26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3.24 p.m., and read prayers.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs believe that Indonesia could be a danger in the future to Australia’s security, as stated by the Prime Minister in the Capricornia electorate on Thursday lust? If the Minister is of this opinion, does he believe that Australia should be training Indonesians in our military colleges?
– I do not know on what the honourable senator bases his alleged quotation of something said by Mr Holt. 1 have no indication that the Prime Minister said anything of the kind. All ( can say in this regard is that I do not’ know how anybody can see far enough into the future to take care of all possible eventualities. Indonesia is a close neighbour and friend of ours and we are working in collaboration. In years to come this position could change - I sincerely hope that it does not - if that country were overrun by Communism or Communist China. But that is the only way in which 1 can see any danger coming from Indonesia.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate received any information in regard to an earlier question 1 asked about requests from shire councils of the Gold Coast and far north coast of New South Wales for grants in respect of beach erosion largely attributed to excessive rutile mining?
– I have no further information as yet. The honourable senator has placed a question on the notice paper, i will see what the answer is to that question. I do not have an answer at the moment.
– I wish to direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Air a question about the catering on VIP aircraft.
– The honourable senator will never get any information about that.
– I am always hopeful. J ask: Is the catering on VIP aircraft carried out by the Royal Australian Air Force? Iti view of the fact that an unlimited variety of food and alcohol is available on VIP planes, 1 ask whether the expense is charged to the Prime Minister’s Department or to our war effort through the defence- vote.
– I can answer only one aspect of the honourable senator’s question - that is the aspect regarding the food and alcohol. To that 1 can certainly give the answer no. In regard to the other queries raised by the honourable senator, if he will place his question on the notice paper I will see whether the Minister for Air is prepared to give him an answer.
– J ask the Minister for Education and Science whether an application has been made by the South Australian Government for a Commonwealth contribution towards the establishment of a teaching hospital at Bedford Park, near Flinders University. If so, what is the amount sought? What body will be responsible to consider such an application when made and when is it likely to be considered? If it is favourably considered, what is the earliest period at which it is likely that a payment will be made to the South Australian Government? Under what conditions of State contribution wil! the money be paid?
– There is no record at all of an application by the South Australian Government to the Commonwealth Government for assistance for the establishment of a teaching hospital at Bedford Park and I do nol believe that any such application has ever been made. If it were made in the future it would follow the normal course of requests for assistance for teaching hospitals; that is to say, a submission would be made to the Australian Universities Commission to provide funds towards the teaching costs - not the construction costs of a hospital, but the clinical, teaching costs of any hospital constructed. Such funds would come out of the money voted by Parliament for universities. That capital cost would be contributed on a $1 Lor $1 basis by the Commonwealth and the State concerned and the application would be considered with other applications for the next triennium, that is 1970-71-72. That is the way in which teaching hospitals are assisted. There is no record of any application from the Government of South Australia so far and if there were it would need to be some sort of application for consideration for the next triennium.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply and refers to his reply to my question on 24th August concerning the faulty firing of the Europa F6/1 rocket. The Minister stated that the self destruction system installed in the rocket operated as planned. 1 ask the Minister: In view of the fact that rocket sections measuring 7 ft by 6 ft, and reported to be too heavy to move, have been found, did the self destruction system operate satisfactorily? Is the Minister confident about existing safety systems?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is Yes. The destruction device is in the fuel system in the rocket. The rocket itself was destroyed. Some pieces of it which were discovered were greater in size than pieces recovered from previous firings. This self destruction system is the reason why we provide shelters in all areas covered by the proposed flight course. This rocket was right on course and no danger in any shape or form existed from any of the pieces that fell along the course which the rocket followed.
Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware of a recent prediction attributed to Professor Renwick, Director of Research for the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, following his return from a world study tour, in which he is stated to have said that we will have to re-use and re-use our water many times over; that it will turn a greyish colour and will smell, probably of chlorine; and also that this smelly water already was in use in some American cities’? Will the Minister inform the Senate as to any steps which the Government may be taking to try to prevent such a situation being reached in Australia where our population would be obliged to use such unpleasant water?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied me with the following answer to this question:
The whole question of water supply is one in which responsibility rests primarily with the State authorities in each State and with the Commonwealth only in respect of its Territories. Australian water supply authorities are very well aware of the basic importance of establishing and maintaining adequate standards for municipal water supplies. Visits are made overseas by those concerned in engineering and in health aspects and views on developments are exchanged and studies co-ordinated throughout the appropriate associations in which Commonwealth Government representatives play an appropriate part.
It must be kept in mind that the situation in Australia is very different from that which is found in various places overseas, including parts of the United States of America where large inland industrial cities discharge their wastes into rivers that form the source of supply for other cities downstream, the process of treatment for the re-use of water being repeated again and again. In Australia, all major industrial areas are located close to the coast and re-use of this effluent by other cities has not been necessary. Presumably, for this reason, Professor Renwick used the rather vague term ‘at some future date’ when making his prediction about the water supply of Australia. I am confident that Australian water authorities are able to ensure that satisfactory supplies are available and that standards required for the treatment of waste will prevent contamination of supplies from these sources. I do not believe that the Government needs to take any particular steps in this connection.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Air, relates to questions asked by Senator Turnbull: A question asked on 8th March relative to VIP aircraft, to which he has received no reply; a question asked on 5th April relative to VIP aircraft, !o which he has received no reply; a question asked on 19th April relative to VIP aircraft, to which he has received no reply, and a question asked on 4th May relative to VIP aircraft to which he has received no reply. Is it not an insult to the authority of the Parliament that a senator requesting information in regard to VIP aircraft should obviously be refused an answer?
