26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Mou. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– ] ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air a simple straightforward question requiring merely a simple straightforward answer.
– That is by way of preface.
– Order! That may be the honourable senator’s idea of a preface but it is not mine.
– As the public is vitally interested, and realising that depreciation allowances would not ordinarily be applied to aircraft used by the armed services, due to exigencies and changing conditions, but realising that aircraft in what I understand is classified as 34 Transport Squadron Royal Australian Air Force are used for parliamentary business in the transport of so-called VI’Ps under the direction, I understand, of the Prime Minister, what is the rate of depreciation applied to the aircraft in this Squadron which at present serve this purpose? What will be the rate of depreciation to be applied to the new aircraft which are in the process of being acquired, namely two BACIII jet liners which will each cost $3m, I understand, three Mystere 20 executive jets each to cost Sim, and two Hawker Siddeley prop jet airliners each to cost Si. 2m? Would it be correct to assume that irrespective of whether these aeroplanes are in use or not the depreciation would amount to a minimum $500,000 and a maximum Sim a year? I know the answer in terms of business depreciation but out of respect I will await the answer of the Minister.
– I am sure the honourable senator has been in this chamber long enough to know that that question obviously should be placed on the notice paper.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can he inform us what is the delay in making available the report of the Loder Committee? When may the Senate expect copies of this report?
– 1 am not in possession of the facts. I shall seek the information for the honourable senator and let him have it as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to either the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a claim made in the annual report of the South Australian Service to Youth Council Incorporated, that some of the Council’s field officers had noticed instances in which employers were refusing to engage youths of call-up age? Will the Minister investigate this claim and if it is true initiate action, including legal action if necessary, through the Department of Labour and National Service to prevent any such discrimination?
– 1 have not seen tha statement to which the honourable senator refers. He can deal with this question in whichever way seems to him to be most suitable. He may place it on the notice paper or ask me to take it to the Minister for Labour and National Service and get a reply for him. I will leave it to the honourable senator to decide which course he wants to adopt.
– 1 ask a question of the Minister for Education and Science. The Minister will recall that in his statement on university research expenditure he informed the Senate that the Australian Universities Commission had asked each of the Vice-Chancellors to advise the amount allocated from their research grants for research activities in the years 1967-69. Has this information now been obtained?
– I think that the honourable senator is referring to the amounts of money which the universities are to make available for research from their recurrent grants as distinct from the special research grants and grants from the Australian Research Grants Committee. These are sums of money which some of the Vice-Chancellors forgot to mention in announcing the amount of money available for research for the universities concerned. They referred only to amounts available for research from special research grants. In the case of the University of Melbourne the amount will be 5367,500 this year, in the case of the University of Sydney it will be $359,000 this year; and in the case of the University of New South Wales, it will be approximately $358,000 this year.
– I wish to address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it the Government’s view that the forthcoming referendum on the breaking of the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives-
– Order! That matter is before the Senate at the present time. I would advise honourable senators to turn over the form on which questions should bc written and read the information on the back of it. They will then be better informed and will not ask extraordinary questions such as those we have been hearing.
– Can the Minister for Education and Science advise whether the Commonwealth Government has any plans for assisting in the establishment of a university college in the Riverina? Is the Minister aware that the Riverine University League wishes to send a deputation to him in order to outline all the reasons and facts concerning the establishment of a university college? On behalf of the League I ask whether the Minister will meet this distinguished delegation at a time mutually suitable to himself and the League.
– The question of the possible establishment in the Riverina of a university college, or as suggested by the New South Wales Government, a junior college to cover only two years of tertiary education and that only in arts and science, was the subject of discussions between the Australian Universities Commission, the people on the spot and representatives of the New South Wales Government. A report has been made by the Commission relating to its advice in this matter and is being considered by the Government. On the question of a deputation, I am aware that some people from the Riverina are seeking to meet and talk with me about this matter. I am aware of it because I have been so informed by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong). I have informed both those honourable members already that if these people wish to come to see me - and they have asked those members to be the introducing agents - I shall see them.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Seeing that it is proposed to introduce $5 notes very soon, is it the intention of the Government, as has been suggested in some quarters, to take the $2 notes out of circulation as a long range plan?
– I have never heard it suggested that with the introduction of $5 notes the $2 notes will be withdrawn. Speaking off the cuff, I hope they will not be withdrawn.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate when it is proposed to provide a terminal at the Canberra airport which will be capable of handling the ever increasing flow of traffic to and from the nation’s capital? If and when such a terminal is constructed, will it be air conditioned? Will it contain sufficient accommodation and refreshment, communication and toilet facilities to cope not only with normal traffic but also with the greatly increased number of people who must use the terminal when the airport is temporarily closed because of weather conditions or when there is a delay in the arrival and departure of planes? If no plans are in hand to provide such a terminal, will the Minister inform the Senate whether any interim improvement can be made to the present inadequate facilities?
– I ask the honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper because, whilst I can give an answer in part, I think there is an answer in detail to be given in relation to the specific matters that he has mentioned. If the question is placed on the notice paper, I would hope to be able to give the honourable senator an answer very quickly.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister discuss with the Postmaster-General the question as to when the report on the next phase of country television will be available for consideration by the Senate? Will he ascertain whether the report contains any hope for the early provision of television services in the Upper Murray area and the middle and upper Eyre Peninsula area of South Australia?
– Yes, 1 shall seek the information from the PostmasterGeneral and let the honourable senator know accordingly.
– Has the Minister for Science and Education any information yet as lo the number of students who are unable to gain admission to various faculties in Australian universities in 1967 because of the application of the quota system? If not, when may we expect him to be in a position to give the Senate the figures, whether they be approximate or final?
– Quite a number of universities do not apply quotas in any faculty. However, the honourable senator may expect me to give the figures in relation to universities which do apply quotas in some faculties, and to indicate the size of the quotas. I do not know that anybody would bc able to give him figures of great significance on the numbers of people who sought to gain admission to a university but did not gain it because of the application of quotas. Many people apply for admission to more than one university. That distorts the figures. It is interesting to note that in one big State in particular - New South Wales - it is assessed that there will be a considerable number of vacancies in universities this year because the application of the Wyndham scheme will make the number of people seeking admission very small. So 1 would imagine that in respect of that Slate the answer would probably be none. It is very difficult to get figures of significance for the honourable senator for the reasons that I have given. But tomorrow 1 will let him have, in the Senate if he so desires, a list of the universities that do apply quotas and the faculties in which they apply them.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that in my State of Victoria telephone subscribers who use the telephone in normal hours of business are required to pay 20c each for calls to areas which are located not more than twenty-five miles away? Does that position apply in near capital city areas or in other States? Docs the Minister consider that this is a fair policy on the part of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? Whatever the explanation, will the Minister seek alleviation of such charges where there is such a short distance between subscribers?
– The honourable senator asks me whether a statement about a charge is a fact and then proceeds to say that the charge is not fair. Until I obtain the facts and find out whether the statement is a fact, I cannot make a judgment on the fairness or otherwise of the charge. In all the circumstances, 1 think the honourable senator should put his question on the notice paper. If he does that, we will establish the facts first and make judgments afterwards.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Institute of Agriculture in the University of Western Australia has developed a new strain of clover known as Uniwager? This development is considered to be a major breakthrough in the reduction of the high oestrogen content of the present Western Australian clover, which is blamed for low fertility rates among stock in that State. Does the Department of Primary Industry favour the deal made between the firm of George Fielder and Co. to export a ton of this seed to India to be cropped in the northern winter and to return an estimated thirty tons of seed for distribution at a monopoly price to Western Australian farmers? Will the various government instrumentalities, particularly the Department of Health, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Department of Primary Industry, be on the alert to ensure that exotic weeds or diseases such as blue tongue and foot and mouth disease will not be admitted with the importation of Uniwager clover seed?
– In reply to the second part of the question I say that I am sure the honourable senator need not have any worries about the diseases that he mentioned coming in, because a very strict watch is kept on the possible introduction of diseases through seeds. In regard to the first part of the question, I am not aware of the facts. I have heard something of the plant that the honourable senator mentioned. I think I had better refer the question to the Minister for Primary Industry and obtain an answer from him for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. In view of the fact that the Minister for Territories apparently made a Press statement recently in which he is alleged to have implied that independence may never be granted to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, will the Minister inform the Parliament that the Government will now take the necessary action to cause the Minister for Territories to make and retain written copies of all future Press statements when he is commenting publicly on the Territories, so that there will be no repetition of the embarrassment to the people of Papua and New Guinea that resulted from the statement that the Minister made a few days ago?
– It is perfectly true that the other day the Minister for Territories made a statement which, he has pointed out, was reported perfectly accurately in the ‘Age’ newspaper and inaccurately in some other newspapers. That being the case, the basis for the question appears not to exist. The Minister has indicated the truth and accuracy of the report in the ‘Age’.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that when Ministers and departmental officers use official cars, a charge is entered against the department concerned? If this is correct why cannot a charge be made against the departments concerned when Ministers and departmental officers use VIP aircraft?
– As I understand the position, ministerial cars are a charge against the Department of the Interior. When authorised officers use motor cars, a charge is made against the department concerned. I understand the Prime Minister made some comment on the use of VIP aircraft recently. I think the charges for the use of these aircraft are made against the Department of Defence. If the honourable senator will put the second part of his question on notice I shall endeavour to get some information for him.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that Australia is at war and an emergency situation could develop in any State or country area of Australia, will the Minister direct that the Royal Australian Navy, the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force practice emergency deliveries of food and other supplies to isolated areas in the Northern Territory, apart from Darwin and Alice Springs?
– Toe honourable senator has suggested how the Navy, the Army and the Air Force should operate in some emergency. To the best of my knowledge all the Services are always ready in case of emergency to transport supplies and carry out any other relief duties. I have never known them to fail. 1 believe the Services are well organised for this role. However, if the honourable senator is not satisfied with the task the Services are performing I suggest that he put his question on notice and I shall endeavour to get further information for him.
– 1 direct a question io the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Did a book bomb explode at the Melbourne General Post Office on 17th November 1966? Has investigation of this matter been confined to the Victorian Police or were Commonwealth authorities also co-opted? ls the Minister in a position to report on the result of the investigation?
– <! am not in a position to report on the investigation nor do I know of the circumstances relating to it. M: the honourable senator will put his question on notice I will get the information for him.
(Question No. 22)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation upon notice:
As part of Australia’s efficient air safely procedures, is there any system in operation to keep nil Australian civil aviation authorities informed as to the approximate whereabouts of any delinquent space vehicles launched by other countries and which may decide to seek asylum in Australia’.’
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I believe that information of the nature referred to by the honourable senator would first come to the notice of appropriate officers of the Department of Supply, and the release of the information is therefore a matter for my colleage the Minister for Supply as distinct from my colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation. In the event of such information being received in the Department of Civil Aviation, however, 1 am assured that it would be disseminated to all aviation authorities concerned in accordance with established practice, if it were considered to be of significance to the safe conduct of aviation in Australia.
– Pursuant to Section 70 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1966 I present the following paper:
Tenth Annual Report of the President of tha Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the year ended 13 August 1966.
– by leave - I move:
I ask for leave to make my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to:
That a House Committee be appointed, to consist of the President and Senators Cotton, O Byrne, Ormonde, Toohey, Webster and Wedgwood, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in the following terms:
That a Joint Committee be appointed to -
examine and report on all proposals for modifications or variations of the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs published in the ‘Commonwealth of Australia Gazette’ on the nineteenth day of November, 1925, as previously modified or varied, which are referred to the Committee by the Minister for the Interior; and
examine and report on such other matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory as may be referred to the Committee by the Minister for the Interior.
That the Committee consist of two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister, two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, three senators appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two senators appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in tha Senate.
That every appointment of a member of. the Committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the members of the Committee shall hold office as a joint committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of lime.
That the Committee elect as Chairman of the Committee one of the members appointed by the ‘Leader of the Government in the Senate.
That the Chairman of the Committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
That the Committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of ils members and to refer to such a sub-committee any matter which the Committee is empowered to examine.
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time and that, any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.
That five members of the Committee, including the Chairman or Deputy Chairman, constitute a quorum of the Committee, and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of the sub-committee.
That in matters of procedure the Chairman or Deputy Chairman presiding at the meeting have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the chairman or Deputy Chairman have a deliberative vote only.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to:
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by Message No. 6 of the House of Representatives with reference to the appointment of a joint committee to examine and report on certain matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory.
That the provisions of that resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 314), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator MATTNER (South Australia) which I made last night, when I spoke for a few minutes on the proposed alteration of our Constitution. I made the point that for over sixty years our Constitution has worked well and as far as is known there is no great desire on the part of the public of Australia to alter it in accordance with this Bill. This measure, if it becomes an Act, will alter the Constitution so that the number of members of the House of Representatives may be increased without necessarily increasing the number of senators, lt goes a little further to provide that the Constitution to be is altered by omitting from the third paragraph of section 7 the words six senators’ twice occurring and inserting in their stead the words ‘ten senators’. We have been told that that proposed insertion of those words is a concession to the Senate. Then the Bill goes further and sets out to omit sections 24, 25, 26 and 27 of the Constitution and to insert a new section in their place. This is rather an interesting exercise. 1 think this Bill is easily the most important legislation that will come before the Senate during the current sessional period. I believe that the sponsors of this Bill should give to this House the reasons why the changes are sought because every honourable senator must admit that if the referendum is carried it will have far reaching effects and will affect the people of Australia in many ways.
Why are the sponsors of this Bill asking that section 24 of the Constitution be deleted? They say that they want to break the nexus, or the link, between the two Houses. I accept that as the primary objective of the Bill. That objective is contained in the very first words of the Bill, which state: so that the number of members of the House of Representatives may be increased without necessarily increasing the number of senators.
I looked through the speech of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) in a search for information as to the need for the change. It is said that members of the House of Representatives are overworked. I challenged that proposition last night. I again challenge anybody in this House or the other House to prove that he is overworked.
– I am sorry I cannot explain it to the honourable senator because he would not understand. 1 am reminded of a story of the depression when a man who was out of work went to a circus for a job. He was told: ‘Yes, you can have a job. Get into the lion’s cage, look him straight in the eyes and make out that you are not afraid.’ The man said: ‘No, I couldn’t take the job. I couldn’t be so deceitful.’ 1 wonder how many members of the House of Representatives or any other Parliament will look into the eyes of their constituents and tell them that they are overworked. I do not think many of them could be so deceitful. If the Australian people are told that members of Parliament are overworked, they will have the right to say yea or nay to that proposition. I believe that they will say nay. Facts and figures as to the number of members of Parliaments in Australia are available. I think it is safe to say that we have ample numbers to do the work required.
I ‘want to refer to one or two other matters that have arisen in this debate. Senator Henty in his second reading speech when appealing for the deletion of section 24 of the Constitution - and this is the very keystone of the Bill - said: 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.
That is true. At present the Government wishes to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives by about twelve, to a total of about 135. That is the reason why it wants to break the nexus. But if the Government wanted to increase the number of senators for each State by one, the present nexus would allow 132 members in the House of Representatives. The Constitution allows this to be done. In short, the number could be increased constitutionally and the number obtained would be the number the Government wants in the House of Representatives.
We have heard the argument that the Senate could not have eleven senators for each State because this would produce further deadlocks. But the more arithmetic one does on that proposition the more one finds that it would in fact be less likely to create a deadlock, particularly if in three States six senators, and in the remaining three States five senators, were elected at each election. With a total of thirty-three vacancies to be filled at each election I do not know how a deadlock could arise. I have not yet heard in the debate any sponsor or supporter of the Bill provide any proof of the statement that more deadlocks would be created. Let those honourable senators refute my claim. How anyone could get a deadlock out of thirtythree votes is beyond me. I say it cannot be done. If any senator can prove me wrong let him do so.
If there were one additional senator for each Stale there would be a total addition of eighteen to both Houses of the Parliament - twelve in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate. Further, the public would know that there could be no deviation from those numbers. More importantly, there would be no additional cost involved to achieve this result and it would be achieved constitutionally. Imagine the cost that will be involved in holding the proposed referendum.
If it is claimed that a referendum is necessary, then a referendum could be held for the purpose of altering the ratio of the nexus. The Constitution does not mean to convey that the ratio of two to one must stand forever. If the public agreed, the ratio could be altered, but do not let us abolish it. In this case the number of senators could remain at sixty. If the ratio were made nine to four, the result would be 60 senators and 135 members of the House of Representatives - exactly what the Government wants. In addition, the public would know that those numbers could not be increased unless it were done constitutionally. If the Government then wanted to enlarge the House of Representatives it could adopt the democratic approach about which it has spoken so much and give the people the right to vote on the proposal at a referendum.
When I commenced my speech last night I. asked whether there had been any Australia wide demand for an increase in the number of members in the House of Representatives. I asked that question deliberately, thinking that perhaps some of the sponsors of the Bill in this chamber would tell me whether there had been a demand and whence the demand had come. Everyone who has supported this Bill to date has remained silent on that point because they know, and the public believes, that we have enough members of Parliament in Australia today. It is freely rumoured everywhere that the only request for this measure has come from New South Wales.
– But the honourable senator does not rely on rumour, does he?
– Oh, the Minister says that I must not rely on rumour.
– lt is a very chancy rumour in this field of living.
– Will the Minister go further and deny that the only request has come from New South Wales from one political organisation?
– I most certainly will.
– I will accept that statement which will appear in Hansard and will deal with that question later.
– 1 will repeat it
– Very good. That is all right. We have the Minister recorded as saving that there is no demand from a political organisation in New South Wales.
– 1 did not say that. The honourable senator has twisted what I said.
– 1 have not twisted it. Honourable senators may read Hansard.
– I will make a personal explanation.
– I said that the rumour is so and so and the Minister came in like the tide. Unfortunately, he has been swamped by the waves. Now, the request has come from New South Wales because if a redistribution were carried out that State would lose one seat. Does the Minister deny that?
– That is not what we were discussing.
– Does the Minister deny that New South Wales would lose one seat? That is the position. I repeat, pressure did come from New South Wales. New South Wales would lose one member out of forty-six if there were a redistribution. That State would lose 1 /46th of its representation in the House of Representatives.
That is one of the reasons why there has been this strong pressure that the nexus should be broken. If the babes in the woods on the other side of the chamber who support this Bill will cease interjecting and allow me to finish they will then be able to have their say. This must bc hurting somebody. Contrast what is happening in New South Wales to what happened in South Australia in 1934. South Australia had seven members in 1934 but we lost one. The figure was reduced to six. We lost l/7th of our representation. There was not one word of sympathy from New South Wales at that time yet today, because New South Wales may lose l /46th of its representation, we have this Bill thrust upon us. I think this is fair comment to make. To maintain that one member for New South Wales - and honourable members and honourable senators would not deny this - we are to have a referendum which will cost at least £1,400,000. In addition we are going to have from twelve to fourteen new members, estimated to cost $300,000 annually. If the usual pattern is followed in the House of Representatives, which has twenty-six Ministers - that is a ratio of eleven members to two Ministers - we will have two new Ministers at an added cost. It may be just coincidental or one of those things that happen in life that in 1948 the membership of the Senate and the House of Representatives was increased in a constitutional way - 1 have heard a lot said about this - and the Government that brought in that change in a constitutional manner was defeated the next year. Maybe that was just coincidental. 1 want to go a little further on this question. I would like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) to give me this information. There is one thing that is worrying, not only me, but the public in general. It was stated in the second reading speech not only in the Senate but also in another place that this will be the first time that the Government has limited the number of people in an electorate to a definite number. Tn this case the number will be 85,000. Many people have asked me: ‘Why is it to be so limited? We cannot have less than 85,000 people in an electorate.’ That impression is in people’s minds and it has never been corrected. People say: Under this Bill the Government has limited the number of people in an electorate to 85,000; it cannot be less.’ I ask the Minister whether that is what is meant. Is it correct that the number of people in an electorate cannot be less than 85,000.
– Yes, people as distinct from electors.
– That means that in each electorate there cannot be fewer than 85,000; it cannot be less. I hope that the Minister will reconsider his reply.
