26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, to the Minister for Housing, or to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Having regard to the fact that South Australia has the third largest yearly intake of settler arrivals and the fact that although there is a building downturn in South Australia 1,697 migrants settled there between January and March of this year, I ask the Minister: On what grounds was South Australia excluded as a site for the construction of self contained flats for migrants? Is it a fact that while State Ministers were being canvassed as to this proposal a decision had been made in Canberra to embark on the scheme and in only four States? Is it true that all the State Ministers for Housing were against the scheme and preferred additional Commonwealth assistance for more permanent homes? Has the Minister seen a statement by the President of the Housing Industry Association that the decision to exclude South Australia could have been for Party political reasons? Can the South Australian people expect to get equal consideration with the people of the other States in any continued programme?
– Part of the question related to the construction of flats for migrants and to that part, as Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, 1 should like to reply. The new scheme is, at this stage, essentially an experiment. If the experiment proves to be successful the Commonwealth will erect more units in all of the States, but at the moment the pressure for additional migrant accommodation is not strong in South Australia. In South Australia because of the better housing position the average stay in Commonwealth hostels is fifteen weeks and in the past has been as low as eleven weeks. Considerable work has been done to improve the Smithfield hostel and at the moment new toilet blocks are being installed in the Pennington hostel. In the next financial year new ablution and toilet facilities will be provided in the Glenelg hostel. It is against that background that I answer that part of the honourable senator’s question.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration a question which relates somewhat to the question which has already been asked but concerns a different State. In view of the fact that Queensland, being the State most distant from the first arrival point of migrants who come to Australia by sea, usually receives fewer migrants than do the southern States, will the Minister reconsider his decision to exclude Queensland from the plan to build furnished self contained flats for temporary migrant accommodation so that the State is not further and unnecessarily disadvantaged?
– On behalf of the Minister for Immigration whom I represent, I inform the honourable senator that, as my colleague has just mentioned, this new scheme is purely at an experimental stage and the places where these units are being built are the ones which have been chosen first for the scheme. The honourable senator asked about accommodation for migrants in Queensland. The Minister for Immigration has informed me that at present there is no shortage of hostel accommodation in Queensland as there is in some other areas. I am also advised that recently the Commonwealth Government expended over $300,000 in providing additional accommodation of an improved standard at the areas where they are at present located at Wacol.
– 1 wish to draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of members of the Ceylon Parliamentary Delegation. On your behalf, I extend to our colleagues from Ceylon a cordial welcome.
Honourable senators ; Hear, hear!
– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Does the present term of the
Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Dr Darling, expire on 30th June next? Is there any substance in current reports that the Government is proposing to replace Dr Darling with a former Liberal Party Minister, Sir Howard Beale, and to make other appointments reconstituting the Commission? If the reports are correct, then, in view of previous attempts at Government interference in the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, may we regard this as an indication that the Government intends to bring the Australian Broadcasting Commission under its political control and to abandon the established principle that the Commission should be free from political direction?
– The answer to the first question, as I understand it, is yes. As to the second question and the related matter contained in it, I would suggest that it would be quite inappropriate to answer a question based on supposition and alleged reports.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether he can confirm the report that Hanoi Radio announced that the North Vietnamese Government had rejected U Thant’s latest peace proposals as humbug and absurd. If so, is this rejection in line with the statement by the National Liberation Front representative in Peking, published by the New China News Agency on 12th March 1965 that South Vietnam is not a question for peaceful negotiations? I further ask the Minister whether the Australian Government has ever received an indication that any proposal for a peaceful settlement proposed by Australia would receive other than a contemptuous rejection.
– I do not know whether Hanoi Radio used the specific words referred to by the honourable senator in rejecting U Thant’s peace proposals, but there is no doubt that Hanoi Radio did reject U Thant’s proposals and, in rejecting them, did state that a settlement in Vietnam was no business of the United Nations. Subsequently the North Vietnamese Government wrote to U Thant again rejecting the proposals put by him.
This would seem to be in line with the other quotation which the honourable senator has mentioned. I would say in reply to the last part of his question that judging by the reception given by Hanoi to all the peace proposals advanced so far, there can be no evidence but that one from Australia would receive the same sort of contemptuous rejection.
– Without being insular in my approach to a matter of national importance, I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. According to the Press, the Minister for Labour and National Service announced, simultaneously with the Minister for Immigration, that self contained flats for migrants would be erected in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Hobart. Does the Minister know that there are cities Adelaide’ and ‘Brisbane’ in the States of South Australia and Queensland which are constituent parts of the Commonwealth? Would he advise the Senate why the capital cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Hobart are to have self contained flats and the other two capital cities are not? As mentioned in an answer previously supplied by the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, self contained flats are much more attractive- as temporary accommodation and would be particularly valuable in attracting skilled migrants to both South Australia and Queensland. I hope I shall be forgiven for putting South Australia first. It is not entitled to be placed first. I do it only as a matter of courtesy. I should like to know why South Australia and Queensland have not been included in the proposition for the provision of self contained flats.
– The proposal to build self contained flats is, as was pointed out by the Minister for Housing and myself, an experiment. The obvious objective is to supply accommodation in areas where accommodation is short. This is not so in Wacol in Queensland. Accommodation there is not short. The average stay in that hostel is much shorter than it is in hostels in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– This is not an answer. Answer my question.
– Would the honourable senator mind keeping quiet while I answer the question? I will tell him something that perhaps he. does not know. The new accommodation at Wacol is of masonry construction and has furnished bedrooms and hot and cold water, and each of the units is built off a central toilet block providing all facilities. At present there are seventy-one vacant units in Queensland which would accommodate approximately 300 people. In the circumstances that clearly would nol be the first place chosen in which to build additional accommodation.
– My question to the Minister for Customs and Excise relates to the United Nations Convention on Touring. On 6th April the Minister announced that three international agreements relating to tourism, to which Australia had acceded, would come into force for Australia on thai day. One agreement related to customs Facilities for touring. Can the Minister give details particularly of this latter agreement?
– It is true that 1 issued a Press statement indicating that three agreements drawn up under the auspices of the United Nations would come into effect as from 6t.h April. The first is a convention relating to facilities for touring; the second is an additional protocol to that convention relating to the importation of tourist publicity documents and material, and the third relates to a customs convention lor temporary importation of private road vehicles. They arc all related and some fifty-eight nations subscribe to them.
In a very brief form appropriate to question time let me say that the convention relating to touring provides for temporary duty free admission of the personal effects and souvenirs of tourists while they are in Australia. I understand the temporary period is six months. The agreement provides a duty free allowance for cigarettes and tobacco and minimum customs formalities on arrival and departure, but that is not to mean that there will be any diminution of the strict supervision that is exercised in relation to health and quarantine matters. I do not propose to read the whole list of goods which are affected. The second protocol deals with printed matter, posters, pamphlets, timetables and documents of the kind people would bring with them in the special circumstances in which they come to Australia as tourists. The third deals with private road vehicles by which, under a carnet, people will be able to bring a vehicle into Australia and later take it out of Australia. There will be a minimum of documentation under the carnet when guarantees arc given by automobile associations in the matter of duty if the persons concerned do not in fact leave Australia.
In conclusion all I can say is that this will help the tourist industry in Australia tremendously as well as showing significant support for the United Nations in its sponsorship of 1967 as an international tourist year.
– My question to the Minister for Housing arises out of the reply she gave to Senator Morris. What is experimental about building flats and housing families in them? Has this not been a practice as old as this country? Has not the practice been adopted at Elizabeth itv South Australia where migrants have been housed for years with remarkable success?
– Perhaps I did npt make myself as clear as I should have for the benefit of the honourable senator. I was endeavouring to explain, as the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for Labour and National Service have said in a joint statement, that the provision of flats as temporary accommodation for. families until they are able to find permanent homes is a new venture. It is clearly a new venture because up to this point hostel accommodation has been provided but now, as we have heard, flats will be provided. That means that the family unit will be together. The living accommodation provided will be rather different from that provided in the past.
– The migrants will move in and out.
– The migrants will move in and then move out at the latest after six months. I believe that this accommodation will be of great advantage to migrants who come to this country.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration amplify her colleague’s recent statement on Operation Bold New Method, dealing with migrant accommodation by saying whether it offers the choice of alternative accommodation to migrants who are already hostel inmates and when the first of these flats will be available for occupation in New South Wales?
– In reply to the last part of the question, I cannot tell the honourable senator when these flats will be ready for occupation in New South Wales. My understanding is that when these flats are built they will be made available to migrant families when they come to Australia and will be used by them as temporary accommodation.
– My question, which is also addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, relates to the answers given by her and the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service to questions about the migrant accommodation programme announced at the weekend. Can the Minister say when, following the experimental stage of the programme, consideration is likely to be given to the extension of this kind of accommodation to South Australia and whether there are any special reasons why that State was not included in the original programme?
– I cannot say when flats of this type will be available in South Australia, but I am quite certain that my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, will advise the Parliament and the people of Australia as soon as any decision is made on that matter. In reply to the latter part of the question, I have been advised by the Minister that at present only about 60% of the hostel accommodation available to migrants in South Australia is being utilised. A considerable amount of accommodation is available because South Australia is not receiving the flow of migrants that it received previously.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, arises from the question which was asked by my colleague Senator Laught and to which the Minister gave a very full answer. Is it possible to obtain from the Minister’s office copies of the three agreements to which he referred, so that those of us who wish to do so may examine them in detail and with some care?
– The answer is clearly yes. If any honourable senator would like to look, with particularity, at any aspect of any of the conventions to which I referred, I would be only too happy to make copies of them available to honourable senators. I point out that, in accordance with the forms of the Senate, they have been laid on the table for perusal. Nevertheless, copies will be available in my office for any honourable senator who cares to look at them.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What were the principles behind the decision of the Government banning servicemen from standing as candidates for parliamentary elections? Does not the Government consider that servicemen who serve their country militarily should also be able to serve their country as Members of Parliament as has been the case during previous wars?
– Apparently the honourable senator is referring to the State election to be held shortly in Victoria and the fact that some servicemen were not made available to stand as candidates. I understand, from the statement I saw by the Minister for Air, that all those persons were airmen. The statement indicated, as far as I am aware, that the men were required by the Royal Australian Air Force. I suggest to the honourable senator that he put his question on the notice paper, and I will get the facts for him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development a question. I believe that the Prime Minister in his policy speech indicated the intention of the Government to make available a large sum of money for the erection of special water storage reservoirs throughout the Commonwealth. Is the Minister able to give me any details as to whether planning is in hand for these special projects and in particular whether these projects are aimed at accelerating State water reserve projects? Are these projects to be used for special water storages beyond the States’ normal programmes?
– The matter to which the honourable senator refers was mentioned by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. At the present time, the Government is urgently undertaking the work of bringing these policy matters before the Parliament in legislative form. One of the matters is water storage. I am not sure what stage has been reached, but 1 will get the information for the honourable senator. This matter is one of the points in the policy speech that is being pressed vigorously by the Government so that it will be brought before this Parliament in legislative form as soon as possible.
– Has the
Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry read an article which appeared in this morning’s edition of the Melbourne ‘Age’ and in which it is stated that considerable anxiety is being felt in substantial sectors of industry and commerce regarding the present relations between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Tariff Board? Will the Minister for Trade and Industry consider making a statement to the Parliament, in view of the widespread public concern about this important matter, as to the intentions of the Government regarding the future composition and operations of the Tariff Board and its relations with the Department of Trade and Industry?
– The honourable senator refers to a newspaper report. I am sure that he has been here long enough, as I have been, not to place too much reliance on anything we read in newspaper reports. I will certainly put the question before the Minister for Trade and Industry. As the Minister will be away for approximately six weeks from this afternoon, I suggest’ that the honourable senator will have to wait a while for his answer. I will put the question before the Minister for Trade and Industry as it is, naturally, his responsibility to make such a statement if he proposes to make it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister advise me of the date on which tenders will be called for site constructional work for the permanent Australian Broadcasting Commission television station at Cairns?
– I will obtain from the Postmaster-General the information that the honourable senator seeks and make it available expeditiously to him.
– My question to the Minister for Supply is related to the statement circulated by him that the actual Gemini 10 capsule which last year performed rendezvous and docking operations in space would be displayed throughout Australia over a period of six months. The Minister’s statement indicated that the spacecraft would be shown in capital cities and major country towns. Will the Minister state when it is expected that the capsule will be shown in South Australia? When will it be shown in Adelaide? In what major country towns of South Australia will the capsule be exhibited?
– The Gemini 10 capsule was made available originally for three months but the United States Government has been good enough to extend the period to six months. Tremendous interest has been shown in the capsule and 1 have had a great many requests that it be shown in various areas. The capsule will be shown in South Australia at Mount Gambier, Adelaide and Woomera during July, lt takes time to erect and dismantle the display and we are investigating whether the process can be streamlined. If the process can be carried through more quickly it will be possible to show the capsule in more places than anticipated at present. As I said, we have secured the capsule for an additional three months period and will try to show it in as many places as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for
Immigration. Is it a fact that migration from the United Kingdom to Australia fell by 30% in the first quarter of this year? If so, does the Minister admit that adverse reports on migrant accommodation have influenced the flow of migrants? In view of the glowing description of housing arrangements for migrants in brochures issued in the United Kingdom by the Department of Immigration will the Minister have these pamphlets withdrawn from circulation among intending migrants pending the erection of improved migrant accommodation? Does the Minister admit that the airing of the grave shortcomings in migrant hostels by Senator Poyser, in addition to the demonstrations by hostel tenants in Melbourne, have at last brought a belated response from a complacent government and a decision to build more adequate housing for migrants?
– This Government has always had very great concern for the immigrants coming to Australia. That is why the Minister for Immigration has announced a new scheme to build flats for migrant families as temporary accommodation when they arrive in Australia. This is one more step towards making their stay here as happy and comfortable as possible. In addition, the Minister for Labour and National Service has announced an improvement in hostel accommodation. This is part of the continuing story of the Government’s endeavours to improve conditions for migrants to this country.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: Is it not generally considered in British business, commercial and political circles that the strong credit restrictions imposed by the United Kingdom Labour Government have caused a fall in the number of applications by British people wishing to come to Australia, because under present economic conditions intending migrants are not able to sell their capital assets as they need to do if moving to Australia?
– I have noted with interest the comments made by Senator Marriott and I am sure that if he says it, it is correct.
Sitting suspended from 3.30 to 5 p.m.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the
– I desire to inform the
Senate that this day, accompanied by honourable senators, I waited on the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the Opening of the Twenty-sixth Parliament, agreed to by the Senate on 4th April.
His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply, which you have just presented to me.
It will be ray pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen at once the Message of Loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
Reports on Items
– Mr President, I present the report by the Tariff Board on the following matters:
Saccharin, etc. and cyclamic acid.
I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This inquiry arose originally from a request for tariff protection for the manufacture of artificial sweeteners, and the Tariff Board has made its report within the terms of the reference sent to it by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). However, the evidence produced at the inquiry of competition of artificial sweeteners with sugar has introduced a different issue. This Government subscribes to the long established policy, followed by successive governments since federation, of protecting the sugar industry, not only against overseas sugar, but also against competition from artificial sweeteners. The Government has decided, therefore, that the existing customs duties and excise duties for artificial sweeteners shall remain unaltered.
There exists provision for the removal of such duties when artificial sweeteners are used for medicinal purposes. This provision will be reviewed with a view to limiting the concession to genuine medicinal uses. Such action will be taken, however, when the results of a present study by the National Health and Medical Research Council into standards for diabetic, special diet and invalids foods, and by State governments into the use of artificial sweeteners in processed food and vegetables, are known.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1965 provided money for interim grants for capital purposes to colleges of advanced education in the States. It contained a schedule setting out the colleges which were to receive grants and the amounts which each college was to receive. The State of Queensland, under the Act, was to receive a grant of £475,000 which was to be distributed, in accordance with the schedule to the Act, between the colleges at Brisbane, Toowoomba and Rockhampton.
The State Government has requested a redistribution of this money as between the three colleges and the table which with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard, sets out the original distribution proposed in the 1965 Act and the altered distribution as proposed in this Bill.
The redistribution has become necessary because the original distribution proposed was on estimates of cost for approved projects made for the Martin Committee some years ago and the actual costs vary from the estimates.
In the case of the colleges at Toowoomba and at Rockhampton the cost of the approved buildings will be fully met from the proposed new redistribution. At Brisbane the buildings originally approved will not all be paid for from the proposed new redistribution but those buildings where cost will not be met from the interim grant will be included in the triennial programme for 1967-1969.