– It is quite true that there is a series of questions in the name of Senator Turnbull directed to the Minister for Air regarding the matter mentioned by Senator McManus. The question he poses to me, as representing the Minister for Air, is: Is it not an insult that these questions should not be answered? That is a matter that is outside my province and I cannot help him in regard to it.
– Further to the question asked by Senator McManus, will the Minister representing the Minister for Air tell us what steps he has taken to get answers to the questions asked by Senator Turnbull and whether it is the intention of the Government to decline to give answers until such time as the Senate takes the steps which are available to it to compel the giving of answers to these questions?
– This is a matter that is entirely within the province of the Minister for Air. I have taken the steps that I take normally when questions are asked of me as representing another Minister, that is, to pass these questions on to the Minister concerned and give him an opportunity to provide answers. I cannot do more than this and those are the steps I took in regard to these questions.
– To assist in the debate on the Estimates, will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform me to what department the cost of food and drink supplied on VIP aircraft is charged?
– To assist in the debate on the Estimates, as soon as 1 get the information I shall let the honourable senator know the answer to the question that be asks. I trust that this will be in time for consideration when we are dealing with the appropriation for the relevant department.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise been drawn to a report in this morning’s ‘Australian Financial Review* concerning raids which were made by his departmental officers on three import companies which allegedly have breached section 214 of the Customs Act? Is it a fact that these raids have taken place and are any further investigations of such breaches being undertaken by his Department?
– The word ‘raids* gives rather a wrong impression of the pro cedures of the Department of Customs and Excise. In fact from time to time it is necessary for officers of the Department to go in and examine books and certain other items in carrying out their functions. If we understand the new concept of commodity control, which the Public Accounts Committee has advocated should be introduced progressively in all of the Department’s procedures, we appreciate that the theory of the system is to move into an area, organisation or company from time to time and do what for want of a better expression I will call snap checks of its procedures, invoices and other documents. It is true that currently an examination is being made of some organisations; but this is a departmental matter. I noticed in this morning’s Australian Financial Review’ a reference to section 214 of the Customs Act. I thought that was a little out of context. As I said, this is a departmental matter and I do not wish to make any further comment at this stage.
– I direct a further question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Are there in existence comprehensive lists of those books and films that have been prohibited from entry into Australia under the censorship laws? Are such lists, if they exist, available to members of the House of Representatives and senators?
– If the honourable senator is talking of the total prohibition of films, the number involved would be very small and no doubt a list of them would be available. The more obvious fact in relation to the censorship of films by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board is that certain deletions are required as a condition of registration. I do not think information on films in that category would be available because deletions are required from time to time and might involve only one or two feet of a long film. However, I would think that information on total prohibitions would be available. 1 will certainly see that such information is made available to Senator Wheeldon and any other honourable senator who wishes to have U.
In regard to literature censorship, if Senator Wheeldon is talking about books that are considered to have literary merit, I point out that all prohibitions appear in the Commonwealth ‘Gazette’. To that extent that information would be available in a consolidated form. With reference to books of no literary merit, which are dealt with at the departmental level, I would have some reservations as to how far back the records available in that categary would go. I would imagine that the honourable senator is not interested in that range of prohibitions. Books of no literary merit include magazines and that type of thing. However, I will obtain all the information that I can and convey it directly to the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Does the position that was stated by the Minister for Air some time ago in answer to a question asked by Senator Gair - namely, that no record at all is kept of the persons who use VIP aircraft - still obtain? If that is the position, how is it possible for the Commonwealth Auditor-General to ensure that VIP aircraft are used only for authorised purposes?
– I am not in a position to answer that question, but I draw attention-
– Nobody seems to know anything at all about VIP aircraft.
– Are there such things?
– All we know is that we cannot obtain any information about them.
– I repeat that I am not in a position to answer that question, but I draw the attention of the honourable senator to the fact that VIP aircraft are available to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition and are freely availed of. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing to hide in the use of VIP aircraft. If the honourable senator cares to put his question on the notice paper, no doubt whatever information is available will be made available to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Would he inform the Minister for Air that an absolute majority of the Senate would like an answer to the questions asked by Senator Turnbull and, if the Minister is reluctant to give the answers voluntarily, the Senate will take whatever steps are available to it to see that the answers are brought forth?
– I would not think that the Minister for Air would be amenable to threats uttered in the manner just used. That is my reply to the question that has been asked.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Will he obtain replies to my question which is: On what occasions has the Leader of the Opposition used VIP aircraft and where did he journey to; on what occasions has the Leader of the Government used VIP aircraft and where did he journey to; and on what occasions has the Prime Minister’s family used VIP aircraft and where did they journey to?
– Mr President, once again, I will do as I have done in th« past. I will transmit this question to the Minister for Air.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he aware that in a recent debate both the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party expressed opposition to the administration of the Australian Post Office services to the extent of suggesting that a separate authority should be established? