saying to myself: ‘1 feel forlorn and alone because, in my electorate, a fellow is pretending to represent to me and he cannot think of me because of the numbers in the electorate.’ Oh, I think there are many electors through the country who are resorting to tears for want of more members of Parliament. The population grows. Mr Holt and his Government - mesmerised, I think, by electoral success and with visions of holding office in perpetuity because they have won an election on Vietnam, and the fundamental and national issues of Pacific security - come here in full blown pride, which is about to break under them if nonsense of this sort is flaunted before the people, if they peddle folly like this legislation concerned with the proliferation of politicians. If the population grows as expected, in 1971 there will be 156 members of the House of Representatives. In 1976 the membership of that House will rise to 175. At the end of this century, in the year 2000 - if a proper estimate of population has been made and bearing in mind the quota of one member to every 85.000 electors that has been selected by the Government - the size of the House of Representatives will be 290.
– The Parliament will have to be extended into Lake Burley Griffin.
– Yes, perhaps that is the use to which the Lake might be put. Whereas the Constitution states that the House of Representatives shall have twice the number of members as the Senate so that the Senate will always be numerically approximately half the membership of the House of Representatives, there is no substitute for the present proposal to say that the Senate shall be one-third or not less then one-quarter of the number. The whole advocacy is for more members of the lower House to give this specious - the word is Mr Holt’s - idea of representation of the people.
Mr President, I admire the capacity of men who draw salaries as senators, who represent their States in the Senate chamber and who accord to the gentry of another level the peculiar quality of being the only type of politician to give this better representation to the people. I ask you, Sir: has the Lord vouchsafed some quality to some of his anointed that he has selected representatives from a special breed of men? Tell me, man for man, where are these superior values that attach to representatives in another place compared with the men who sit here. The members of the Senate today are no better and no worse than those who will come hereafter or those who have been before. We are just a sample of the race. But as the result of what particular inspiration did the Lord draft men to the House of Representatives with different qualities from those of honourable senators?
It may be that the Prime Minister still adopts the point of view that he expressed in 1948, when he was very indignant at the idea that the Senate should then be increased in size from thirty-six members to sixty members. I myself would have opposed that proposition because an increase in the number of senators is something that I think would be the chief disadvantage that we could add to our deficiencies here. On that occasion Mr Holt said that the Senate had sat for only three days that year. He asked:
Can it be claimed that honourable senators are overworked?
Later he said: 1 am reminded of a story an honourable senator told me and my colleagues in our party room. He said, ‘I got a letter yesterday. I am not going to answer it until today, and I shall not post it until tomorrow. In that way 1 will have found something to do for three days of this week anyhow.’
With such things do these men of high position bemuse themselves. That is a political argument which was put before the country. The conclusion that the right honourable gentleman chose to express was:
From what we can see of our friends in the Senate, most of us would say that that would represent a fair week’s work for most of them.
I admire the loyalty; indeed, I call it something else. My ideas of loyalty are not of the knee-bending, sycophantic, nonsensical kind which can accept that statement as an estimation by the leaders in another place of the work that is performed and the responsibility that is taken in this place.
But the whole of this proposition stems from the distinction drawn between senators and members of the House of Representatives for the purpose of responsible representation of the people. Mr President, through you I ask honourable senators: what better qualities, experience and capacity has any person who seeks election in the lower House which enables him to claim better representation of the people? It is an entire fallacy to say that better representation of the people requires a greater number of members of Parliament and that that should be translated into a proposition that better representation of the people requires a greater number of members of the House of Representatives. Bearing that in mind, it is a matter for great misgiving to think that this Parliament would leave the constituents of the country so ill represented.
With the present Australian population, if there were no increase in the size of the House of Representatives or of the Senate and if a redistribution were carried out tomorrow in accordance with the law, there would be 92,745 people in each electorate. Each member of the House of Representatives would represent only 50,551 electors. It is an impudent claim which, I think, the robust people of this country will deal with properly by rejecting it. It is claimed that there is a need for an increase in the number of members of either House beyond the present number, but if a redistribution were carried out this year the number of people, including men, women, children and babes in arms in each electorate would be 92,745 and the number of electors in each electorate would bc 50,551.
I think that if a distinction is to be drawn between the breed of men and the capacity of men in this place and in another place and if it is said that those in another place will give the only type of representation that the people want, we must consider the performance of both Houses. Unfortunately, I was not present in the chamber to hear the whole of Senator Webster’s speech this afternoon. Like Senator Gair, 1 shared a little Senator Webster’s anguish between the premises of the argument and the conclusions reached, but 1 could see the difficulties with which he was wrestling. He put some cogent material before the Senate. Let me take the Senate’s activities in 1965, for instance. When we resumed in August 1965 we moved a resolution regarding the Ipec-Air Pty Ltd case. The resolution reaffirmed a fundamental principle that was of vital importance to the judiciary, the Parliament and the people of this country. Did we hear a murmur of protest in another place regarding the Ipec case? No, we did not. lt was the Senate’s privilege to achieve that recognition of a fundamental principle. There are very few people in this country who did not recognise the significance of the Senate vote on the Ipec case. If the Senate as a House of review had achieved in one decade only that one recognition of a fundamental principle, it would be sufficient to justify its existence. Do honourable senators think that it is proper to describe us as receiving a letter today, opening it tomorrow and posting a reply the next day? It makes me furious to hear such snivelling, insignificant nonsense.
Another example was the Trade Practices Bill into which was injected within five days before it came to the Parliament for debate a special privilege obviously designed for vested interests, such as oil companies, breweries, banks and financial institutions. This provision would have exempted them from examination. According to my recollection, the Bill passed through another place with a complete absence of effective criticism from any mem ber of the majority parties. But that was not the position here. Senator Murphy beat me to the call in order to move for the insertion of an amendment, and there was no question about supporting the proposition to exclude these companies from examination. Then there was the Repatriation Bill. We circulated amendments on the Friday night. The Government tried to frustrate us. The game was on and the fight was fought. There was practical unanimity in this chamber to prevent the servicemen in Vietnam from being deprived of repatriation benefits during transit either to or from the battle area. Despite the limitations which Caucus places upon the Opposition, these matters indicate that the Senate is capable of effective work. They also show the absolute necessity for an effective House of review. Therefore I say that anybody who advances the cause of an increase in the number of members of Parliament in order to get better representation and who says that such an increase should occur only in the House of Representatives does not know what goes on in this Parliament. Such a person has been reading only the newspaper jottings that privileged pressmen can get from leaks.
What goes on in this Parliament in the future if the Senate retains its prestige and inclination to work will show that perhaps we will undergo the experience of the United States of America. Whoever put up the Senate of America as an ideal chamber to be blessed with Divine wisdom? Senator Cormack referred to the League of Nations and the conservative views that brought on the depression. Representative assemblies ought to recognise the limitations of their individual and corporate judgment. But the United States Senate is acknowledged by all constitutional writers, by all who practice politics, and by all who have a nodding acquaintance with international power to be the most powerful, balanced and responsible upper chamber in the world. We do not want to proceed from the fact that even the United States Senate could be dispensed with by Senator Cormack. Of course, that is not quite putting his point of view.
A vote in this chamber will be a great opportunity for effective influence on the parliamentary government of this country if we manage the Senate without absolutely dragooning ourselves behind party caucuses.
If we allow ourselves a little objective thinking and if we prescribe for ourselves, not the constitutional mirage of equality with the House of Representatives, but always a proper deference to its point of view, never deigning to delay acceptance of its point of view for another year, and if when decision is opportune we say: ‘This year you go to the country to see whether you have the confidence of the country on this matter’, then we will be playing a real role. I think that the Senate has a real role to play.
So often we speak and expect to be listened to. Hitherto I have observed a glorious rule not to quote myself; but at this stage in my speech I can think of nothing better to do. Mr President, if you look at page 185 of the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review you will see my dissenting report. I would like to urge upon you the verity of these views which are expressed there:
It is useless to deny that (he House of Representatives, as well as the Senate, has lost much of these qualities. While they are running low let not one House, for the aggrandisement of the Executive power - not only Cabinet, but behind it, the strongly entrenched bureaucracy - reduce the power of the other.
My conception of Liberal politics is that Parliament - in both Houses - should at all costs be maintained as a free, deliberative and independent assembly of people’s representatives and that the substitution therefor of Executive government should be resisted. Sir Winston Churchill’s guidance before 1939 was often disregarded, but now his famous message to the Inter-Parliamentary Conference 1957 should be heeded -
Since the Inter-Parliamentary Conference last met in London, twenty-seven years ago, free Parliamentary institutions have confronted and have triumphantly overcome, the heaviest assault ever made upon them.
Our Parliament has survived because it made itself the spokesman not of government but of the people. In the fiercest clash of debate we have jealously guarded the right of every Member freely to speak for his constituents andfor himself. If your Conference will follow this tradition, it can make a significant contribution to toleration between ideologies and understanding between nations. Thus alone can freedom endure and mankind live in peace.
This precious duty and right of the individual member belongs in a much stronger sense to each of the Houses of Parliament.
The Senate’s constitution is appropriate to discharge that function. It is not the constitution of the Senate which needs reform. It is the abuses in its party management which should be corrected..
Senators are elected by the people in the same direct way as are members of the House of Representatives. I deny the proposition that an increase in numbers gives a better representation of the people. The architects of the Constitution, foreseeing differences between the Houses of Parliament, provided that one means of resolving a deadlock after a double dissolution was to have a joint session of the two Houses of Parliament. In the last Parliament, New South Wales and Victoria had an overwhelmingly absolute majority in the House of Representatives. If the proposed increase takes place that majority will be greatly enlarged. If in the future the number of members in the House of Representatives is increased to, say, 250 or even 200, the effective voice of the small States in the resolution of deadlocks under section 57 of the Constitution will disappear completely. There was an occasion when we thought that to make Parliament a deliberative assembly was fine. I, coming from Tasmania, fired with an enthusiasm which led me to believe that this Parliament would remain purposeful read the comments of a member of the Parliament. What was his name? Mr Menzies! On what date were his comments uttered? The date was 21st April 1948. This is what he said:
Consider the position of Tasmania. That State now has five seats out of 74. When this Bill becomes law it will have five seats out of 121. In a House of 121 members, margins of majority will, in the normal course, tend to be larger than in a smaller house and so we are much less likely in a larger House to have a condition of affairs in which a government will have a majority of only two, three or four. Therefore, the significance of the voice of Tasmania will correspondingly diminish.
Mr Barnard said, by way of interjection:
It will still be heard.
Mr Menzies replied:
I do not doubt that it will still be heard as long as the Minister is with us. But I was not talking about the voice;I was talking about the significance of the voice.
I think I can identify this Mr Menzies now.
As long as Tasmania has five representatives in a House of 121 members, so long will it be true that, except under very special conditions, the Tasmanian voice will be completely a minority voice. I do not know how the Minister for Repatriation can tell the electors of Tasmania that, although every other State is to have more members in this House, Tasmania is to be pegged at its existing level. No doubt the honourable gentleman will bc able to explain that to his electors. I wonder also how the honourable gentleman will be able to explain to them why it is that, in the lower house, which makes and unmakes governments, Tasmania’s voice will be five whereas in the upper house, the Senate, it will be tcn. That is a poor compliment to Tasmania.
So, armed with the wisdom that comes from that quotation, I have been afraid to go back to Tasmania and tell the people that they should bc content to have their vole in both Houses withered to insignificance. Whether this House is a States House or, as some people assert in expressing a newly found conclusion, a parties House-
– Hear, hear!
– All right. I take it that by that term they mean that there is a party organisation to which they will always defer in a vote. We know that the Australian Labor Party votes in ils Caucus and that every member of the Party is bound to vote in the Parliament in accordance with the majority view of Caucus. Senator McKenna put that on record. You know full well, Mr President, that that practice is not a party rule on our side of the Parliament; but you know from performance that it is growing in acceptance on our side. One only needs to read the speech made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) last week to see thai. So. in the party room the distinction between senators and members of the House of Representatives is obliterated. There it is simply a question of numbers. Does not that reinforce this disproportion to which Mr Menzies thoughtfully drew attention in 1948? If we do not have a greater number of senators in the Government party room but have a greater number of members of the House of Representatives, in which Tasmania will never have more than five members in the next twenty years. New South Wales and Victoria will have an absolute majority or a complete preponderance.
So, whether the Senate is a States House or a parties House, the simple conclusion is that if we follow the principle that representation should go by the number of people, we are compelled to say that there is wisdom in the proposition that if there is need to increase the size of one House there is need to increase the size of the other. 1 do not support an increase in the size of either. I strongly say that we should keep our deliberative assembly to a manageable and effective level. In the Senate the desirable number is anything between sixty and eighty, as I said in my dissenting report as a member of the Constitutional Review Committee. The business of the House of Representatives is already cluttered up because it has allowed its number to go beyond 120.
Last time it was suggested that if the number of senators were to be increased the number from each State could be increased to the next uneven number - that is, from ten to eleven. The answer to that suggestion was: that would mean that five and a half senators would have to go to the poll and this, as my old friend Euclid said, is absurd. But of course it took few readers of the Constitution to remind folk that it states that the Parliament has power to increase or diminish the number of senators for each State, but so that equal representation of the several original States shall be maintained and that no original State shall have less than six senators. The Constitution also expressly provides as follows:
Whenever the number of senators for a State is increased or diminished, the Parliament of the Commonwealth may make such provision for the vacating of the places of senators for the Stale as it deems necessary to maintain regularity, in the rotation.
So, far from the position being that if we need to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives by thirteen or fourteen we need to increase the number of senators by twenty-four, the fact is that it is quite a practicable proposition to increase the number of senators by one for each State and to have six senators elected this time and five elected next time, and so maintain a proper proportion between the two Houses. All of these things indicate, as Barton and O’Connor said in the Convention debates, that it is idle to pretend that the powers, prestige and functions of the Senate remain in proper perspective, unless the Constitution prescribes a ratio between the two Houses - a ratio which was then fixed at two to one.
For my part, I concede in no respect that the political manoeuvres of party organisations will bc advantaged by any increase in the size of the House of Representatives. I comprehend but am not convinced that the Country Party will be disadvantaged in its hope that country districts will have greater representation despite fewer numbers as, in time to come, the metropolises grow and industries in country areas can turn out increased productivity with fewer people. I am quite content to leave the judgment on these things to the representatives of the Country Party, so long .is it represents the country people. But on this occasion I am bound to say that, as I foresee the development of Australia as between city and country, in twenty years time it may be possible for the major party on each side of politics to be independent of any present ally. That may be the objective towards which we are working.
I maintain that, if there is to be an increase, 1 would gain only mildewed satisfaction by adding to the rather muted majority in the lower House which seems to me to grow in numbers and diminish in representation. I shall never concede that members of the lower House have any advantage that recommends a claim for their proliferation as compared with the people in this chamber. T say that not because of the virtues of the people in this chamber but because the people in this chamber are just as simply representative of the limitations and values of ordinary people as are the gentry who promote this Bill.
– 1 rise, somewhat in trepidation and as a very simple fellow, almost to whisper that I support this Bill. I do not intend to follow the highways and byways Senator Wright followed. I believe that much of what we have heard tonight has very little relevance to the Bill we are debating, which is designed to give the people of Australia their inherent right to decide upon a constitutional issue. I do not suggest to people who express a view contrary to mine that they have improper motives or that they are guided by political expediency, as some people seem to suggest about those of us who support this legislation. In my own simple way, I support this legislation and the referendum proposal because I believe that they have merit. I trust that those who oppose me will not suggest that I do that for some misguided purpose. This sort of suggestion has been made pretty continuously about those who support this proposal.
– 1 thought it was the other way around.
– Senator Mattner could not have heard some of the arguments I have heard, or perhaps he was influenced the other way. I heard suggestions of improper motives. I was interested to hear what some of the fathers of the Constitution said away back in 1897. With great respect to them, however, I was not terribly impressed with what was said in 1897 or thereabouts because those statements were made and those views were expressed under conditions and circumstances entirely different from those that exist today. We will never know whether those wise men, if they were alive today, would express now the same views as they expressed then. I am not very impressed either with quotations of statements made in 1948. An argument is weak if it is based on what somebody said eighteen years ago. Circumstances change and opinions change. All of us in the Senate change our opinions quite drastically on many things. Probably if we look back, to what we said five or ten years ago we are horrified that we ever held such opinions. That is true of each and every one of us.
– It is said that one should make his words sweet because he might have to eat them one day.
– That is true. I do not think that arguments based on what people said some years ago carry much weight. Arguments should be based on the context of today, not on the context of five or ten years ago. I am as jealous of the powers of the Senate as any Senator, but I find it difficult to follow the argument that the powers and authority of the Senate are vested in numbers. I believe that the powers and authority of the Senate depend upon the quality of the Senate. These powers are not altered by an increase in the number of members in another place. The powers still exist and can be used just as they have always been used. Senators Wright and Webster referred to the way the Senate uses its powers. These powers will not be lessened in any way if there is an increase in the membership of the House of Representatives and the size of the Senate remains the same. Those powers will remain. I do not believe the prestige or the integrity of the Senate will be altered
In any way by what happens to the numbers in another place. I have listened to the arguments on that matter with interest and with an open mind but I have not been convinced that they have any validity. The Senate has great powers. Although Senator Wright did not agree with him, Senator Cormack put forward a very valid point of view on the proper functions of the Senate, and we should take note of and study what has been said in this respect.
Reference has been made to the situation in other countries. Senator Gair referred to the United States of America, where there is one member of Parliament to some 400,000 people. .1. was interested in this type of argument and did some research on it. I came up with some interesting information. I agree that it is difficult to make proper comparisons between one country and another in this respect. For example, the duties and responsibilities of members of Parliament vary greatly. I did not react very favourably to the argument concerning the United States because I have found that each member of the United States Senate has a considerable staff to assist him. An ordinary citizen does not simply walk in and interview an American senator. He cannot do that. United States senators have expressed amazement to me that this happens in Australia, but 1 hope it never ceases. In the United States you have to speak with some half dozen members of the staff of a senator, and they decide whether or not you will see the senator. One American senator expressed amazement to rae that Australian senators go from Canberra every week-end to their own States and are available on Friday evenings, during the weekends and on Monday mornings to anybody who wishes to see them. He said he lived in Washington and did not go to his home State for three or four months at a time. So comparisons of this kind are not very valid when we see what happens in the United States.
If we consider the charge that we in Australia are over-governed in comparison with other countries we find some interesting figures. In Australia there are some 709 members of Parliament. We have a population of 11,500,000, so each member represents, in round figures, 16,000 persons. In the United States there are 7,958 members of Parliament, and each represents 24,504 electors. There is very little difference there compared with Australia. The United Kingdom has 1,630 members of Parliament and there are 33,000 electors to each member. As I have said, comparisons are not always valid. In the United Kingdom there are great county councils which have very much the same powers and responsibilities as the State governments of Australia. Indeed, the Greater London County Council has a budget in excess of that of New South Wales. If we include the county councils, the number of electors to each member is reduced considerably. The Greater London County Council has over 100 members and so also has the London County Council. Similar figures apply to the other great cities of England such as Birmingham and Manchester. The legislative actions of these county councils affect the lives of every person under their control. Therefore, if we make this comparison we find the Australian picture is not so bad as we have been led to believe, and is very similar to that of the United States and the United Kingdom.
Each member of the House of Commons in England represents, in round figures, 87,000 people. This is very close to the figure suggested for the House of Representatives in the Bill before the Senate. It provides that: each member of the House of Representatives shall represent 85,000 persons. So members of the House of Commons represent on an average only 2,000 more persons than the number suggested in the Biil. If we are to examine allegations that we are over-governed we should look at what has happened in Australia over a number of years. 1 find that in 1903 the average population per electorate was 52,000 and the average number of electors was 25,000; in 1948 the corresponding figures were 64,000 and 38,000; in 1955, 75,000 and 42,000; and in 1966, 93,000 and 50,000. So in effect these proposals would still maintain a higher ratio than at any time in the history of this country except the present time, the population per electorate will be 85,000 as against 75,000 in 1955, and there will be roughly 46,000 electors as against 45,000 now. If we examine the figures, I do not think the charge that we are over governed today bears any analysis. I have made these statements because I believe that we should have the record straight.
Senator Wright referred to the position of the smaller or less populous States and the disproportionate representation that they would have with the growth in the size of the House of Representatives. It is rather interesting to note that today New South Wales has per electorate 76,000 people and 41,000 electors; Western Australia has 46,000 people and 23,000 electors; and the little State of Tasmania has 25,000 people and 13,000 electors. So the smaller States have disproportionate representation now. and I do not say this in a critical sense. 1 failed to follow the argument of Senator Wright. If representation were increased, this would not alter these figures, initially at any rate, to any great extent. I make this statement merely because I believe that, in view of some of the things that have been said, the record should be put straight. 1 acknowledge the fact that comparisons between countries are very difficult but as comparisons were made I believe that it is quite valid for me also to make comparisons. 1 do not accept the view that responsibilities of members of Parliament are not increasing in the Federal sphere. I do not accept the arguments of Senator Wright. Whether or not they were made in humorous vein, I could not quite follow the Shakespearean drama that we witnessed. It is beyond question, 1 believe, that with the declining powers of the States and the greater complexity of the problems that face a growing country, which today is reaching nationhood and has to take its place in the world, the responsibilities of members are increasing. If the people are to have proper representation from time to time in accordance with the growth of population, there is a sound case for an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. I state quite frankly and bluntly that I believe this is a sound argument. I believe that the people are entitled to proper representation, lt is of no use to pick out odd cases and say that because of these the people do not get proper representation. The experience in England is of 87,000 people to an electorate. Representation becomes very difficult if the number of people to be served becomes too large.
For these reasons I give my wholehearted support to the legislation. I am prepared to support it at all times - at any time. I do not share what to Senator Gair and Senator Wright is an optimistic outlook but what to me is a pessimistic outlook that when the people of Australia realise that the Parliament today has the power to increase the number of members willynilly if it wishes and that this legislation will limit the Parliament’s power to increase the numbers, they will not support the alteration. For these reasons I support the Bill.
Senator LILLICO (Tasmania) [9.46J- Senator Sim made comparisons with other countries. I know that comparisons often fall to the ground because conditions of representation, method of representation, and other circumstances vary as between various countries. I do not know who compiles the ‘Statesmen’s Year Book’ but I take it to be an authoritative publication. It is interesting to note that this deals with representation in Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, India, New Zealand and the United States of America and relates representation to the number of members per 100,000 persons. In its dictum Australian representation more than doubles that of Great Britain and is very much ahead of that of the United States of America. Australia has 6.50 members of various legislatures per 100,000 persons and the United States of America has only 4.42. Amongst the countries I have mentioned the one with the nearest approach to this country is Canada, with 5.18 members per 100,000 people. Be that as it may, I have no doubt whatever that this country is far in the van in political representation in comparisons of the number of people represented.
One can cite at length the opinions of men like Barton, Quick and Garran and the rest. They gave very lengthy opinions as to the value of the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Undoubtedly they attached great value to it. In 1900 in all probability federation was approached with a good degree of suspicion. The various colonies, as they were then, were suspicious of each other and wondered what would befall them if they entered into a federation with the larger States. They searched about in their minds for guarantees and safeguards and so these conditions were imposed. They were placed in the Constitution because they were deemed necessary to safeguard the smaller States in the proposed Commonwealth. However, at that time the operation of the Constitution was envisaged in a way that was only a shadow of what has eventuated. If the men who are so often quoted on constitutional matters were resurrected today and could see the results of their work and the enormous power of the Commonwealth Parliament - a power which was completely beyond their perspective when the Constitution was formulated - I have no doubt whatever that they would regard the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives as more necessary than ever before.
Senator Wright tonight quoted Barton as saying that political responsibility follows financial responsibility. Of course that is true. I call to mind the words of former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, that there is not a pecuniary impost in the Commonwealth levied by any governmental or semi-governmental body over which the Commonwealth could not take precedence if it so liked to exert itself. It is beyond any doubt that power or potential, power over all governmental and semi-governmental finances is vested in the Commonwealth Parliament.
In all probability, there is a greater necessity today to safeguard the interests o! the smaller States than ever before in the history of the Commonweath. About two years ago I visited the New Zealand House of Parliament and met some members from the South Island. The New Zealand authorities had just taken a census and as a result of it the South Island had lost one or two members in the Parliament. The members to whom I spoke were very concerned about the position. They said that every census taken in New Zealand resulted in a loss of parliamentary membership for the South Island. They claimed that half - or it may have been two-thirds - of the dominion’s population was located in the Auckland Province. The situation was developing that the whole of the dominion, because of the preponderance of representation of the Auckland Province, would be governed by that Province. They wondered what could be done to safeguard against that position and asked me what the position was in this country. I told them about the Senate and the various safeguards. 1 have given that example in order to vindicate the position into which a country can drift under a unitary system of government in the absence of feasible safeguards to prevent that situation developing. Having regard to the ill balanced distribution of population in this country, probably there is a greater need here than in any other country to make certain that the outlying portions of it are adequately safeguarded. We have been over all this ground before - about eighteen months ago. I remember that away back in 1944 Sir Robert Menzies, who was then Leader of the Opposition, claimed that what he termed to be the organic law of the community - he was referring to the Constitution - should not be a matter for party politics; that it should be a matter upon which each individual exercises his freedom of choice. I do not know whether he departed from that point of view in later years, but I remember well reading the sentiments he expressed at that time. I entirely agree with those sentiments.
Senator Wright quoted tonight statements made by Sir Robert Menzies about the small State of Tasmania. The other small States of the Commonwealth can be bracketed with Tasmania. Mr Calwell and Senator McKenna have made statements in this respect on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. Senator McKenna has classed the proposal by the then Opposition to break the nexus as nothing more or less than an onslaught on the small States. In 1948 the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) put up an immensely convincing case in which he set out to prove - and in my opinion did prove - that the argument of more numbers was a fictitious basis on which to base political representation. He went on to explain his reasons. When I read these statements in the light of what has happened since, I achieve a degree of cynicism unsurpassed by me in my lifetime. So it is that I said eighteen months ago that unless it can bc shown that the House of Representatives needs more members, unless it can be shown that the increase in numbers which Mr Holt said was a fictitious basis on which to base political or parliamentary representation is necessary, the case for the holding of a referendum falls to the ground.
I do not think there is any need to increase the membership of the House of Representatives in the way suggested. I believe that a re-defining of the electoral boundaries should have taken place on the existing basis. 1 very much regret that this Bill has been brought forward. I feel that the people of the Commonwealth will say without hesitation that this country docs no: need any more members of Parliament. That is a dictum with which 1 entirely agree.
– ls the honourable senator supporting the referendum?
– No, 1 am not supporting the referendum. I am not supporting this Bill. I shall vote in opposition to it because it has not been clearly demonstrated to me that there is a necessity for more members in the House of Representatives. I do not believe there is that necessity, t do not believe that the founders of the Constitution would eat their words if they were alive today. I believe those other authorities which have expressed opinions in regard to this matter would see their worst fears realised so far as the preponderance of representation of the larger States is concerned, and if they could come back they would say: ‘We wrought belter than we knew’. If this nexus were broken we would see as time went on a gradual increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. This has been demonstrated by Senator Gair, Senator Wright and others. The mere weight of numbers in the other place would eventually make this Senate a shadow of what, it has been in the past.
I intend to vote against this Bill. As only one minor individual in the Commonwealth. I intend to vote No at the subsequent referendum if the Bill is passed.
– The purpose of the Bill before us is twofold. Its first objective is to enable a referendum to be held and the second is to set out the terms of the referendum proposal to be put to the people of Australia. I intend to support the proposal to hold a referendum but I am equally determined to oppose the subject matter of the referendum. It is not the duty of this Senate to withhold from the people of Australia the opportunity to express an opinion on the subject which will be put before them. It is the right of the Australian people to decide whether they want the Constitution to be amended. They should be allowed to decide whether the nexus is to be broken.
I believe that the real objective in this matter is not an increase in the number of members in the House of Representatives but the breaking of the nexus between the two Houses. I can understand the Labor Party supporting this Bill and I can understand it supporting the breaking of the nexus because that is perfectly in line with its overall policy in relation to the Senate, but I nui not understand the Government’s attitude.
We have heard a lot in this debate about the validity of quoting the opinions of men long since passed on and the validity of quoting the opinions of men still active in this Parliament, lt has been said, I think by a distinguished member of the Opposition, that it would be a good thing if all Hansard reports were burned after ten years, but I think an opinion expressed honestly, no matter how long ago, is genuine and has merit because of its intrinsic truth. We have heard very brief quotations from a speech made by the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) on the Representation Bill 1948, but because those quotations did not fully express his opinion on this subject of increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives I shall quote more fully from that speech. He said:
Undoubtedly, the population of Australia has greatly increased since Federation, but a mere increase of population is not the proper test of what a member of Parliament has to do. The population has grown substantially, but so have the means, conveniences and amenities that enable us to cope with the increased numbers of people. The men who went to the first Australian Parliament in Melbourne in 1901 travelled by horse carriage, Cobb’s coach, slow trains and slow ships: but the men who come to the Parliament today from Perth or the northern parts of Queensland fly to Canberra in a matter of hours. The men of those days had no secretaries to assist them in their tasks, no speedy Buicks in which to drive hither and thither-
I do not know why he put in a plug for Buicks - and no greatly expanded Public Service lo examine problems for them and furnish them with the answers. Tn the first Cabinet there were nine Ministers and in the second and third only eight, whereas today the Ministry consists of nineteen men to carry out the weighty tasks that are pressing on them so heavily. But is the test of numbers fair? A cursory examination of the facts will show how hollow that claim is. 1 represent 83,000 or 84.000 people in my electorate of Fawkner, but there is no part of that electorate that 1 cannot drive to by car within fifteen minutes. I would not argue that I have more to do with more than 80,000 constituents than has my colleague, the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Ryan), whose constituency is only a few miles away from mine. He has a scattered and diverse agricultural area to represent. 1 have but two municipalities in my electorate and he has twenty or thirty in his. If honourable members consider the circumstances of the representative of a rural electorate with a much greater area, they will see that his task is much more arduous than that of men who represent compact metropolitan areas. But will the Government’s proposal meet that problem? It will not.
Then he went on to deny the other argument that has been trotted out again - that the issues confronting the Parliament have become more complex. I think a true and correct assessment of the position is that the referendum is not necessary because of a need to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives. The real purpose is to denigrate the Senate. This <s openly avowed by the Opposition and was put forward by Mr Holt in 1948 when, in the speech from which I have quoted, he also advocated the breaking of the nexus.
I cannot support that proposition. It has been canvassed very ably by various speakers in the Senate but the arguments against it have been put with greater strength and I do not propose to reiterate any of them. I oppose the subject matter of the referendum although I am prepared to support the Bill to give to the people of Australia the opportunity to rebut the nonsense that has been foisted upon them on this occasion. I feel confident that the verdict of the people will be clear and that we will hear no more for many years of this proposition, which is designed to destroy the Senate.
– This is a Bill which deals, on the one hand, with the Parliament as it now stands and with the Parliament’s immediate future. It seeks to- bring certain factors up to date and to create a degree of flexibility so that in this modern twentieth century we can meet not only the situation which now exists but also the situation which is likely to exist. On the other hand, the measure is likely to have the most profound influence on parliaments of the more distant future. As the people who debated the Constitution framed it not only for the then immediate future but also for the long distant future, so the Bill now before us contains this most important element. I think that every member of the Senate appreciates the suggestions that have been made by the experts and the opinions that have been proffered one way or another. But as this is a constitutional matter, it has to be referred to the Australian people by way of referendum. This is the democratic process. Many leaders have stated before that in these circumstances they trust the decision of the people. So, I have support for the measure insofar as it submits this matter to a referendum and thereby refers it to the Australian public for a decision.
In reaching my judgment in relation to the subject matter of the Bil, I should like to make one or two comments that are more in the nature of an inquiry. I hope that the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), when he replies to the debate, will bring some light to bear and provide some information on the questions that are causing certain members of the Senate some concern. When introducing the Constitution Alteration (Parliament) Bill 1967 the Minister said, amongst other things:
Unless the requirement that the number of members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators, is deleted from section 24, any increase in the House of Representatives must be accompanied by the increase of half that number in the Senate. While this provision is not to be interpreted with exact mathematical precision - indeed, the present House consists of slightly more members than the 120 that results from a strict doubling of the number of senators - it is nevertheless clear, and it has been the consistent view of constitutional advisers over many years, that it is not open to the Parliament to increase the size of the House of Representatives by a very small- number without at the same time increasing the number of senators.
Whilst acknowledging, of course, that this is a fact, I think that some matters relating to it need a little examination and thought.
The Minister for Supply went on to say that other parliaments do not have this kind of limitation. This may well be true. But I suggest that this is relevant to the Australian scene. Because in the nature of our Federation our States are large States, this has a bearing on the situation. Formerly, each one of these large States grew as a colony. From the time of Federation the equality of Senate representation was established and the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament was made firm. The link between the Houses became part of our constitutional parliamentary arrangement. The link is in fact the nexus to which we have referred. This performed some very useful things and some very important things, the main one being that it provided for an equality of representation. lt is proposed by this legislation that this link shall be broken. We are glad to know that in the breaking of this link there is no danger of the breaking of the equality and no danger is presented to the preservation of equality as far as the Stales are concerned. There is provision for an increase in the size of the membership of the House of Representatives to meet the growing needs of the Australian people, 1 do not necessarily quarrel with this kind of idea. I do nol suggest that the increase is unwarranted. Parliament is the nation’s biggest business, lt is becoming bigger, more involved and more complicated. I for one would sooner have more elected representatives than fewer elected representatives and more staff people. I would sooner have more elected members to whom (he people of the country could go directly than have an extending arrangement of agents and other such officers. But I do suggest that in this arrangement, if the referendum is carried and nexus is broken, there could be some elements of danger and this is where T reach the point of asking the Minister for assurances on this matter particularly for the less populous States. lt is evident not only from what has been quoted to us today but also from what I imagine is our own reading that at the time of Federation the founding fathers had special regard for the needs of the less populous States. I am concerned not so much with the Senate next year or in ten years time but rather with the Senate at the turn of the century and beyond. Quotations and figures which were presented to us tonight gave us an idea of what the situation might be at that time. It is a fact of life in my view that numbers do have a marked influence in the total scheme of governmental affairs. A representative of a less populous State is constantly aware of this. It is also a fact of Australian history, I suggest, that for a long time to come there will be a greater proportion of members from two if not three of the eastern States. These are the States where so much of our natural and financial wealth lies and from which so much of our historical development has emanated.
The States may continue to have equality of membership in the Senate, but in the course of years the House of Representatives may have 290 members or 300 members and the Senate still only sixty members. I repeat what has been said already in this debate: in the total scheme of things the influence of numbers in the more populous and more powerful eastern States must influence to a very large degree the pattern of legislation and government and, indeed, the whole structure of parliament. This will be so unless, as Senator Cormack and others have said, the senators of those years and the intervening years perform their duties not only so seriously but also so expertly, and exercise their influence so profoundly and so effectively that they can delay any measures that the more populous House brings forward which the Senate considers not to be in the best interests of Australia. But even allowing for the fact that senators might do this, we very well could reach the situation where a measure of some importance to the country could well have been passed by a very large House of Representatives, brought to a very small Senate and held up by that very small Senate. If the government of the day was not particularly favourably disposed towards the Senate this could well place the Senate at a very distinct disadvantage. Therefore, if the government of the day did not feel favourably disposed towards the Senate, this would reduce its status in the eyes of the people and lead eventually to its further diminution or its abolition.
I do not feel that we want to leave unsaid the fact that there are communities, groups and organisations, political and otherwise, in our society today that have as their accepted platform, and indeed proclaim, the abolition of the Senate. It is interesting to note that most of these groups and political parties support not only the Bill but also the subject matter of the referendum. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) has extended this argument when speaking on the Bill not so very long ago. He said:
We would also have hoped that the people would have the opportunity of including in the Constitution a provision for solving deadlocks between the Houses by joint sittings before and without a double dissolution. Nevertheless if this referendum is carried it does not make it any more difficult to have these other recommendations put at another time. These steps are supported by us on their intrinsic merits.
I put it to you, Mr President, that at a joint sitting the Senate would be very much outnumbered unless some arrangement were made for some equality of representation. This situation could lead to a double dissolution. A senator who had been elected only a few months before for a six years term could be in and out of the Senate and the whole factor of continuity through the Senate would be upset. Such an event could lead ultimately to the destruction, the termination of the Senate.
We could quote points of view that have been brought forward in favour of retaining the relationship between the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is where 1 am seeking further information from the Minister. There is now a relationship between the two Houses. In the terms of the Bill this relationship is to be completely broken. If we cannot retain this 2 to 1 relationship, is there not some other relationship or some other ratio which would continue the link between the two Houses as originally intended and as has been maintained during the years? Sir John Downer, speaking at the beginning of this Federal system, drew attention to the preponderance of members and the danger that lay therein. He also highlighted, as did other speakers, the necessity for retaining some kind of ratio between the two Houses, not only for the benefit of the Parliament but in particular for the welfare and benefit of what are called the smaller States. These smaller States will exist for a long time in Australian history. While we have this pattern of large geographical areas I suggest that there is something to be said for maintaining some kind of relationship between the two Houses. So when the Minister replies to this debate I want him to assure not only the Senate but also the nation regarding the safeguarding of the Senate’s powers and status and indeed its future, because I think that a relationship can be maintained. I said earlier that I would support the Bill. I seek the Minister’s guidance on the matters I have raised, particularly as they relate to the smaller States. As a senator from South Australia I feel that I should direct the Senate’s attention to these matters.
– For more than sixty years Australia has lived and prospered under the Australian Constitution which has worked well. I ask honourable senators: if the Constitution has any limitations have they impeded our national growth? The Bill that we are debating is a Bill for an Act To alter the Constitution’ - and this is the point - ‘so that the Number of Members of the House of Representatives may be increased without necessarily increasing the Number of Senators’. That is the crux of the Bill. The preamble goes on to state:
This Act may be cited as the Constitution Alteration (Parliament) 1967.
There is then set out what it is intended to do in relation to the Constitution. The Bill seeks to alter the Constitution in several distinct ways, the chief of which, to be rather brief, is to omit sections 24, 25, 26 and 27 and to insert other sections in their stead.
No-one has yet denied that the Constitution has not worked. No-one has yet produced evidence to show that it should be changed. Not even the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) advanced one argument that could be placed before the people to show why the Constitution should be changed. After all, the people will be the arbiters on this question. No doubt the Bill will be passed. If it is passed and if a referendum is held, I want to ensure that the people know what they are voting on. The first part of section 24 of the Constitution states:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
That is the first part that it is proposed to scrap, if I may use the term. But before we do that, let us sit down and ascertain whether this provision has affected the welfare of the Australian people. Has it failed in any regard? Not one person who is prepared to advocate the omission of that provision of the Constitution has given to me or to the public one instance in which it has worked against the welfare of the Australian people. Surely this concerns their welfare. It is not a matter of what we members of Parliament may think. Can any honourable senator truthfully say that in the last two months or twelve months he has been approached by an ordinary person - not someone who has a vested interest in this matter - with a request that this provision should be omitted from the Constitution? The answer is no.
I shall proceed to the next question: why is it desired to alter this part of the Constitution? I want those who arc in favour of the alteration of the Constitution to advance reasons why it should be altered.
– Politicians are overworked.
– That is a good story.
– Yes, it is, but Senator Cavanagh has never supported it by any sound argument. Let him go to the public and to the workers whom he represents and tell them that he is overworked in his present position. Tomorrow there will be fifty men willing to take over his job. Senator Cavanagh says that he is overworked. I do not believe that. I want anyone else who says that he is overworked to stand up in this chamber or in another place and say it publicly and produce evidence to show that he is overworked. I am not at all concerned with what Sir Robert Menzies said some years ago. I am not the slightest bit concerned with what members of the House of Representatives may say.
– We are concerned about what the honourable senator is saying.
-I will protect myself. J am quite prepared to meet my masters. Perhaps some honourable senators opposite are not so anxious to do that. However, let us get down to bedrock. 1 shall deal with this question of overwork because it was mentioned in the second reading speech of the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty). I say to honourable members: ‘Go out to the public and sell that one if you can.’ I certainly am not going to attempt to sell it to the public.
I have heard members of the House of Representatives say what they do. While some of them have been absent overseas it has been my privilege to act for them in their electorates. I have not found that there has been any great pressure of work. If a member of the House of Representatives who has 60,000 or 80,000 electors in his electorate says that he is overworked, then it might be said, although I think it would be misguided, that a senator who represents a whole State is vastly overworked. Is there any other reason that the supporters of this Bill can advance as to why we should break the nexus except perhaps the argument that they are not game to advance, that there are vested interests in this matter?
– Who are they?
– The members of the Australian Labor Party will not even speak on this Bill, because they know that their speeches will be recorded in Hansard and people will be constrained to look at them in perhaps five or ten years time. I shall return to this question of breaking the nexus, as it is termed.
Call ofthe Senate - Fauna Conservation
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Before the Senate adjourns I wish to make clear the position in relation to the call of the Senate. The call was fixed for today and, pursuant to Standing Orders, was placed on the notice paper as the first Order of the Day. However, because standing order 242 requires a call to be made before the third reading of any Bill by which an alteration of the Constitution is proposed, the call was postponed by the Senate until after the further consideration of the constitution alteration Bills. Those Bills have not yet been given a second reading and therefore the stage has not yet been reached when a call should take place. In the circumstances, the call will be placed on the notice paper as an Order of the Day for tomorrow.
– On 26th October last, on an occasion similar to this, at least five honourable senators participated in a discussion - it was one of many - about fauna conservation. It will be recalled that in that discussion Senator Henty, as the spokesman for the Government, pointed out the way in which the Government had curbed the export of certain fauna. He went on to say that in this financial year the Commonwealth would give to the States in general funds a sum of $85?m, that what they did with it was virtually their own business, and that that was where the Commonwealth’s obligation ended.
In the time at my disposal tonight 1 want to submit to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who is at the table, a plan whereby the Commonwealth Government could follow a precedent that was established by the Chifley Labor Government in 1949. Before I do so, 1 think it would be well for mc to examine the period between October last and the present time as it relates to the conservation of fauna. My remarks will be related to New South Wales, but I am sure that other States are experiencing similar problems. I draw the attention of the Minister to a report recently submitted by Mr McQueen, a field officer attached to the Fauna Panel of New South Wales. The report proves conclusively that, despite the fact that the Meat Industry Consultative Committee has strongly suggested that the export of kangaroo meat be curtailed, the consensus of opinion is that the unlimited export of this commodity has led to a decline in the number of kangaroos and that if we do not take appropriate action in the near future we will never be able to overcome the loss. I do not intend to delay the Senate by enumerating the basic problems that are experienced in relation to fauna reserves and how additional areas are acquired. However, I make the pertinent point that the experience of the Canadian Government is worth noting. It is undeniable that the Federal Government in Australia should be more or less the pace setter or, perhaps I should say, the co-ordinator of activities as between the States.
In 1949 the Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Labour and National Service, agreed to an excise amounting to 7d per ton being imposed on coal in three States of the Commonwealth to provide funds for long service leave for the miners. I am indebted for this information to Mr Mahon, the General Secretary of the Miners Federation. A major breakthrough was made in the coal industry. J direct attention to the answer to Question No. 879 in which it was pointed out that the export of kangaroo meat amounted to 1,307,771 lb per quarter. I emphasise the export trade; but there is also a fairly large internal trade between the States. If this Government emulated the action of the Chifley Government in 1949 and if it imposed a levy of 5c on every pound of kangaroo meat exported, it would be able to raise a sum of $261,000 per annum. It is undeniable that a considerable sum of money would then be available to the various States to enable them to undertake crash programmes for the conservation of fauna, including that which has been suggested in New South Wales. I know that in that State additional national parks have been classified recently, but what has been done is insufficient.
Personally, I believe that there should be a total ban on the export of kangaroo meat. The Meat Industry Consultative Committee is of the same opinion. However, we must be realists. Those who are operating in this, industry are taking all but are giving nothing in return. There is no other way in which one can describe what they are doing. During the last recess one of the exporters introduced himself to me and said: You and I have one thing in common. We are interested in the future of the kangaroo. But perhaps beyond that we part company.’ I asked: ‘What is your idea about it? You are doing all right out of it. How do you propose to maintain the supply of kangaroo meat?’ He replied: ‘I do not know. I suppose it is a matter for the Government.’
It would be very easy for me to indulge in a cheap form of demagoguery and to ask: ‘Why does the Government not do something?’ .1 have offered a clear cut plan to the Government to raise funds to conserve our fauna. If the industry started to squeal about the Government’s action !n striking a levy, I would remind it that at the time of the cessation of slavery in the southern States of America it was stated that the cotton industry would go to the wall. But that was just rubbish. The industry survived. If after paying the levy I have suggested those who are engaged in the industry could still keep going, well and good. But if they could not, they could be employed in a more humane occupation. 1 know that I speak for many hundreds of fauna groups throughout the Commonwealth. If the action I have suggested could be taken by past governments in other fields, this Government could do the same in this field.
On 6th April 1966 the Minister for Northern Affairs and National Resources in the Canadian Parliament called what we would describe as a Premiers Conference to deal with a similar problem. That conference produced a lengthy document, which I shall not read in detail tonight. Under the heading ‘Co-ordination’ this statement appeared:
Many forms of wildlife are mobile and regularly cross boundaries between jurisdictions. Therefore what is done in one area may affect wildlife in another area.
That statement emphasises the fact that consultation between governments and amongst government agencies is of particular importance.
I point out to the Minister for Customs and Excise that tonightI have drawn attention to a classic precedent for the raising of revenue. I have also pointed out that, as indicated by an authoritative body, there has been a further deterioration in the last four months, As the Canadian Government has conducted a general provincial and federal government inquiry and has come up with clearcut proposals, I sincerely suggest that the Minister take this matter up with his various colleagues. In view of the increased revenue that it would produce and what could be done for the State, I confidently look forward to my submissions becoming a reality in the not far distant future.
– The export of kangaroo meat comes within the administration of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann). I will bring to his attention the submissions that Senator Mulvihill has made in this adjournment debate. It must be understood that the export of kangaroo meat is a revenue earner for Australia in the sense that it earns overseas income in much the same way as does the export of beef or any other primary product. It is a question of policy whether this should be allowed to continue. Therefore, I will refer the matter to the Minister.
The honourable senator opposes the export of kangaroo meat but says that if it is to continue there should be a levy of, say,5c per lb on it to produce revenue for expenditure on the protection of fauna in Australia. I do not believe that the Government would countenance this proposal for a moment.
– Why not?
– Let me develop my argument. If revenue from each source is to be directed to a particular type of expenditure, we depart from the fundamental principle of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and there will always be some new demand for the earmarking of a particular source of revenue to provide for a particular function of government. We have moved away from that principle. I believe that child endowment is a classic example of that. Originally, revenue was to be raised by certain means and that money was to be used for the payment of child endowment. Under State legislation money is raised by lotteries and paid to hospitals. But we have moved away from that, as a prinicple of management of government funds.
I do not think it would be a good proposition to suggest that, because kangaroo meat is being exported, we should impose a levy on it and use the revenue so produced for the protection of fauna. If there is a case for the protection of fauna over and above what governments are doing at the present time, that should be treated by the Government in the normal way; that is, as a matter of policy and per medium of the Treasury. On the issue of whether we should export kangaroo meat at all, I will put the honourable senator’s case to the Minister for Primary Industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 March 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670307_senate_26_s33/>.