– Not in each electorate.
– That is the divisor figure.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Mattner has the call.
– I accept all of this. I want information. I do not want any misunderstanding on this matter. People believe that the number of electors in each electorate must be at least 85,000.
– That is wrong.
– That provision is to be inserted in the Constitution.
– That is a divisor figure to determine the number of seats.
– That is what is stated in the Minister’s second reading speech. Of course, the provision will be conditioned by the Electoral Act and the Representation Act more than two years ago and it will be modified by the Bill that is before the Senate today. This matter has never been explained to the people. I point out to honourable senators that many people believe that there must be at least 85,000 electors in each electorate.
– Read proposed section 24 (3).
– I shall come to that in a moment. I want the Minister to make it perfectly clear that there are other matters which will decide the number of electors in each electorate. It has been said that at least we will have a definite number and will not have the great disparity of numbers in our electorates that we have had in the past. We shall have no such thing. If the Government is not prepared to undertake a redistribution there will still be an enormous disparity in numbers in the elec torates. That does away completely with the provision that each electorate must have 85,000 people.
Another very interesting matter has to be considered when we come to this question of the divisor. I have the Bill before me. Let us see whether we can reach one or two points of agreement. I think that Senator Branson is as concerned as I am about this matter. A unique situation arises so far as the divisor is concerned. It affects Western Australia, the State from which Senator Branson comes. When we take the population and divide it by 85,000 we find that there is a certain number left over. If this Bill is passed Western Australia will be entitled to eleven members, not ten.
– No. It is the number that is decided by Parliament. It is to be not less than 85,000.
– All right. But it is possible to have a greater number.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I suggest that Senator Mattner address his remarks to the Chair.
– I shall do that with the greatest of pleasure, Mr Deputy President, because I delight in having an intelligent listener. I want some information about the quota of 85,000. I do not think that anybody sponsoring this Bill would want other people to react as I did when I read the Minister’s second reading speech and the comments in the Press and when I heard the Government say: ‘We are going to break this awful nexus. We are going to substitute a quota of 85,000 persons. This arrangement will limit the number of members in the House of Representatives.’ The Government failed to add the words ‘at the present time’.
I recall being in Westminster Hall and hearing a very great man speak to the assembled members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The Queen was present. This man, Sir Winston Churchill, delivered one of the most subtle speeches that I have ever heard. He turned to the Queen and said, as only Sir Winston could: Ma’am, I did not become your First Minister to disperse your Empire’. They are his words as near as I can remember them. It is true that he did not become her First
Minister in order to do that. But he failed to adel the words: ‘However at the present moment I am busy doing it’. At that time we were getting out of Egypt. I had just passed through Egypt, having had very happy memories of my visit there in 1915. We were also getting out of Aden. A similar thing is happening here now. This is a three card trick, as it were. The Government is saying: ‘We are limiting the size of the House of Representatives. This is the first time it has ever been done.’ Let us pause there for a moment.
I propose to quote some figures taken from the publication ‘Australia’s Population Structure and Growth’, which was written by the Professor of Demography at the Australian National University and his research assistant, Miss Geraldine Spencer, and which was published by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. The Government wants to have only twelve, or perhaps fourteen, more members in the House of Representatives for Australia’s present population. It wants to fix the quota al 85.000. But if Australia continues to grow - it certainly will - by 1971, which is only four years hence, we will have 156 members in the House of Representatives. Yet the Government says that it is seeking to limit the size of that House. By 1981. which is only fourteen years away - I will not see it - the number of members in the House of Representatives will have risen to 195. Possibly we will still have only sixty senators in this place. By the year 2000 the size of the House of Representatives will be 290. These figures are worth reflecting upon. To say that the Government’s proposals will limit the size of the House of Representatives is not strictly correct. 1 repeal that the Government should have added the words ‘at the present time’. I was very interested in Senator Murphy’s speech. But I was particularly interested in the speech delivered by Senator Cormack. Apart from his introductory remarks, Senator Cormack, by his eloquence, convinced me that I was quite correct in believing that the powers of the Senate will be whittled away. He came in so wonderfully that, if I ever had any misgivings about the importance of the Senate being diminished, they were fortified by what he said last night. That is why I am adamant on this question of great principle - the breaking of the nexus as proposed in this Bill. The proportion at present is one to two. I have said before that the Parliament may modify that if it wishes.
If we accept the proposal to have 85,000 people in an electorate in the future and to have no increase in the number of senators, there will be enormously increased representation in the House of Representatives. That will produce an impotent Senate. An increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives will greatly increase our difficulties. In my opinion, if we believe in Federation we must ensure that the relative strengths of the two Houses are maintained, lest the disparity in numbers injure one of the Houses. In my opinion, this Bill is designed to achieve the latter purpose. We hear that the number of members of the United States Senate has not increased. That is true. But its powers have not decreased. 1 contend that the Senate should never be placed in an invidious position. The electorate possesses common sense, and it is common sense that if the Senate is reduced to the smallest factor of the House of Representatives that will lead to the abolition of the Senate. In my opinion, the Senate is an essential part of our constitutional structure.
I want the Minister to answer one or two questions, particularly about the figure of 85,000. I want to know whether our electoral laws will be altered. If they are altered, I will not be worried. All I say is that this idea of 85,000 people in an electorate is an erroneous idea or a mirage. The number may be more; it may be less.
– That is very misleading to the Senate. The Bill does not say that there shall be 85,000 people in an electorate. That is a divisor figure that will be used to determine how many seats there shall be in each. State.
– I beg to differ. I refer to the Minister’s own words. This is a modification of our existing electoral law, including the Representation Act that we passed about two years ago. I want the public to be sure on that point. I have read the Bill and the second reading speech of the Minister, and I believe what I have said is absolutely correct. Mr President, I will not support this.Bill.
– I shall support the Bill primarily because I believe the process envisaged in it is democratic and will give the people of Australia an opportunity to indicate whether they want the nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate broken. The nexus means the relationship between the number of members in the House of Representatives and the number of senators. This nexus was laid down in the Constitution which was formulated nearly seventy years ago. The discussions on the Constitution took place between seventy and eighty years ago in an atmosphere entirely different from that of the present. Australia then was an entirely different country. Its financial responsibilities and aims were entirely different from those of today. At that time it was thought that a lower house of seventy-five members and a Senate of thirty-six members would be adequate. 1 have taken a little trouble to ascertain some of the salient features of the first few years of Federation as disclosed in the Budgets of those days. In 1901-02, the first year of Federation, consolidated revenue for the whole of the Commonwealth totalled £ 11.2m and the main sources of revenue were customs duties, £9.5m and postal services £3. Im. Expenditure totalled £3.9m of which £2.9m was spent, on postal services and £lm on defence. Revenue in 1901 was 53s per head and expenditure was £1 per head of the population. In 1906 revenue had risen to 62s per head and expenditure was 24s per head.
When the Constitution was formulated, this was the level of revenue and expenditure visualised by the founding fathers of Federation. In my opinion they were pretty generous when they decided that seventy-five members of the House of Representatives and thirty-six senators would be required to deal with the business of the Commonwealth in those days. 1 admit that the business of the Commonwealth related to matters other than those reflected in revenue and expenditure but the relative figures indicate the smallness of Commonwealth Government operations at the time.
The number of members of Parliament remained at seventy-five in the House of
Representatives and thirty-six in the Senate until about eighteen years ago. That period saw Australia through two world wars - in the Second World War nearly one million men and women were in the armed forces. The period also saw Australia introduce income tax and death duties. It saw the development of civil aviation and the formation of a department to administer it. It saw the introduction of radio, social services and Australia’s diplomatic service. In the years following the Second World War the whole concept of mass immigration was revised by the Parliament when it comprised seventy-five members in the lower House and thirty-six senators.
By 1949 the puny figures that were apposite at the beginning of Federation had risen considerably. By that year, consolidated revenue had risen from £llm to $l,100m. Revenue had risen from £1 a head to $142 a head. Expenditure on defence had risen from £lm to $112m. Clearly there had been an enormous growth in the responsibilities and functions of the Commonwealth Government. The Parliament of 1948 acted properly in increasing the number of members of Parliament from 75 to 122 in the House of Representatives and from 36 to 60 in the Senate. The nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives was virtually maintained and this was done by legislation. It was not necessary to alter the Constitution. To increase the number of members and senators was proper because of the enormous increase in the functions and responsibilities of the Parliament.
We are now faced with a proposal by the Government that the nexus between the two Houses be broken; that the people of Australia be asked to permit the Parliament to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives without increasing the number of senators. We have heard some interesting speeches on the Bill particularly yesterday when Senators Cormack, Gair and Wright went into the historical background of the Australian Constitution and quoted from the speeches of the founding fathers. The statements that were made by those gentlemen in the closing decade of the last century were quite interesting but we must remember that they were made in the context of conditions of the time when the revenue of Australia was about £1 Im compared with $5, 397m today.
Statements that were made in those days have no practical meaning today. The founding fathers thought it necessary and desirable to maintain the nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate so that one could not ‘be increased without a comparable increase in the other, but what they said then does not apply now. There has been a vast increase in the work of members of the House of Representatives. They represent a greatly increased population. They sit in a House of the Parliament where the Executive Government is mainly centred and are primarily responsible for the. interrogation of Ministers on revenue and expenditure. Consequently, if the number of members of Parliament is not adequate to perform the functions required of them on behalf of their electors, it is reasonable to ask that the number of members of the House of Representatives be increased.
I therefore think that the people would be wise to support this referendum. But primarily this Bill is to give the people the right to have a say in the matter, and 1 am right behind the purpose of it. I do not think that it will erode the vole of the Senate in any way if there are in the House of Representatives more than double the number of senators. There is only the one possibility - and that is a most remote possibility - of there ever being a joint: silting of members of the House and members of the Senate. That is after the whole process of double dissolution, a further election, and a breakdown between the two Houses after the further election. I do not think that that can be seriously canvassed in this debate. Therefore, I cannot see how this suggested increase will erode the vote of the Senate. The Minister said that if at any time it is desirable to increase the size of the Senate, this measure that will be put to the people will not preclude a future increase in (he Si 7C of the Senate.
– How would that increase come about?
– If it became important it would have to come about by a referendum. What I am saying is that the proposed referendum does not preclude the possibility of that in the future, lt might not go quite back to the relationship of one to two. I support the measure and I endorse the thoughts behind the Government’s plan. I cannot see anything sinister in it when one considers the further functions that are coming the way of members of Parliament. Since the last increase in numbers we have seen the development of the Snowy scheme and television. At the present lime the defence vote is $1,00Om There is tremendous trade development. Australia is entering world markets for its manufactured goods. Great mineral development is going on all over the continent. Pensions are being paid to an ever widening number of people. Territory development is going on apace. Migration has so increased that possibly one in four of the people in Australia at present has come from overseas or is the child of persons who have come from overseas since the last war. These increasing functions and the increasing number of people who have come to this country have caused members of Parliament to have greater work to do.
I was rather disappointed that my friend and colleague from South Australia had such a poor opinion of the work that was being done by members of the House of Representatives. I would like to say concerning my colleagues from South Australia in the House of Representatives that I think they do a most adequate job of representation. Apparently, when Senator Mattner was engaged by one of them who was on an overseas trip to keep an eye on his office Senator Mattner was somewhat concerned that so little work was going through the office. I should like to remind him that obviously this member had responsibilities in the wider part of his electorate that would not necessarily come to Senator Mattner’s notice in the office. Consequently, I think that, if members of the House of Representatives are doing their job they are finding that with the increased size of their electorates and the increased functions of the Federal Parliament it is becoming a little bit- much and they are not able to perform functions on behalf of electors in the manner in which they could perform them if there were fewer electors. Consequently, T think that this modest suggestion of the Government for increasing the numbers in the House of Representatives by a dozen or so should give relief to those members. I cannot see anything serious to object to in the referendum proposal that is put before the Parliament today.
– We are today, of course, witnessing one of the greatest confidence tricks ever perpetrated on the public. I will not say that it is an unsuspecting public, because I think the people suspect very strongly that a confidence trick is being perpetrated by this Government. Once upon a time it used to be a little thing involving a pea and three thimbles, but we have become much more sophisticated now and we put out our honey pots. Nevertheless, whichever way one looks at it, it is still a confidence trick. We are told, of course, that the Government has not an intention to increase the numbers and that if it increases the numbers it will increase them only by twelve, but the Government forgets to add that any future Government is not bound by any decision of this Government and that the next Government can then increase the numbers still further. Let me put my position quite clearly. 1 do not for one moment believe that anything should be done to keep alive the Senate as it is at present constituted. In other words, if it is to bc a Party House. I am all for its abolition now.
– Make it at the end of the honourable senator’s term.
– I do not mind whether or not it is at the end of my term but I would be happy if it were at the end of my turn. But for the presence in this chamber of a splinter group and independents this chamber would be completely useless and its abolition should be sought immediately, because honourable senators vote according to party. If they vote according to party, what is the function of this chamber? Is it a chamber of review - a review for the Government or a review for the State that elected us?
Today and yesterday for the first time we have found more than two Government supporters getting up and opposing the Government, and I am cynical enough to think that although this was in accordance with their beliefs they probably would not kick over the traces except for the fact that they know there is a majority of the Senate in favour of the Bill because Labor is join ing with the Government. If the Labor Party had stuck to its guns and refused to accept this confidence trick, I doubt very much whether some of these Liberal members who have spoken against the Bill would have voted against it. They may have spoken against it but they certainly would not vote against it. As far as 1 am concerned, as long as this remains a party House - and it has done nothing else but prove it is a party House - we may as well abolish it. Therefore, let us get ahead with the referendum.
– The honourable senator’s comments are not true.
– My comments are not true? Just before the end of last year we had a State question of an industry for Tasmania and where were the Tasmanian senators? They were on their strict party lines. This happens time and time again. South Austrafia demanded money from the Commonwealth some three or four years ago when the Playford Government was in power. Again, where were the South Australian senators? They were strictly on their party lines, Labor on one side and Liberal on the other - not for the State in any way whatsoever.
– We were protecting State rights; the Liberals did not support us.
– The honourable sena:or’s policy, if 1 may say so, is abolition of the Senate. He should be supporting me on this. I cannot see how anything that I say would influence him in any way, because he is on the side that believes, as I do - but not for the same reason - that the Senate should be abolished. I am quite happy if the Senate remains, so long as it is a States House; and the only way it can remain a States House is by having a small splinter group sitting here.
– Does the honourable senator think the people should be given an opportunity to vote on this matter?
– What matter, the referendum?
– Yes, I am coming to that. I have as much right to expand my remarks as any other speaker has. If we are required to stick to the Bill, that is all right, but the question asked was whether the people have the right to vole or not. I believe they have, and I know what they will do with this referendum proposal when it is presented to them. However, I do not for one moment believe that the referendum should be held, because 1 think that we should, first of all, have insisted on an electoral redistribution. There is no doubt that the demand for this referendum is purely political. There is no doubt that the demand comes from a minority group consisting of members of the Liberal Party of New South Wales. There is no doubt whatsoever that they are demanding this referendum.
If it is right that we should proceed with the referendum, then 1 ask this question: as the Parliament passed a Bill some time ago. providing for a referendum, why was that referendum not held? It was because the Government did not want it. But now pressure has been brought to bear to hold the referendum, so here we go wasting some more money on holding a referendum even though the Government itself believes the people will reject the referendum proposal. The delay in holding the referendum for which legislation was originally enacted proves my point that this Government does not really want it and has been forced to hold it. An electoral redistribution must take place shortly, whether the Government parlies like it or not. The Government will have to go ahead with that, even though the Country Party is opposing it because it would definitely lose one seat and possibly another. It is fairly common gossip that in New South Wales the seats of two Queen’s Counsel would be in peril after a redistribution without an increase in the size of the other House. These two gentlemen have become so scared that they have applied pressure to their party to insist on this referendum. With an increase in numbers in the House of Representatives they would have a much stronger chance of retaining their seats.
This is just political chicanery to try to save a seat or two for the party. If the Government is honest in its talk about the number of people in each electorate and the hard work that is being done by parliamentarians, why has it not arranged for an electoral redistribution? A redistribution is long overdue, but the reason there has been no redistribution is purely a party political reason; it has nothing whatever to do with what the people of Australia want.
Let me come finally to the question of the work load. Tears fell from my eyes when 1 heard and read the speeches of some members in the other House, telling of the amount of work that politicians have to do. Well, when we suddenly find that parliamentary salaries have to be increased it is amazing how we all strive to point out how much work we do. We tell everybody how we are really overworked all the time and how we are always underpaid, and therefore that it is only just and right that our salaries should rise. But when the next election comes around each one of us tries to be first at the electoral office to lodge a nomination so that we can again be overworked and underpaid. This is really lovely - pure philanthropy. But this is the sort of thing that goes on all the time. Similarly with the work that we do: we talk ourselves into a receptive frame of mind about all this work. Parkinson’s law has no better upholder than the Federal member. I know that some members work hard, but I may say that I get very few inquiries in my office. Even when I was a State member I got very few inquiries. But I know too that there are some members who make a lifetime job of this.
– If the honourable senator were in the Country Party he would soon get plenty of inquiries.
– The only query I would get if I joined the Country Party would be: ‘Why the Country Party?’ But the point I was making is that there are some members who do their work conscientiously. Let me remind the Senate (hat a while ago when Senator Laught was speaking there were exactly eleven senators in this chamber out of a total of sixty.
– They are in their offices working.
– Yes, of coursethey work every day, eight hours or more every day, and probably eight hours at night. And who are they working for, may I ask? They are working for themselves so that they can be re-elected. Do not forget that point. I may be a little bit cynical, and though I admit that members are certainly helping people, I still ask: why are they rushing out to help them? It is simply because they want to be re-elected. Do not give me the story that members of Parliament are heroes going out helping people all the time, because white they are doing it they are helping themselves. We all knowthat. Why are members so keen for people to come into their offices? It is simply because the people who come in are so many more voters with whom the members have made contact, and who they hope will, after they have helped them a little bit, vote for them at the next election and re-elect them.
– Is this the honourable senator’s attitude to Parliament?
– It is my- attitude to full time politics. I am entitled to it and I have had this view for something like twenty-five years.
– Then the honourable senator also is only looking after himself?
– I said that I do not get: queries. People do not come to me with inquiries, so that argument does not quite apply.
– What does the honourable senator do to get re-elected?
– I do not know. I just put my name down on the ballot paper.
– He has not been reelected yet.
– Not here, but I have been re-elected at least six times in the State Parliament, and I have never found that my views on parliamentary work and political activities have done me any harm. They may, of course, at the next election, but only time will tell. I realise, of course, that it is unfortunate that anyone in this Senate should criticise members of Parliament, but I am one who does. It is a two-way street. Members are helping the public but they are also helping themselves, and we know that to be the truth.
– We are also discharging our political responsibilities.
– That is so. I did not say that you were not doing so. I said there are many conscientious people who do accept their political responsibilities, but there are many who are doing it only so that they may bc re-elected.
– Everyone in industry does the same.
– Yes, of course, the whole world docs it. Let us all draw a mantle of sanctity about ourselves and don our haloes, and everyone will be happy. But let me not be diverted from the point 1 wanted to make. There are too many politicians, and the people of Australia believe this to be the fact. I shall oppose the referendum proposals, but I shall say to the people that, no matter what they are told, there will still be an increase in the number of parliamentarians.
Let me get back to my final point about the Senate. As I said earlier, I believe that unless this becomes a States House it may just as well be abolished. If we are going to break the nexus, that will be the end of the Senate completely; the Senate will have no power whatsoever. So I find myself in this position: 1 believe that if the Senate remains a party House and not a States House, it should be abolished; on the other hand, if the Senate is to remain any kind of force at all then we as a body should rise up and condemn this referendum, because all it will achieve is a weakening of the power of the Senate by increasing the numbers in the House of Representatives without increasing our numbers. This is of particular importance to a State such as Tasmania, and I know that in Tasmania the referendum proposal will be thrown out by the biggest majority ever. It is appalling that this waste of money should be indulged in because of a demand by the Liberal Party in New South Wales. In Tasmania we will throw out the proposal because we can see that what little chance we have of representation in a big Parliament rests in the Senate and nowhere else.
If the number of members of the House of Representatives is to be increased, please do not say in justification: ‘We will only increase the number of members by twelve.’ That is only for the very immediate future. Shortly after that, when the next government or the following government comes into office the question will arise again of more representation. I speak now for Tasmania, but I am sure that the same may bc said on behalf of South Australia and
Western Australia and even Queensland. The influence of the Senate will be diminished because over half the members of the House of Representatives are from New South Wales and Victoria. So that from the point of view of Tasmania, the breaking of the nexus will mean that Tasmania will have less and less influence in the Senate, and in the Parliament as a whole. If honourable senators who wish to uphold the rights of the Senate but who support this Bill think that 1 am a shocker because I suggest the abolition of the Senate and if they say that the Senate is a wonderful institution, they should be ashamed of themselves for supporting the referendum. Honourable senators cannot have it both ways. If they believe that the Senate serves a useful purpose, whether as a Party House or a States House, in all conscience how can they say that the nexus must be broken? They are cutting their own throats as far as the powers of the Senate are concerned. Honourable senators should realise this and should stop being influenced by Ministers who urge them to vote for the Party. They
Say: ‘Because the Party has put up this proposition, we have to vote for it.’
Turning to the Australian Labor Parly,
Only one Labor Senator has spoken in this debate. Labor senators are too ashamed to speak on this question. I know that Labor senators from Tasmania are with me in regard to this question, and so also are some Liberal senators from Tasmania. Some Liberal senators from Tasmania will vote against this legislation, but some who are hoping for ministerial promotion probably will vote for it. Because of the union of Liberal and Labor senators, the Bill will be passed. We will have a referendum and going out to that referendum will be many hypocrites with their tongues in their checks. In fact, their tongues will be so swollen in their cheeks that they will not even utter a word for the ‘Yes’ case. They will say: “The Party said we have to do this. I am a good Party man so I am supporting this but do not vote for it. Vote against it. That is the best thing to do.’ Is it possible to have greater hypocrites than there are in this chamber? Are you not ashamed of yourselves? Have you no consciences? Honourable senators say that we must uphold the Senate, yet they attempt to denigrate it themselves. They accuse me of denigrating the Senate, but they are doing it themselves every time that they say that the nexus should be broken. I can only say that if that attitude persists, we should voluntarily abolish the Senate.
– I am bound to say that I gained the impression from listening to the honourable senator that he not only disliked the proposal for a referendum but that he also disliked practically everybody both in and out of the Senate. That is a pity. While his remarks were engaging, they were not convincing. I enter this debate for a very brief period to speak on what appear to me to be the main points to be decided by the referendum - points which I think are already being distorted in many of the speeches in this debate and which were distorted in the debate on the last proposal of this nature.
The first point I wish to make is that the proposed referendum is not to seek permission to enlarge the size of the House of Representatives. There is no need for a referendum in order to enlarge the size of the House of Representatives. It can be enlarged at any time. A referendum is not required for that purpose. What is more, without a shadow of a doubt, the size of the House of Representatives will be enlarged no matter what may be the result of the referendum. If it is not enlarged soon, it will be enlarged later. Without any question, it will at some time be enlarged. There is no need for a referendum to be carried before its enlargement. So those people who speak of the referendum as though it were asking people to approve of the size of the House of Representatives being enlarged are already misrepresenting the position. It does not do that at all. Nor is it a referendum to enable more politicians to be employed. It is not. It is a referendum which will reduce the number of politicians because when the size of the House of Representatives is enlarged - if the referendum is carried - it will not be necessary to increase the number of senators. But if the referendum is not carried, then when the size of the House of Representatives is increased in future it will be necessary to increase the number of senators. So, without doubt if the referendum is rejected, in the future there will be more politicians than there would be otherwise.
This legislation is simply a proposal to remove the necessity to increase the number of senators when the number of members of the House of Representatives is increased; and’ that is all it is. Tt is not a referendum which can in any way affect the powers of the Senate, to which Senator Turnbull gave some attention. The Senate will retain with its size, or such later size as may be decided and not necessarily by referendum, the powers which it presently retains. They will not be diminished in any way whatever in the conduct of this House. The position will remain exactly as it is. (t has been said that there may be a diminution of the powers of the Senate in the future because there may be a disagreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives, and if that arises there is provision for a joint sitting. It is said that if the Senate were not a large Senate it would not have as much effect in such a joint sitting as it would if it had a membership of sixty. This argument appears to me to proceed directly from cloud cuckooland. It envisages sixty or eighty or ninety senators going across in a body to a joint sitting, seeking to redress a majority in the House of Representatives. Everybody here knows that in reality that will not happen.
We will have a Senate whether Senator Turnbull likes it or not. Senators will be elected to it after going before the people and saying that they propose to support a political programme put forward by a political party. While that situation exists and while we have proportional representation the Senate, whether its membership is sixty, eighty or ninety, always will be rather evenly divided. There may be a majority of two or three, one way or the other, no matter what is the size of the Senate. That is the extent of the effect that could be had in a joint sitting with the House of Representatives - the difference between those senators who espouse one view and those who espouse another view. From all points of view of practical reality there would be no diminution in the powers of the Senate, in my view.
Without any doubt whatsoever, representation of the various States will continue to be equal in this chamber, just -‘is it is now. The smaller States will have as many representatives as the larger States, so that in the business of this chamber the present proposal cannot react against any State. Representation will be just the same as it is now. We have heard a fair amount about statements made by the founding fathers when they had a convention to set up the Senate. We have even been asked in a motion of which notice has been given by Senator Gair to lake notice of something which Quick and Garren had to say in this connection. However, I will not traverse the arguments which were held away back in the last century. Since we have heard so much about them, perhaps we should be quite clear in our own minds that the proposition for a nexus by no means commended itself to all those people who attended the convention. In fact a motion was moved al the convention to delete the requirement for a nexus. One person who voted against it was Sir John Quick, of whom Senator Gair has asked us to take notice. Quick believed that there should not be a nexus and he voted against the proposition that there should be a nexus.
– So he did, but-
– If the honourable senator doubts Quick’s attitude he can find it recorded at page 1837 of the Convention report of 3rd March 1898.
– 1 have read it.
– He has read it and I have brought it out more clearly. Not only Quick voted against the proposition for a nexus. So did Alfred Deakin, one of our early Prime Ministers; so did Higgins, later President of the Federal Court of Conciliation and Arbitration; so did Sir George Reid, another of our early Prime Ministers; so did George Turner, the first Federal Treasurer; and so did Sir Isaac Isaacs, later a justice and then Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and ultimately Governor-General. In addition, the proposition for a nexus was opposed by Charles Kingston, a representative of the smaller State of South Australia. So let us not have created here an impression that there was great unanimity and that all the wisdom was on one side, for the people whose names I have brought to the attention of the Senate did not believe that there ought to be a nexus between the two Houses.
To sum up, I wish to reiterate these points. Firstly, the referendum involved here is not one seeking permission to increase the size of the House of Representatives. Secondly, it is a referendum that, if it is passed, will permit fewer politicians in future than would be the case ;.f it were not passed. Thirdly, it is not a referendum that will in any way diminish the powers of the Senate as exercised by the persons who sit in this chamber. Fourthly, this is not. a referendum that could alter the representation of the States in this chamber, for they will continue to be equal. Each wi!l be able to exercise in this House authority equal to that of the others, the representatives of the smallest States having authority equal to that of the representatives of the largest States. Fifthly, there is not being abridged here any great principle unanimously approved by the founders of the Constitution.
- Mr President, we have just heard a very interesting contribution to this debate by a very learned Minister - the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton). I am sure that once again he has made statements that do not hold water. His concluding observation was that some of the persons whose names have been cited here were a minority at the very Convention that has been talked about so much in relation to the Bill now before us. This Government says: ‘What right have individual senators on this side of the House to oppose the holding of a referendum when the majority wants a referendum to be held?’ It is all right for Government senators when they are the majority. But minorities have rights, too. Yesterday Senator Cormack, a Government senator, in effect, asked: ‘What right has an individual senator to oppose the holding of a referendum?’ In other words he expects that every senator should just be a yes man and vote as the Government decides. I did not come into this Parliament to be a yes man. I hold it to be my duty as a senator to make a decision on what is the right thing for this country. If a thing is right for the country it is my duty to vote for it. If a thing is not right for the country it is my duty to vote against it. 1 regard it as indicative of weakness for a senator to say of a proposition: ‘I am against it but I shall vote for it in order to give the people an opportunity to decide at a referendum whether they will accept it’. That is just having two bob each way. The important point is that when a legislator votes in support of a proposal he is regarded in the minds of the public as being in favour of it. That is the very detrimental consequence of the weakness of attitude thai leads a senator to say: T am opposed to the proposal but I shall vote for it in order to give the people an opportunity to adjudicate on it” I believe that we as senators should take the view that if the holding of the proposed referendum is not right for the country we have a duty to say so and to act accordingly.
The first consideration that arises is the trouble that has to be gone to in the preparation of the case for and the case against the referendum. The second consideration is the expenditure that will be incurred. I heard Senator Gair say that because of the abandonment of the referendum proposals relating to an increase in the numbers in the Parliament which were made towards the end of 1965 approximately $200,000 had been wasted. Those proposals were abandoned because a few in this Senate displayed some leadership and stood up against the Government, which then found that about 78% of the people were against the proposals. As a result it got cold feel and abandoned its plan. Now, of course, the Government presses similar proposals, but in a different way. On this occasion it holds over the people the threat: if you do not give us the increased numbers this way we shall get them in some other way. Any government that proceeded to increase the numbers in the Parliament after the defeat of proposals such as these at a referendum would not be regarded with happiness by the people and would not increase its popularity. The consequences would be just the reverse.
I take the view that if as a senator I believe that it is not tight that a question be put to the people at a referendum I should oppose the legislation authorising a referendum on the subject. Therefore I oppose this measure. As Senator Gair said, about $200,000 was poured down the drain earlier. Evidently that means nothing to this Government. I understand that the referendum now proposed will cost about $1,400,000. That is a substantial sum. It represents the estimated expenditure on the referendum as ascertained by a check of the costs that will be incurred. But that expenditure means nothing to this Government when it wants something that it considers it needs. 1 am opposed to this Bill because 1 see it as representing a twist of politics adopted in order to get some gain just for the moment. As one who believes in the democratic liberties of this country, I consider it very dangerous for any government to meddle with our Constitution for the sake of political expediency. The very serious prospect that arises here is that if one government does this sort of thing to gain its own ends it will be within the rights of the present Opposition, when it becomes the government, as it will some day, to take similar action just to suit its own purposes. In my view there is a clear means by which the Government could rectify the position that it at present wants to alter. The proper method would be to undertake a redistribution of electoral boundaries for seats in the House of Representatives. That would be the clear and honest way to act. But the Government is not being honest in this matter.
– Sir Robert Menzies ran away from it.
– Yes. The present Government is not being honest and Sir Robert Menzies, the former Prime Minister, was dishonest in putting the issue before the Parliament in the way he did when he said thai to increase the numbers in the House of Representatives we would have to increase the numbers in the Senate by twenty-four. That was merely a snide way of frightening the people by making them believe that they would have a great many more parliamentarians. It has now been proved, and is recognised by everybody, that the desired result can be achieved without a referendum and with an increase of only six in the numbers in this chamber. Honourable senators can see the difference between this course and the other. We do not hear anybody apologising for the false statements by which the people are being misled. Parliamentarians on both this side and the other side of the Parliament were prepared to support the government in these false statements on the previous occasion.
I look upon any fiddling with the democratic Constitution of this country as very serious. We know that there are countries - we speak of them from time to time - where graft and corruption occur because of weakness in their constitutions. We know of the things that go on in such countries. We speak of those things and say that they could never happen in Australia. However, this legislation represents the thin edge of the wedge. It will lead to manipulation of the Constitution for the sake of political expediency. I am amazed that the parliamentary wings of the various political parties - though not the parties themselves in general - descend to this sort of stunt in order to delude the people about the need for more members in the Federal Parliament. The Liberal Party of Australia is always professing its strong support for the Senate. But I am beginning to wonder whether the political wing of the Liberal Party really carries out the Party’s policy and whether parliamentarians when they come to this place, because the present method of selecting the Ministry leaves private senators and members with no real control over it, are carried away with themselves a little and act contrary to true Liberal principles. Throughout the years a basic principle with us Liberals has been that we believe in a second chamber and in keeping it strong. The evidence that I have seen lately indicates that the recent actions of the political parties on this side of the Senate have been directly contrary to this.
Any time the Senate takes a stand on an issue what do we find? We witness great upheavals and hear much noise from the Ministry and the Government. Yet if anybody criticises this chamber what do we find? The Leader of the Government, in standing up for the Senate, always leads off with the work of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee as an indication of the good work of the Senate. There has been talk in this debate about the weaknesses of the Senate, its lack of work and what is done and what is not done. The Government deserves a lot of discredit for what is not being done in this chamber. Let me say that if it were not for the Opposition members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, which has played a very important part in seeing that the Parliament and not the civil servants run this country, the Committee could not function. We must have some clear thinking about our purpose in this Parliament and about what is being proposed.
I will not support something of this nature. As has been pointed out already, it is being done to save New South Wales losing one seat. It is known that the New South Wales Liberal group has been pushing this along. Suppose, as Senator Mattner said, that another State were to lose a seat. Would New South Wales and Victoria weep about it and want to do something for that State? Of course not. Senator Mattner reminded us that some years ago South Australia lost a seat. Did anyone try to rectify that position? No. I take the view that if one State grows faster than another as a result of good government and consequent industrial development, that State is entitled to an extra seat. On the other hand, if one State lags behind and by normal democratic process loses a seat, that is just bacl luck for that State. An attempt has been made to twist the democratic aspect of this proposal to enable the Government to solve a problem it will not face up to, that is, a clear redistribution of the electoral boundaries of this Commonwealth. We have heard this piffle that there will be a maximum of 85,000 in each electorate.
– A minimum of 85,000, not a maximum.
– A minimum of 85,000 to each electorate. There is no doubt that this referendum proposal will be passed because voting will be on party lines.
– It will not go through, it will be defeated.
– It will go through this Parliament but it will be donkey licked by the people. As has been pointed out, the figure of 85,000 includes every man, woman, child and babe in arms in the community. We have been told about the great amount of work that parliamentarians have to do. If a member of Parliament wants to make himself a messenger boy or a stamp licker he can find a lot of work to do, but the true purpose of a parliamentarian is to study legislation so that he can make a contribution to the discussion on it. That is the most important part of his duties.
What will be the result if this legislation is passed? We will create more seats. Will they be created in the country areas? Of course not. They will be created in the metropolitan areas where the Federal Government has branches of its departments to which people may go and receive due consideration. I know that many parliamentarians think that the more of these little things they do for the people the more likely they are to retain their seats. As one member of the House of Representatives said to me yesterday: ‘You have to keep your seat, you know’. But suppose that man was not already in Parliament and was contesting that seat. Then he would say: ‘Why should so and so, who is already in Parliament, have certain privileges so that he cannot be beaten?’ This is purely politics.
Let me turn my mind to a very simple field in which I served for many years. As I think Senator Gair will recall, 1 was Mayor of the city of Mackay. Certain aldermen encouraged people to come to them regarding such matters as a broken footbridge, a leaking tap or grass which had not been cut. My policy was that Mackay Council officers were there to discuss problems with the people and if possible to rectify them. I never found that the Council staff were at all hostile when dealing with the people. Eventually things were run so well that only on very rare occasions did a member of the public ask to see me. I think Senator Gair will agree with me that Mackay was as well run as any other city in Queensland. He would know because he was Premier of Queensland at that time. One can build up a lot of postage stamp work if one is so inclined but that is not the true purpose of a man coming into Parliament. His true purpose is to legislate for this country.
Why do we need more parliamentarians? Should we not ask the people of Australia: Do you need more parliamentarians?’ If that question were put to them in the referendum the Government would be beaten in all States.
– A salary of $8,000 a year is a lot to pay for a message boy.
– Of course it is. We have heard a lot about the Constitution and the people who spent so much time in their deliberations on it. According to the Bill now before the Senate we are being asked to accept that those deliberations took place so many years ago that their results are now outdated. In my opinion the framers of the Constitution devoted deep thought, deliberation and discussion to the task of framing it. It is most refreshing to see that in their deliberations they were not pushing the political party wheelbarrow. That is a very important aspect to remember. Consequently we have in our Constitution evidence of a far sighted outlook. The framers of the Constitution were looking ahead.
– Just the same, they made mistakes in the Constitution.
– There is no doubt of that. Everyone can make mistakes but these people have given us such a fine Constitution that up to the present the number of amendments to it to which the people of Australia have consented has been so small that I should think any government would be timid about placing a referendum proposal such as this before them.
One of the key decisions arrived at by the framers of the Constitution concerned the creation of a nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives. This action was not taken lightly. It was taken for a deliberate purpose - to stop the unlimited growth of the House of Representatives, not the Senate, lt was done deliberately to put a brake on the growth of the House of Representatives. That is the real purpose of the nexus.
– The nexus was the alternative to n suggested quota.
– Of course, and it was not implemented to prevent the growth of the Senate. It will be seen therefore that the creation of the Senate was a very important feature in the framing of the Constitution. So important was the Senate in the discussions that the Constitution is wrapped around the Senate, not the House of Representatives.
– Before the Senate was created it was necessary to get the cooperation of the States.
– That is the key point of the whole thing because there would not be an Australian Parliament if there were nol a Senate. The smaller States were afraid that the more populous States would have so many members that they would be outvoted, so the Senate was created for the deliberate purpose of giving the States equal representation. This prevents the smaller States from being outvoted.
– Queensland and Western Australia absented themselves from the conventions because of their fear of Federation. lt was not until the proposal was carried that they were assured of some representation.
– Yes, and here is the amazing part of this - the major political parties supporting this Bill make sure that each State has equal representation at their Federal council and executive meetings on the same basis as each State has equal representation in the Senate. It can be seen therefore that the Senate loomed very largely in the thoughts of the framers of our Constitution and it is essential that nothing be done to reduce the value of the Senate.
All sorts of disparaging things have been said about the Senate. We know that the newspapers hardly notice that it exists. But that does not decrease its importance. A thing is important because it is there. If this Senate were not here, I make bold to say, the larger States would look after themselves more than they do now and the smaller States would get less than they get now. There is no doubt about that. Human nature being what it is, members of the House of Representatives, looking after their electorates, naturally would see that they got the bigger slice of the cake.
– They do it now.
– They may, but there is some safeguard. The Senate may be likened to certain other bodies. For a time 1 was Chairman of the Mackay Fire Brigade Board. The people of a small community paid sums of money month after month for a fire brigade. I sometimes thought it was a lot of money to pay. But suppose a fire broke out. Suppose a person was away from his home or business when it caught fire. He would be pleased then that he had a fire brigade. It may seem odd to some people to make this comparison with the Senate, but the same reasoning applies here. If the Senate did not exist the people would find that they really needed it.
Senator Laught said that if the nexus were broken the importance of the Senate and the value of senators would not be decreased. He is wrong. At present the House of Representatives outnumbers the Senate by two to one. Does anybody mean to tell me that if we were outnumbered by four to one our views would carry as much weight as they do now? Great play has been made of the possibility of a joint meeting of the two Houses in connection wilh a double dissolution and the need to ensure that Senate representation is not outweighed by that of the House of Representatives. I agree with this reasoning. Our Constitution preserves the role of the Senate in the Parliament because one never knows what might happen, lt may be that a joint meeting of the two Houses becomes necessary. If our numbers vis-a-vis those of the House of Representatives are reduced we will not have the same importance. Make no bones about this, because we are only humans, and so are members of the House of Representatives. The breaking of the nexus will mean a loss of status for the Senate.
Here I take leave to quote extensively from a speech made by an honourable senator opposite whom we all regard very highly. Those of us who came into this Senate in 1949 will remember how tremendously impressed we were with his speeches. It was obvious that a great deal of work went into the preparation of them. I hope that I will be pardoned for saying that the quality of his team in those days did not match the quality of the present Opposition. The Opposition has built itself up immeasurably in recent years with the result that we now have a much better Senate than we had some time ago. Back in 1948 the senator to whom I refer had to do a terrific amount of work. He did a magnificent job. When he leaves us at the end of this term he will be remembered as one of the really fine parliamentarians of this country. I refer, of course, to Senator McKenna. I say these things not just to butter him up; I believe them. In 1948 when the Labour Government increased the size of the House of Representatives and the Senate, our side, being in opposition, apparently wanted to break the nexus. We were strongly opposed to the increase in the size of the Parliament. The speeches of that time make rather funny reading today. Senator McKenna, as Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, was arguing why the nexus should not be broken and why the Senate in relation to the House of Representatives should maintain representation in the ratio of 1:2. Speaking in the debate on the Representation Bill on 6th May 1948 Senator McKenna said:
I point out, in the first place, that as the Constitution stands at present, it is completely obligatory upon the Parliament to enlarge the Senate simultaneously with any enlargement of the House of Representatives. I agree wilh Senator Clothier that it would be completely futile for the Parliament to go to the people with the suggestion that there should not be a proportionate increase of the membership of the Senate. The people would never, in any circumstances, weaken the position of the Senate in the Federal legislature. My learned friend, Senator O’sullivan, knows very well that when a draftsman approaches a legal document his duty is to provide for all foreseeable possibilities - not to bother about probabilities, but to make provision-
This is important: to meet any possible contingency that may arise. That, with the limited vision that their times permitted, is exactly what the founders of federation did. They applied themselves to their task in the light of the circumstances of their day, ami they looked further ahead than the honourable senator is able to see even today.
The honourable senator continued:
I am dealing strictly with the proposal implicit in the amendment, namely that the number of members of the Senate should not bc increased. The Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, .. who have assumed the mantle and the title of guardians of the States, have admitted, through Senator O’sullivan, that they see no danger in the proposal that the number of members of the Senate should not be increased. As T have said, the founders of federation did see a danger, and they provided very particularly for it in section 57 of the Constitution.
Section 24, which provides that the House of Representatives shall be approximately twice the numerical strength of the Senate, must be rend in conjunction with section 57. That section provides that if the two chambers disagree twice under various conditions, there may be a double dissolution. But it carries the matter one stage further than that and provides that if the same deadlock occurs after a double dissolution, then the Senate and the House of Representatives must sit and vote together to clear the deadlock and determine the matter. If honourable senators opposite can see no threat to the position of the Stares in the federal legislature in a joint meeting of only 36 senators with 121 members of the House of Representatives, compared with a situation in which there would be 60 senators and 121 members of the House of Representatives, then I shall be surprised indeed. They must recognise that the States will be in a very much belter position if the ratio of two to one between the
House of Representatives and the Senate is preserved. It is clear to me that members of the Opposition either did not know the import of their proposal - as their statements suggest - or planned it as a subtle and very strong attack upon the position of the States in the federal legislative scheme. I submit that now that they do know the possible effect of their proposal only one course lies open to them unless they are convinced that the position of the States should be weakened. That course is to withdraw the amendment
Replying to an interjection, Senator McKenna continued:
That is so, but it also preserves the provision that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators.
They arc very firmly related in the proportion of two to one. The proposal in the amendment is that the ratio should be altered to the detriment of the States.
Note those words:
I point out that that is a deliberate attack upon the States now that the honourable senator knows the reason why the founders of the Constitution designed that procedure - to protect the States at a joint sitting of the two Houses. I warn the Opposition-
That was us at the time.
– Who said this?
– Senator McKenna. He went on: 1 warn the Opposition that if it persists with this amendment the electors will be reminded that it deliberately tried to weaken the position of the States in this Parliament.
The position is that the present ratio of two to one between the House of Representatives and the Senate will be preserved under the Government’s proposals. The proposal deliberately submitted by the Opposition would reduce the ratio to the detriment of the States’ House. In other words, the Opposition says, “Increase the numbers in the House of Representatives, but do not increase the numbers of the Slates’ representatives”.
Senator O’Sullivan. ; Quite so.
– The honourable senator does not need to have a particularly keen intellect in order to realise that that would operate to the detriment of the States. I repeat that if members of the Opposition persist with this amendment in the light of the information that they now have, they can expect that the electors will be reminded, often and strongly, of the stand that they have taken.
– I think I will spend a few dollars and get a reproduction of that speech.
– Yes, it is very good. He was a very thoughtful parliamentarian. It is rather interesting to see how things changed. We have heard about the founders of the Constitution and how things would be done now if a constitution had to be written. They would not be different at all. If there were no Commonwealth Parliament at present and the people decided to form one and held a convention to discuss it, the same things would be thrashed out now, such matters as the protection of the small States against the larger States. The same issues would be discussed now as were discussed then. The passage of time has not made any material difference between what was discussed then and what would be discussed now. One of the key things which would be discussed would be making sure that the big States did not overrun the small States through their great representation in a single house as against the advantage of having two houses.
It is interesting to know that in 1 948 a member of the Opposition of that time spoke very strongly on this matter. He was opposing an increase in the number of parliamentarians, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, lt is marvellous, when political expediency comes into a matter and politicians are trying to put something across the public, how they change their tunes. The gentleman I am referring to happens to be Mr Harold Holt, now the Prime Minister for Australia, who was leading the band wagon in trying to delude the people at that time with respect to giving us a small Senate. This is what he said in opposing the increase in the number of parliamentarians proposed by the Labor Government in which Senator McKenna was so prominent. At page 1097 of Hansard of 23rd April 1948 he is reported as having said:
It is, therefore, proper to ask what are the reasons that have actuated the Government in bringing forward so hurriedly this proposal for a major constitutional change. For the first few moments of my speech I propose to examine the reasons put forward by the Government through its spokesmen who have already addressed themselves to the bill.
He then went on to deal with the various reasons. He said:
First, it is claimed that so great has been the growth of the Australian population since federation that it is reasonable that there should be more members, and other English-speaking countries, notably Great Britain and Canada, are cited as illustrations of larger national parliaments in relation to population.
Further on he said:
Because the Government’s case principally rests on those arguments, it is appropriate that we should examine each of them. I think it will be found that the case made out by the Government rests on a flimsy base. Undoubtedly, the population of Australia has greatly increased since federation,-
This is interesting in view of the fact that the reverse of this argument is being put forward now as to why we should have more parliamentarians. He says now that because the population is growing we must have more parliamentarians. He said in 1948:
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.
Interesting, is it not?
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 and no greatly expanded public service to examine problems for them and furnish them with the answers. In the first Cabinet there were nine Ministers-
This is ludicrous when you think what we have done now in increasing the number of Ministers again - and in the second and third only eight, whereas today the Ministry consists of nineteen mcn to carry out the weighty tasks that are pressing on them so heavily.
Said sarcastically, of course.
But is the test of numbers fair? A cursory examination of the facts will show how hollow that claim is.
How hollow it is. This is the very argument being put forward now in reverse. Mr Holt said in 1948: 1 represent 83,000 or 84,000 people in my electorate of Fawkner, but there is no part of that electorate that I cannot drive to by car within lj minutes. 1 would not argue that 1 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. I 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-
This is interesting from the point of view of Country Party members. wilh 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 nol. The Government does not attempt to suggest that it will. It makes a specious plea to the public that as there are more people to be represented there should be more members of the Parliament, but in the areas where the task of representation is difficult now because >f their size the problem will not be mct by this proposal.
What Mr Holt, the present Prime Minister, meant by that was that a member of a country electorate might have a lot less electors but he might have a lot more work to do. I think that this speech of the present Prime Minister, made when he was in Opposition, absolutely condemns the proposition being debated today. If I were in any doubt at all about what 1 might do, reading Mr Holt’s speech of that time has confirmed my view more strongly than ever that the right course for the Parliament and for the Senate today is to throw out this Bill. If the Senate does not throw it out then the right thing for the people of Australia to do is to give the Government such a shock that it will not think the reply has been No in six States but will feel the reply came from a dozen States.
Before I conclude, we have had some very interesting debates but on the side of the Yes campaign I have hardly heard one proposition as to why the matter should go before the people. I feel that those honourable senators who have spoken on the No side have had much more constructive arguments to put forward as to why the proposal should be rejected. I know it is being peddled around that one must be one of the team, that one must do this and must bow and scrape and so on. I think we owe Senator Lillico a great debt of gratitude for turning up a quotation which I did not know existed. In his excellent speech last night, when he strongly opposed this referendum proposal - it was a short but very effective speech - he told us in no uncertain terms where he stands. Senator Lillico left us wilh a quotation from a person who at times expressed some lofty ideas. When that person was in the mood to express such things many people regarded them very highly. That person is the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. As Senator Lillico said last night:
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.
We have had people on this side of the chamber who have tried to tell me that we as individuals should not step out of line, that we should acquiesce with the majority here and should give the people the opportunity to decide.
– 1 suggest that the honourable senator should keep to a gentlemen’s agreement.
– Government senators are getting very annoyed because I have gone a few minutes over my time. The Government is in such a hurry to get this through. I was debating a rather magnificent Constitution. Altering the Constitution is a very important matter, although the Government does not think so. I am one who does not claim the right in this Senate of speaking during the broadcast. I have never asked to speak over the air yet. Senator Lillico was particularly forthright last night. I thought his speech was excellent. Let me remind those people who say we should not step out of line, of Sir Robert Menzies, who said that this should not be a party issue. I want to say emphatically that the chief duty of parliamentarians is their parliamentary work. If they want to be messenger boys, that is their look out. I cannot see any reason for an increase in the number of parliamentarians either in the other place or in this place. Senator Mattner has referred to the experience of himself and of other senators who have represented or acted for members of the House of Representatives when those members have been away overseas. No senator was killed by work when performing his own duties and looking after the affairs of a member of the House of Representatives. A great deal has been said about the work that parliamentarians do, but I remind honourable senators that the Prime Minister has rightly pointed out that, with the amenities and assistance now available to us, it is much easier for us to carry out our work. As parliamentarians we are not paid so that we can be continually electioneering. We are paid purely for our parliamentary work.
In conclusion, let me say that I stand strongly opposed to these proposals to alter the Constitution and that I believe the people of Australia will vote strongly against them. The main question exercising their minds will be: ‘Do we want more parliamentarians?’ I agree with them that we do not.
– I have addressed myself to this subject matter on, 1 think, three previous occasions. Certainly I have done so on at least two occasions. The Bill now before the Senate is not an original conception of the Government. This matter is not one that has arisen only recently. Its genesis lies in the report submitted by the Constitutional Review Committee in 1958, supported by the further report tabled in 1959. In those years there was no question of a redistribution. The recommendation of the Committee at that time was based on anything but the considerations that operate in relation to redistribution. The recommendation was made by eleven members of the Committee, with one member dissenting. The Committee comprised six members from each side of politics - the Government parties and the Opposition. So this matter has been under consideration for a very long time. Towards the end of 1964 I had the privilege, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, to put before the Senate some four Bills, seeking referenda covering recommendations of that Committee, this recommendation being amongst them. I regret that all of the recommendations of the Committee in relation to this Parliament are not before us now, because they formed a pattern. At the moment, we have only one of them before us.
I also put on record that in 1960 the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party unanimously approved the whole of the recommendations of that Committee. So the Party has not made any recent and rash decision on the matter. I also indicate that in 1961 the Federal Conference of our Party - at my urging, I concede - laid down the proposition that the Party would support all or any of those recommendations. That shows how keen is the Labor Party upon getting constitutional reform not merely >n this field but also in others. There are far more important matters that could be the subject of a referendum, but unnfortunately we are confined to dealing with the one or two that the Government has selected.
Having spoken in 1964 on those four Bills, and having spoken on this Bill or a similar Bill when it was before us in 1965, 1 indicate to those who wish to study Hansard that I am now not traversing the ground that I touched upon then. I am concerned now to traverse the speeches that have been made on this measure, largely in the Senate. I have been prompted to intervene in the debate by many references to the speeches I made in 1948 and to the select committee’s report to which I subscribed in 1950. Senator Wood almost convinced me that 1 deserved the build-up that he gave me, no doubt with a view to letting me down with the greatest possible bump. I was almost convinced that 1 deserved his high praise when I heard him read what I had said. I was lost in admiration of what 1 heard. If I were back in 1948 and were faced with exactly the same situation, I would repeat every word that my friend flattered me by quoting in the course of this debate.
The principle involved was the protection of the Senate at a joint sitting. The purpose of the two to one ratio was to ensure that the Senate would not be submerged if a joint sitting were held. In 194S and 1950 I affirmed that principle with all the eloquence I could command, and I inform the Senate that I have never changed my mind on the need for that protection. Those who quoted my speeches of 1948 and 1950, for reasons which seemed good to them, neglected entirely to quote the reports of 1958 and 1959 in which 1 subscribed to the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. Why did they go back to 1948 and 1950? Why did they ignore what McKenna said in the reports of 1958 and 1959 on this very subject of the need to protect the Senate at a joint sitting? Why did they ignore the Bills I presented to this Parliament on this very subject at the end of 1964? Why did they not quote from the speech that I made on that occasion? Why did they not quote from the speech I made in .1965 on a Bill similar to this Bill? The reason is completely obvious. It did not suit them. Of course, one might claim that they acted in ignorance. If they did, that was blameworthy. One might think that they acted with malice. 1 do not believe that, and I do not suggest it. So I. fall back on the first point - ignorance.
Quite frankly, it frightens me to find honourable senators approaching the subject of constitutional amendment with their minds prejudiced before they begin to look at the subject. Finding something that I said in 1948 which suits their prejudiced view, their non-objective view, they seize on it with great glee and never look one inch further. That is not what we have come to expect from members of this place. We do not expect that they will address themselves to a matter of truly national importance, one affecting the Constitution, and not put the whole story before us. We do not expect that they will come here unprepared, that they will not take an objective look at the subject and, above all, that they will not be prepared to present their cases objectively.
In 1958, in recommending the breaking of the nexus, the Constitutional Review Committee made other recommendations. I invite the Senate to take time to read paragraphs 205 to 208 of the report, dealing with the position of the Senate at a joint silting and facing the fact that the nexus operating then was a protection. That is its primary purpose. The Committee dealt with that and supplied a neater and more effective protection. This is contained in the Bills that I put before the Senate in 1964. The Committee said that there should be two tests as to whether a matter should pass at such a joint sitting. The first one was an absolute majority of all members assembled whether they be members of the House of Representatives or the Senate. Not only that, but at least one-half of all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in at least one-half of the States had to agree to the proposition before it could be carried. The principle for which I contended in 1948 and 1950 was the safe-, guarding of the Senate at a joint sitting. The Committee had the great sense to discard the clumsy inexpert device of a two to one ratio to determine the number of members of the House of Representatives solely to protect the Senate at a joint sitting.
They could not have chosen a sillier instrument. When I spoke in 1948 and 1950 it was the only instrument available. I spoke inthe terms of what was then the Constitution. The nexus was for the one primary purpose of preserving the position of the Senate at a joint sitting. The question of a disagreement and a joint sitting is not before us today. That is dealt with in section 57 of the Constitution which refers to disagreements between the Houses. That question ought to be before us. If it were before us I would support the protection of the Senate as recommendedby the Constitutional Review Committee and presented by me on behalf of the Labor Party in this chamber as recently as 1964. Quite frankly, I am distressed to find that there has been a nonobjective representation of the view of the Labor Party and of myself. I think that is completely unfortunate.
Now let me deal with some of the statements which I have encountered in this place. I suppose I should thank Senator Wood for his kindly reference to me. Senator Gair in his speech yesterday claimed that on the part of both the Government and the Labor Party there were considerations affecting the distribution of electorates which prompted this measure. So far as the Australian Labor Party is concerned, 1 have already said enough completely to disprove that claim. This question was determined and accepted by the Party in 1958, 1959 and 1960 when the question of redistribution was not under way. That is the first claim that I reject.
Senator Gair said ; and this is completely incorrect - that the figure of 85,000 which is the divisor to be used in determining the number of members in each State - not the number of people in each electorate - is the quota included in this legislation and that it can be altered only by a further referendum. That statement is utterly and completely wrong. The figure is inserted in the simple Bill before us, which states that the figure which is to be determined by the Parliament is to be not less than 85,000. No further referendum is required to alter the figure. It merely means that the Parliament decides the figure. It can make it 100,000, 150,000 or any other figure it wishes.
– The honourable senator does not suggest that an alteration of the
Constitution would be required to reduce the figure from 85,000?
– Yes, I am.
– That is what Senator Gair said.
– No. He said that it can be altered only by a further referendum.
– That is what Senator Gair said. The honourable senator is not suggesting that the figure of 85,000 can be reduced except by referendum.
– Senator Gair confirmed the viewpoint that he expressed on page 288 of yesterday’s Hansard by saying: . . I cannot envisage any government holding another referendum to increase this quota.
There is no doubt about what he meant. He was talking about increasing the quota. Senator Wright will find that statement on page 288 of yesterday’s Hansard. He will find the first quotation to which I referred on page 285. So there is no question about what Senator Gair was talking about and there is equally no question that it was a complete misconception on his part.
Now 1 come to another statement which appears on page 288 of yesterday’s Hansard. Senator Gair pointed out that under the new proposals the size of the House of Representatives would grow until when we achieved a population equal to the present population of the United States of America we would finish up with some 2,350 members of the House of Representatives, using a quota of 85,000 for determining the number of members. Of course, that embarks on the realm offantasy. The truth is that the divisor will grow at the will of this Parliament as the population increases. There will, in this country, be similar development to that in America. I refer to something that Senator Keating - a senator from New York who was in Australia attending a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting and who was supplanted quite recently by Robert Kennedy - told me. He said that while he represented hundreds of thousands of people, the Government had given him a staff of forty, including clerks, research workers and public relation officers. That is the position of all senators in the United States. They get staff according to their electorate requirements. We will see that development in Australia.
When an honourable senator stands up in this place and says that there is one senator for hundreds of thousands of people in America, he wants to remember that it is not just one person, but he and forty other persons who perform the representation and carry out the work. That staff of forty has to be taken into account in any proper comparison between Australia and the United States. It is inevitable that as years pass - I do not say it will be in the immediate future - we will have a similar kind of development to that which has taken place in the United States. There will be a constant increase - not a decrease because that is not possible under this proposal - in the divisor as the population grows, and the most important thing of all will be that more help will be given to members to enable them to do their work.
Their work is important and the various grades of it vary. But the most important thing that is required in the House of Representatives is time for the members there to think. They do not get that now. That is one reason why a comparison can be made in favour of the Senate in the matter of the quality of debates that take place in the two chambers. The members of the House of Representatives are engaged day and night on work in their electorates. I tell all the members of the branches of my Party and the people whom I encounter in the State that I represent to leave their members alone and not to be dragging them to functions. If they are to be good parliamentarians they have to have lime to sit down, study, read, think, and serve on committees. We in this chamber have an advantage over members of the House of Representatives. They are harried day and night. I see that happening to members of the House of Representatives with whom I am in close contact. From my own observations 1 say that there is a need at this moment and there will be a continuing need as time passes for more members in the House of Representatives.
I only want to refer to one other matter that was raised by Senator Gair. At page 290 of yesterday’s Hansard he is recorded as having said:
That seems to tell the people that if they vote No there will be no increase. The truth is that there can be an unlimited increase if the people vote No. As a matter of political good sense the increase will have to take place in multiples of four in each State for the Senate and twice that number for the other place; that is, twenty-four senators and forty-eight members of the House of Representatives. The increase will be in steps of seventy-two. The Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton), the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) who introduced this Bill in this chamber and the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) are completely correct when they say that that is the alternative to doing what is now contemplated in this measure - altering the Constitution to enable the Government to increase by a modest twelve or twenty the number of members in the House of Representatives. That is the sensible thing to do in the light of the situation as it is developing. Why hang around our necks and treat as immutable a Constitution that was born in the horse and buggy days, sixty-seven years ago? Let us grow up; let us be adult. Do no import these confusions and misrepresentations, however innocent, into the debates of this Parliament.
Senator Wright spoke in this debate. I want to refer to what he had to say in December 1965 on the Bill that preceded this one. I shall quote from page 1945 of Hansard. I am doing this not for any personal advantage over opponents of this measure, or to provoke disputation with them, but because these are the records that intelligent people will read. Certain things cannot be left unanswered, because they convey the wrong impression. On that occasion, Senator Wright said: . . the people should understand that an essential part of Senator McKenna’. proposal last year to break the deadlock provision was to eliminate, in the resolution of any differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate, any reference to the people.
That, too, is completely incorrect, because the proposal regarding disagreements made by the committee of which he and 1 were both members would have left the Government with the unimpaired right to have a double dissolution - to take the whole Senate and the. whole House of Representatives to the people. There is no question about that.
We offered an alternative. A joint sitting was not to be compulsory; it was to be an alternative. The Government had the choice. It could take the matter to the people and let the people decide it or there could be a joint sitting at which the matter might be resolved. On that point we inserted the provision that protected this Senate in a joint sitting.
The Labor Party in this matter has been consistent and sensible and it does not believe in invoking a stupid two to one ratio to protect the Senate in a joint sitting. The Labor Party has a simple double standard to be achieved at a joint sitting to carry a proposal. There has been much talk about joint sittings. Let me show how utterly remote is the possibility of a joint sitting. It can arise under the Constitution, as it stands at present, only when the Senate has rejected a Bill put up by the House of Representatives; when it has repeated the rejection after three months; and then when there nas been an election - those two events followed by an election - and the Bill has been put up again in the new Parliament. That is the only provision in the Constitution for a joint sitting.
– And the election is a double dissolution.
– It is after a double dissolution and the same Bill that provoked it is presented again. It is quite obvious why there has never been a joint sitting. The situation has not arisen in sixty-six years and I defy anybody to tell me that it could arise in the foreseeable future. The situation has changed from when I spoke in 1948. I spoke at a time when I was accustomed to seeing a majority of thirtythree to three in this place. There is now proportional representation and it is a different world. It is an entirely different Senate. It is time that we, in this place, faced up to that.
Senator Wood opposed the Bill for reasons that did not seem good to me. In seeking to show a change in principle for the protection of the Senate at a remote joint sitting he quoted my speeches. I have already commented upon the fact that this was not fairly done. No advertence was made to the principle from which I have not deviated in the interim. I have simply accepted a much more facile and suitable instrument for the purpose. I was very impressed with Senator Gorton’s speech. It was the briefest and the most effective. Each of the principles that he put before this Senate this afternoon was right in every particular. We have been told that when this Bill is carried the power of the Senate will be adversely affected. It has been suggested that the Senate will be weakened and destroyed. But what power is touched? The simple answer to that is that not one power is affected. Our position in the Parliament vis-a-vis the House of Representatives is identical with what it always has been. There is not the slightest diminution of power and whilst the Government has not seen fit to go further and include a provision to deal with deadlocks and provide for joint sittings at which the Senate will be protected, this is a first step. If the honourable senators who are opposing this measure will join with me, when this is over, to try to get a Bill through for a referendum dealing with deadlocks, I will undertake to support to the limit the same principle that I affirmed in 1948. I undertake that the members of my party will support it to the limit to ensure that there is protection at the joint sittings - and we would anticipate an early joint sitting, and possibly a number of them in the new situation. We will, vote for such a Bill and we hope that members opposite would join with us.
One of the things nearest to my heart in this Parliament is the desire to get our Constitution brought up to date. It is no reflection on the fathers of Federation to say that there are defects in the Constitution. They wrote it at the time when there was not even a gramophone, no cinema, no wireless telegraphy, no petrol as a motive power for motor vehicles and when there were horse drawn vehicles. They were literally horse and buggy days, apart from the steam engines on the railways.
– There was no sliced bread in those days.
– The honourable senator is right. This is an entirely new world. Aviation did not exist in those days. Aviation was not even a word, yet now we are all so familiar with aviation. No-one flew in those days and nothing was known of nuclear power or of the great technological advantages that the world has seen.
Obviously there arc defects in the Constitution, and my concern about the defects is how they affect the National Parliament’s functions in controlling the economy, securing the nation and dealing with matters of vast international importance. The Australian people cannot afford to have their government’s hands tied behind its back. That was the feeling of the Constitutional Review Committee when it made its various recommendations and, in relation to that, 1 will conclude on this note: nobody need worry about conferring upon this Parliament very wide powers as long as there remains the right to challenge - as long as every three years members of this Parliament have to go out before the public and give an accounting of their stewardship and the people can deal with them with an unlimited and unrestricted franchise, with adult suffrage and one value for each vote. As long as these things are preserved the people should never hesitate to entrust power to the National Parliament. Who can be blamed for the lack of progress in this country where there are Commonwealth and States with differing powers? Only in time of war or of extreme danger of war can the National Parliament really condition and guide the economy efficiently and effectively. The National Parliament lacks the precision tools and when it is faced with booms and slumps it has to resort all the time to the blunt old instrument of taxation. Instead of being able to guide surely with a firm Constitution it has to deal with restrictive trade practices, consumer credit, interest rates and things of that nature.
I apologise for digressing on this point, but 1 regard this Bill as being an important beginning of the implementation of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. I will join with any honourable senator - and so will my Party - in supporting implementation of the other recommendations. I commend the Bill with all the enthusiasm I can command. I do it not only for myself but on behalf of every member of the Australian Labor Party in the Parliament as well as the members outside the Parliament. I hope they will join with me in campaigning to the limit of their ability and with the utmost enthusiasm to get this reform, little as it is, on to the Constitution of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
[8.0J - in reply - Mr President, during the last two days we in the Senate have been having an interesting debate on a very important matter - the breaking of the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is one of two proposals that we propose to submit to a referendum of the people. During the debate a lot has been said which has been of great interest. I want to deal with some of the points that have been raised. I shall refer first to a very interesting table mentioned by Senator Gair which showed the expansion of the population of Australia over five year terms and the number of members who would sit in the House of Representatives if a minimum quota of S5.000 was used as a divisor to determine the number of electorates. I think I even saw the honourable senator shudder a little when he referred to the year 2000 and said that with a population of 22 million we would have 300 members in the House of Representatives. I do not wish to be tied to those figures, but I think that is what the honourable senator said. I wonder why he stopped there? What he should have done was to go on to say that, if we did not break the nexus, there would also be 150 senators in that year, or 90 more than there are now.
– Not necessarily.
– If the nexus is not broken and we have a ratio of two to one, and if there are 300 members in the House of Representatives, there must be 150 senators. If the honourable senator does his arithmetic he will find that that is quite correct.
– One could alter the proportion.
– The honourable senator says that we could have it altered. He proposes to vote against the Bill so that the people may not have a say. But 1 do not want to be turned off what I want to say. If it takes me two hours to do so, I intend to say what I want to say. I intend to say it quietly and without getting disturbed, because this is a constitutional matter. It is one which the people should be able :o judge for themselves. Speaking for myself, this is a matter which should go to the people. For my part, anybody who votes against this legislation, and therefore against the proposal being submitted to the people, is not a true democrat. The forms of our Parliament entitle us to seek the opinion of the people at elections, when we put forward our policies, and at referendums when we submit proposals to them. It is for the people to decide whether they do or do not want to accept our policies or our proposals. It is not for this House to deny the people an opportunity to vote against the proposal contained in this Bill. If members of the Parliament vote against the Bill, they will be seeking to deny the people an opportunity to have a say about the proposal set forth in the Bill. Honourable senators may or may not approve of the contents of a Bill such as the one now before us; but that does not give them the right to deny the people an opportunity to say whether they agree with the proposal that is to be submitted to them by way of referendum.
I repeat that Senator Gair shuddered when he referred to the time when there would be 300 members in the House of Representatives. He would really have shaken if he had taken the matter to its proper conclusion and had said that, if the nexus between the two Houses is not broken as recommended by both of the major parties and by the Government, there would then be 150 senators in this chamber. This is the crux of the whole matter. The decision that the people have to make is not, as was glibly put to them, whether there should be any more members of Parliament. The question is whether there should be 90 more senators when the size of the House of Representatives grows to 300, if it grows that much. I repeat that the question to be answered is not whether there should be any more parliamentarians, but whether, when the Parliament is enlarged - there is no doubt that it will be enlarged over the years - and there are 300 members in the House of Representatives, and additional 90 senators should be appointed.
I speak as a representative of a small State who has had approximately seventeen years experience in this Parliament and as one who is jealous of the interests of that State. I cannot see the interests of any State being damaged if it is represented in the Senate by ten members of the Parliament, provided that each State has equal representation. The proposal to be put to the people will in no way affect the constitutional powers of the Senate. If the proposal is accepted, the Senate will have exactly the same powers as it has now. I believe that as long as ten senators are appointed from each State, the interests of the smaller States will be well guarded. As one Opposition senator said, the real safeguard that the people have is the fact that an election is held every three years. Indeed, the only safeguard that the people have is the fact that those who are responsible for dealing with the problems of the day have to face the people at an election every three years. I am quite satisfied to leave it to future parliaments to deal with any problems that might arise from increasing the size of the House of Representatives and the size of the Senate, even if the nexus is broken. Let the members of those parliaments go to the people and put their point of view. If the people accept that point of view, then their elected representatives will have every right to give effect to it. Let me say once more that, when figures are quoted, they should be taken to their logical conclusion. It may well be that by the year 2000 we will have a population of 22 million and there will be 300 members in the House of Representatives. I think they are approximately the figures that tha honourable senator quoted.
– Do nol rely on me. 1 am not reliable, according to the Minister’s argument.
– I did not say that the honourable senator was unreliable. I said that he did not finish the story.
– .1 will finish it.
– If the honourable senator had finished the story, he would have said that if we do not break the nexus then we would have 150 senators. I thought that I should fill in that little gap which the honourable senator left in his argument. I want to deal with this matter quite impartially, because it is a constitutional matter. Fears have been expressed by honourable senators, particularly on my side of the House, that the Australian Labor Party will abolish the Senate. They have said that that is written in its platform. But I am one who likes to judge people on their deeds, not on what they have written in certain things. I remember that in 1949 the Senate had thirty-six members, three of whom were from our side of politics and thirty-three of whom were from the Labor side. One could not get much better odds than that. I would like to have the opportunity to deal with legislation with a majority of thirty-three to three. I think I could put most things through the Senate under those circumstances.
The Labor Party also had a majority in the House of Representatives. What did it do? Did it abolish the Senate? No; it increased the number of senators from thirty-six to sixty. So I say that I like to judge people, particularly members of the Opposition, by their deeds and not by what is written in their platform. With great respect to Senator Murphy and the comment that he made the other day, I point out that what is written in the Labor Party’s platform is not always as inviolate as he sometimes thinks it is. As a matter of fact, 1 came into the Senate when it was enlarged to sixty. I say these things to allay the fears of those who believe that the Senate may be abolished. In 1949 the Labor Party increased the number of senators from thirty-six to sixty although it had full control of both Houses which would have enabled it to carry out the abolition of the Senate if it had so wished.
I have heard some very august names mentioned during this debate. The names of some of the founding fathers who favoured the two to one nexus have been mentioned. It is rather interesting to note that, as far as 1 can And, only one country other than Australia has a nexus between its upper and lower houses. I think that country is Norway. Canada has no nexus between its Senate and House of Commons.
– All Canadian senators are government appointees.
– That is right. The United States has no nexus between the two Houses of Congress. The American Senate seems to be able to play a pretty competent part in the affairs of the American States with two senators from each State. American senators do not seem to find themselves inhibited in holding their own with members of the House of Representatives.
I have heard the names of some of the august men who, during the Conventions, supported the establishment of this nexus. I will mention the names of a few other august men who opposed it. Alfred Deakin is not unknown to Australians. He was a distinguished Australian in the political field. Of course, he sponsored the quota system which is now being carried into this referendum proposal. Charles Kingston, who came from the smaller State of South Australia, favoured the quota system. Isaac Isaacs supported it, as did Sir George Turner. These were great men of that day. They held opposing points of view on the two to one nexus.
– They were outnumbered twenty-six to seventeen.
– Yes, they were outnumbered.
– All the Tasmanians voted for the nexus.
– That is right.
– And the Minister is voting against it now.
– The difference is that we are not living back in 1897 or 1901; we are living in 1967. 1 point out to honourable senators something that we must remember: the Senate does not change at an election; only half of it changes at an election. It takes two Senate elections to change the composition of the Senate.
– It was purposely constituted that way.
– That was done purposely; but in my opinion it was not done to enable the Senate to obstruct the implementation of policies. The duty of the Senate is to protect and represent the Slates and, by delay, to cause the review of legislation that comes before it if it believes that delay and review are necessary. But the implementation of policies lies in the House of Representatives and the government of the day. It must lie there. The House of Representatives is elected in toto every three years; only half of the Senate is elected every three years. Members of the House of Representatives faced an election last November. Only one or two casual Senate vacancies were filled on that occasion. The Senate has not faced an election since 1964. These matters must be borne in mind. lt is interesting to look, at the report of the Constitutional Review Committee. I propose to read one or two passages that are very significant in the light of this proposal to break the nexus. In paragraph 72, under the heading ‘Dual Conception of the Senate at Federation”, the Committee said: . . Sir Henry Parkes, when introducing his Federal resolutions at the commencement of the Convention discussions at Sydney in 1891, said in the course of explaining his proposals to establish a Federal Parliament consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives:
What I mean is an upper chamber, call it what you may, which shall have within itself the only conservatism possible in a democracy - the conservatism of maturity of judgment, of distinction of service, of length of experience, and weight of character - which are the only qualities we can expect to collect and bring into one body in a community young and inexperienced as Australia is.
That was Sir Henry Parkes’s conception in 189.1. Of course, at that stage the Senate was not conceived of as a parties House. Surely no-one will suggest that it is not a parties House today.
– We did not have a Senate in 1891.
– No. I am talking about what was said at the Conventions. Sir Henry Parkes’s conception of the Senate at that stage was as I have read. But at that stage there was no thought in the minds of the founding fathers, as they have been called, that the Senate would be a parties House. I will now quote some words of that distinguished Australian, Alfred Deakin, as set out in paragraph 82 of the Committee’s report. I believe that it is most important for honourable senators to remember these words. The report states:
There were not many in J 900 who openly predicted that party rivalry in the Senate would overshadow the functioning of the Senate as a house of the States. One of the few was Alfred Deakin who prophesied during the Convention at Sydney in 1897 that: the contentions in the Senate or out of it. and especially any contention between the two Houses, will not and cannot arise upon questions in regard to which States will be ranked against Stales. . . . in the United States, and also in Switzerland, and in Canada, as here, the whole of the States will be divided into two parties. Contests between the two houses will only arise when one party is in possession of a majority in the one chamber, and the other in possession of a majority in the other chamber. We have had it submitted to us that probably the Senate will be the more radical house of the two. I am willing to accept that suggestion for the purposes of my argument, though the argument is equally good either way. The House of Representatives would then be the more conservative body, and it is possible that a more conservative party in the House of Representatives would bc confronted by a more radical party in the senate. In both cases the result after a dissolution would be the same. The men returned as radicals would vote as radicals; the men returned as conservatives would vote as conservatives. The contest will not be. never has been, and cannot be, between States and States … it is certain that once this constitution is framed, it will be followed by the creation of two great national parties. Every Slate, every district, and every municipality, will sooner or later be divided on the great ground of principle, when principles emerge.
That was said by Alfred Deakin. He was very far-sighted. He saw that the Senate would become a political party House as it has done. His words were set out in the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. Paragraph 88 of the Committee’s report gives conclusions as to the role of the Senate as a States House in these words:
The Committee’s conclusion, which it regards as inescapable, is that the original notion of the Senate as a suites house was noi realised and, therefore, does not justify further increases in the number of senators even though future increases in the number of members of the House of Representatives will probably occur. To the extent that the Senate should represent State interests, as distinct from Commonwealth interests, those interests are sufficiently safeguarded by a Senate of sixty comprising ten senators from each of the original States.
That was the finding of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. As 1 come from a small State, I have given considerable thought and careful study to the constitution of this House and its position in the Parliament as a States House. 1 am convinced of the soundness of the finding of the Committee on Constitutional Review that so long as we have equal representation of the States - at present ten senators from each - that is sufficient. I agree with that and I want it to go on the record that T agree. I shall reply now to one or two matters that were raised by Senator Wood. He said the Government was meddling with the Constitution. We are not meddling with the Constitution and it is sheer nonsense to say that we are. What we propose is a reform of the Constitution which we believe is justified. We are asking the people to express their opinion on it.
– And you will get it.
– Yes, we will and we will abide by it.
– The Government will alter the numbers anyway.
– I thank the honourable senator for the point he has raised because I think this should be said: it is quite wrong to say that the number of members in the House of Representatives and the Senate cannot be increased without a referendum. Of course the numbers can be increased by Act of Parliament. Legislation to do this was put through in 1949. Parliament in its wisdom can increase the size of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
– Yes, we do not have to seek the support of the people for such action. It was done in 1949 when the number of members in the House of Representatives was increased to 122 and the Senate was increased from 36 to 60. That was done by the Parliament and it could be done again. But Parliament cannot increase the size of the House of Representatives without increasing the size of the Senate also even though such an increase might not be justified. That is what cannot be done. We want the people to say to us: If you want to increase the size of the House of Representatives we do not think you should be compelled by the Constitution to increase the size of the Senate too’. If the people vote No it will not mean fewer members of Parliament; it will mean more members of Parliament because there will be an additional number of senators as well as more members of the House of Representatives. Unless the nexus is broken, no government will be able to increase the size of the House of Representives without also increasing the size of the Senate because that is set down in the Constitution.
So it is not correct to say that the referendum will decide whether there should be an increase in the number of members of
Parliament. The point is that if the people do not agree to breaking the nexus, there will be an additional number of senators whenever the size of the House of Representatives is increased. This should be put clearly to the people. They should be informed exactly what the position is. The Bill provides for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth for a restriction on an increase in the House of Representatives. At present the two Houses of Parliament can increase the size of the House of Representatives to any number they think fit. This Bill provides for a restriction on such action.
– I shall tell the honourable senator how it provides such a restriction. It is proposed that the population of the States will be divided by 85,000.
– Do tell us about electoral redistribution before you sit down.
– I shall finish my answer to Senator Mattner’s question. The number of people in the States will be divided by 85,000. This will not establish the size of each electorate at 85,000 but will establish the number of electorates that there will be in each State.
– No it will not.
– Pardon, it will. If the honourable senator will be silent for a moment be will learn the facts. The figure of 85,000 is the minimum divisor. That number will be divided into the population of the States to give the number of electorates in each State. Then the electoral law will take over and a redistribution will be made. There will not necessarily be 85,000 persons in each electorate because the electoral law provides for a margin of 20% either way. This should be made clear. Nevertheless, this Bill puts a restriction for the first time on the number of members of the House of Representatives.
I am reminded that my time has almost expired but I want to make one more point. Honourable senators heard me say this before and I feel very deeply about it: I am a tremendous believer in the Australian democratic system. After’ seventeen years in this Parliament I am a believer in the service that members of Parliament are called upon to give in the interests of their constituents and their country. I am tremendously impressed as 1 travel around the world with the possibilities that exist in Australia, in comparison with those existing anywhere else in the world, for the contacting of Ministers.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Senator Wright) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) speaking in reply for more than thirty minutes.
– 1 thank the Senate for the courtesy that it has extended to me to enable me to tidy up one or two matters. I mentioned that there was only one parliament in the world with a bicameral system which had this link, this nexus, between the numbers of members in the two houses of parliament. That is the Parliament of Norway, in most other parliaments where there is a bicameral system there is no such inhibition. This situation in Australia was brought about in 1900. Sixty-seven long years have gone past since then and we have seen tremendous changes in this world. 1 do not think that any one of us in the Parliament at this time can be over-proud of the fact that we have not made more changes to the Constitution than we have made up to the present. This is something at which we shall have to look more closely in the future but, as one honourable senator opposite said, this is a start. Because the National Parliament is inhibited by a Constitution which is now sixty-seven years old and we have seen so many changes in the world, all of us must look at this problem and put forward our best endeavours to bring the position up to date.
The legislation that we have before us is to give the people of Australia the right to say at a referendum yes or no to a proposition. Whether anyone agrees or does not agree with the contents of this Bill, I do not think that he has the right to deny the people the opportunity to have their say at a referendum on these two points of view. Those who vote against this legislation should first consider what they would do if they could get to follow them numbers sufficient to defeat this legislation. This would mean that the people would be denied the right to have their say at a referendum. If the people do not break this nexus, any increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives in any future Parliament will call for an increase in the number of senators. Senator Gair mentioned a figure of 300. If there were 300 members of the House of Representatives the number of senators would rise from sixty to 150. If the nexus were not broken by that time there would be an additional ninety senators as well as the increase in the House of Representatives.
– Not necessarily.
– We cannot avoid it if we do not break the nexus. That is the whole point.
– Of course that is the position.
– We are over-governed now and we will be over-governed for years.
– The honourable senator should go and read the provision. I am a great believer in our system of democracy. It was pointed out today that in the United States each Minister is surrounded by an enormous staff of forty or fifty public servants.
– Each senator.
– Each senator, each Minister and each member of the House of Representatives. I like our own system whereby people can get to their members in the House of Representatives, to their senators and to their Ministers, and whereby every three years the people have the safeguard of saying whether they will continue with those members and senators who are in the Parliament or whether they will replace them with others. This system of democracy, I believe, will not in any way be inhibited or touched by the breaking of the nexus, by eliminating from the Constitution the need, as the population of Australia grows, to increase the size of the Senate as the size of the House of Representatives is increased. This should be left to the wisdom of the people who, I believe, will carry this referendum.
Question put -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 41
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move:
– You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
– An honourable senator opposite has interjected that I should be ashamed of myself. It is the duty of the Senate and of the Parliament to place before the electors a clear title to the Bill that is to authorise a referendum.
– Why is it necessary to alter it now?
– Because the Bill is before the Senate. We want to make the title more accurate so that people voting at the referendum can understand clearly the intention of the Parliament to alter the Constitution. The title as I propose it should be amended sets out quite clearly the intention of the Parliament. It states that the intention is to alter the Constitution so as to remove the need to increase the number of senators whenever the number of members of the House of Representatives is increased. The amended title would take the place of the title of the Bill received from the House of Representatives, which states:
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.
Honourable senators who have spoken in this debate have referred to the need to tidy up the title and I have moved a motion to amend the title for just that purpose. Surely if we can place the matter in a concise, true and accurate form before the electors, they in turn can go to the referendum on voting day and vote yes or no to a proposition that is put, in my opinion, more clearly than in the original title of the Bill as presented to us by the House of Representatives.
– On behalf of the Opposition I indicate that we will oppose the motion. We undertook to support the Bill which was brought forward without qualification. We did so on the basis that, in any event, the Bill was for a referendum which ought to have been held a considerable time ago if the constitutional obligation of the Government had been observed.. In 1965 a Bill passed through both Houses which was in substance the same as this Bill. At that time the title of the Bill was A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution in relation to the Number of Members of each House of the Parliament’. No doubt some thought was given to that title, but when the Bill was again introduced this year into the House of Representatives the title was altered to its present form, that 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 proposition put forward by Senator Scott is that there should be an amendment so that the title will apppear as ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to Remove the Need to increase the Number of Senators whenever the Number of Members of the House of Representatives is increased’. That seems to add another three words to the title and to invert the words in if. We take the view that such a move at this stage of the proceedings on a matter so grave as the alteration of the Constitution is calculated only to arouse suspicion as to what is being proposed. The matter has been dealt with solemnly in the House of Representatives. A unanimous vote of those present in the House of Representatives was accorded the measure in its present form, lt has been debated in this House in ils present form and we do not see that the proposed alteration is necessary in order that the measure may be properly presented by way of referendum to the people of the Commonwealth.
I repeal that the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party has undertaken to support the measure without, reservation, without equivocation and without qualification. This qualification we will not support. We will oppose the amendment.
1.8.53]- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has directed attention to the fact that the long title of this Bill is different from the title of the Bill which the Senate previously supported and passed. During the course of this debate a number of honourable senators have said thai they felt the title was not clear so this alteration has been proposed by Senator Scott. I believe it sets out quite clearly the proposition that will be put to the people A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to Remove the Need to increase the Number of Senators whenever the Number of Members of the House of Representatives is increased’.
It will be noted that the amendment commences with the words: ‘Leave out the title and insert the following new title’. This could not bc done if the slightest alteration was being made to the meaning of the title. In my opinion the additional three words to which Senator Murphy has referred give a clearer understanding of the question. I would have thought that the proposed amendment was worthy of consideration and would have been supported by the Opposition. However, it is a matter for tha Committee. If the Committee feels that this proposed amendment does not make tha question clearer; if it feels there is something in the proposal which could lead to the suggestion that the people will not understand better the question that they will have to decide, then it can say so.
– I should like to congratulate Senator Scott on having moved this amendment to the title of the Bill in order to enable-
– Without any inspiration at all?
– With or without inspiration. I should like to congratulate him on having moved it for reasons which should be cogent to the honourable senator if he believes what, he says he believes when he speaks in this Senate.
– Do not imply that I do not.
– I will imply anything I wish.
– No, you will not.
– I have already clone it.
– Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. Any implication that 1 do not believe what I say is repugnant to me and, I .submit, contrary to the Standing Orders. I ask that the Minister withdrew it.
– If Senator Wright takes what I have said as an imputation that he does not believe what he says when he speaks here I will withdraw it; but I repeat that this should appeal to him if he believes what he says when he speaks in this Senate because what he says when ha speaks in this Senate is that we should, without fear or favour, put before the people exactly what we desire in the way of a law together with the arguments that we believe support that law. I suggest that what has been moved by Senator Scott falls entirely within that category because [ think it has been admitted by speakers, not only from the Government parties but in fact by nearly all speakers, that what we are discussing is not a Bill to increase the size of the House of Representatives. That is not being proposed in this Bill, although the title as at present printed states: ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so that the Number of Members of the House of Representatives may be increased . . . ‘ This is a misnomer. This is a misdirection. We do not need a Bill for an Act so that the number of members of the House of Representatives may be increased.
– Then what have we been debating for forty-eight hours?
– Some honourable senators opposite are trying, Mr Chairman, to disrupt an argument which goes to the core of their misrepresentations. We do not need a Bill for an Act so that the number of members of the House of Representatives may be increased. Why do we have a Bill with the title: ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so that the Number of Members of the House of Representatives may bc increased without necessarily increasing the Number of Senators’? Speaker after speaker has pointed out that the proposition before the Senate is that we should be enabled to refrain from increasing the number of senators at any time in the future when the numbers in the House of Representatives are increased. Surely the proposed amendment is a far clearer exposition of that case - a case which has been supported by speakers on all sides except for the small noisy group in the corner.
It has been agreed that this is a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to remove the need to increase the number of senators whenever the number of members of the House of Representatives is increased. If this is agreed to be a true statement of the purposes of the Act, if it is agreed that we do not need a Bill for an Act in increase the number of members of the House of Representatives, what are the arguments against putting the question to the people in a form in which it most clearly expresses the intentions of the Parliament? I agree that it has some ultimate effect overall, but it is clearly and specifically a suggestion - this is agreed by all of us - that we need to remove the necessity to increase the number of senators. Why should we not say so? What are the objections to it?
– A fair question. Why was it not so stated in the first place?
– It is no argument lo say that previously a Bill with a different title was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives. If those who speak in this place believe what they say, that should be the last reason to be advanced - that we should not suggest an amendment merely because another House has passed a measure. I urge all concerned to consider seriously whether the proposed title is not a better description of what we - the vast majority of us, according to the last division - want the people of Australia to do.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) [9.001- Mr Chairman, I support the Leader of the Opposition, (Senator Murphy) in our opposition to the proposed alteration of the title of this Bill. It struck me that the proposal is a subtle one in which the negative has been accentuated and the positive has been eliminated. The difference is that as the Bill now stands it states that the number of members of the House of Representatives may toe increased. The Government is presenting to the people a proposal for an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. This is the main purpose of the Bill. But the proposed new title reads: ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to remove the need to increase the number of senators whenever the number of members of the House of Representatives is increased.’ The public will read the first couple of lines and say: This is good - remove the senators.’ This could create a false impression in the minds of the public because a lot of people only read the first one or two lines whether on a ballot paper or in the title of a Bill.
I feel that to present the true facts to the people the old tide should be presented to them in the way it has been debated: 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.’ I feel that the change - as I said before - represents a subtle presentation of the same thing but wrapped up in a different cover. Therefore I support the Leader of the Opposition in his statement that the title we debated - and we supported it without qualification, as he mentioned - is now being qualified. So I oppose the amendment.
– Do I understand that we have been debating a Bill, for two days and two nights, the purport of which is not to increase the number of senators if it is carried? If we have been debating such a Bill then I cannot agree wilh the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Groton) that the Government is not going to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives. I thought that was why we had been debating this subject for two days and two nights.
– Mr Chairman, 1 cannot support the proposed amendment. As Senator Mattner said, we have been debating a Bill on a certain basis. I supported the referendum on that basis. I am not prepared to support it on the wording of this amendment. The primary purpose of the Bill undoubtedly is to achieve an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. In the proposed amendment this purpose is subordinate. This has been brought in as a second thought. I do not think it is entirely honest. 1 cannot support the amendment.
– In opposing the amendment I want to say that I think we have gathered the wrong impression that the purpose of the Bill is of necessity to increase the number of members in one particular House or in either House. There has been a declaration, I think, by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) or Government supporters to that effect but I do not think we are much concerned about what the Government may do in the future. The question is: what does this Bill provide? Clause 2 provides for the insertion of a new section 24 (3.) which states:
The number of members so determined in respect of a State shall bc the number ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the State by such number as is for the time being determined by the Parliament. . . .
Therefore that number has to be ascertained from time to time. There is a proviso that the number shall be not less than 85,000. From time to time the Parliament shall decide what number it shall divide the number of electors by in determining the number of members that shall be in the House of Representatives.
We are assuming now that this will mean an increase in the size of the House of Representatives. Whether it does in fact mean that or not will be decided by this or a subsequent Parliament from time to time when it makes such a division. Therefore whatever may be the intention, the purpose of this Bill need not of necessity bc to increase the number of members in the other House, lt could be to reduce the number of members in the other House. When the appropriate Bill comes before the Parliament for a decision as to what number the number of electors should be divided by. the Parliament may decide to divide by 125,000 instead of 85,000 and this could mean a reduction in the number of members in the other House. This Bill docs not of necessity mean that the ratio of two to one will be maintained or that there will bc a higher ratio. But if the Parliament so desired at the time they discussed further legislation on this subject it could bring the size of the other House down to a basis of equality with this chamber. The Bill makes provision for this. The title as it stands reads: ‘To alter the Constitution so that the number of members of the House of Representatives may be increased . . .’ While that may be. the intention - and every honourable senator knows it is the intention of the Government - this Bill will make it possible to reduce the number. We do not know at this stage what Parliament may decide when considering action under this legislation, k may be just as appropriate to say that the title means that the Bill is to alter the Constitution so that the number of members of the House of Represenatives may be decreased below that ratio of two to one. The amendment alters the title to: ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution so as to remove the need to increase the number of senators whenever the number of members of the House of Representatives is increased.’ While I think this is an appropriate title to describe the intention of the Bill we have to look at the whole discussion on the basis of which we considered this question. We have discussed it on the basis that it was for the purpose of increasing, and that it is the intention of the Government to increase, the size of the other House. As explained by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) we have pledged our support to the Bill as printed on this occasion. While we are supporting it as presented some serious con- sideration needs to be given as to whether the title is appropriate.
Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) (9.8 J - Whether or not this is a matter of some pedantry which has been raised by Senator Scott, it is appropriate that the Senate should look fairly carefully at the words of the proposed amendment. 1 would agree with the remarks of Senator Gair.
-(Senator Drake-Brockman).- Order! The honourable senator is out of order. He is not in his own seat.
– I apologise, Mr Chairman. Now that 1 have moved to my scat I should like to say that as the question of the wording has been raised, we should look wilh some care at it. The wording of the Bill which has been passed in another place and has been forwarded to this chamber is quite appropriate to the situation which it envisages because it says that the purpose of the Bill is that it is 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 use of the words ‘without necessarily’ implies, I think, a general overall picture which is envisaged by the purposes of the Bill: that at some stage in the future the number of members of the House of Representatives will be increased without necessarily increasing the number of senators. But if one looks at the wording of the amendment moved by Senator Scott one finds that the whole position is not covered at all. The new title as proposed by Senator Scott reads:
A Bill for an Act to alter Hie Constitution so as lo Remove the Need to increase the Number of Senators whenever the Number of Members of the House of Representatives is increased.
Iii fact the Bill will not do this al all because, as Senator Cavanagh has pointed out, it will remove the need to increase or decrease the number of senators whenever the number of members in the House of Representatives is increased or decreased. Whereas the words ‘without necessarily’ in the original proposed title were quite apt, the present form of wording which is being proposed is quite inaccurate and sloppy. As this is a constitutional amendment which should cover all eventualities, it is something which should not be considered by the Committee.
– As we are still at the Committee stage and are dealing with the Bill as a whole, I want some clarification on proposed new section 24 (1) (3), which states:
The number of members so determined in respect of a State shall be the number ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the State by such number as is for the time being determined by the Parliament, being not less than eighty-five thousand and being the one number for all the States. 1 listened to the debate this evening and I was told that my understanding of this provision was not correct. Yet the Bill distinctly states that the number must not be less than 85,000.
– It could be 200,000.
– I am not arguing about that. I am arguing the point at issue. Does this Bill mean what it says, that the number must not be less than 85,000? I want some clarification on this matter. This afternoon I made the point that this provision would be subject to our electoral law and to the Representation Act that we passed more than two years ago. Am I right or wrong? 1 may have misunderstood the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) tonight, but he said that the quota in South Australia would be 82,1 19.
– Who said that?
– The Minister said that. How does he work that out? He can refer to Hansard to see whether what I have said is correct. I hope I am wrong. This is what 1 have been battling to ascertain all the afternoon. I say that the number is 85,000 and that that will go into the Constitution. 1 would like to be corrected if 1 am wrong. Let there be no misapprehension about this. I repeat that 85,000 must be the minimum, subject lo the electoral laws. Is that right?
– That is right.
– If that is right, how can any State have a disparity in numbers, so far as the quota is concerned?
Under this Bill every Slate must submit to that quota of 85,000.
– It must submit to a quota that is decided by Parliament.
– And the number must not be less than 85,000. The quota is 85,000. This is the point that I want clarified. The ordinary person thinks that each electorate will have to contain at least 85,000 people. So as to make it perfectly clear that that is not so, let us say that that number is subject to the existing electoral laws and also to the Representation Act. Then perhaps we will get down to the number of persons who are in the electorate. 1 want to be absolutely certain in my mind that as this Bill stands the minimum is 85,000.
– The minimum for what?
– The minimum number of people who go to make up the quota. The number of people in a State is to be divided by 85,000 to get the number of members. Is that correct?
– That is correct.
– So there must be a minimum of 85,000.
– That is the minimum for determining the quota.
– Exactly. Then that quota is subject to the electoral laws. Let us make that point perfectly clear. If that is so, then 1 say that the statement that there would have to be 85,000 people in every electorate is not correct. That is the point 1 want clarified.
-I think that the Senate is entitled to some elucidation of this matter and I will endeavour to give it as far asI can. If the referendum proposal is adopted, the figure of 85,000 is to be inserted in the Constitution. That figure cannot be altered except by another referendum to alter the Constitution. But it is simply the minimum figure which is to be used for determining the number of members to be elected in a State.
– The number of electorates.
– It is to be used to determine the number of electorates, if you like, or the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected in each State. There is a proviso that the position of the original States shall be preserved so that they shall not fall below five members. Leaving that matter aside, one uses the minimum in the Constitution to place a restriction upon the laws which may be passed by Parliament. Parliament cannot then pass a law which would provide, in effect, that there would be more than one member for every 85,000 persons in a State. So that figure is used for fixing the number of members in a State. Parliament may pass a law stating that the number to be used to determine the number of members of the House of Representatives will be 100,000 or 150,000 but it cannot go below 85,000. The number which Parliament chooses is to be used in respect of all States.
So one then arrives at the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected in a certain State. But that does not mean that there will be an equality of representation inside the State because the electoral laws may determine that there is to be a variation. We have a 20% margin, and subject to the constitutional provision which I shall mention in a moment, there may be a swing above or below whatever figure Parliament fixes upon as the number, If 85,000 were used by Parliament as the number that is fixed as the constitutional minimum, the electoral laws might operate on that constitutional provision so as to make the number of people whom the member represents actually less than 35,000. Of course, the Constitution is not subject to the electoral laws, it is the other way round. One can understand that with a 20% margin there would be a swing down to about 70,000 or 68,000. If the margin were greater than 20%, there might be a swing down even lower. It would ; appear from the Constitution that there is a limitation to that. I refer to the provision that the members of the House of Representatives are to be elected by the people of the States. That provision contains an implied limitation which may prevent the constitutional intention from being defeated. Section 24 states:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and–
Dealing with the provision which has been under consideration here - the number of such members shall be, as nearly us practicable, twice the number of the senators.
The words ‘shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people’ imply, according to decisions which have been taken on similar words in the United States, that there shall be equality of representation or one vote one value. Those words may place a limitation on a variation from the number which has been selected.
– 1 thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I have been searching for a paper on which was set out an answer to Senator Mattner’s question. 1 had a special answer prepared. I knew there was a difficulty in the honourable senator’s mind. The Leader of the Opposition has now covered the position. However, I thought I should make it known that I had gone to the trouble of getting an answer for the honourable senator.
– The Opposition is committed to supporting the provisions of this Bill. However I contend that before the referendum is submitted to the people they need lo be quite clear about what is expected of them in the voting. I refer to the last paragraph of section 128 of the Constitution which states:
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law. 1 understand that some contradictory opinions have been expressed by legal advisers as to whether this means that the normal provisions relating to alterations of the Constitution apply- I understand there is a conflict as to whether all that is needed is for a majority of the voters in the Commonwealth and for a majority of the voters in a majority of the States to vote in favour of the alteration or whether a majority of the voters in each of the six Australian States will have to vote Yes for the referendum to be carried. I imagine that if the referendum is defeated in one or two Stales but carried in four or five there is likely to be litigation. 1 ask either the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) or the Minister for Science and Education (Senator Gorton), who represents the Attorney-General, to indicate to the Senate at this stage the views of the Government or to explain what is required to be done by the voters of Australia when voting at this referendum. The people of Australia are entitled to know what advice the Government has received. We support the proposal that is to be submitted to a referendum, but we believe that the people of Australia should be quite clear about what is required of them when they vote.
– This question was raised when similar legislation was before us on an earlier occasion. The answer I give ‘.o the honourable senator now is the answer that I gave on the earlier occasion. In the opinion of the Government, the last paragraph of section 128 does not apply.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 2 March (vide page 236), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is another Bill which contains a proposal for an alteration to the Constitution. The Bill seeks a referendum on the omission of certain words relating to the people of the Aboriginal race in any State and also of the provision in the Constitution which requires that Aboriginals shall not be counted in reckoning the population. I understand that this Bill will receive the approval of all honourable senators. The Constitution contains certain provisions which restrict the powers of the Parliament to make laws in respect of Aboriginals. The restrictions are set out in section 51 of the Constitution, which contains the law-making powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The section provides:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
Aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws:
It is provided that the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall be able to make special laws in respect of the people of any race except the Aboriginal race. So even if the Parliament deemed it necessary to make special laws in regard to the Aboriginals it could not do so. It may be thought that the exclusion of the Aboriginal race is a favourable one and that the Aboriginals are to be treated as not being different from any other persons. But the simple fact is that they are different from other persons and that they do need special laws. They themselves believe that they need special laws. In this proposed law there is no suggestion of any intended discrimination in respect of Aboriginals except a discrimination in their favour. Much as the Parliament of New Zealand has discriminated in favour of its aboriginals, it is proposed that the Commonwealth should be able to invoke its law making powers whenever it is deemed necessary to make special laws in regard to Aboriginals, even in the area outside the Territories of the Commonwealth. This is a very worthy aim. The Opposition supports the Bill. We trust that the referendum will be carried by the people. We have no doubt that it will be.
However I should like to add a note of caution in dealing with this matter. This Parliament already has, in respect of the Territories of the Commonwealth, the power to pass any laws that it wishes to pass in relation to the Aboriginal people. It has that power in relation to the Northern Territory. It may be thought that because we are going to carry this referendum, as we all expect, the problems of the Aboriginals will be solved at last not only in the Northern Territory and the other Territories of the Commonwealth but also in the States, where so far the Commonwealth has had no direct legislative power in respect of Aboriginals. I must say that my observations of the way in which the Commonwealth has conducted itself in respect of the Aboriginals in its own Territories do not lead me to believe that the carrying of this referendum and the making of this alteration to the Constitution will solve the problems of the Aboriginals.
As has been mentioned before in this chamber, in the Northern Territory there is the disgraceful position that, although there are thousands of Aboriginal children of school age, not one has completed secondary schooling in all the history of the Territory, despite the fact that it has been under the control of the Commonwealth which has had legislative power in respect of it and the ability to provide for the administration and welfare of the Aboriginals. As at the last time I asked a question on this matter, which was twelve months or so ago, the number of Aboriginals attending secondary schools in the Northern Territory could be counted on the fingers of one hand with fingers to spare. This is a disgraceful administration in respect of the Aboriginals.
The Commonwealth is to blame as well as the States. I am not in a position to ascertain or to state the degree of blame that should be attached to either of these sovereign bodies - the Commonwealth on the one hand and the Stales on the other. But certainly they have nothing to be proud of in their treatment of the Aboriginals. Perhaps this determination to obtain the power to make special laws in respect of the Aboriginals is an indication that there is a change of heart on the part of the Commonwealth. We hope that this intention is carried out by deeds that will achieve the purpose.
The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Commonwealth to make those special laws in regard to Aboriginals which we are now prevented from making. There may have been ways of dealing with this problem in respect of Aboriginals, even in the States, if wehad been so minded. Other sections of the Constitution have been used on many occasions in respect of matters on which the Commonwealth had no direct legislative power. Section 96 has been used in regard to all sorts of matters. It could have been used in regard to the people of the Aboriginal race. But apparently there was not such great concern for them as would cause the Commonwealth to use that power or to seek to use other powers.
The other provision that we seek to alter is section 127 of the Constitution, which provides as follows:
In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
In modern times this section has been regarded. J think rightly, as being offensive to the Aboriginal people and to the people of the Commonwealth generally. It means that some of us Australians are not to be counted as people of the Commonwealth. For our own satisfaction as well as for the sake of our appearance in the eyes of the world, we are glad to see that steps are being taken to enable the people, by referendum, to delete this provision from the Constitution. We wholeheartedly support this Bill. We trust and are confident that the people of Australia will overwhelmingly support the referendum and alter the Constitution as provided for in the Bill.
– I rise to support this Bill, which is a belated endeavour to correct a grave injustice that has existed in our Constitution for some years. The Governments of this country have not done themselves any credit in waiting until 1967 to make this correction to enable the people of the Aboriginal race lo be taken into account when calculating the population of Australia and to provide thai the Commonwealth shall legislate for them in common with the other people of Australia. What explanation do governments have for having neglected to correct this injustice over the years? Yesterday and today we have heard a lot about the need to amend the Constitution because of its agc and the need to bring it up to date. Governments have come and gone and constitutional review committees have been established; yet only now have we decided to submit to the people a referendum to make this correction. I have no doubt that the people of Australia, being fair and just and being appreciative of the people of the Aboriginal race, will vote solidly for the amendment of the Constitution to permit these people to be counted and also to permit the Commonwealth Government to legislate for them.
– 1 wish to be heard briefly in support of this Bill. I believe that it is an important one and that its passage and the carrying of the referendum will remove a blot on the fair name of Australia. Section 127 of the Constitution has often been thought of as implying some discrimination against the Aboriginal people. The Joint Committee on
Constitutional Review considered this question and came to the conclusion that the section was not in itself in violation of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the General Assembly of the United Nations, but that its repeal would be consistent with the objectives of the Declaration and would receive international approbation. The Committee drew attention to the fact that the existence of Section 127 was likely to be misconstrued abroad. The time is long past when the Parliament should have moved for an amendment of the Constitution by the removal of this section. 1 am very pleased to see that the Government has moved on the matter and that the issue will be submitted to the people for decision. I am confident that the voters will declare against any racial discrimination because I believe that basically the people of Australia are against any kind of discrimination on the ground of race, religion, creed or anything else that may distinguish some persons from others.
The amendment of section 51 by removing the proviso that special laws may be passed for people of any race other than the Aboriginal race would take an alibi away from the Commonwealth Government. The history of dealings with the Aboriginal population over the years will show that too often the easy way out has been the claim that the Commonwealth had no power to legislate wtih respect to Aboriginals. The Government has now seen fit to move in this matter and I compliment it on moving ahead of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. In 1959 when the second report of the Committee was made, the Committee had not yet completed its consideration of this issue and so had not made any recommendations. Since then, opinion from many humanitarian groups in the community and from the enlightened section of Australians has led irresistibly to the solution that is offered by the Bill. When the inhibition is removed, the way will be clear for a proper approach to the problem of the Aboriginal people.
I join with my Leader, Senator Murphy, in voicing a word of caution. This will not remove the problem automatically and ensure fair and just treatment for the Aboriginal people; but it will remove any legal inhibitions, lt will mean that when policies have the support of the people they can be enacted without any fear that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to pass the appropriate Jaws.
In conclusion I want to refer briefly to the policy of the Australian Labor Party in relation to Aboriginals. It will then be clear why we wholeheartedly support the proposal for a referendum. The Federal Platform, Constitution and Rules of the Australian Labor Party declare:
The welfare of the Australian Aborigine race shall be a Commonwealth responsibility subject to constitutional power being granted or referred to the Commonwealth, such power being concurrent with that of the States.
From this it will be readily apparent why we approve so unreservedly of the action that is now being taken by the Government. Our platform provides further:
The policy shall be directed towards progressively establishing thefollowing principles:
Equal citizenship rights with other Australians, including equal rights to Social Services and Health Benefits.
The establishment of a standard of living no lower than that of other Australians.
All Aborigines to receive the standard rate of wages for the job, and to receive the same industrial protection as other Australians.
Education for detribalised Aborigines to be free and compulsory, with special provision to be made for tribal and nomadic people. Adult education to be fully available.
(i) Aboriginal reserves which are extensive areas, including tribal lands, to be retained and developed with titles to the land held by Aborigines;
residential reserves, including those near towns, to have adequate housing standards and water supplies.
The establishment of a Standing Parliamentary Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to examine continually the effective implementation of this policy.
We look forward to some or all of these principles being implemented in the not too distant future once the constitutional path is clear. We have these things in mind. Although they might not command universal acceptance, they are broadly in the main stream of Australian thought on the matter and in the fullness of time - near fullness, we hope - they may be realised. Having these things in mind as proper matters for the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate upon, we endorse the principles of the Bill and look forward to its speedy passage and approval by the Australian people.
. -I support the proposal that the Constitution should be altered to allow the Aboriginals as a race to be counted in reckoning the population of Australia. I have listened to the enunciation of the policy of the Australian Labor Party on Aboriginals. Senator Cohen has stated what a Labor government would do for the Aboriginals. The present Government has paid particular attention to the development of the Aboriginal race. It is interesting to note that the Government has given a vote to the Aboriginals in the Northern Territory and in some if not all the States. The Government provides for Aboriginals social services which are in many cases equal to those provided for other Australians. There has been a marked uplift in the living standards of the Aboriginals over the past ten or fifteen years. It is pleasing to note that if by any chance the Opposition became the Government it would pay the same attention to thisproblem as has been paid by the present Government over the past decade. I support the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
(The bells having been rung)
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! I have to inform honourable senators that their names will be called alphabetically by the Clerk. I request them to answer to their names. (Senate called by the Clerk)
– Order! I have to inform the Senate that all senators with the exception of Senators Bull, McManus, Poke and Tangney have answered to their names. I direct that the names of those who have not answered be called again. (The Clerk called the names of those senators not answering to their names)
– I inform the Senate that telegrams have been received from Senators Bull, McManus and Tangney, advising that because of illness they have been unable to attend.
– As to the absence of Senator Poke I explain that he is absent on account of: illness in his family.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to:
That in view of the fact that Senators Bull. McManus and Tangney cannot attend because of illness and that Senator Poke is absent because of illness in his family, the said senators be excused for failing to answer the call of the Senate.
CONSTITUTION ALTERATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL 1967
Motion (by Senator Henty) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Because of some of the statements made in the course of the debate by those who are supporting this Bill 1 feel compelled to say a few words in reply. First, 1 take strong exception to the statement by Senator Henty that anyone who opposes this Bill in this Parliament is not a true democrat. 1 should like to ask, Mr President: have we as senators representing the people of this country not the right to oppose a referendum bill if we believe that it is badly motivated in the first instance, that it is unnecessary and that it is putting the taxpayers of this country to unnecessary expense? Have we not the right, without being termed not true democrats, to exercise our rights as representatives of the people? I say that anyone who votes against his conscience in this Parliament on this matter, or on any other for that matter, is not a true democrat, and I feel with some justification that there are people who have participated in the discussion on this matter, which is of the highest importance, and who have voted for it, who do not for one moment believe in its purpose or its principles. Senator Henty also said that for the first time there is to be included in the Constitution a restriction on increases. There is no limit at all on the increases and to say that there is is misrepresentation. The nexus has certainly placed very successfully since Federation a limit on the numbers in both Houses of Parliament. It has proved to be the best brake on unwarranted increases, but if the referendum were to be carried and the nexus broken, the government of the day would be in a position to increase the number of members provided thatthe quota of 85,000 people - as distinct from electors - were kept as a minimum.
Much was said in the course of the debate about the founding fathers of Federation. Senator Gorton came into the Senate with the air of a discoverer. I almost mistook him for Christopher Columbus. He had an air of superiority of knowledge, and said that Deakin, Kingston and others were opposed to the nexus as though those who have read the history of the convention did not know that. We also know that they were in the minority and that the question was decided by twenty-six votes to seventeen. Listed among those who voted against the nexus were men of distinction.
– They were all men of distinction.
– That is true. I accept that correction, because they were outstanding gentlemen in the public life of this country.
– At that time.
– Yes, at that time. That goes without saying. It could not be at this time. An aspect of the debate that has irritated me is that some speakers have relied on the fact that the Constitution has been in existence for sixty-six years, and they have said that that is the main reason for throwing it overboard.If there is any logic or merit in that argument, let us throw over the Ten Commandments that were given to us centuries ago.
– I thought we did that years ago.
– Some honourable senators may have done so. I do not represent myself as a puritan, but the fact remains that we do not acknowledge that we have thrown away the Ten Commandments even though they were given to us centuries ago. There are many things we do not throw overboard because of their age. Senator Cormack is attempting to interject. I might come to him later, if time permits.
I wish to refer now to the remarks of Senator McKenna. He expressed disappointment - if I might use that word rather than resentment’ - because certain honourable senators had quoted extracts from a speech he made in 1948. Among those who did so was myself. He suggested thatit was unfair that we did not quote his speech of 1958. 1 submit that the circumstances of 1948 are parallel to the circumstances we arc debating tonight. There was then a proposal to increase the numerical strength of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Government of the day was being pressed by the then Mr Menzies, Leader of the Opposition at that time, and by Mr Holt, who is now Prime Minister. The Government was being urged to break the nexus. Is it not appropriate that wc should accept that occasion as being parallel to the present situation and that we should quote Senator McKenna’s remarks of that time? 1 believe that the statements made at that time by Senator McKenna and Mr Beazley, the honourable member for Fremantle, are worth quoting. The people of Australia should know just what was in the minds of the leading members of the Government of that rime when it was proposed to increase the number of members of the Federal Parliament. I cannot agree that we were being unfair in that connection. This evening Senator McKenna failed to explain to the Senate why he changed his altitude between 1948 and 1958. Is the explanation contained in the fact that in 1948 he was a responsible Minister in the Cabinet of the day and that in 1958 he had ceased to be a Minister? Did he see the position through different eyes, or what is the explanation? In 1948 Senator McKenna said: it would be completely futile for the Parliament to go to the people with the suggestion that there should not be a proportionate increase in the membership of the Senate. The people would never, in any circumstances, weaken the position of the Senate in the Federal Legislature.
Dr Evatt, since dead, spoke on the matter at that time. On 28th April 1948 Mr Beazley said: r 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 so many more representatives than the smaller States … the proportion ot 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.
Could anything be clearer than that?
– Who said that?
– Mr Kim Beazley, the Labor member for Fremantle. He will have a lot of trouble. He was not on the Constitutional Review Committee. If he has changed his mind he will have to explain to the electors just what he means. There is no attempt on my part, nor, I am sure, o.a the part of any other honourable senator, te* be unfair to Senator McKenna but he does not deny, and he cannot deny, that the words I have read were uttered by him on that occasion. Having said them, he must explain why he made a different statement in 1958.
Let me come now to the question of the nexus. When this debate is stripped of all the paraphernalia of subterfuge, misconception and evasion, I think it is clear that rr any of those who have supported the Bill have shifted from a position of the strongest support of the nexus to a position of total destruction of the nexus. I have been accused of selective quotation as a means of supporting my case while neglecting Senator McKenna’s contrary views of ten years earlier. It does not matter very much what happened in 1948. What matters is what is happening in 1967.
Whilst the Government has the right to submit any proposal to the people, it has a responsibility to ensure that it has a real reason for submitting questions designed to alter the Constitution and that it does not wantonly put the people to the expense of conducting these exercises for reasons that cannot be justified. Senator McKenna did not agree with my suggestion that there are party political reasons behind this referendum. He was content to believe that it has emanated from the Constitutional Review Committee. It is true that that body dealt with this matter but surely, with all his years of experience, he must be aware of the internal strife between the Liberal Party and the Country Party. He must know as well as I do, or better, about all the monkey tricks that were played with regard to the deferment of the redistribution - the attitude of the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Robert Menzies, and the cynical concluding speech that he made when he, as it were, put the redistribution legislation to bed, never to be heard of again in defiance of what he was required to do following the census. Senator McKenna knows all that.
Characteristically of him. he is content to believe that there is no party motive in this proposal; that it emanated from the
Constitutional Review Committee. If he subscribes to that view he is about the only person within the precincts of this Parliament who does because it has been made patent to all people that there has been a battle of wits on the matter of a redistribution and what seats would be saved and what seats would be lost. To overcome the difficulty the parties said: ‘We will solve this issue by increasing the strength of the Parliament but, under the Constitution, to do that we must increase the size of the Senate. We do not want to do that because that might give someone an advantage we do not want him to have. We will go to the people and ask them to amend the Constitution so that we can break the nexus. Once we break the nexus we will have an open cheque to increase the strength of the House of Representatives at will as the population increases’. Those are the indisputable, undeniable facts and all the talk in the world will not alter them. To suggest that if a person votes Yes it means a lesser increase than if he votes No-
– Not to suggest it, to state it as a fact.
– That is not honest advocacy. Rather should I say that it is dishonest advocacy. Senator McKenna said that I stated in the course of my remarks that a No vote would mean no increase. He was quite correct. I did say that. A No vote should mean no increase because it could only be interpreted as meaning that the people of Australia are not inclined at the present time to approve any increase in the strength of our Parliament, whether it be in the House of Representatives or in the Senate and with that I agree. At present there is no warrant for an increase in the size of the House of Representatives or of the Senate. That is the attitude of the Party I lead and that is my strong personal view.
Senator McKenna told us how much aid senators in the American Senate enjoy. 1 was already aware that they probably had better and more facilities than we have but that does not alter the facts inherent in the numbers I quoted, lt does not alter the fact that there is one representative in the national Parliament of America for every 355,000 people whilst in Australia we have a representative for every 62,000 people - men, women and children, and nearly half of them under twenty-one years of age.
– That is in the Federal Parliament?
– Yes. the national Parliament.
– And only the Federal Parliament in America.
– I am dealing with the Federal Parliament, not the State Parliaments. Whilst I appreciate the information supplied by Senator McKenna in that connection - it might be a very good idea to build up that side of the life of a member of our Parliament - I contend that until our population is much higher than it is at present we have no justification for asking the people to carry an additional burden of taxation to meet the cost of government. Let us clear up once and for ever this business about the number of 85,000 people. Once a quota of 85,000 is put in the Constitution, even though that might be described as a minimum number it will undoubtedly be accepted as time goes on as the maximum. Might I say that this present ratio of two to one is really one to two, to be correct, because it is not the Senate which is related in the Constitution to the House of Representatives, it is the House of Representatives which is related to the Senate - the superior House. This so-called minimum quota will become a maximum quota and there will be intense pressure for the government of the day to relate electorates to that quota of 85,000.
I repeat that the thing that disturbs me most about this legislation is the genesis of it. If this were a completely clear and sincere attempt on the part of the Government to do something to increase the strength of our Parliament without any ulterior and party political motives then my opposition probably would not be so strong. Nevertheless I would ever be conscious of the necessity to protect the people’s interest in this matter. Dealing with the nexus. Senator McKenna made a statement similar to that made by Sir Robert Menzies when he introduced legislation in 1955; that it is necessary to have twenty-four senators and forty-eight members in the House of Representatives, as a minimum, to prevent deadlocks. I do not subscribe to this; nor do a lot of people who have as much knowledge of this matter as Sir Robert Menzies and Senator McKenna. in any case, I am not much concerned about that because for the present I am opposed to any increase in the Senate or the House of Representatives. I had to smile when Senator McKenna spoke about the duties of a member of Parliament. 1 think Senator McKenna will concede that I have been pretty close to the political stage for a long time and I am not one who would write down Federal members and their work. But I am not prepared to say that they are so overburdened with duties that they, are not equal to the task provided a proper redistribution is carried out. Considering what confronts them today and the facilities at their disposal 1 believe they are quite competent to do the job and do it well. But I have already said - and it is worth repeating - that the number of sitting clays of the House of Representatives and of the Senate has decreased since 1948 and 1949.
– That is not doing our job.
– I realise that. Senator Ormonde need not tell me what the duties of a parliamentarian are. I know them. The fact remains that the Parliament has an explanation to make to the public as to why it is only sitting sixty and forty-eight days a year as against ninety odd. When parliamentarians try to tell the people that their duties and responsibilities have trebled - and issues are greater than they were before 1950 - then they also have to explain why they sit on less days. When you lel I the people about the multitudinous questions that you have to handle then they may rightly ask you, Senator Ormonde, why you are not required to sit longer than you do.
– But least governed is best governed.
– That might be true too; but 1 cannot agree with it because I have been too close not to know. I was a State parliamentarian for twenty-eight years. In that time I was required to do - and very willingly executed - a lot of work which normally should have been done by Federal members. But because of their repeated absences from the metropolitan areas, people came to me, as they did to other metropolitan members, and the State members shared the responsibility in this connection.
– And shared your duties under the party system.
– Yes, the party comes into it. But you cannot just go on kidding i:he people. It is bad enough to pull the legs of other people but when you reach tha stage of pulling your own in regard to these matters you have reached the end of the way and the end of the day.
– Then you have slipped a disk.
– Yes, I suppose you would slip a disk. I suppose that by the time Senator Gorton is finished with education and science the people of Australia will have a few slipped disks because their legs will have been pulled so much. However we will wait and see. We will not cast early judgment. I think that with a proper redistribution of electorates a lot of the difficulties about which people in parliamentary circles complain will be overcome. I have a lot of sympathy - and always have had - for representatives of country districts where the population is dispersed. Their representatives are required to travel hundreds of miles from place to place to meet their people and to attend public functions. I have a good deal of sympathy for those members but I cannot go along with all that Senator McKenna said about metropolitan members.
– I thought that all Senator McKenna said in that respect was that members of the House of Representatives were so inundated with inquiries that they had no time to think.
– He did say that they had ito time to think but I did not want to emphasise the evidence of that. Nevertheless the more important thing-
– Senator McKenna did not introduce this Bill but the honourable senator has been giving him a fair time. Why not get on to the main subject?
– I have been on it but Senator McKenna saw fit-
– Did Senator McKenna annoy you?
– No. He says what he wants to say so pleasantly.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wedgwood) - Order! The honourable senator should address the chair.
– Let us pass on to the question of the effect of the breaking of the nexus. Many speakers have said that the prestige, influence, power, and standing of the Senate will not be weakened in the event of the strength of the House of Representatives being greatly added to without any alteration being made to the Senate strength. 1 find great difficulty in accepting that view because it stands to reason that if the strength of the House of Representatives is increased to any great extent, the strength of the senate must proportionately be reduced. I am supported in this contention by some of the authorities on the Constitution. It is very interesting to note that in the course of a debate on the Constitution this statement was made:
I would ask honourable members to compare the colony of New South Wales with Great Britain. If Great Britain had the same representation in the House of Commons in proportion to its population as New South Wales has in its Legislative Assembly, it would have over 6,000 members.
– What date was that?
– The statement was made on 13t.h September 1897. That is a very interesting extract. But the important extract to which I wish to refer comes from a speech by the Honourable R. E. O’Connor. In speaking about the proportion between the number of members of the Senate and the number of members of the House of Representatives he said:
In the deliberations of these two bodies there can be no question that the weight attached to the smaller house would be correspondingly less than when it bore a larger proportion to the more numerous house. 1 think that is sound and logical and I agree with it. With all due respect, if the strength of the Senate is weakened by comparison with that of the House of Representatives, our prestige and influence must be correspondingly weakened. The Honourable R. E. O’Connor also said: we ought to be very careful to frankly and honestly carry out that principle all through in our dealings with the Senate. If it is to be 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 the vitality of that body.
I have many extracts which confirm and support the contention that I have expressed regarding this Bill.
I do not want to delay the Senate’s deliberations any further than is necessary. As a member of the Senate I have exercised my right to express my view on this matter. I will always accept the privilege and the opportunity to say what I think on matters that come before the Senate. I do not believe that I am undemocratic because I elect to oppose this measure. Surely no-one other than a person who expected support on everything and believed that he was always right would think I was being undemocratic. I claim to be as democratic as anybody else in this country. I recognise and appreciate my rights as an elected representative of the people and will jealously guard them.
In conclusion, I hope that in the presentation of the case in support of this part of the referendum proposals the Government will submit the case in an honest, open, fair and frank manner. I hope that the question which is put on the ballot paper will not be similar to that which was put on the ballot, paper under the Military Service Referendum Act 1916. That question was:
Are you in favour of the Government, having in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this War, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?
Without doubt, that was an invitation to the people to vote Yes. I hope that the question is framed in a fair manner so that the people will know what they are voting for or against.
– The question has to be framed in accordance with the title of the Bill.
– I do not want to go into that matter again because it was dealt with at the Committee stage, but a belated attempt was made tonight to do something similar to that which I have just mentioned. It is like the question, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ Whether a man answers Yes or No he is in the wrong. I hope that the question will be framed and put to the people in a fair manner. If this Government is so conscientious, zealous and democratic as to seek the opinion of the Australian electors on this most important question, let it be consistent and put it to them in a fair and decent manner. If the Government doe’s that, I have no doubt of the result. I believe that I am close to the Australian people. I know their attitude to their parliaments and parliamentarians. The people have the greatest regard and respect for those who do their jobs, but they believe that there is a sufficient number of parliamentarians, both State and Federal, to discharge the work of parliament. I believe that because the people are of that mind they will vote overwhelmingly against the proposal to increase the strength of the House of Representatives.
– 1 want to comment briefly on one or two remarks which have fallen from Senator Gair’s lips. The honourable senator took Senator Henty to task because he expressed the view that Senator Gair was being undemocratic in this matter. Senator Gair appeared to take Senator Henty’s comments to mean that he was being undemocratic because he opposed the proposal that is to be submitted to referendum. Senator Henty did not say anything of the kind. It is open to anybody to oppose the proposal. What Senator Henty was indicating was that Senator Gair was casting his vote on this measure so as to ensure that the people would not be able to cast their vote on the proposal - in other words, that he was casting a vote against giving the people an opportunity to decide whether they agree with him or not. If one is prepared to cast a vote on a great constitutional matter of this kind in an effort to ensure that a certain proposal should not go before the people for their decision, then it is not unreasonable for somebody else to express the opinion that that is an undemocratic point of view to adopt. In spite of what Senator Gair has said, if the referendum is carried there will be 3 definite upper limit on the number of members who may sit in the House of Representatives. At the present time there is no such limit.
I come to the honourable senator’s remarks about myself. If I pointed out to the honourable senator that during the Convention debates a large number of distinguished people disagreed with the authorities whom he quoted; if when he asked us to take note of Quick and Garran I pointed out that it might be as well to take note of the fact that Quick voted against the nexus; and if I displayed an air of discovery, let me explain that it was not through a feeling of having discovered facts that are there for all to see but perhaps through having discovered that they had not been brought up by Senator Gair himself when he was quoting opinions that supported his case. I would not like to have gone away - I am sure the same is true of the honourable senator - with only one side of the case put forward by the founding fathers having been presented to us. 1 hope I was doing the honourable senator a service by pointing out that very distinguished people had expressed a quite different point of view. 1 do not wish to traverse the great number of matters that were raised by Senator Gair, lt is for Senator McKenna to speak for himself, but 1 thought that he gave a perfect explanation of his attitude. There is one thing which in all fairness I think I should say. Senator Gair indicated that this proposal must have sprung from some political motive; that it must have sprung from some quarrel. If he has any fairness in him, the honourable senator must admit that included in the membership of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, which considered this matter, were members of the Opposition of that time and of the present time. It cannot be argued that the Labor members on that Committee, of whom Senator McKenna was one, were in any way influenced by any question of redistribution at that time or by any of the considerations which Senator Gair, without doubt quite wrongly, has put forward.
– Why did not the Government give immediate effect to the recommendations of the Committee?
– The honourable senator might answer this question: Why does he suggest that the considerations he has put forward could have influenced Senator McKenna and his colleagues in the circumstances which prevailed then and which still prevail? There is only one other matter that I wish to touch upon. 1 refer to Senator Gair’s hope that this question will be put before the people fairly. As far as I am concerned, it will be put fairly. But I have grave doubts about whether it will be put fairly by those who arc preparing the No case.
– Steady on.
– I have grave doubts about whether it will be put fairly. Those doubts arise from the statements that have been made in this House by those who are opposing the proposal. The only fair way in which it can be put to the people is to ask them: ‘Do you want to have more senators every time the size of the House of Representatives is increased? If you want to have more senators, you will vote No and retain the nexus. If you do not want to have more senators every time the House of Representatives is increased, you will vote Yes and break the nexus.’ That is exactly what this referendum is about. That is how I hope it will be put to the people by all who are in favour of it. It is quite unfair to suggest that the referendum will have anything to do with increasing the size of the House of Representatives. The size of that House can be increased at any time irrespective of what happens at the referendum. But if the referendum is defeated, the Senate cannot be kept at its present size. If the referendum is beaten, there will be more senators. If the size of the House of Representatives is increased - and it will be - there will be more politicians. The question the people must answer is not ‘Do you want more politicians?’ but Do you want more senators every time the size of the House of Representatives is increased?’ That is the fair way of putting it. That is the way in which I hope we all will put this proposal to the people.
– It is quite obvious from the concluding remarks of the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) that he means to rubbish the Senate as much as possible in the presentation of this proposal that his colleagues in the House of Representatives have persuaded him to adopt. Much was made by the Minister about the distinguished gentlemen at the Convention debates who voted in favour of the removal of the nexus. The Senate will note that Victoria predominated in that voting. The voting was as follows:
It will be noted that in Victoria and New South Wales a majority voted in favour of the removal of the nexus but that in each of the other States a majority voted against the proposal.
– The honourable senator did not give the Queensland figure.
– There were no Queensland representatives at that Convention. I wish to refer to the comments of Senator McKenna who I thought assumed a pained expression of complaint about hearing his words of another era brought back to his mind. I am not concerned to repeat what Senator Gair said in quoting what Senator McKenna said in 1948. I shall read from the report presented by Senator McKenna and his colleagues in 1950. This was the report of the Select Committee appointed to consider and report upon the Constitution Alteration (Avoidance of Double Dissolution Deadlocks) Bill. Paragraph 179 of that report dealt with the merits of a ratio of numerical strength of the two Houses and stated:
The merit of the two-to-one ratio is in its incidence on section 57 of the Constitution dealing with disagreements between the Houses. It gives to the Senate, at a joint sitting of the Houses, a relatively effective and influential role, although the House of Representatives commands the preponderating vote. While section 57 of the Constitution remains in its present form, or while provision is made in the Constitution for joint sittings to settle disagreements by joint vote of the Houses, the committee does not recommend any change in the two-to-one ratio.
So it is idle for Senator McKenna to complain about that point of view. Anybody who is invited by him to accept a point of view to the contrary formed, as he explained, in discussions of the Constitutional Review Committee and brought to the public notice in 1958, should know that the Select Committee, whose report I have quoted from, was constituted wholly by Senate Opposition members, the Government abstaining from appointing members thereto. Senator McKenna at that time went out of his way to say that the two-to-one ratio should be retained. 1 would not take time to recount these individual opinions were it not for the fact that my leaders have adopted Senator McKenna as an exponent of what should be achieved. One of them actually went so far as to repeat what Senator McKenna said. Senator McKenna said that this Bill - the second reading of which has been passed and the third reading of which the Senate is about to pass - is only one step of those advocated by him in his 1958 version, and that it is integrated with all the other propositions contained in a majority report of the Constitutional Review Committee - a report from which I had the honour to dissent. In other words, this is the first step on to the toboggan. What will be the next? The next proposal of the Committee was to substitute a new section for section 57 of the Constitution. The plain unvarnished proposal is that without any double dissolution - without these fervent democrats going to the people at all on the subject - when the Houses arc in deadlock, under the McKenna plan and the Constitutional Review Committee plan the Governor-General may, after an interval which I will state, call a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament to decide the deadlock by numerical majority.
Senator Gair and other honourable senators have mentioned projected population increases to the end of this century. By then, if these proposals are given effect to, the House of Representatives will have 290 votes and the Senate 60 votes. That is to say, wc will be reducing this elected chamber - directly elected by the people - to a farce more fatuous than the House of Lords itself, despite the fact that the House of Lords has been prostituted only twice, once in 191 1 and once in 1949, these occasions being brought on by abuses which it provoked and which I shall not recount in this chamber now. If the proposals of which Senator McKenna says this one is but a unit of a pattern were given effect to, the Senate would have power to delay a money Bill for thirty days and other Bills for four months. Yet the House of Lords has power to delay a money Bill for a month and other Bills for twelve months. That was the position until last year, but 1 do not know what the position is as a result of the recent deliberations. It is a sad day when honourable senators can take their places in an institution and be prepared, with deliberate warning, to prostitute that institution to such a degree of subordination to another place.
We are said not to be democrats because we, sitting here in the Parliament, exercise our vote according to our judgment and say that, in our view, having regard to the interests of the people it is imprudent and improper to submit the public purse to the expenditure that is involved in the miserable question posed in this Bill. In regard to faithfulness to democracy, I point out that the Parliament constituted a Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which operated for three years and brought down a report that contained a unanimous recommendation that there should be amendments to (he Constitution in regard to such matters as nuclear energy, aviation, navigation, company law and restrictive trade practices. The people who preen themselves and pretend to be democrats tonight are people who have not yet initiated a proposal to submit those matters to the people for decision one way or the other.
The very basis upon which opposition to the morion for the third reading of this Bill is poised is that it is really using constitutional processes to achieve party political purposes and that it is putting an insignificant question before the people when overwhelming national questions call for important and earnest review of (he Constitution. It is a satire on the smallness of the perspective of governments that we can be allowed to occupy our time with such insignificance in the midst of these national challenges.
Finally, 1 refer to the opening gambit of my Leader, Senator Henty. When he opened his speech at 8 o’clock tonight he said: ‘By the year 2000 we will have 290 members in the House of Representatives, and if this Bill is not passed the only alternative will be to have 145 senators as well as the 290 members of the House of Representatives’. One can see how the ungovernable urge to have a government conclusion agreed to is carried to any degree of absurdity. Did it ever occur to any democrat who would mould a Parliament suitable to the population it is presumed Australia will have in the year 2000 that, instead of having 60 senators and 290 members of the House of Representatives, the Parliament might better be served by having, say, 115 senators and 230 members of the House of Representatives?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– So, it would seem to me, if numbers are thought to be the answer, that we can provide for better representation ever so much better by giving a proportionate increase to each House of Parliament rather than by magnifying one House immeasurably and dwarfing the other House to insignificance. These are the principles upon which 1 still plead that the decision should be taken. If those principles are given proper, balanced, democratic consideration they will require the rejection of this measure.
– I wish to make only a few observations at this stage of the Bill. I wish to put before the Senate some facts regarding the cost of increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives. It is a surprising fact that the cost per head of our population of maintaining the whole of the Commonwealth Parliament with all its members and its Ministers and their facilities is Sic per annum. The cost of adding twenty new members to the House of Representatives would represent an additional Se per annum per head of population. These are surprising figures. I mention them to indicate how small the content of the matter is that is in contemplation and that has been engaging the attention of this Senate for far too long.
Having regard to that fact and the other factor that the nexus is primarily for the purpose of ensuring that the Senate is not swamped at joint sittings of the Parliament, and having regard also to the fact that a joint sitting has never been held and is never likely to be held, one cannot help but see this matter in its proper perspective as a very small subject indeed that is being surrounded with a great deal of confusion and misconception in the hope that the people will be mislead into acting against their best interests. I hope that they will not.
I wish to document what I have said regarding costs so that any member of the Senate may check it. At pages 7 and 9 of the Appropriation Act (No. 1) .1966-67 the total cost of the Parliament appears. The cost amounts to $3,664,000. This cost covers the salaries of the staff and officers of the Senate, the staff and officers of the House of Representatives, the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, the Library, the Joint House Department, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, the conveyance of members of Parliament and others, and the maintenance of Ministers’ and members’ rooms.
– Does it include the cost of VIP planes?
– No, not at this stage, but even if that cost were included in the normal cost of Parliament we would find that it was very insignificant in the total. I refer the Senate now to page 15 of a document entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’ where the salaries of members are recorded together with contributions to the retiring allowance and sundry other benefits. This totals $1,996,100. Then if we consider the provision for ministerial salaries at page 15 of the same document the item ‘Ministers of State, salaries and allowances’ provides for the payment of $277,900. Those three items total $5,938,000. If that figure is divided by the latest total of our population - 11,500,000- the answer is 51c. That is the cost of running the whole of the Parliament in those categories. It is 5s. or 51c a head of population. I repeat that if twenty new members were appointed on that basis it would represent a cost per head to the population of 6d. or 5c per annum.
– What would be the cost of an extra six senators?
– It would be relative to that figure. The whole thing is insignificant from the national viewpoint. Some honourable senators have been talking about the proposed increase in the Parliament as though it were a matter of the utmost cost and threatened ruination almost to the nation. I want to put it in its proper perspective.
Secondly, I would like those who did not hear what I said this afternoon to look at what I said about the remote contingency that there will be a joint sitting of the two Houses at which the Senate will need to be protected. Senator Gorton rather answered for me in relation to some of the matters raised by Senator Gair. He invited me to give the reasons for what he claimed was my change in viewpoint. I spent a great deal of time this afternoon in the second reading debate showing that I had not changed in my devotion to the principle that the Senate should be protected against being swamped by members of the House of Representatives in any joint sitting if one were ever held. 1 made that completely plain. Senator Gorton was good enough to indicate that I had clearly set out my position. 1 repeal now (hat I have made no change in or variation from my adherence to the principle. 1 merely indicate that I think it reasonable and fair to tell those who question me in relation to the breaking of the nexus in the conditions of 1948 that if the same conditions were present, today I would repeat every word I said then. They should also state what I said when with the aid of experience of the working of the proportional representation scheme and with the aid of discusssions and study with my colleagues of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, we found a better way to protect the Senate than this stupid, absurd, clumsy ratio of two to one. The simple device was that we required of a joint sitting not only that there be an absolute majority of all members of the Parliament present but that there should be at least one-half of all members in at. least one half of the States. While at present that means three States, I invite the Senate to consider that there are strong new State movements in Queensland and New South Wales and it may be that one of these days there will be seven States.
– What safeguard is there for the Senate in the present legislation?
– It is not there now and I conceded that quite frankly this afternoon. I deplored the fact that the Government had not gone along with all the pro posals of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and had not adopted our recommendation on section 57 of the Constitution for the resolution of deadlocks between the two chambers. Had it done that it would have picked up a proposal designed to protect the Senate. Now that the Government is at last addressing its mind to the reforms suggested, I entertain the hope that it will in the near future include such a matter in a referendum to the people. That could appropriately be done at the next Senate election. There is no mistaking where the Australian Labor Parly, and I with it, stand in relation to protecting the Senate at a joint sitting. On the question of the political considerations that Senator Gair sees swarming around, Senator Gorton supplemented the answer that 1 gave this afternoon for my Party and myself. The base of the Bill we now have before us was decided in the years up to 1958 and 1 959. At that stage the question of redistribution was simply not. on the tapis, and this concept was apparent entirely without reference to any redistribution problems. My only comment in that field is that it is completely clear that additions to the numbers of senators from each State would be very much to the political advantage of members of the Party that Senator Gair represents. That is completely unquestionable.
– We are opposed to any increase in the Senate just as strongly as v/e are opposed to any increase in the House of Representatives.
– What did the Lord say - ‘A house divided against itself shall fill’ ? I. invite the honourable senator’s attention to that saying. The one hope of progress for his Party, 1 would say, is that larger numbers of members be elected in each State. So I commend to him the thought that a house divided against itself shall fall, when he makes a statement such as he did just now. One can understand in those circumstances the warmth and vigour with which he contends for increases in the size of this chamber proportionate to those that are made at any time in the House of Representatives.
– The Australian Labor Party supports the Bill and will advocate an affirmative vote at the referendum. However, in view of what has been said by the Government during the course of this debate about proposals to increase the size of the House of Representatives and the size of the Senate in the event of the referendum being defeated, it should be clearly understood that, if the referendum is defeated,we of the Australian Labor Party are not committed to support an increase of the Senate by twentyfour and the House of Representatives by forty-eight. We are not committed to any multiple or fraction of those increases, or to any increase at all. The proposals emanated from the Government.
Thatthe Bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 38
– There being fortyfive Ayes and seven Noes, the question is resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the Senate as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Henty) proposed: That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Order! As this is a Bill to amend the Constitution, the provisions of section . 128 of the Constitution must be observed. I therefore direct that the bells be rung. (The bells having been rung)
– Order! The question is: ‘That the Bill be now read a third time’. Those in favour say ‘Aye’, to the contrary ‘No’. As there is no dissentient voice, I declare in favour of the ‘Ayes’. A division has not been called for. but it is desirable that the names of those senators present agreeing to the third reading should be recorded. I therefore appoint Senator Scott and Senator O’Byrne as tellers. (The following names were then recorded)
– Order! As fifty-two senators have agreed to the third reading,
I certify that the third reading has been agreed to by an absolute majority, as required by the Constitution.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 March 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670308_senate_26_s33/>.