The currency of the 1965 Act ended on 31st December 1966, but the Act gave the Minister power to extend its period of applicability for the approved projects and this has been done for the projects in question at the three institutes of technology in question. The purpose of this Bill is therefore to seek approval for the redistribution as proposed in the table I have incorporated.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purposes of this Bill are to amend the formula under which the annual financial assistance grants to the States are determined and to authorise the payment of a special, non-recurring grant of $5m to the States in 1966-67. Both of these measures were agreed upon during discussions on Commonwealth and State financial relations which were held with the Premiers of the States on 16th February.
Honourable senators may recall that the former system of tax reimbursement and supplementary grants to compensate the States for loss of income tax revenue arising from the adoption of the uniform tax system was replaced in 1959 by arrangements for the payment of financial assistance grants. Under these arrangements the financial assistance grants were varied from year to year by reference to the two main factors affecting current expenditures of State governments, namely, changes in population and wages. In consequence, as State populations grew and as wage costs rose the grants increased proportionately. In addition, that formula included a ‘betterment’ factor in the form of a 10% addition to the percentage increase in average wages. This addition was intended to help the States to raise the standard and extend the range of their services to the community. This formula determined the grants from 1959-60 to 1964-65.
The present arrangements, which it was agreed at a Premiers Conference in June 1965 should operate for a period of five years, provide that the annual financial assistance grant payable to each State should continue to increase in proportion to variations in population and increases in average wages. However, it was decided to improve the betterment factor by fixing it at 1.2% per annum regardless of the size of the increase in average wages. Under the previous formula the betterment factor had the effect of ‘ increasing the grants by an average of only 0.4% per annum and it had the disadvantage that it fluctuated from year to year in line with fluctuations in average wages.
The Commonwealth also proposed that, in order to reduce the time lag before changes in population and wages were reflected in the grants, more up to date statistics for these two items should be used in calculating the grants. Specifically, it was proposed that the increase in average wages used to determine the grant for a financial year should be that for the year ending March of that financial year, instead of that for the preceding financial year, and that the increase in population used should be the increase during the year ending December in the financial year, instead of the increase during the preceding financial year.
The proposal to up date the population statistics was accepted by the States and incorporated in the present formula. Although the States were generally in favour of reducing the time lag in average wages, they did not support this proposed change at that time because, in that event, their 1965-66 grants would have been deter mined without reference to the large rise in average wages which occurred in 1964-65.
There is no doubt that the present grants formula constitutes a significant improvement on the previous formula. Over the period of the previous grants arrangements the financial assistance grants increased at an average annual rate of about 7% per annum, which was slightly less than the rate at which the gross national product increased. The betterment factor of 1.2% in the present formula should ensure that, over a period of years, the financial assistance grants to the States will increase at a faster rate than the economy as a whole.
At the Premiers Conference held last February, the Premiers indicated that they were concerned about two sets of problems - one relating to longer term aspects of Commonwealth-State financial relations and the other relating to their immediate budget problems. In the time available, it was not possible to discuss the longer term aspects in any detail. On the longer term problems, the main thesis put forward by the Premiers was that, on the basis of their experience in recent years, the States would need additional financial resources in the form of more liberal Commonwealth grants or access to new fields of State taxation if they were to meet the increasing demands of the community for State services. It was agreed that the longer term problems in the field of Commonwealth and State financial relations would be considered further at a Premiers Conference to be held towards the end of the current financial year.
As for their immediate financial problems, the Premiers indicated that, despite the additional revenue raising efforts which the State governments had made this year, they would be faced with quite substantial budget deficits if more Commonwealth help were not forthcoming. They pointed out that their budget results this year would be worse than estimated because of higher costs arising from the Commonwealth Arbitration and Conciliation Commission’s decision last January to award increased margins to metal trade employees. Taken in conjunction with the increase in the basic wage announced last July, it was clear that margins increases would result in a relatively large increase in the wage costs of the States in 1966-67. At the same time,
It was pointed out that, because of the time lag in the average wages element of the formula, the financial assistance grants for 1966-67 were being determined by refer,ence to the relatively smaller increase in average wages in 1965-66.
In these circumstances, we considered it appropriate to repeat the offer made by the Commonwealth in June 1965 to reduce the time lag in the average wages adjustment. As a further contribution to the special budget problems facing the States this year, we also agreed to make available this year a non-recurring grant of $5m to be apportioned among the States in the same proportion as the formula grants. The Premiers warmly accepted these proposals and the present Bill is designed to implement them.
The precise amounts which would be payable to the States under this new legislation will not be known until the relevant statistics, particularly the figure of average wages for the year ended 31st March 1967, are available. At the time of the Premiers Conference it was estimated tentatively that the proposed revision to the formula would produce an additional amount of about $8m for the States this year. It now seems more likely that the addition will be just over $6m. In that event, after taking account of the proposed non-recurring grant of $5m, the effect of this Bill would be to provide the States with additional grants of about $llm this year. I commend the Bill to honourable senators. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a table which gives details of the grants to individual States.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
By this Bill it is proposed to extend the exemption limits of the age allowance provisions of the income tax law. These provisions may apply to men aged 65 years or more and women aged 60 years or more if they are residents of Australia.
For the current financial year, the age allowance exempts from tax an eligible aged person whose net income does not exceed $1,040. In the case of a married couple who meet the prescribed tests, exemption is provided if their combined net income is not greater than $1,950. A measure of relief is also provided by the age allowance where the net income is somewhat in excess of those exemption limits. The maximum income levels to which this relief is granted are $1,221 and $2,882 for single and married persons respectively.
As honourable senators know, the Government proposes to increase by $156 per annum the means test for age pension purposes. It is expected that there will be five pension pay days in the period from the date on which the liberalisation of the means test becomes operative to 30th June 1967. On a pro rata basis, what is, in effect, the permissible income will be increased by $30 for that period.
At present, the exemption limits for the age allowance are correlated with the sum of the full age pension and the maximum amount of permissible income for the purposes of the age pension. In order to maintain that position for the current financial year this Bill proposes an amendment of the Income Tax Act 1966 to increase by $30 the exemption limits for the age allowance. The new limits will, therefore, be $1,070 for a single person and $1,980 for a married couple. Consequential adjustments of the maximum net incomes to which some relief is granted are also proposed by the Bill. The new income levels for this purpose will be $1,264 for a single person and $2,958 for a married couple.
Further consequential adjustments are proposed to the special provisions for certain aged persons contained in the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Act 1966. These adjustments will increase the income limits now specified in those provisions from $1,221 to $1,264 for a single person and from $2,882 to $2,958 for a married couple. The amendments proposed will have effect in respect of income derived by aged persons during the year of income ending on 30th June 1967.
Before concluding, I would like to amplify the reasons for the adoption of a pro rata increase in the agc allowance exemption levels on this occasion. As honourable senators will know, on past occasions the exemption levels have been increased in the Budget session to correspond with adjustments in the age pension. lt has been the general practice on those occasions to relate the increase in the age allowance to the annual equivalent of the full age pension and the maximum amount of permissible income that a pensioner may receive before his entitlement to the full pension is affected. The present situation however, is, distinguishable from the situation that exists at Budget time. So far as the current financial year is concerned, the liberalised means test will be operative for only a small part of the year. The amendments proposed by the Bill are merely designed to ensure that an aged person who benefits from the liberalisation of the means test for the period up to the end of this financial year does not thereby have to pay tax or, alternatively, to pay more tax than he would otherwise have paid. He may benefit either by way of additional pension or the receipt of additional permissible income. The Government recognises that, if the present correlation between the age allowance and the age pension plus permissible income is to be retained for the next financial year, a further increase of $126 in the allowance will be necessary. This is a matter to be dealt with when the 1967-68 Budget is being prepared. The increased allowance would, of course, be reflected in the legislation declaring the rates of tax which is introduced annually in the Parlia ment. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 April (vide page 591) on motion by Senator Henty:
– Mr Deputy President, on behalf of the Opposition 1 oppose this motion submitted by the Leader of the Government in tha Senate (Senator Henty). The motion is consequent upon a resolution in the original motion to appoint this Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. As you, Mr Deputy President, and honourable senators will recall, the Opposition voted for the motion for the appointment of the Select Committee following the defeat of an amendment that we proposed with the object of extending the scope of the Committee so that it would be a joint committee of both Houses. The reason for our opposition to this proposal arises from a consideration of the first clause of the motion. This clause provides:
The Standing Orders dealing with select committees are standing order 289 and subsequent standing orders. Standing order 289 states:
Unless otherwise ordered, all Select Committees shall consist of seven Senators.
Standing order 290 provides:
The Senators to serve on a Select Committee shall be nominated by the Mover; but if one Senator so demand, they shall be selected by ballot.
There are other provisions dealing with select committees. Without reading them in detail, I point out that the Standing Orders provide - certainly in respect of some of the committees concerned - for the appointment of seven senators, four by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and three by me Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. As is well known, at all events to the Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition appoints those who are selected by the democratic processes of his party to be the members of the committee. That is, an election is held and then the Leader of the Opposition acts in accordance with the results of that election.
The proposition now before the Senate seems objectionable to us for this reason: It does not follow the parliamentary practice of appointment of members of a select committee by Government and Opposition. The Parliament as it is constituted - this includes the Senate - operates on the basis of the Government initiating business and, except for General Business, having the general control of the chamber. Various privileges are given to Ministers under the. Standing Orders. It is well recognised that the operation of Parliament should be on this basis, that is, the Government handles certain matters and there is an Opposition to deal with them. It is understandable, then, that the members of select committees or standing committees should be selected on the basis of appointment by Government and Opposition. This motion does not do that. At the same time, it does not provide for the nomination of members to serve on the Select Committee or for the election of such members. It confuses the various methods by which a committee may be selected. By including the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the Leader of that Party as one to appoint a member to the committee, the motion introduces an anomaly. lt would be understandable, even if it were not in accordance with the normal practice, if the motion were to provide for the composition of this Committee to be determined by the appointment of members by the leaders of the various parties. The motion does not do so. It does not say that the Leader of the Liberal Party is to appoint two members, the Leader of the Country Party is to appoint two members, the Leader of the Australian Labor Party is to appoint three members, and the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party is to appoint one member. It does not operate on that basis at all. It operates partly on the basis of Government and Opposition, the recognised .procedure, and then breaks entirely away from this procedure to deal with an appointment by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. If it is intended that certain senators not in the Government and not in what is regarded as Her Majesty’s Opposition should have representation, this is understandable. It might well be, leaving aside the particular subject matter here, that representation on committees ought to be given to the Australian Democratic Labor Party and to honourable senators who sit here as independents. The Opposition is not taking up the attitude that under no circumstances should members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party or senators who are independents have the right to serve on committees or, for that matter, be absolved from the duty to serve on committees.
A completely anomalous and wrong principle is introduced into this proposal. As honourable senators will observe this is introduced also into the other proposal concerning the appointment of a select committee to investigate the metric system of weights and measures. Here seems to be the genesis of some precedent. It is a very serious matter. We have not had many select committees in the past. We hope to have more of them in the future. It is important that this matter be looked upon as a matter not merely of personalities or of party political rivalries but of principle. There is no proper principle upon which this motion proceeds.
If it were intended that because of some special qualifications certain senators ought to be members of this Committee, a proper way exists for this to be done. The situation is provided for in the Standing Orders. The senators to serve on a select committee are nominated by the mover. Alterations could be made to the nomination if it were desired to have eight members on the committee. Alternatively there could have been an election of the senators to serve on the Committee. But this proposition provides for the appointment by the Australian Democratic Labor Party of a member to serve on the proposed select committee. An appointment by the same Party is to be made to a second proposed select committee also. This means that when the committees are appointed presumably all the resources of the Australian Democratic Labor Party will be employed unless for some strange reason only one person is selected by that Party to serve on both committees.
Why should this be so? I remind the Senate that it is the duty of a senator to serve on a committee if he is nominated. This is set out clearly in that excellent work by the Clerk of the Senate, Mr J. R. Odgers, entitled ‘Australian Senate Practice’. Pages 201 and 202 of the second edition refer to Standing Order 290 which reads:
The Senators to serve on a Select Committee shall bc nominated by the Mover; but if one Senator so demand, they shall be selected by ballot.
Australian Senate Practice’ then makes this observation:
When this standing order was first adopted, an attempt was made, unsuccessfully, to amend the standing order so as to provide that the personnel of select committees be decided in all cases by ballot. It was felt by some Senators that such a provision would avoid unpleasantness and, in addition, circumvent the possibility of the mover of a motion choosing Senators who held opinions similar to his own. However the argument against the proposal was that, if there were a ballot without names being submitted, it may result in the selection of members of the Senate who would not serve.
The position as it stands is that a Senator, in moving for the appointment of a Select Committee, may nominate the members of it; when that is done, it is open to any Senator dissatisfied with the names proposed, not to proceed by way of amendment, but to demand a ballot, but the names of those who are willing to serve ought to bc submitted in order that Senators in balloting may know what they are doing. Strictly, it is no more than courtesy, or expediency, to first ascertain the names of Senators willing to serve, because it has been held that - lt is not a privilege, but a duty, for a Senator to serve on a Select Committee; and unless excused by the Senate or a Standing Order, any Senator appointed must serve.
That is a proper principle. The background to this is that there are a number of proposals for the appointment of select committees. The Opposition takes the view that if the Senate expresses a wish that a select committee be set up, whether it be to consider repatriation, costs of medical and hospital care or any other matter, those concerned - and in particular the Government if the proposal emanated from the Opposition - would act in accordance with the will of the Senate. We consider it would be the Government’s duty to go ahead and make the proper appointments. We believe it should proceed in good faith to see that the Committee operated properly.
It is the plain duty of every honourable senator to act. in accordance with the will of the Senate as expressed in the relevant motion. When one applies that principle to the proposal now before the Senate it is apparent that if the proposal is passed by the Senate there will be an obligation upon the Australian Democratic Labor Party to appoint a senator to serve on the proposed committee and also on another committee that is proposed. Normally there is no question about the desire or the capacity of the Opposition to respond to such proposals by the Government, because there are a large number of senators on the Opposition side. It is obvious that we could supply the senators required to serve on each of the proposed select committees. But what is the position regarding the Democratic Labor Party? As the author of Australian Senate Practice’ has pointed out, it is the duty of a senator to serve on a select committee if he is selected. Accordingly, there should be consultation to ensure that persons are available to serve on a committee.
This is not necessary in the case of the Australian Labor Party because obviously there are plenty of persons who are members of the Opposition to serve on the committee. But in the case of the Government’s proposal there must have been consultation with the Australian Democratic Labor Party in respect of both the proposed select committees as to who would serve on them. In the light of this motion, if there was not consultation there ought to have been, because a duty is imposed on those involved to serve on the select committee. Certainly there was no consultation with the Australian Labor Party in respect of a proposal that this was to be the way in which the committee was to be appointed. One then reaches the curious conclusion that there was no consultation when there ought to have been consultation. Certainly if there was consultation with the Australian Democratic Labor Party there should have been consultation with the Opposition. If there was no consultation with the Australian Democratic Labor Party, there ought to have been.
Altogether it is an anomalous proposal. The proposition is not that we act on the basis of Government and Opposition but that this anomaly be introduced, that one party - and a minority party in the extreme - be given the privilege of appointing senators to the select committee. Why should this apply to the Australian Democratic Labor Party? Its supporters in this House number only two. Why should this apply to them and not to the independent senators? It is anomalous. It is no answer to suggest that the Democratic Labor Party should not be denied membership on any committee. We have not said that, for all time, members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party should be denied membership of any committee, nor have we said that Independent senators should be denied membership of any committee; but there are proper ways in which appointments should be made, and they should be availed of. If it is desired that some of those four senators not in the Government or the Opposition should be on a committee there should not be a departure from the practice that the Government and the Oppositoon should perform the normal operations of the Senate.
Previously there was a Select Committee on Road Safety, and a debate on the appointment was recorded in the Senate Hansard report of 14th May 1959 at pages 1456-7. The proposal was that a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon road safety, and it was moved that the committee consist of Senators Anderson. Aylett, McManus, O’Byrne, Sir Neil O’sullivan, Scott, Sheehan and Wade. That was in accordance with what I have said would be the appropriate procedure if it was desired to appoint persons as individual senators rather than on the basis of Government or Opposition. No argument has been advanced by the Leader of the Government for this proposed departure by the Senate from the basis of Government and Opposition appointments.
Why should this attitude be adopted in respect of the two select committees which have been proposed by the Government? Is this to be the attitude in respect of all select committees? If it is to be the attitude, then I think that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber would concede that it is wrong. We cannot adopt as a standing principle the proposition that select committees of the Senate be composed of four senators to be nominated by the Government, three senators to be nominated by the Opposition and one to be nominated by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I do not think that even the Australian Democratic Labor Party would endeavour to suggest that this was fair or equitable - that as a standing practice a party which has the representation of the Australian Democratic Labor Party should have the representation on select committees in accordance with this principle. On no basis of equity or fair dealing could that be justified. Yet it is incorporated in the two proposals that have been put forward by the Government.
If it is not to be the standing principle to be proposed by the Government, what is the reason for the departure in this instance? If there is a reason for the departure, why are we not told about it? What is the reason for the departure in respect of the Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes and in respect of the Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures? The Government cannot justify it as a general principle, yet no reason whatever is advanced on this occasion. We do not want to enter into the question of personalities. Perhaps there could be considerable objection advanced to the Australian Democratic Labor Party being represented on the committee at all. Certainly the industrial movement would have grave objections to it. Perhaps some other persons might have arguments to advance as to why the Australian Democratic Labor Party should be represented on the committee. But let us leave aside the question of personalities.
Let us look at the matter as one of principle. What is to be the Government’s approach? We say that the Government cannot possibly justify as a standing principle this extraordinary representation of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, while no representation is to be given to the independent senators. We say it is quite wrong. Let us recognise the principle that the Australian Democratic Labor Party is entitled to representation on some committees. Let us recognise the principle that from time to time the independents would be entitled to representation on certain committees. One could conceive that Senator Turnbull, for example, might be an appropriate person to have on a Senate select committee which was concerned with medical matters.
– The independents could be appointed under’ this proposal. The Leader of the DLP could appoint an independent senator if he wished.
– If that is so then it illustrates the extraordinary nature of what is being proposed by the Government - that the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party be enabled to appoint a person who is not a member of his own Party to serve on a committee. If the proposition which is advanced by Senator Laught is correct, then there is nothing to stop the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party from appointing a member of the Australian Labor Party or of the Government Parties. Every proposition such as this has to be read sensibly. The proper sense of this proposition is that the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party has to appoint a member of his own Party. If he were to appoint a member of one of the Government Parties or of the Australian Labor Party, it is inconceivable that this would give the right to and place the duty upon the senator so appointed to serve. A moment’s consideration by the honourable senator would convince him that the proposal, in its proper sense, would not convey that power and would not place that duty upon any senator.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– The suggestion was advanced by an honourable senator opposite, by way of interjection, that this proposal is intended to operate in such a way that the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party would be able to nominate not only one of his own Party - either himself or the other member of his Party in this chamber, there being only two - but also, if he felt that it was right, he could nominate an independent senator.
– He did not say that it is intended to work that way. He merely said that if he wished to do so, he could.
– If this is the basis upon which the proposal by the Leader of the Government in the Senate is intended to operate, it shows how wrong it is. The independent senators should not be put in a position where their appointment to a select committee is dependent upon a decision of the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. If it is not intended that every honourable senator should be able to be nominated - if it is intended that there should be a departure from the general principle of conducting the business by way of Government and Opposition - then obviously the correct way is to put everyone on the same basis and to nominate the members to serve on the committee. Then if that is not satisfactory to the Senate - and according to the Standing Orders any senator could object to it - there would be a ballot. At least that would be a reasonable approach, but the approach which the GoGovernment has adopted here is not reasonable. f wish to repeat the principles put by the Oppositon. We have not said that there should be no representation on any committee for either the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party or the independent senators. We have not taken that unreasonable view at all. However, we object strenuously to any endeavour to set up by the motions we are debating a principle whereby the DLP should be treated on a special basis; that the proposition of Government and Opposition should be abandoned and that recourse should not be had to the basis recognised under the Standing Orders of treatment of senators on an equal basis, independent of Government or Opposition affiliations. This is an endeavour to take partly the principle of Government and Opposition membership of committees and to graft onto that principle, in the case of one party only, another principle. This procedure is not adopted in respect of (he Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party or the Australian Labor Party. The Government has decided to graft on only one party, and to leave out the independent senators.
The extraordinary proposition came forward that this scheme is to work by way of the Australian Democratic Labor Party appointing independent senators in this Parliament. If that procedure were to be adopted, presumably the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party could appoint members of the Australian Labor Party, or could use all sorts of means inconsistent with the principle of Government and Opposition. The procedure is not acceptable to the Opposition. Either the principle of Government and Opposition should apply, or the principle of senators voting individually should apply, which is a fair enough basis. The members of the committee should be nominated and if that is not acceptable, we should have an election. But it is impermissible to set up the kind of anomalous system where the Democratic Labor Party is put in a special position and where the independent senators are left out. This extraordinary proposition does not accord with the principles set out in the Standing Orders. It does not accord with the recognition of Government and Opposition. Apparently it has some political expediency for the Government. That being the case, although we have supported the setting up of a select committee - we voted for it when our amendment was rejected - nevertheless we will not be a party to accepting this proposition. We propose to vote against it.
– Seldom have I heard a speaker in any Parliament, particularly a Leader of the Opposition, make such heavy weather about a matter as has the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) this afternoon and this evening. Never have I heard anyone make such a poor attempt to create a mountain out of a molehill. I sympathise with the Leader of the Opposition in the dilemma in which he finds himself. The motion submitted to this Parliament providing for the setting up of select committees to deal with certain matters received his unqualified support. As to the numerical strength of those committees, he went further than the Government intended by moving an amendment asking for a joint select committee with a membership of fourteen. So in the first instance he has no quarrel with the proposal, which he has himself admitted. He cannot have any quarrel with the increase of one member over the customary membership of seven, but he finds fault with the method proposed by the Government to select eight senators for one select committee. He finds fault because the Government has said that the committee should consist of four senators from the Government parties, three senators from the Opposition and one senator to be appointed on my nomination as Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
The Leader of the Opposition made a lot of the point as to whether there had been consultation in this connection between the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) and myself, or any member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Of course the Leader of the Government in the Senate asked me whether members of the Democratic Labor Party were willing to serve on the committee. He had a right to do that.
– He did not ask me.
– I will answer that, too.
– He did not ask the Leader of the Opposition because he was entitled to take it for granted that three members of the Opposition would serve on the committee. Furthermore, the attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to convey the impression that the Government would appoint to the committee three members of the Opposition without consulting with the Leader of the Opposition is so much ballyhoo. Has it not followed that on all previous occasions the Leader of the Opposition has nominated the three senators that the Opposition wanted to serve on a committee? Not even an elementary student of politics would accept the submission by the Leader of the Opposition that the Government would appoint three senators from the Opposition without reference to the Leader of the Opposition; or to the Opposition generally. The Leader of the Government will not pick out three Opposition senators and appoint them to the committee without reference to the Leader of the Opposition or lo the Opposition. The attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to lead people to believe otherwise falls down, because his suggestion is impractical. He has suggested a course which is not usually followed. It is not surprising that the Leader of the Government in the Senate would ask me whether a member of the DLP was prepared to serve on the committee. The three Labour senators ultimately appointed to the proposed Committee will be persons who have received the approval of the Party to which they belong, just a”s the four Government senators appointed will have received the approval of their own Parties either by selection or by their acceptance as volunteers for appointment to the Committee.
Furthermore, let me say that the attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to convey to the public that he and his Party have no objection to a representative of the Australian Democratic Labor Party being on the proposed Committee will not be accepted by anybody. He suggested that his Party is not opposed to the appointment of Senator McManus or me to the Committee. Who will accept that statement? Everybody knows very well that the basis of his objection to the proposition that a representative of the Democratic Labor Party should sit on the Committee is bitter opposition to members of our Party and in particular to the two of us who represent it in the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition disclosed his hand when he said that there would be objection by the Labour industrial movement to representation of the Democratic Labor Party on the proposed Committee. I can understand objection to a representative of this Party coming from some of the officers of the Communist controlled Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
– Mr Fitzgibbon.
– Yes, Mr Fitzgibbon. The Federation has been dominated for so long by the Communist influence on the waterfront.
– The honourable senator ought to wake up to himself.
– My friends on my right scream and yell. Let them tell me why it is that in the forthcoming elections of officers of the Federation a Communist, Docker, and his two friends are. not to be opposed by any Australian Labor Party candidate.
– The honourable senator is now disqualifying himself from serving on the Committee.
– No, I am not. J am leading up to the point that I wish to make. The objection, I said-
– The honourable senator is not saying that he is impartial, is he?
– I am impartial as far as the average worker is concerned. It would not surprise mc if the officials of this Communist controlled union objected to me and my colleague, but the rank and file of that union would have no objection to us. They know that they could depend on us to dispense justice and fair play. They know that we would do the honourable, right and just thing in the interests of the workers and the industry to which they belong.
– The honourable senator would nominate the Hurseys for appointment to the Committee.
– I would not have expected Senator O’Byrne to hesitate to resurrect the Hursey case, which stinks in the nostrils of every decent democrat and every decent working man in the Australian community.
– They were wrung out like rags and left on the scrap heap.
– These decent unionists were deprived of the right te work and earn a livelihood in the industry to which they belonged for many years. This was done because they refused to contribute to a political party in which they were no longer interested. They were boycotted and assaulted and they were driven out of the industry merely because on principle they objected-
– T rise to order, Mr President. Surely this is irrelevant to the motion before the Senate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! Senator Gair has been getting a little wide of the motion, but he was led by interjections into doing so. I suggest to him that he should now come back to the subject matter of the motion.
– 1 shall be very pleased to do so. Your observation is quite sound, Mr President. 1 was replying to interjections.
– The honourable senator criticised Mr Fitzgibbon. We are only defending him.
– Why is not Mr
Fitzgibbon interested in opposing some of the Communists in the forthcoming elections within the Waterside Workers Federation?
– I rise to order again, Mr President. 1 object to this continuing irrelevancy.
– Order! The point of order is well taken. However, honourable senators on Senator Gair’s right have been provoking the situation that has arisen. If they would refrain from interjecting and let him make his speech they would not lead him away from the point in the way in which he has been getting away from the subject matter of the motion, as Senator Murphy has pointed out. 1 suggest that honourable senators behave themselves, slop interjecting and allow Senator Gair to make his speech.
– Thank you, Mr President. Before the interruption occurred 1 was pointing out that the Leader of the Opposition’s objection is not to the motion or to the planned numerical strength of the membership of the proposed Committee. It could not be, because at one time he wanted it to have fourteen members. He is complaining about the method of selecting senators for appointment to the Committee. Two or three methods could bc adopted. The Leader of the Government could nominate eight members for appointment. If he nominated three Labor Party senators who had not the approval of the Party, no doubt members of that Party would vote against the proposal. There could bc other nominations. However, the method adopted means that the Leader of the Government, in effect, says: ‘I shall select four senators for appointment. The Leader of the Opposition will have the right, on behalf of his Party, through me, to nominate three senators for appointment and the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party will have the right to nominate one senator for appointment.’ The
Leader of the Opposition objects to this proposal.
– Nominate a fifth Government senator.
– Out of respect for the Chair L shall ignore that interjection for the moment. But 1 shall deal with it later. I warn the honourable senator that he is on very dangerous ground. If he wants a debate on that point, let him see how well he will come out of it. The important matter is that the main objection by the Leader of the Opposition is not to the way in which the Government is going about the appointment of members to the proposed Committee. His main objection is that the motion provides for a representative of the Democratic Labor Party to be appointed. He has repeatedly pointed out that the members of our Party in the Senate number only two. This ultra democrat - for that is what he would like people to believe him to be - fails to recognise that we two members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party represent half a million electors. If he were the great democrat that he claims to be he could not consistently deny our right to have a representative on any Committee of the Senate, whatever might be the subject of its inquiry.
– The Democratic Labor Party boosts its votes by endorsing as candidates new Australians whose names begin with the letter ‘A’.
– If we do that it is only because we learned that practice when we were members of the Australian Labor Party. We recall the time when the ranks of the Labor Party in the Senate were filled with the Armstrongs, Ashleys, Arnolds, Amours and Ayletts and even, in one instance, 1 believe, included a fellow who had changed his name by deed poll so that he could win Labor endorsement as a candidate at an election. If the Democratic Labor Party is to be charged with selecting as candidates persons whose surnames begin with the letter ‘A’ I can only say that we have learned that trick as a result of our association with the Australian Labor Party in years gone by. That is not the case. We get 500,000 people voting for us because they see the quality and the merit of our policy. They are mostly people who have recognised in increasing numbers just how the little red ant has got into the once great Australian Labor Party, and they look for a Labor Party that is antiCommunist in character and that has a true democratic outlook, a party that has a desire to do something for Australia and its people in every phase of life.
Mr President, I conclude by saying that it does not matter how often or how long Senator Murphy reiterates that his concern about this motion is the method adopted by the Government to put a representative of the Democratic Labor Party on this Select Committee or any other. That is not his concern at all. I repeat with all the earnestness at my disposal that his main object - and the people outside will see this as clearly as I can see it - is petty, mean, paltry and bitter, and that is the basis of his case tonight.
– I want to support the viewpoint put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), which I think is a sound one. He asks that we should act as a Parliament in this matter of the Select Committee on the Container Method of Cargo Handling. A parliament consists obviously of a government - a supposedly strong government - and a strong opposition. We of the Australian Labor Party - the strongest party of all, I suggest, other than the Government Parties - have a right to state in this chamber how such a Select Committee should be constituted. For this reason, basically . we see no reason why, if consultations were held - and this is admitted by Senator Gair - between the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the Government, they should not have been held with the Leader of the Australian Labor Party Opposition. The consultations might have been tripartite, but at least it would have been possible to settle the question in a proper and parliamentary way. We contend that the decision of the Government in saying: ‘Yes, the DLP is entitled to representation on this committee’ is a departure from a practice. On some issues, that might not be significant or important enough to raise as a principle.
Senator Murphy has made clear that in respect of the Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures he would not take any strong point on this, although he felt that the Opposition should stand in a strong position in the Parliament and that the DLP should take its chance with the Country Party and with the independents as to appointment to the Committee. To me he made this very clear. I can see nothing wrong with the basis of this principle. He did not say, as Senator Gair suggests, that he resented members of the DLP being on the Committee. I listened to him because I am interested in the subject. I did not hear him say that, and I am quite sure that the record will show that he does not care whether Senator Gair or Senator McManus is on the Committee. Probably one or the other will be on the Committee, but he raises no objection to that. The matter to which he raises objection is the basic position that they are allowed to say: Yes, we will nominate’, with the Government saying: ‘We will give you this representation’.
Obviously the Opposition has a viewpoint about this. Our viewpoint is not based on the sort of emotional stuff that Senator Gair has just uttered about the waterfront industry, and the struggle between moderates, Communists and right wingers. We are not stating that. We think that there is every chance of success If the Committee runs in the way that I have suggested. If it had flowed from the sort of conferences which should have been held and which were possible, the chances are that agreement might have been reached and we would then have selected all the members of the Committee. Senator Murphy raised a question which seemed very sensible to me. The Government has voted to establish two Select Committees. We want a repatriation committee and one other. Is the same formula to be applied or will it be dropped because of convenience? How is the DLP to be given a place in the membership of those Select Committees? The idea of a select committee is sound and the Senate approves it. Sufficient senators have argued recently that this is the way in which the Senate should work. Senator Murphy, in my opinion, has every reason to express the point of view that he takes.
The only question which can be read into the remarks about industrial organisation, I suggest, is whether the Committee might work more efficiently as a group unanimously elected by the Senate rather than as a group elected in accordance with the proposal that is now put forward. I consider that the DLP should have taken its chance with the Country Party and the independents. Let the Government, if it wants to do so, arrange to vote one of them to membership of a committee by the use of its own machinery, because after all we in the Labor Party take the view that in fact the DLP is part of the Government of the country. 1 know that in this chamber - because I have heard leaders of the DLP say so - the DLP would not vote the Government out of office. This has been said.
Senator Gair argued or implied that he was concerned about our running before the red or white ants or something in the industrial movement. This is silly. The only thing I can say about this is that under clause 3 of the proposal in relation to the Select Committee it is possible for the Chairman, who will of course be a Government supporter, to appoint a Deputy Chairman. I should like to be frank about this and I offer my own opinion. If I go on this Committee and I am to do a job to get containerisation efficiently applied and accepted by the whole of the work force in this country - J still have some little voice and some influence in the work force and in the trade union organisation - I certainly would not like to be sitting under a Chairman who was a member of the DLP.
– Does the honourable senator think that the Government representatives would permit this?
– The honourable senator should listen to me. There is no reason to believe that the Government might not decide to put Senator Gair in as Chairman of the Committee. If membership of the Committee had been arranged in the first place in the circumstances that I suggested, perhaps no such question would arise, but we have listened to Senator Gair describe his very sensitive feelings about his position in the Australian electorate and no doubt Senator McManus has the same sensitivity about his position and they are entitled to say: ‘We represent a part of the electorate’. They have a standing in the Senate but they have no special standing. The Australian Labor Party is the Opposition in the Australian Parliament and we should be dealt with as such. We should not be treated in a second rate way. As Senator Murphy has elicited from Senator Gair, he was not even consulted about this machinery detail, which is a bad thing because the Opposition has said yes, despite all of the limitations and difficulties of such a committee.
Let me make a final point. This is a most important Committee. One of the major clements in making it function is the work force. As soon as you intrude into this type of establishment difficulties can arise. For example, as soon as containerisation is introduced in a particular place, the workforce may be reduced, just as can happen with the introduction of automation. In those circumstances, the good offices of the Opposition are essential. We can make a great contribution on the proposed Committee. I suggest that the best way to make the Committee work is to give serious thought to the basic things about which Senator Murphy has spoken tonight.
– I want to begin by assuring Senator Bishop that I am not a bit sensitive. I was in the trade union movement for thirty or forty years and I got over my sensitiveness at a very early age. I am not upset one bit by the unpleasant references he made to the Party to which I belong - references which were quite uncalled for. I want to clear the air about this suggestion that the industrial movement might offer objections to Democratic Labor Party senators. If the Australian Labor Party speaks, it can speak for itself, but I want to make it clear to the members of the Senate here who represent the Australian Labor Party that they do not speak for the trade union movement. Indeed, the trade union movement has made that perfectly clear to the leaders and members of the Labor Party over the years.
– Senator Murphy says that is nonsense. He therefore presumes to speak for the trade union movement.
– I do in this instance.
– I have been at meetings of the Australian Council of Trade Unions when party leaders told Albert Monk and others what they were to do and say. The party leaders were told that Mr Monk and the others had always spoken for themselves and were quite capable of continuing to do so.
– And the ACTU does not want your Party on this Committee.
– If Senator Murphy is upset about the welfare of trade unionism, why did he not get upset about it some years ago when the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, Joe Chamberlain, sat on the Australian Council of Trade Unions as he did for years? He was not a member of a trade union, but he accepted nomination and represented the trade unionists of Australia at the International Labour Convention. When I raised that question here, instead of being angered at a man who was not a member of a union occupying this position, these people who speak of trade unionism pretended to defend him.
– I rise to order. The honourable senator is not only wandering but seems to have set his course in a direction completely away from the debate. I ask that he be brought back to the matter at issue.
– Both the speeches and the interjections which have been made have been pretty wide of the mark tonight. Just where to start bringing you back to the line, Senator McManus, I would not know. The debate has been wide of the mark, but the continued interjections have provoked that situation.
– Thank you, Mr President. As to the suggestion that there might be objection to us from the trade union movement, I submit that this, too, was pretty wide of the mark when it was made by Senator Murphy, but the honourable senator was not so interested in keeping to the point then. I am a financial member of two trade unions.
– You are not qualified to be a member of any of them.
– Yes, I am. I want to say that I was a member of the committee that inquired into indemnity payments and the trade union movement was not upset over that. On the contrary, it was very pleased about it because action was taken as a result of the inquiry of that committee to stop the racket which the Australian Communist Party was engaging in and which had to be stopped.
– Was the Australian Labor Party represented on that?
– No. I have been on two committees of the Senate representing the Democratic Labor Party, and there has never been any objection to this. I was on the committee inquiring into indemnity payments and I was on the committee which dealt with road safety. On neither occasion was any objection raised by the Australian Labor Party or by anybody else. I want to say that if the Australian Labor Party is going to adopt that kind of attitude in the future, then we will react accordingly.
I do say that some good may come out of what Senator Murphy has raised tonight if it leads to action in this Parliament to ensure that the minority party representatives get justice. I regret to say that over the years they have not received justice but no objection has been raised at any time by the members of the Australian Labor Party. The members of the Labor Party have enjoyed a monopoly of the trips abroad, both official and unofficial.
– Senator Cole got one.
– Yes, but he got it in face of opposition from the Australian Labor Party only because the Government was induced to add one more to the number usually sent overseas. The members of the Labor Party in this Senate have fought tooth and nail for the principle that every one of the positions reserved for the Opposition on any committee should be given to members of the Labor Party and that the minority parties should get none at all. There are about twenty-three or twentyfour positions on committees. The Labor Party demands that it should monopolise the lot. The only occasion on which a member of my Party was nominated for a position on a committee was when I was nominated some years ago for appointment to the Library Committee. What happened? Labor Party senators demanded that they should get all the positions on that and every other committee and they forced us to have a ballot in order that we might get representation.
There has been talk about arrangements with the Government. After I had been on that committee for some time and was duc to come up for re-election, what happened? The Labor Party made an arrangement with (he Government that, although I was a retiring member, the Government should nominate six members or so for that committee and leave me off it. The Labor Parly’s attitude has been consistent throughout. It has entered into discussions with the Government at all times for the purpose of ensuring to its members a monopoly of representation on every committee no nuttier of what type.
– Because we regard you as being with the Government.
– 1 do not want to be hard on Senator McClelland because of the worry he is undergoing at the present time. I realise he is not himself. I realise that he is not sleeping at the moment. In those circumstances, I will pass by what he has had to say.
– You cannot get out of the gutter. You have been in it too long.
– Senator Cant is an ideal person to talk about getting into the gutter after some of the things I have heard him say. His trouble is that he belongs to an organisation that will say anything at all about other people. He will use the worst form of abuse and insult to them and then when they attempt to reply in kind he is hurt and gets up and says he is being insulted.
– I rise to order. Would Senator McManus explain what he means when he refers to an organisation? Does he refer to the Australian Labor Party? If he does, then that is a reflection on all Opposition senators and I take very strong objection to it.
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable senator.
– I rise to order. We are not debating the height to which an honourable senator rises during debate. Can we contain the debate within the subject of containerisation?
-I have been trying to make it quite clear to the Senate that the interjections which have been made have given rise to the statements made by Senator McManus. lt is my contention that the members of the Opposition are seeking to cast insults or to engage in sharp criticism by way of interjection. In those circumstances, they must be prepared to take something in return.
– I can understand the anxiety of Senator Dittmer to dissociate himself from Senator Cant and- 1 gladly say that I do not put him in the same category as Senator Cant. I conclude my remarks by saying once again-
– Yes, after you have tipped the bucket, but I will tip it directly.
– Is Senator Cant once again accusing me of tipping the bucket? When I first came into the Senate I said that I would not throw mud unless mud was thrown at me first, and I have always adopted that practice. The honourable senator began it and his objection is that he is getting it back. If he gives it, he must take it.
If Senator Murphy’s intention, in raising this question of the rights of minorities, is to ensure that in future they shall be given proper representation on committees of this Senate and if it is his desire to ensure that in the future all parties will be represented on all-party committees, although we have not done so in the past because one Party has not been represented, I would have no objection; but I am afraid that that is not Senator Murphy’s intention or desire. I think his Party would be the last party to want minority rights in this Senate to be respected, because his Party has shown in practice over the years that if it had its way the minority parties would have no rights. His Party has attempted to interfere on occasions when the rights of minority parties have been upheld. His Party has made perfectly clear that it would like to monopolise every committee, every trip abroad and in fact everything that is available in this Parliament to the Opposition.
– There is one going to the Antarctic. You can go there.
– I understand that the only occasion on which it was suggested that a trip should be made available to the Australian Democratic Labor Party was when one of the parliamentary associations met in Canberra. That would be the attitude of the honourable senator’s Party. This situation has been allowed to go on for too long. I have heard people say in this Parliament that every member should have the opportunity to go abroad and to gain this vital experience to help him to carry out his duties. 1 have been in Parliament for eight years. I have not been abroad. There are members on this side of the Senate who have been abroad three and four times. I can remember one member on this side who went for a trip through Pakistan at the Government’s expense and three months later went to New York to represent the Government at the United Nations. We have not kicked up a fuss about all this. You people in the Australian Labor Party have been welcome to monopolise the kudos and the handouts that you so anxiously look to the Government to provide, but when it is a question of serving the country on a committee such as this we make no apology for saying that we have something to contribute and that we are entitled to representation.
Bearing in mind that Opposition senators have monopolised the handouts and committee positions over the years I think their attitude now is mean and contemptible and unworthy of the Party whose name they take to themselves these days.
– J want to contribute only briefly to this debate and to suggest that nothing that has happened during it has met in any way the case that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) when, on the basis of principle, he put the Opposition’s attitude. I remind the Senate that the proposal for a select committee on containerisation, which the Opposition has supported, arose as a counter manoeuvre by the Government in response to the Opposition placing upon the notice paper notices of motion for the appointment of two other select committees, one in relation to medical costs and the other in relation to repatriation, both of them matters of the utmost importance in this Parliament and beyond.
What did the Government do? It turned its back upon those two extremely important notices of motion and introduced two motions of its own, one relating to containerisation and the other to the metric system of weights and measures. The
Opposition, being a group of responsible Australians, realised that these were not matters to be brushed aside lightly; rather were they matters to be treated on their merits, seeing that they had emanated from the Government. So in our wisdom we decided to support them in principle, firstly, because they were matters of importance, and, secondly, because they were appropriate matters for consideration by parliamentary committees. We differed from the Government on the question whether they would be more appropriately dealt with by joint committees or by Senate committees. We thought the inquiry into the introduction of the metric system was appropriate for a Senate committee. In the first place we thought the proposal in relation to containerisation was appropriate for a joint committee but we were defeated on that and we accepted the alternative that we should co-operate with the Government in setting up a select committee of the Senate to deal with containerisation. That is the matter with which we are concerned at the moment.
I say quite deliberately that the Government’s action was part of its tactics to keep the Opposition’s proposals off the slate for the time being and to concentrate on matters of more interest to the Government. The proposal now made for the appointment of a committee of eight senators, comprising four to be nominated by the Leader of the Government, three to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and one to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, is a proposal that we are opposing because we do not believe that it is firmly established in principle. I do not want to reiterate the arguments advanced during the afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition when stating the Opposition’s case. I only want to say that the Opposition’s case has not been met and it is quite irrelevant-
– It will be.
– The Leader of the Government is looking at me and saying Tt will be’. To my mind that is the clearest indication that he agrees with me that nothing which has been said so far contradicts the case made by the Opposition. He is keeping it in store for us. He is promising that when he rises in his place as Leader of the Government he will tell us why this proposal has been made, because in proposing the Committee in this form he assumed that it would be accepted. It is plain that the Opposition has not been consulted about the composition of this Committee. That has been made perfectly clear by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Government nods in his wise and distinguished way, because he wants to agree with us that in fact we were not consulted about the matter. We have said that we object to the basis upon which the Committee is proposed. Both the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have chosen to approach this question as though it were some personal emotional matter and had nothing to do with principle. 1 say that each of them has disqualified himself from serving on this Committee because each has indicated a deep prejudice, an anti-worker prejudice, an anti-Waterside Workers Federation prejudice, which inevitably will affect his judgment on the important issues that this Committee will have to consider. We are somewhat affronted by the prospect of having one or other of them as deputy chairman of this Committee if it is set up in the form proposed by the Government.
– That is not on.
– Senator Branson assures me that that is not on. I do not know whether the Leader of the Government will assure us that it is not on. We would not be happy about serving on a committee which had as its deputy chairman or acting chairman a senator who expressed himself in as prejudiced a way as the members of the Democratic Labor Parly have in the course of this debate.
– Does the honourable senator realise that that would give the Democratic Labor Party two votes?
– I do not realise anything.
– Hear, hear!
– I have as much appreciation of the issues in this matter as honourable senators opposite have. I merely want to say that we have objected in principle to the basis upon which the Government, without consultation with the Opposition, has chosen to make proposals for the establishment of this Committee. We will continue to object to that basis which 1 believe was very fairly and temperately stated by the Leader of the Opposition, without personalities and without prejudice. Whatever has been said in the course of this debate has not caused us to alter our mind. I support the case made by tha Leader of the Opposition.
– in reply - I seek the indulgence of the Senate to answer the case which I believe was put very temperately by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), who showed a static legal mind that could not get away from the legal interpretations which he puts on certain matters and which are not acceptable to me in any way.
– Do not let us have too much of that, or I will call the Minister a shopkeeper.
– I shall say what I want to say and I ask the Leader of the Opposition not to worry his little self. He quoted standing order 289 and said: ‘The Committee should have seven senators on it. That is what it says in the book’. If .1 read it correctly, that standing order reads Unless otherwise ordered’. I have an idea that the Senate will otherwise order. I have an idea that the Senate will be the master of this matter, as it should be and as is laid down in the Standing Orders. That standing order says:
Unless otherwise ordered, all Select Committees shall consist of seven Senators.
I have an idea that the Senate will order that this Committee shall consist of eight senators. That is what the Senate is here for and that is what the standing order is here for. Let me put the Leader of the Opposition at his ease at once by saying that he does not understand the Standing Orders if he says that his interpretation of this standing order is that all committees should consist of seven senators when it clearly reads ‘Unless otherwise ordered’.
I also wish to reply at once to the statement that the Leader of the Opposition was not consulted on this matter. Out of this matter we will learn a little lesson. I have been happy to consult with his two predecessors all along the line. But when I, as Leader of the Government, am faced with a Leader of the Opposition who walks into this chamber, stands up and moves an amendment, and the first I know of it is when he hands me a copy of it across the table, 1 say that consultation should be two ways.
– Surely he advised the Leader of the Government beforehand.
– Never a word. When the Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment to take this Committee out of the hands of the Senate and to make it a joint committee, the first I knew of that was when he handed me a copy of the amendment across the table. Yet he complains that there has been no consultation. My, my, my! What do you know? Consultation is both ways. I am prepared to consult with the Opposition, as any sensible Leader of the Government or any sensible Leader of the Opposition knows has to be done and always had been done in this chamber until Senator Murphy assumed the reins as Leader of the Opposition and failed to understand what consultation meant. If he wants a one way traffic he will not get it from me. I will tell him that now. If he is prepared to consult in a normal, orderly manner, as between sensible people, he will find me more than co-operative and more than willing to have the Senate run smoothly.
The Leader of the Opposition said one thing that intrigued me very much. He said that I had moved a motion and not stated the number of members to be on the Committee, which was included in a subsequent motion. He criticised me very severely for doing that. If he turns to page 128 of the Senate notice paper he will see notice of a motion similar to the one that we are debating. Paragraph (2) of that notice of motion states that the committee concerned shall consist of senators to be appointed by a subsequent resolution. That is the thing about which he is complaining. He complains that I did not do something that he did not do.
– When did I ever complain about that?
– The honourable senator put his motion on the notice paper before I put mine there; I will admit that. Now he is complaining that I did not do the very thing that he did not do himself. I know that honourable senators opposite do not like it when it comes back. That has been pretty obvious from what I have heard tonight. But if they raise matters, I intend to answer them.
Let us be sensible about this. Let us look at the position. I ask honourable senators to look at page 138 of notice paper No. 12 under the heading ‘Committees’. There are the Standing Orders Committee, the Privileges Committee, the Library Committee, the House Committee, the Printing Committee, the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and the Disputed Returns and Qualifications Committee. Altogether there are fifty-three members of those Committees. Only one of them is a member of the Democratic Labor Party. He is on the Library Committee. There is not one member of the Democratic Labor Party on any of the other six Committees.
– And he had to go to a ballot in order to get on that Committee.
– I know how he got on that Committee. I have added up the number of members on those Committees. I think my arithmetic is pretty good. Altogether those Committees have fifty-three members, only one of whom is a member of the Democratic Labor Party; and he was elected by ballot. Yet the Leader of the Opposition complains that the Democratic Labor Party is overrepresented on the committees of the Senate.
– The Minister has not done his homework very well.
– I suggest to Senator Dittmer that he make his interjection and run away because he is of no consequence in this place as far as I am concerned.
– The Minister has not done his homework very well. His mathematics-
– There are three more committees on the next page of the notice paper.
– I did not include them because the Opposition’s case is so bad that I did not want to make it any worse. The Leader of the Opposition says that we are creating a precedent. Of course, that is arrant nonsense.
– Because the Select Committee on Road Safety, which was appointed in 1959, consisted of eight senators - four from the Government parties, three from the Australian Labor Party and one from the Democratic Labor Party. That is the very kind of thing about which the Leader of the Opposition is complaining now.
– The Minister is misrepresenting the position.
– There were eight senators on that Committee. We do not take one iota away from the Australian Labor Party. On this occasion it will have its three nominations as it has had in respect of any other committee; and we will have four nominations. We are to have two committees on subjects which I believe have been chosen purposely because of their importance, which are away from the political field of disputation and which proper select committees of the Senate will be able to get off the ground.
– The Minister knows that that is not true.
– I knew that Senator Dittmer would interject. Little men like him do not understand what these things are all about. The two matters to be dealt with by these Senate select committees are not controversial in a party political sense and have been chosen because the committees will be able to get them off the ground without all the nonsense that goes on by way of political disputation. One of the subjects to be inquired into is the most important one of containerisation including everything relating to it in the form of State laws and council by-laws. These most important matters have to be investigated by somebody. Not the slightest bit of political disputation exists about this Committee that we could set up. In trying to set up the Committee, I have attempted not to take any advantage for the Government or to take anything from the Australian Labor Party. On our side the Australian Country Party, which is our partner, and the Liberal Party will have representation. The ALP will have representation. I suggest that in a noncontroversial subject such as this one - in this regard I can refer also to the other proposed select committee dealing with the metric system of weights and measures - this is the way in which-
– Why does not the Minister put Senator Hannaford on that committee?
– Do not put me on it.
– The honourable senator never knows his luck. But in this regard I would refer honourable senators to the Senate notice paper and particularly to motion No. 5 under the heading ‘General Business - Notices of motion*. Here the Leader of the Opposition is shown as having given notice of his intention to move for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into medical and hospital costs in Australia. Why did not he nominate the committee? I thought I heard the Leader of the Opposition say something tonight about having a doctor on this committee. Did not honourable senators hear him say that? Now we know why he does not want to put a senator who is an independent and also a doctor on this committee. I understand this. This is very good. But honourable senators opposite should not complain when somebody pulls the trigger first.
I have covered a fair amount of the debate that has taken place tonight and I now wish to answer some of the matters that have been raised by the Leader of the Opposition. I wish to refer to the Commonwealth Constitution. I trust that the Leader of the Opposition, who is a Queen’s Counsel, will forgive me, a mere businessman without any legal qualifications, quoting the Constitution to him. But section 23 provides:
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote.
I remind honourable senators that this is a question for the Senate because the proposed Select Committee on the Container Method of Cargo Handling will be a committee of the Senate. The Government will appoint the Chairman of the Committee. The Chairman has to be one of the Government nominees for the Committee.
– With two votes.
– He will be one of the Government nominees. Yes, he will have a casting vote if the voting of the members on a certain matter is equal. If the Chairman of the Committee cannot be present at a meeting, he will appoint a deputy chairman from among the Government members.
– The deputy chairman will bc a Government member too.
– Of course he will. The deputy chairman will be appointed from the Government nominees. He will have two votes also. We are not as silly as all that, brother. Do not worry about that. The deputy chairman, when he controls the meeting, will have two votes. We must keep the Committee in proper order. I am glad that I have answered that point. I know that it was causing Senator Cant a lot of trouble. Let me put him at case straight away. The Chairman and deputy chairman of the Select Committee will be appointed from the Government members on the Committee.
– That is a guarantee?
– Yes. I will give the honourable senator a guarantee on that point. I have said already that 1 will not attempt to answer a number of the interjections that we have heard tonight. 1 am sorry that this matter has been taken out of the peaceful waters of a quiet discussion on a proposal to appoint a mere select committee and the number of members on that select committee from the various parties. Select committees are something that we in the Senate have been endeavouring to obtain for a considerable time.
– What is that?
– Select committees are something that, if we arc sensible and use them with restraint, we will make a success of. Benefit to the nation will flow from this. If we do not use the proposed Select Committee with restraint and in a proper responsible manner, we will throw away the opportunity that we now have to build up the prestige of the Senate and increase the scope of the work that the Senate can perform. I would be sorry to see that happen just because there is bitterness on the part of the Opposition-
– The honourable senator said before that we were temperate.
– Well, let me say that the Opposition expressed its bitterness very temperately. But the bitterness was there. Of course it was. I was sorry to see this because I would not like to think that all the work and preparation that have gone into this proposal might be crushed because the Opposition objects to the. democratic representation that has been provided for in relation to this Select Committee to inquire into a non-controversial, non-political subject - a subject on which the Committee will be asked to discover the facts. I have the idea that amongst honourable senators opposite, whether they be members of the ALP or members of the DLP, there are mcn who will help considerably in finding out the facts in relation to the two important problems to be investigated by the proposed Select Committees.
– The Government should co-operate with us regarding our proposed select committees.
– Oh! I thank the honourable senator for reminding me of this point. Regarding the matter that Senator Cohen has raised, let me say that I think that we have to judge these proposed committees-
– This is politics.
– I think that this is a matter where we must judge the motions proposing select committees on their merits. Of course, the Opposition proposes to put forward for investigation by select committees some matters that are highly controversial politically.
– Who said that they were?
– We know this. Two of the matters raised already which delve into highly emotional and highly political matters have caused-
– What about the motion relating to repatriation?
– We will see about that when the time comes. But the honourable senator has asked me a question. I suggest that in a case like that we should not necessarily pre-judge the matter but that we should consider it when it comes to hand.
Let me close my remarks by saying this to the Leader of the Opposition: If out of all of this discussion he has learnt a lesson in co-operation and on how to co-operate then I will meet him across the Table. But when the Leader of the Opposition comes into the Senate and hands me across the Table something of which I have not had the slightest indication, well, brother, do not ask me to co-operate under those terms because I will not. It is necessary for the efficient working of this Senate in an intelligent manner that we have co-operation at all times.
That the motion (Senator Henry’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 6 April (vide page 591), on motion by Senator Henry:
– The motion before the Senate provides for the appointment of a select committee which the Senate has resolved to set up to inquire into the introduction of the metric system of weights and measures. The issues involved in this matter are much the same as those involved in the proposal with which the Senate has dealt. But perhaps the implications become even stronger when we note that in the appointment of the select committee on containerisation already there has been a breach of the previous practices of the Senate. Clearly it is within the functions of the Senate to deal with these matters as it has done. Let one misconception of the Leader of the Government (Senator Henty) be dispelled at once; no-one on the Opposition side ever suggested that what was proposed could not be done. Quite obviously it could be.
– The Leader of the Opposition quoted a standing order to the opposite effect.
– Of courseI quoted a standing order - exactly as it is stated. Surely the Leader of the Government must realise that at no stage of the debate was it suggested by the Opposition that what was proposed could not be done. The Senate is the master of its own business. Our argument was that what was proposed to be done should not be done, andwe say that again in this case. For the first time the Senate tonight set up a select committee and named a political party to nominate members of the committee. As I understand it, and as I am advised, what has been done tonight had never been done before in a motion originating in this Senate. Never before. In the pastwe have operated on the basis that the Government and the Opposition nominated individual senators. Thus, as far as possible the Senate kept the political party atmosphere out of this chamber, maintaining that the Senate acted on the basis of appointing senators as individuals. They were appointed ;is senators in their own right or alternatively as senators of the Government or the Opposition side. This was the basis of principle on which I approached the matter and there has been no answer to my case. I ask again whether there is to be put forward some basis for a departure from this principle. Let the Government answer thai. lt has not given an answer so far. and it is time some answer was given.
The Opposition has made as plain as we can that we do not say that in all circumstances the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party should never be represented on any committee. Nor have we ever said that the Independent senators in this Senate should never be represented on any committee. Let there be no mistake about that. We have never suggested that. What we object to is the proposal of the Government, now for the second time, not only that the Government and the Opposition be represented but that the Leader -if the Australian Democratic Labor Party should nominate members to a select committee. It has been done once and now it is proposed for the second time.
It is all very well for the Leader of the Government to turn to the notice paper. A study of the notice paper will show that not one select committee is mentioned on it. There are a number of standing committees appointed under the Standing Orders, but the anomalous approach we are discussing is applied only to the two select committees that are being set up. This is a breach of all precedent. If anything has established a precedent this has. What is the justification for what has been done? Is this to be the approach in the appointment of every select committee? Is this the way the Government seeks to disrupt the approach of the Opposition to this question so that it will dissuade the Opposition from the course it has taken to encourage the establishment of select committees? The Opposition has suggested over this sessional period that the Senate should operate by way of select committees. We have made three proposals for the appointment of com mittees. We suggested four representatives of the Government and three of the Opposition, making it clear that we do not want to take control of these select committees away from the Government.
One of the proposals sets out that the persons to be appointed be the subject of a subsequent motion. At no time was any objection taken by the Opposition to that clause being included in the motion, despite what the Leader of the Government has said. Nothing has been said by the Opposition in this chamber or elsewhere to express any objection to that course. The objection that has been taken has made it clear that the Government’s proposal is a breach of the proper practice. Having heard the Leader of the Government and noted his approach to this matter, avoiding dealing with the matter on the issues of principle that have been raised, I have little doubt that he simply wants to dissuade the Opposition from proceeding with its proposals for select committees. To this end he is endeavouring to set up a practice under which the Australian Democratic Labor Party would be represented on every committee. This would be most improper. Not even the Australian Democratic Labor Party senators themselves were prepared to say, when they had the opportunity, that they should go on every committee. They should not go on every committee, but it is reasonable that at times they be represented on committees. Why has this procedure been adopted in relation to both the select committees under discussion tonight? Why has not the Government adhered to past practice and nominated or elected senators as individuals? Let the Senate make the selection if we are going to depart from the principle of Government and Opposition representation on committees? Why is the Government afraid to try to justify its action if it is not attempting to dissuade the Opposition from proceeding with its proposals for select committees of the Senate? Obviously that is what it is trying to do.
Unfortunately the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, as is their wont, have dealt with these matters on the basis of personalities. I do not propose to deal with them on that basis. I decline to confuse this issue, which is a very important matter, by descending into the personalities which have been raised. The Opposition opposes the Government’s approach. The Government has advanced no argument whatever to justify its approach. Again we propose to oppose the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– Unfortunately this afternoon I was not able to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) when he adverted to the first of these motions. But later on in the course of the debate I did hear - usually by means of an interjection from the Leader of the Opposition - some suggestion that he was basing his stand on a principle of some kind. 1 had hoped that the principle on which he was basing his stand might develop in the course of this second debate. I am still searching to try to ascertain the principle which he finds so objectionable in the proposition now before the Senate. I listened with some attention to him on this second occasion. The first argument he used was that he had come to the Senate and proposed the appointment of select committees and that now other select committees were being proposed. That is perfectly true. I hope that Senator Murphy does not think that he was the one who invented Senate select committees. They have been appointed over the years. There was nothing peculiar in his suggesting the appointment of a select committee. We can leave that at one side.
I followed Senator Murphy’s argument as far as I could. As far as I could ascertain, he did not object to members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party or other senators being appointed to any committee that was established. More than once he said that he did not object to this procedure. But he did not want them on this committee. He did not object to them in principle, so there is no principle involved there. I am still searching for this great principle that is supposed to have been advanced. Senator Murphy went on to say that this was a breach of proper practice, to use his own words. It is a practice which is provided for in the Senate’s Standing Orders and it is a practice which the Senate itself has just confirmed by its vote. I honestly fail to see how anybody who is a member of a House of Parliament which acts in accordance with the Standing
Orders and rules of procedure can then get up and say that that House of Parliament has acted improperly and that what has been done is a breach of proper practice. It may not be a practice which Senator Murphy likes, but I think that he has to draw a distinction between proper practice and practice which he does not like or which he thinks is improper. The Senate is empowered to act in this way and has acted in this way. Indeed, the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition come very close to reflecting on the Senate’s vote which has just been taken.
Where is the principle? In the course of his speech I asked Senator Murphy three times what it was, but he would not say what it was. Where is it? It is provided that any member of the Senate can be a member of a committee set up by the Senate to do work of this kind. It is the practice that the party which is recognised as the Opposition in this chamber, and which in accordance with parliamentary practice is the largest party opposed to the Government, shall have a certain number of members on a committee. That number of members is being provided for in the establishment of this Committee. There can be no claim made there that something deleterious to the Opposition is being done. The whole case seems to be - and this is described as a ‘principle’, as far as one can see, on grounds that are quite undiscoverable- that there are to be eight members on this committee instead of seven and that Senator Murphy does not like that; that one of the members of the committee is to come from the Democratic Labor Party, and Senator Murphy does not object to that in general but he does not like it in this particular case. It does not seem to me that any of those arguments add up to any principle. Quite clearly in voting on the previous proposal the Senate did not think so, either, because of the way in which it recorded its vote. I hope it will record a similar vote on this occasion.
– At the close of the debate on the previous motion I was very pleased to hear Senator Henty speak of the importance of these select committees. Apparently they are so important that the Government proposes to get them established as quickly as possible because the setting up of these select committees has been somewhat of a rush job. Senator Henty said that the committees are of such importance that the Government wants responsible senators to serve on them. I think that the Australian Labor Party looks at the matter in the context that at least one member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party is not a responsible enough person to be on such important committees. I think that during the debate on the previous motion he displayed his complete irresponsibility. He showed that he is not responsible enough to sit on a Senate select committee of this importance.
I do not say this in any anger. But when Senator McManus rose to speak he did not attempt to debate the merits or otherwise of the subject matter or of those who should be represented on the committee. He immediately set out to make an attack upon the Secretary of the Australian Labor Party in Western Australia, a man who is not in this place ‘to defend himself. Senator McManus claimed that this man was not a member of a trade union. 1 could, perhaps, give details as to why Mr Chamberlain was not a member of a trade union, but J do not think that it is relevant to this debate.
– Order! 1 am sure that it is not relevant.
– I am not going on with it.
– Do not go on wilh it.
– Senator McManus said that he had been a member of two trade unions for forty years but he is now without qualifications to be a member of either of them. 1 do not know how one would register a trade union constitution to coyer a member of Parliament. When Senator Dittmer took a point of order, Senator McManus then switched his attack to Senator McClelland. Again he was unable to leave personalities out of the debate. Yet at the same time he said that he had not intended to sling mud unless it was slung at him.
- Senator Cant, you cannot discuss the previous debate. You will confine yourself to the matter before the chamber.
– I am debating the question as to whether the members of the Democratic Labor Party are responsible enough senators to be members of a select committee.
– You have no right to introduce a matter that has been discussed previously. You will confine your argument to this proposal.
– Mr President, you closed the previous debate on me.
– Senate* Cant, 1 did not close the debate on you, and when I am standing you will sit down. 1 would have you understand that I did not close the debate on you. The Minister rose and I gave him the call. If you want to know further about it, your name was not on the sheet and I had no course open to me other than to call the Minister.
– Mr President, I still persist in saying that at least one member of the Democratic Labor Party has shown an irresponsibility tonight that would not induce anyone to nominate him for a position on a Senate select committee, if the select committee is of the importance which the Leader of the Government in the Senate attaches to it.
I wish to join issue with Senator Gorton who said that he fails to see the principle involved in the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) in taking exception to the creation of a precedent in Senate practice. Senator Gorton said, to suit his own convenience, that on previous occasions select committees of the Senate had been set up which included members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has quite clearly stated that the Opposition has no objection to any honourable senator being included on a select committee. However, 1 would like to draw the attention of honourable senators to the different principle involved in the proposal to set up a select committee on this occasion. It is proposed that the committee to be set up to investigate the metric system of weights and measures should be comprised of eight senators; four to be appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty), three to be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one to be appointed by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair).
There is a lot of difference between that proposition and the proposition contained in a motion moved on Thursday, 14th May 1959 to set up the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety. Senator Anderson obtained leave to amend the notice of motion standing in his name. In part, the motion read: (1.) That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon - . . . (2.) That the committee consist of Senators Anderson, Aylett, McManus, O’Byrne, Sir Neil O’Sullivan, Scott, Sheehan and Wade.
Senator Anderson nominated each member of the committee. No mention whatever was made of political parties. Over a period of years the practice in setting up Senate select committees has been for the Government to select four members and for the Opposition to select three members. One would need a very vivid imagination to include the DLP in the Opposition. There is not a shadow of a doubt that the DLP senators are undercover Government supporters parading under the name of a labor party. They must realise that the world at large classifies them as being 100% Government supporters. They admit it themselves. So to adopt the subterfuge and the camouflage of trying to convince people who live with this situation that the Government is giving the Opposition equal numbers when they know full well that the intention is to aggravate members of the Opposition by establishing a precedent, and to have regard to political parties rather than past practice, in my view is to do a disservice to the whole idea of Senate select committees.
I have served on a number of Senate select committees in the last twenty years. I have found that members of such committees seem to be able to sink their political differences in order to act in the best national interest. I sat with Senator McManus on the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety. There was no sign of politics in that Committee’s deliberations. However, Senator Anderson took fine care not to introduce, as Senator Henty has introduced in the motion we are debating, a basis for discrimination before the Committee ever commenced its investigation. It is my view - and this point has been broughtout very clearly in the debate - that there is prejudice and a background of discrimination. Certain sections of the waterfront will be affected, yet we have heard open condemnation of those sections. However, I must leave that subject. The same thing applied to the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. That Committee did a wonderful amount of work. Its report will go into the history of Senate select committee findings as a classic. 1 must add, however, that the report has suffered a sad fate. In my view the Government has been very remiss in not acting on the Committee’s recommendations. Nevertheless, the atmosphere that prevailed in the Committee and the depth and strength of its recommendations did it great credit.
Investigations are to be commenced into two very important matters, one of which is the relationship of the metric system of weights and measures to our costing and accounting systems. That matter needs to be approached impartially. If the committee reaches the stage of producing recommendations, I hope that it comes down overwhelmingly in favour of a change to the metric system of weights and measures. For some peculiar reason the Minister wishes to create a precedent. His wilful approach has sounded a discordant note.One would even think that he is fitting in with the attitude of members of the House of Representatives who are jealous of Senate select committees and do not like to see them set up.
– But the Opposition wanted to make this committee a joint committee. It was given its instructions.
– I recall very well when a Senate select committee was set up to investigate the position of national service in relation to the defence forces. The Opposition of that time refused to participate in the committee. Instructions came from another place to many of the people who were to be called to give evidence that they were to refuse to appear before the committee. Instructions from another place were that the committee should be treated with contempt. Senate select committees have a long history. I have referred to various departures, but this is the first occasion, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, that the Government has specifically stated that the leader of a political party is to nominate one of the committee members. The usual procedure has been for the Government and the Opposition to nominate members, if they are nominated. Alternatively, the Minister moving the motion has nominated the members after the setting up of a committee has been approved. On this occasion the Government has stated specifically that the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party or his nominee should be included. In my view this precedent is against the best interests of select committees and their future work. This debate has brought to light the objections of the Opposition to the creation of such a precedent. The old system of having seven members of a Senate select committee was much more satisfactory. The Government could guarantee its majority as each one of its members had one vote.
– This new procedure gives a Government supporter two votes.
– That is so, plus another vote from the DLP, giving the Government a majority of three, lt virtually amounts to six votes to three, making certain that the Government will stack the majority in its favour. This is an unfortunate position when such important matters are involved.
– How does the honourable senator get six votes to three on a committee of eight?
– For the simple reason that there will be four Government senators and another who will support them for a certainty, and the Chairman will have a casting vote.
– The Chairman will have a casting vote only if there is a deadlock. So there cannot be six votes to three.
– The Government will have the advantage of a Chairman who has a deliberative and a casting vote. The point that I wish to make is that a committee of seven members would provide an opportunity for each State to be represented, and the Chairman could supervise the activities of the Committee and preside over its meetings. The tradition of appointing such committees has been departed from. I believe that this is a retrograde, not a forward step, particularly when it is bound up with the political nuances that are implicit in the proposal that we now have before us. I am very sad indeed to think that the committee system of the Senate is being spoiled, for its whole purpose is being spoiled by the introduction of tactics such as are inherent in this whole proposal.
No one believes more firmly than I do that the greatest value of the Senate can be found in an expansion and extension of the work of Senate committees. It is, I believe, one of the responsibilities of the Senate to be active in committee work and to uphold the Parliament against the rolling influence of the Executive, of the Public Service, of the dictator. I very well remember that in 1949 members of the present Government Parties were tramping up and down the country distributing small booklets bearing the legend: ‘Don’t let the blackcoated man knock at your door’. Australia at present is dominated by black-coated men of the kind that members of the present Government Parties were telling the people in 1949 that Labor favoured. The system of select committees of the Senate enables this House to function as a watchdog and a safeguard against that sort of thing. This will be especially so if the committee system can be expanded and developed. Yet we see the dead hand of mischievous politics being brought into play by the specific provision that the Australian Democratic Labor Party shall nominate a representative for appointment to the proposed Committee.
I have directed attention to the fact that when the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety was appointed the present Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who was its Chairman, nominated the senators who were to serve on it. They included the late Senator Wade, a member of the Australian Country Party, and Senator McManus, a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. The members of that Committee were nominated as individual senators regardless of their political affiliations. The Committee worked very satisfactorily and I see no reason why the procedure then adopted should be departed from now. 1 see no reason why the Democratic Labor Party should be specifically empowered by the terms of this motion to nominate a representative for appointment to the proposed Committee. 1 support the view that has been presented by the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr President, I intervene briefly in this debate because I believe that the procedure that has been adopted in the appointment of members to the proposed Committee should have commanded the warm support of all sections of the Senate. It has, however, produced a debate which has generated only heat and which has degenerated into exchanges that do not reveal reasoned argument. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) mentioned the innovation, as he described it, of providing for the nomination by parties of senators for appointment to the Committee. Senator O’Byrne mentioned the jealousy of another place over the appointment of select committees by the Senate. Senator Murphy last week said that the other place should be represented on select committees appointed to consider the matters that are about to become the subject of inquiries by two Senate select committees. Just after 8 o’clock last Thursday evening he confessed that he put that view because of a decision made in his party room. It seems to me that the deprecation by Opposition senators of the nomination by parties of senators for appointment to these committees represents a striking instance of Satan rebuking sin. 1 think it should be recognised that the method adopted in determining the composition of the proposed Committee (hat we arc now discussing has been forced on the Senate by the practicalities with which we have to deal in relation to the present segmentation of the Senate. It is clear that there is unremitting hostility between the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party. The Government’s proposal deserves support because it is long overdue. Minorities, whether composed of senators who belong to the Democratic Labor Party or of others, should be respected in this place. They should be accorded the proper means of playing their part in the committee work of the Senate. For those reasons I support the motion.
- Mr President, I intended to reply to some remarks that were made by Senator Cant. As he is not here I shall content myself with briefly answering his charge that I am irresponsible. As I spoke, I was assailed by Labor senators with abusive and insulting interjections. When I attempted to reply I was accused by Senator Cant of getting into the gutter. I will never be deterred from answering when I am attacked in that manner.
– Order! The honourable senator will be out of order if he discusses the debate on a previous motion.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr President. 1 shall refer merely to the present debate. You will have noticed, Sir, that Senator O’Byrne attacked the Party of which I am a member by asserting that it was merely part of the Liberal Party of Australia. You will have noticed also that I did not attempt to seek the protection of the Chair as I have seen members of the Australian Labor Party do on occasions when somebody has said that their Party is an adjunct of the Communist Party of Australia. I made no move to seek the protection of the Chair. Neither did I interject nor call out offensive and insulting remarks while Senator O’Byrne was speaking. I allowed him to make his speech. I know that no person who is acquainted with the political life of this country will accept his statements for one moment. I repeat that I have never adopted the practice adopted by others in the Senate who insult other senators and, when those senators reply to their insults, seek the protection of the Chair or claim that they should not be attacked in such a manner. I am all in favour of putting our debates on a high plane. But it takes two to do that. When I first entered the Senate I said that I had come here in circumstances that might have given rise to a good deal of recrimination and trouble. I declared that I would not be the first to throw mud but that if it was thrown at me I would throw it back. I resent the action of Senator Cant in attacking and abusing me and hurling insults at the Party to which I belong and then, when I reply in kind, claiming that I am irresponsible.
That the motion (Senator Henry’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 6 April (vide page 628), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator O’Byrne had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the motion: but the Senate is of opinion that the Tariff Board needs to develop more effective means of ascertaining what are or may become economic and efficient ventures for which it recommends protection or assistance, and that the Government should take steps to ensure that the companies to which protection is given follow price, production, export and dividend policies which are in the interests of economic and efficient development, as well as of full employment and a stable and rapid rate of investment’.
– Prior to the adjournment of the debate last Thursday I had stated that the Opposition had no quarrel with the Government in relation to the individual items under consideration. However, in view of the critical situation that has existed over a considerable period and has now come out into the open, and as a result of ministerial direction and the unusually abrupt rejection of Tariff Board recommendations, I moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition. I referred at some length to air cooled engines because in the Tariff Board report on these items the substance of our amendment is illustrated very clearly. The report indicates a serious conflict within the Board itself. Anyone who has been following the commentaries on this matter, who has followed the series of reports presented to the Parliament over a considerable period, or who has read the annual reports of the Tariff Board will not deny that there is serious conflict within the Board itself. It is implicit in these reports that there is conflict between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Tariff Board, and between the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry. The conflict extends not only to bounties and the difference between bounties and tariffs, which has been a sore point over the years but also to personal jealousies because of the newly created Department of Trade and Industry exceeding the powers of a department in the Public Service.
– Does the honourable senator mean conflict or disputation?
– I mean conflict. There is disquiet not only within the Public Service itself but also throughout the community at this inner turmoil. There is conflict also between the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and individual members of the Tariff Board. Above all, there is conflict between a confused Government policy on tariffs and the interests of the Australian consuming public as a whole. That is the important matter. I say this because the whole of the tariff making system in this country is becoming out of step with what was intended to be its main purpose. I have drawn attention to the opinions expressed in the Tariff Board’s report on air cooled engines and I have quoted at some length the opinions of two members in what has become the official report of the Tariff Board. I was in the process of quoting from the dissenting opinions of Messrs Tucker and Cossar, two members of the Board.
– In what report?
– The Tariff Board’s Report on air cooled engines of under 10 hp. They stressed that protection was being afforded to the industry on grounds other than the weight of evidence adduced at the inquiry. As I said earlier this evening, having been on committees of this Senate, having been on joint committees and the like over a long period of years, having had the good advice of the officers of this Senate, and having had the advice of honourable senators who have brought into the Senate long experience and background in law, I have always been impressed by the necessity of basing recommendations on the weight of evidence adduced before the inquiring body. Once you depart from that principle the whole purpose and the whole reason for an inquiry are lost. However, the two members of the Tariff Board to whom I have referred make in their dissenting opinions what can virtually be described as a charge that protection was being afforded to the industry on grounds other than the weight of the evidence adduced. They said:
The evidence does not reveal a need for any substantial change in the general level of assistance being afforded to production of engines with vertical shafts.
This is a contradiction of the recommendation of the other members of the Tariff Board who recommended a duty of 75%. As a gesture, these two dissenting members recommended a protection of 55%. The Minister then intervened and split the difference between the two recommendations. He recommended a protection of 65%. This emphasises my point that very grave and deep seated differences exist between these tariff people.
In their dissenting report, the two members to whom I have referred pointed out that companies producing the engines that were under review had over estimated the market, underestimated competition, failed to anticipate the change in consumer preference and virtually then asked the Tariff Board to require that all these mistakes, and all this lack of judgment and anticipation, be paid for by the Australian consuming public by requesting that higher duties be imposed.
It will be recalled that when I first opened this debate for the Opposition I singled out various senators who were interested in certain fields of primary production and who were suffering very great disabilities in that, in addition to having to export most of their products to the highly competitive world markets, they are faced with this continuing spiral of increasing costs which is reducing their incentive and depriving them of the opportunity to carry on successfully in their particular industries.
On looking into the matter further, I find that this is becoming a most serious problem in that the ever increasing spiral of inflation is finding more and more impetus from further recommendations for increased tariff on goods that are used throughout the primary industries in particular and to a certain extent in secondary industries also. Eventually the system turns the full cycle and the Australian consumer is required to pay more for his commodities because of this method of granting protection. The two dissenting members of the Board made some telling observations in issuing their warning as to the consequences that could flow to the cost structure from higher duties. They said:
On the evidence before the Board we believe that if the structure of the local industry, the level of local labour and materials costs, and the landed costs of imports remain fairly steady over the> next three years, the best result which could be expected to flow from imposition of the proposed duties would be a reduction in protective needs of the order of 10 to IS per cent.
But, over a considerable period of time, we have not seen very many examples of reductions in tariffs.
– We have seen refusals.
– Yes, we have seen refusals, but I have not seen any dividends to the Australian consumers.
– You have seen a lot of workers employed in Australia.
– Yes. I shall deal with that a little later. I believe it is the responsibility of the Tariff Board to provide reasonable protection to economic and efficient industries. The words ‘economic’ and ‘efficient’ are the crux of this crisis that is with us at the present time. We have seen recommendations being brought forward with relation to man made fibres, textiles and so on, for very high protective duties.
As a matter of fact, some recommendations have been for the imposition of a duty as high as 90%. It is more than coincidental that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) should issue a comprehensive booklet illustrating how Australian industries, the chemical industry in particular, were falling into the hands of overseas investors.
Perhaps the Australian consumer is quite right when he says that many international companies which have monopolies abroad are also establishing monopolies in this country and are being given protective duties to help them on their way here. If that is not one sided treatment, I have never seen it.
– The honourable senator is not suggesting that the tariff protection discriminates in favour of foreign companies?
– No, but I shall have a little bit to say later about how the situation has developed where, with this confusion in the Tariff Board, the Minister is contemplating either bypassing the Tariff Board or appointing deputy or part-time members and, with a completely new procedure, making it easier for these various companies to get direct access to increased tariff protection.
– Can the honourable senator quote some statement by the Minster to give credence to a suggestion of of that kind?
– I can say that when the Minister was attacked on this subject in the House of Representatives recently he skated round the subject but did not completely deny the fact that he may have to follow out some policy along those lines some time in the future.
It is rather interesting to note that last October Mr Callaghan, who has become one of the chief spokesmen for the Tariff Board in many of these matters, made the following statement to the Australian Industries Development Association:
I suggest to you that the Office of Secondary Industry should be regarded by secondary industry as its own departmental channel to the Government through the Minister for Trade and Industry.
I suggest that in some cases the benefit of an operation such as I have outlined could greatly assist industry in putting a case to the Tariff Board. In a combined operation with the Office of Secondary Industry I think we could get value in sorting out exactly what the non-tariff problem areas indicated by the Board are and what can be done about them.
This would be quite a straightforward operation. The industry would need to give us the confidential information it gave to the Tariff Board and any other information we may need.
– Can the honourable senator make clear what that is illustrating?
– It is illustrating that the new Department of Trade and Industry has set up an Office of Secondary Industry which is the back door to the Tariff Board. Not only that. From it are coming complaints that the Tariff Board is unable to handle its work and that a recommendation for a replacement for Mr Gill, a member of the Tariff Board who died some time ago, has been delayed for twelve months. The other point is that the Department, through the Office of Secondary Industry, has become the central point of conflict between these various bodies. Furthermore, it is accepted that the Office of Secondary Industry is being used by the Country Party, from its position of power as a member of the coalition government, to further its aspirations to win a wider field of support from secondary industry, although traditionally its support has always come from primary industry. The Country Party hopes to be able to build up its support in a new field by using the Office of Secondary Industry.
– Does this explain the honourable senator’s new-found concern for the primary producers?
– No. The primary producers themselves are concerned about this matter. The primary producers are not the meat in the sandwich. They are the Marrickville margarine, if you would like to call them that, in the sandwich. They are getting a very thin deal. Senior officers of the Department of Trade and Industry have said that the Tariff Board should be regarded as part of a business of which the Minister for Trade and Industry is the managing director. I reiterate that that was never intended as the purpose of the Tariff Board. The tariff policy not only of this Government but also of preceding governments, and the work of the Tariff Board, have been designed to try to hold the balance between the various factors of full employment and the creation of new industries and to relate them, as far as lies within their power, to the economy of Australia as a whole. But we see today the development of a new attitude on the part of the Department of Trade and Industry and of the Government. They seem to be aiding and abetting the trade rat race in which people arc taking advantage of the Government’s tariff policy generally and are asking for protection when it is not fully warranted, thereby imposing extra burdens on the Australian consumer.
Not so long ago the Tariff Board reported on kitchenware. The Australian glass industry is one of the biggest monopolies in Australia. Originally it cost us a major proportion of our wool sales to Belgium because when it was decided that glass would be manufactured in Australia the Belgians, who had had an early entree into the Australian market, reciprocated by cutting off their purchases of our wool.
– :How many years ago was that?
– It was in the 1930’s, a long time ago, but I am directing attention to it because Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd, the organisation concerned, has developed over the years with quite a measure of protection. It has been able to expand to the extent that one would call it virtually the monopolist of the glass industry. I heard of an American company which proposed to send a particular type of cordial to Australia in bottles. Bottles were sent in advance so that there would be sufficient to meet the demand, but instead of the bottles being returned so that the cycle could be repeated the bottles went astray. When the American company approached ACI that organisation said: You give us a share in your company and we will make your bottles for you’. That illustrates the kind of monopoly ACI has.
Let me return to the point. When the reference relating to kitchenware was before the Tariff Board the company was able to put up a case to show that this particular section of the glass industry was not very economic and needed assistance. Not only did the company impress the Tariff Board; it was able also to confine the inquiry to the particular section concerned and was able to obtain tariff assistance despite the fact that nearly every other section of this very wide industrial complex was making a handsome profit. These matters are of great importance. The whole question comes back to the emphasis on efficiency and the economic content that flows from Tariff Board recommendations.
I should like to refer briefly to that section of the Vernon Committee report relating to the Tariff Board. The Committee’s report was brushed aside contumeliously by the Government. I do not suppose that a body of such splendid men as the members of the Vernon Committee has ever devoted such a lengthy period to an investigation of the Australian economy and then experienced the indignity of seeing its work disregarded and treated almost with contempt. The report, despite the Government’s treatment of it, is becoming more and more a handbook for people other than advisers on Government policy which seems to be a matter of expediency and of hand to mouth or day to day action rather than long range planning. It pointed out that the Government had not defined any adequate policy of dealing with claims by industries for protection and as a result protection was being granted to virtually all industries that set themselves up and claimed that they were contributing to employment and investment. This comes back to Senator Marriott’s interjection. He spoke of the effects of tariff policy on employment. There is no doubt that it also comes back to the basis of the Labor Party’s attitude to protection.
We claim quite rightly that our Party has been a protectionist party since federation mainly because we believe that nationhood can be achieved only by the employment of Australians in Australian industries for the betterment and development of Australia as a nation. That approach does not envisage the intrusion of monopolists, selfseekers and people who have influence in governments and who are able to pressurise departments or tariff boards in order to achieve protection that is not clearly defined. We face the position that the Tariff Board can be blatantly pressurised into placing its imprimatur on the imposition of duties for the benefit of the generous friends of the Government.
– That is a very serious statement.
– Yes, it is.
– Who are the ‘generous friends’?
– McEwen House seems to be the place to which the generous friends of the Government have been advised to come in order to receive the inside running.
– The honourable senator must have been reading Maxwell Newton’s articles.
– I have been reading not only Maxwell Newton’s articles but quite a number of others. Those honourable senators opposite who do not stand up and condemn the type of thing that is going on today and try to bring some stability and some sense into our tariff making policy are recreant to the responsibilities that they have as members of this Parliament. I hope they will stand up. As a matter of fact, I believe it is about time some of them started to look at the Tariff Board reports, to study them and to enter into the debates on them in this chamber, because of their great importance to the cost structure throughout Australia today.
The people on the land, the primary producers, are being hit the hardest where it hurts the most by the inescapable increases in costs arising from the use of equipment. It is not much good farmers being able to mechanise if the cost of their equipment is continually rising. We have heard honourable senators opposite complain about rising costs and put all the blame on particular sections of the working community. The bete noire of Government senators is the waterside worker. Recently I read that one crane has displaced 122 men. Do honourable senators think that the community or the primary producers will obtain one cent’s worth of advantage in the form of reduced costs from the use of that crane or from the redundancy of those 122 men? The primary producers will receive none of the advantage. It can be dissipated by means of good accountancy. It is quite likely that the manufacturers of the crane will receive further protection.
This is a matter that members of the Government parties should be watching. This is going on under their very eyes. Not only is protection being given to industries but pressure is being put on the Tariff Board in an effort to induce it to give further protection. The pressure even goes to the extent of reprimands from the Minister for Trade and Industry and his
Department. The Minister says that he is not prepared to accept conflicting views from the Tariff Board; that he wants views that are more or less unanimous; and that otherwise the Government itself will make the decision. Tariff policy, as it is developing today, has a very strong influence on the cost structure and the whole economy. Above all, it is becoming patently clear that the independence and integrity of the Tariff Board are under serious threat at the present time. For that reason I have moved the amendment which indicates that the Opposition does not approve of the way things are going and states: . . that the Tariff Board needs to develop more effective means of ascertaining what are or may become economic and efficient ventures for which it recommends protection or assistance and that the Government should take steps to ensure that the companies to which protection is given fallow price, production, export and dividend policies which are in the interests of economic and efficient development, as well as of full employment and a stable and rapid rate of investment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Fitzgerald) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I must say that I have some sympathy with many of the statements made by Senator O’Byrne. Apart from when he was expounding some of his Socialist philosophy with its rather crazy economics, he made a very reasoned speech on this very vital subject. However, I do not find myself in sympathy with the amendment, because it contains some inconsistencies, particularly when it refers to ‘a stable and rapid rate of investment’. In my opinion it is very difficult to obtain a stable rate of investment and a rapid rate of investment at one and the same time. In looking through the amendment I find that it is full of inconsistencies. So, whilst I am in some general agreement with the general proposition that he put forward I am not in any agreement with his amendment.
I was interested to hear Senator O’Byrne speak as he did because, as he admitted, his speech showed a change in the thinking of the Australian Labor Party on tariffs. I personally welcome that change. I believe that this subject is of vital importance to Australia and it seems to me that it has been rather neglected in this Parliament over the years. Tariffs play a very important part in the economic life of our nation and therefore warrant very close attention. The few members of the Parliament who have taken an interest in tariffs in the past have been like voices crying in the wilderness. As Senator O’Byrne mentioned, tariffs are in essence a subsidy that the Australian consumers pay. The full implications of the decision in relation to the chemicals industry have been largely ignored in this Parliament, but they have been the subject of much criticism and discussion outside it.
Death of cx-Senator 3. M. Sheehan - Accommodation for Migrants
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.
– Mr Deputy President, we of the Opposition desire to pay tribute to the late James Michael Sheehan who served in this chamber as a senator for Victoria from 1938 to 1941 and from 1943 until his retirement in 1962. Mr Sheehan died yesterday at Castlemaine aged 82 years. I did not have the honour to know and work with Senator Sheehan but his courtesy, his humanity, his loyalty, his courage and his ability as an orator are legend among my colleagues who knew and admired him.
James Sheehan’s first job was with the Victorian Railways. He was an organiser for ten years. He joined the Australian Labor Party at the age of sixteen years and served with distinction as president of the Victorian Branch of our Party, as a member of the Trades Hall Council and as a life member and president of the Richmond Cricket Club and the Richmond Football Club. James Sheehan took an active interest in local government affairs. He was a member of the Castlemaine Council for fifteen years and was Mayor during 1957-58. His late sister, Miss Nellie Sheehan, was the first woman Mayor of Castlemaine.
In 1945, Senator Sheehan attended a conference in London on the rehabilitation of transport in Europe. This was the first ses sion of the Inland Transport Committee of the International Labour Organisation. He visited London again in 1961 to attend a Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. My colleagues and I desire to place on record our appreciation of the long and meritorious service in this chamber by James Michael Sheehan and to extend to his brother and sister our deepest sympathy.
– Mr Deputy President, I wish to join the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) in paying tribute to the memory of ex-Senator Sheehan. When I entered the Senate in 1950, Senator Sheehan sat in the seat which is now occupied by Senator Poyser. I well remember many of the speeches that Senator Sheehan made. He never used a note but he had a fluent delivery and in every way was an excellent speaker. Really, he was a speaker whom we looked forward to hearing although he dealt trenchantly with the Government from his position on the Opposition benches. He was one worth listening to.
He was one of the old type of Labor men and everything that he said carried the sincerity of his convictions. He was such an excellent speaker - such a fluent speaker - that we learned to have a very high regard for him as the months went by. I believe that on both sides of the Senate Jim Sheehan was held in the highest of regard as a sterling citizen. He was a fine senator, one who fought for his cause, and one whom, I am sure, we all will miss. I notice that he was unmarried. I believe that his brother and a sister are still alive. 1 am sure that honourable senators extend to them our sympathy in their bereavement.
– Mr Deputy President, I wish to associate the members of the Australian Country Party with the expressions of sympathy that have been voiced by the Leader of the Opposition and then the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Sheehan was a member of this Senate when I was elected to it. I wholeheartedly endorse the remarks of the Leader of the Government about Senator Sheehan. He seemed to me truly to portray what to my mind was the old type of Australian Labor Party supporter. Mr Sheehan was a fluent speaker. He was quite caustic in his criticism of the Government, but always friendly. It was with a great deal of pleasure that I had a few words with him when he visited the Senate only a few months ago. It is with regret that we have learned of his death. I am happy to have this opportunity to pay a tribute to a man who did well not only for his party but also for this Senate. I, too, join with the previous speakers in expressing our sympathy to his brother and sister in their loss.
– 1 wish to join in the tribute that has been paid to the late Jim Sheehan. I knew him for more than thirty years as a trade unionist and as a member of the Australian Labor Party. I was on the executive of the Australian Labor Party for some years. He was a member of the executive and also he was president of it. As a unionist he played a very powerful part in the affairs of the railways union. He was an organiser at the time he was elected to this Parliament. While he was in the union he was a very strong opponent of the attempts of the Communist Party to infiltrate the union. As has been said, he stood very strongly for the Labor principles which he had professed since his youth.
Jim Sheehan and his late sister were the backbone of his party in the town of Castlemaine. I feel sure they will be missed by many people there who knew them for their service in the municipal sphere. Jim Sheehan was Mayor of Castlemaine and his sister, as I said, played a very powerful part in civic affairs. Not only was Jim Sheehan an authority on trade unionism. I remember that he used to be sent into the wheat growing areas of the State. Although he was a railway man he was also the authority in the Victorian Labor Party on wheat. He appeared to be able to present the policy of his party excellently in that sphere. He was a very kindly man, a very honourable man, and I am sure we all will miss him.
– I rise to complain about the treatment meted out to South Australia in relation to the new proposals to build flats for migrants, and also to make a point of the fact that in relation to the questions that I asked this afternoon and the Press publicity given to the statements by the Premier of South Australia in the Adelaide Advertiser’, no reply has been forthcoming from the Government to the charges that the State has been penalised concerning assistance towards building these flats and also with respect to other capital works.
The South Australian Premier, Mr Walsh, has said in a public statement on the matter that this subject was canvassed by the Commonwealth Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) during a meeting of State and Commonwealth Ministers for Housing in Perth a few days ago. The Commonwealth Minister for Housing sought the opinions of the State Ministers as to whether they were in favour of the construction of this type of special dwelling for migrants. The South Australian Premier said publicly that the State Ministers for Housing rejected the proposal unanimously. They said that they preferred to have Commonwealth finance to build more homes. They said also that migrants would be better off in permanent homes. The Commonwealth Minister for Housing, as I understand the position, concluded the matter by saying that she would consider what the State Ministers for Housing had done and would advise them on the matter later.
If this is the broad position, it seems to me that either the Commonwealth Minister for Housing has not carried out what she promised to do for the State Ministers or somebody else in the Government - a senior Minister perhaps - without reference to the Commonwealth Minister for Housing has decided upon the erection of these special units. By so doing, the Commonwealth Government has left South Australia and Queensland out of the picture entirely. Apart from this fact, there is the complaint that this was done without prior consultation with the State Ministers for Housing. One naturally would have expected that, as this matter had been canvassed in the late sessions of the conference between Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers, which commenced on 6th April, some arrangement would have been made to talk to the State Ministers on what would be done. But on 8th April, I am told, some of the Ministers decided that this would be done as a special measure to meet migrants’ needs. The only reason advanced in the Press and in the Senate for this action is to be found in the statement made by the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) on behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). The Minister, in referring to a statement from the Department of Labour and National Service, said that a couple of reasons for this action existed. One was that the housing position in South Australia was better than it was in other States. The other reason was that the standard of hostel accommodation had been improved recently in that State.
I contend that, if the housing position in South Australia is better than the housing position in the other States, as the Minister for Education and Science said, this directly conflicts with what the Minister for Housing has been saying in the Senate. In answer to questions from other senators and myself, the Minister refused to accept that this was the position and even had a political jab at the Government of South Australia but only because, I think, it is a Labor Government. In answer to a question whether activity in South Australia was better or worse, the Minister said, so far as I can remember - and she can answer this point now - that South Australia was not an important State for migrants.
– I did not.
– The Minister said that we did not have many migrants. Although the Minister heard my question she did not answer it. I asked whether Department of Immigration figures showed that South Australia had the third largest intake of settler migrants. The Minister did not answer the question just as she refused to answer my question about unemployment a few days ago. 1 am not the only one who is asking these things. The Labor Party generally, the State Premier and the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’, which is not especially favourable to the Labor Party, have also posed questions along these lines. I ask the Minister whether she accepts that the housing position is better in South Australia. Does she say that the migrant hostel accommodation is better in South Australia and that for this reason nothing along the lines proposed will be done there? Is the Minister, in concert with other responsible Ministers, going to examine the construction of flats for migrants in South Australia in the future?
The Premier of South Australia has said - and I agree with him - that there is a general case to be made out in favour of construction of permanent homes for migrants. If migrants are put in temporary accommodation at the outset, only some will be housed and there will be dissatisfaction among those who have to wait for temporary accommodation. Also, those who obtain accommodation will be put out at some time to be decided by the Department. I am informed that the Premier of South Australia and other State Premiers decided they were against this special construction and wanted money for more homes. That is the broad position, and it indicates to me either a political bias against South Australia in relation to assistance to the building industry, which is suffering a downturn in all States, or a lack of proper consideration of the position as we know it.
If South Australia’s case is considered on its merits provision should be made for the construction of some flats for migrants in South Australia as is proposed in other States. What does the Minister think about this? Is it a fact that, as the Premier of South Australia has said, the Minister canvassed State Ministers and that they rejected the notion of building flats? Did she promise to consider what they had to say? Did she go back to the Cabinet and urge the adoption of a permanent homes plan, or did she go back to Cabinet and say: ‘Let us have flats for migrants irrespective of what the State Premiers have to say’? Others besides the Premier of South Australia have made statements on this subject. On 11th April this statement was made by the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ in an editorial concerning the plan to build flats for migrants:
On this question, however, Canberra might well have had genuine consultations with the States. The Federal Minister for Housing (Dame Annabelle Rankin) informed State Housing Ministers of the flat-building plan at a conference in Perth last week and sought their reactions. According to the South Australian Premier (Mr Walsh) they were unanimously opposed to it. . . . State Ministers believe they can make far belter provision for migrants by building more homes with the available funds. The Federal plan, moreover, is not even uniform. Queensland and South Australia are excluded from it.
Then the editorial concludes with this paragraph:
South Australia’s omission from an allocation for migrant flats or hostel betterment would add to the injustices already evident in spending on Federal works.
In this chamber we have tried to get answers on matters of this sort from the Minister for Housing before. On 5th April, when the Minister made a little political jab at South Australia about the downturn in the South Australian economy, I asked the following question:
My question, which 1 direct to the Minister for Housing, relates to the Minister’s reply to Senator Mcclellands question and to her reference to the position of the building industry in South Australia, ls the Minister aware that the South Australian Government has spent in the present year on public buildings in South Australia more money than has been spent by previous South Australian governments in any one year? ls she also aware that the unemployment in the building industry in South Australia is comparable to the situations in other States, including Queensland, and in the Australian Capital Territory? ls she prepared to assist the South Australian Government to apply pressure on the private sector to increase the number of homes built for private occupancy in South Australia?
The Minister for Housing stated in reply:
I think 1 understand the point that the honourable senator wishes to make. He refers to the building industry while I. have referred to the housing position. I understand from honourable senators and from figures which I have received that the numbers of completions of houses are not as high us
W3 would all wish and that there is some- unemployment in the building industry. However, I believe that this is a reflection of the whole picture in South Australia under the present circumstances.
The Minister did not answer the question about unemployment. At the time I asked the question there were reported to be 200 building tradesmen out of work in the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister did not want to answer the question but wanted to make some political attack on the South Australian Government. She has said that she is not biased against South Australia. But I am not the only one who says this. In the Press today, Mr W. J. Hannaford, President of the Housing Industry Association, was reported to have said that his Association would meet later this week to consider a protest to the Commonwealth Government on flats for migrants. Mr Hannaford said:
A stimulus of this nature would give the building industry the lift it needs. Yet the Commonwealth has chosen to ignore South Australia - and I can only suggest this is for party political reasons.
So the only answer we have received to the questions we asked this morning, and so far as I know the only answer given to the State Premiers or to the Premier of South Australia, is on the basis of a statement made on behalf of the Department of Labour and National Service in which it was stated that the scheme at this stage was experimental. The Government’s statement corresponds closely with what was said by Senator Gorton this morning. The departmental spokesman stated:
The Government decided that pressure for housing was greatest in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Tasmania.
Existing hostels in South Australia have been considerably improved recently. In any case, because of better housing there migrants stay in South Australian hostels for an average of only fifteen weeks. At one stage it was down to eleven weeks.
If the scheme is successful we will of course extend it to South Australia.
So far as I know that is the only point we have reached, but I particularly want the Minister for Housing to answer the statement that she canvassed the State Premiers and the complaints that these matters have not been dealt with properly. I have referred to some of the comments made by the Minister for Housing about immigration. So far as I know the figures I have used are correct because they are taken from ‘Australian Immigration: Quarterly Statistical Summary’. The last volume available is dated September 1966 and it is issued by the Department of Immigration. It shows that South Australia ranked third in the intake of migrant settlers. For the year 1965-66 the numbers for settler arrivals were 48.093 in New South Wales, 41.579 in Victoria, 22,128 in South Australia, 14,020 in Western Australia, 9,268 in Queensland, 1,918 in Tasmania, 1,159 in the Australian Capital Territory and 360 in the Northern Territory. There has been a substantial intake of migrants which up to now has been accommodated, but the present situation is that there is a lack of finance from the Commonwealth Government. As the ‘Advertiser’ rightly stated, the amount of approximately S9m which has been allocated to South Australia for Commonwealth public works this year is the lowest amount for years. Since the issue of the figures which I have just mentioned, South Australia received 524 migrants in January, 540 in February and 800 in March.
There were many building tradesmen among these migrants. So there is a need for something to be done.
I want to quickly point out that when the Minister for Housing refers to housing figures, uses the 1964 housing figures as a basis, and says there have been recoveries, those figures do not mean much to people who want homes. We have highlighted the position of young couples who need cheaper finance. I refer to parts of an article by Stewart Cockburn of the Adelaide Advertiser’ staff. When referring to the lack of finance and what Mr Ramsay of the South Australian Housing Trust said about the need for more money for young couples, Stewart Cockburn said:
The average effective interest rate of secondmortgage finance is from 12 to 14% … In the words of Mr Ramsay, ‘there is probably more high-interest bearing money in housing in Australia than in any other western country*.
I wind up very quickly on this point-
– Hear, hear!
– I am making out a case for my State. It is important to us and it should be considered properly. I refer to a statement in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of 6th April. It referred to the lack of assistance from the Commonwealth in relation to projects in South Australia generally. At the time the Department of Civil Aviation had said that it did not propose to build a new terminal at the airport, but that it would make improvements to the existing airport. The ‘Advertiser* stated:
While all these projects are doubtless desirable, they indicate a tendency for growth to be uneven, and for some States to receive a persistent stimulus from Federal spending at the expense of others.
That neglect by Canberra is reflected in the whole of this year’s Federal works programme for South Australia. The estimated outlay by the Federal Department of Works in this State for 1966-67 is about $9m - the lowest figure for years. This curtailment of Federal activity, and the limits Canberra has placed on loan-raising for State works, are major factors in the recent slackness of the South Australian building and engineering industries, and the consequent dismissal of employees. Useful projects in which the Commonwealth could engage here are not lacking. The primary need is a recognition in Canberra that the State’s difficulties are real and formidable.
I want to wind up by saying that some people in our State and a few honourable senators in this chamber have taken the opportunity to have a go at the State Labor Government because it is a Labor Government. But many important people in South Australia now realise that to knock a government on political lines means that you are stopping the economy. I suggest that this is the sort of view which has been expressed by the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’. The Commonwealth Department of Works and the Department of the Interior could start immediately on an airport programme. They could start immediately building this office block which we have requested. I remind the Senate that in 1963, I think, the Commonwealth Government paid £500,000 in rents, to private insurance companies mainly, for accommodation for Commonwealth hostel staff. Because of the time, I simply say that if the Minister for Housing reads the 1966 annual report of the South Australian Housing Trust she will see at page 27 that the performance in South Australia has increased year by year. It is not true to say that we have lagged behind in any respect.
– I wish to support Senator Bishop with a few remarks which may not have been necessary had there not been a curtailment of question time this afternoon. I hope that my support of Senator Bishop will prompt some honourable senators opposite from South Australia to raise their voices in condemnation of any action which would deprive the State which they represent of equal rights with other States. The first questions one might ask are: Who is double crossing who? Does anybody on the Government side trust anybody else?
Mr Deputy President, you will remember that in his maiden speech Senator Poyser condemned the condition of hostel accommodation provided for migrants, particularly in Victoria. He was so effective in his condemnation of the conditions under which migrants have to live that Senator Wright, who followed him in the debate, conceded that Senator Poyser had raised some very important issues and said that there was a responsibility on the appropriate Minister to deal with them. They have never been dealt with by the appropriate Minister. Speaking in the debate on 9th March Senator Wedgwood was well informed as to conditions in hostels. She had incorporated in ‘Hansard’ details as to costs and rentals. She would have had us believe that there was nothing wrong with hostel accommodation .and that anything presented to the Senate by Senator Poyser should be discounted. Senator Wedgwood- told us that there were no health hazards in migrant hostels, that rents were low and that after all it was only temporary accommodation. She told us of a scheme to replace two existing hostels with more modern hostels offering the same system of accommodation. We may take it that Senator Wedgwood was speaking for the Government in expressing her satisfaction with hostel conditions.
The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) asked State Housing Ministers at a conference just concluded in Western Australia what they thought of the idea of building permanent accommodation which would be let to migrants for six months upon their arrival here. The State Ministers, according to reports by the Premier of South Australia, all were opposed to the scheme. They argued that if money was available for this purpose it should be made available to the States for housing. It seems illogical that South Australia should be penalised now just because it has provided better housing accommodation for migrants than has been provided in any other State. In the absence of any denial we must accept Senator Bishop’s claim that South Australia has the third highest intake of migrants in the Commonwealth but that the Commonwealth Government has not housed any of the many hundreds of migrants who have gone to Whyalla to work for the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Thousands of migrants now employed in the blast furnace and the steel rolling mill at Whyalla have been brought to this country under State nomination and housed in houses built in South Australia by the South Australian Housing Trust. Hostel accommodation was not provided for those migrants. The Commonwealth has never had to house them since they landed in this country. In addition, thousands of migrants have been placed in Housing Trust accommodation at the satellite town of Elizabeth.
Because the South Australian Government has believed that a satisfactory migrant is one who is given permanent housing, the Commonwealth Government has nol had to provide in South Australia the amount of hostel accommodation that it has had to provide in the other Slates, despite a big increase in the numbers of migrants in South Australia. The South Australian Government is now to be penalised because of its good record. While expenditure on hostel accommodation is to be made in four States by the Commonwealth Government, it is not to be made in South Australia. We have been told that one reason for that situation is that there is vacant hostel accommodation in South Australia where the average length of stay by migrants in hostels is from eleven to fifteen weeks - it is a longer period in the other Slates - because of the South Australian Government’s policy of erecting permanent housing for migrants. In order to achieve equality with the other States the South Australian Government has to refuse to house future migrants in South Australia until the hostels are overcrowded! Then the Commonwealth may give to South Australia treatment equal to that given to the other States.
In case any honourable senator doubts that there is a need for assistance in South Australia, 1 point out that the 1966 report of the South Australian Housing Trust states that the future need for houses in that State is in respect of rental accommodation. That need has arisen because of the high cost of purchasing a home and the fact that couples are now marrying at an age when the husbands have not yet established themselves in industry. They are not in a position to commit themselves to the purchase of a home and consequently they need rental accommodation. The only rental accommodation provided by the South Australian Government is for migrants. In that State there is a waiting period of from four to four and a half years for rental accommodation for people other than migrants. Obviously the Commonwealth Government should provide money for the erection of homes for rental in South Australia.
The Minister for Housing has expressed concern at the position of the building industry in South Australia. The labour force in the building industry created by the policies of the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments is idle today. Trained men are drifting into other occupations where possibly they lack the required skills. It is a more costly system of labour than that of having men working at the trades for which they are trained. The number of commencements of new houses and flats in South Australia for the quarter ended December 1966 was down by 7.5% when compared with the quarter ended December 1965. For the rest of Australia, the number of commencements of houses and flats rose by 14% in the quarter ended December 1966 when compared with the quarter ended December 1965. In the quarter ended December 1966 the number of new houses and flats under construction in South Australia was down by 16% when compared with the quarter ended December 1965. For the rest of Australia, in the quarter ended December 1966 the number of new houses and flats under construction was down by 1.9% when compared with the quarter ended December 1965. Approvals of new houses and flats in South Australia fell by 29% in the quarter ended December 1966 when compared with the quarter ended December 1965. These statistics illustrate that the decline in housing is not temporary. The decline in the number of approvals will continue for some time. For the rest of Australia the number of approvals rose by 15% for the quarter ended December 1966 when compared with the quarter ended December 1965. In December 1966 the value of new residences, including alterations and additions, approved was 48% lower than the value in December 1965, but the decline of value of approvals for the rest of Australia was only 16%. The employment figures for December 1966 showed a decline of 8% compared with December 1965, but the decline for the rest of Australia was only 4% , or half the decline for South Australia. The building industry in South Australia is facing an acute crisis. We have unemployment in the industry.
Migrants, recruited to work in the building industry and brought to South Australia for that purpose, are dissatisfied with the conditions in which they are housed. We have a responsibility to provide satisfactory accommodation for migrants and we ask that South Australia be given a fair allocation of this new type of housing for migrants, lt may be undesirable to build these flats at present while hostel accommodation is vacant. However if we give some impetus to the building industry in South Australia by increasing the rate of home construction, migrants in the building industry will be able to find employment and obtain their own accommodation and the stage will not be reached where the hostels are overcrowded.
A question was asked on this subject today and we were told in the answer that this means of housing migrants is purely experimental and that if it is successful it will extend to other States. I cannot understand how a department, with all its experienced officers and all its research, can say that the building of flats for rental to citizens of the Commonwealth is experimental. The proposal is that migrants will be allowed to occupy these flats for six months and, if they have been unable to find other accommodation by the end of this period, they will then be placed in hostels. Senator Poyser dealt with this aspect. Surely no Minister would believe that this is a satisfactory way to settle migrants in Australia. Those who have been unable to find other accommodation will not be happy if they are placed in accommodation less satisfactory than the accommodation they have had for the first six months of their stay in Australia. Surely the Government has a duty to find permanent accommodation for these people. I do not think we can refuse to house migrants. I endorse the assertion of Senator Bishop that the Minister has a responsibility to explain the situation to honourable senators. Why was the approach made to the State Ministers? Is the scheme to house migrants to be separate from State housing schemes? Should we approach the State authorities or should we ignore their advice?
Surely the Government can see the logic in providing permanent accommodation for migrants. If they are dissatisfied, they can vacate the premises and the accommodation will become available for another family. Surely there is some justice in South Australia being given an allocation. After all, its record in housing migrants is good. It has been said in this chamber that the allocation of loan funds to South Australia for housing last year was lower than in previous years. I believe the figure is $360,000. This was done at the request of the Premier of South Australia, who found that he could obtain money from other sources for housing. However, the figures disclose that in the last period of twelve months the South Australian Housing Trust built only one house less than it did in the previous year. Here is a Premier who has been reducing the construction of dwellings for rental, for the purpose, I believe, of allowing for other essential building. As a consequence, there has arisen a situation in which there is a long waiting list for rental homes. This shows the need for the construction of dwellings for rental. This situation has created a position in which there is unemployment in the building industry, and it imposes on the Commonwealth Government a liability to provide sustenance for those who are unemployed. But they are not getting the necessary support at present in South Australia where all things considered, there is probably a greater need for help from the Commonwealth than there is in any other State. We do not want to discourage any attempt to provide housing for migrants in other States, but let us hear from the Minister for Housing why the kind of accommodation that is to be provided under the Commonwealth’s new proposal is said to be any better than that which the States want to provide. Why should South Australia, which is greatly in need of assistance, be denied a share of the migrant accommodation now proposed?
[11.11] - Mr Deputy President, I think that first of all I must point out to the Senate that some of the questions asked by the two South Australian senators who have just spoken were answered this afternoon. I shall be very pleased to comment now on other matters that they have mentioned, and particularly on the remarks of the South Australian Premier, Mr Walsh, as reported in today’s issue of the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’. I have read the Press reports and I am glad of this opportunity to set the record straight. It is true, as Senators Bishop and Cavanagh have said, that Mr Walsh is reported in today’s issue of the ‘Advertiser’ as having said that the announcement of the Commonwealth’s plan to provide furnished self contained flats as temporary accommodation for migrant families showed the contempt the Commonwealth must have for the States’. Those are Mr Walsh’s own words. He is reported in the Press as having said further that, at the
Housing Ministers Conference in Perth last week, I had said that the Commonwealth was considering a new policy of erecting permanent flats for migrants and had sought the Ministers’ reactions. I want to put the record straight on this point. What I told the Conference was that the Government had been reviewing the availability of temporary housing accommodation for migrants and that we had decided to provide a new type of temporary accommodation. I remind honourable senators that Hansard of Wednesday, 5th April, shows that on that day the Minister for Immigration, Mr Snedden, in answering a question, had commented on this himself. Surely my statement at the Conference answers Mr Walsh’s comment to the effect that the Commonwealth shows contempt for the States. This is not evidence of contempt for the States.
I then went on to tell the Conference that this proposal does not solve the problem of finding permanent dwellings for newcomers to our country. I direct attention to the fact that two kinds of dwellings are talked of in this context. I asked the State Ministers present at the Conference whether they considered that there was anything further that they could do to accelerate the placing of migrant families in permanent homes. So I would say: either Mr Walsh was not listening to what I had to say or he has deliberately chosen to twist my remarks. I never once said that the Commonwealth was considering a new policy of erecting permanent flats for migrants.
– Will it not be doing so by providing permanent flats for temporary accommodation?
– No. Our proposal is to provide temporary accommodation for not more than six months, as I told the honourable senator in answer to a question this afternoon. He has been told this by me on two occasions today. Two different things are being talked about. Mr Walsh apparently seeks only to twist my remarks. I imagine that he does this to satisfy some personal wish that he has.
– But why-
– I listened to the honourable senator in silence. If he wants answers to his questions he will get them if only he will let me give them. But it is impossible for me to do so while he interrupts all the time. If honourable senators opposite are sincere they will let me continue with what I have to say. Mr Walsh is also reported to have stated in Adelaide yesterday that the State Ministers had advised against a policy of erecting permanent flats for migrants. I wonder how Mr Walsh reconciles this with a motion passed by the State Ministers requesting that the Commonwealth make additional money available so that the States could build permanent homes for migrants. Mr Walsh surely seems very confused in the comments that he made to the Adelaide Press. Having, I hope, set that record straight, let me refer to one or two other points raised by honourable senators opposite. They asked why Melbourne, Sydney, Tasmania and Perth were chosen.
– Did the Minister ask the State Ministers their opinion?
– I told the honourable senator what I asked the Ministers about permanent housing for migrants. I informed them what the Minister for Immigration (Mi- Snedden) was doing in connection with temporary housing, all of which I have told the honourable senator. Now let me continue with the points that honourable senators opposite put. They inquired about the places that had been chosen for these flats, units, or what ever we choose to call them. I am not responsible for this. It is an immigration matter, so I would reply as the Minister for Immigration has stated: Melbourne and Sydney were chosen because the experiment there would be submitted to a vigorous test which would be of advantage. Tasmania was chosen - and I should think that this would answer the question that Senator O’Byrne has put to this House on previous occasions - because there is no transitory accommodation for migrants in that State. Perth was chosen because there is an urgent need for additional accommodation there. These are the areas first chosen for this new plan of temporary accommodation for migrants.
– Why not permanent accommodation? The Government spent $300,000 in Perth on Greylands hostel.
– The Government has spent a considerable sum on hostels and I should imagine that every honourable senator in this chamber would be pleased it has done so. We listened to complaints that were well put by an honourable senator opposite, but when we informed the Senate that the Government had made improvements in hostels and had provided better living conditions in hostels, honourable senators opposite complained. Surely this Government has proved its desire to improve accommodation for migrants. It has provided temporary accommodation, has this new plan for units or flats, and has accommodated migrants in hostels which are being constantly improved. If, after six months, migrants have nowhere to live they can return to a hostel.
I have been informed by the Department of Immigration that immigration figures have dropped gradually over the last few years. Fewer migrants are coming to South Australia each year. As I informed honourable senators this afternoon - and if they want it again, they can have it again tonight - at present about 60% only of the hostel accommodation available for migrants in South Australia is being utilised. This leaves a considerable amount of accommodation which is not being used.
– They are going into homes, that is why.
– If they are going into homes, I think this shows the proud record of housing under the previous South Australian Government, because in those days South Australia had a proud record. I have agreed with Senator Bishop when he has spoken to me about problems that face South Australia today. I have said on more than one occasion that the overall figures of housing commencements are running at a high level. There will be at least 116,000 commencements during the year 1966-67. We are concerned with the problems facing South Australia.
– Then why does not the Government help South Australia?
– The honourable senator knows as well as I do that the problems facing South Australia at present are local problems. These points have surely cleared up the very confused comments made by Mr Walsh. I hope that I have made very much clearer the two points which are quite separate from one another and also the fact that as the Minister for Immigration has said, this is the commencement of a new plan of temporary accommodation for migrants coming to this country who will be able to live in these flats for six months. This will give them an opportunity to find the kind of accommodation that they wish to have. These places have been chosen for particular purposes and for particular reasons. Very real consideration has been given to this matter by the departments associated with these problems. I can assure honourable senators that this is a commencement. When it is seen how successful this programme is the Minister will, of course, review it and if the need exists he will again propose that this kind of accommodation be made available where it can be of the greatest assistance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 April 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670411_senate_26_s33/>.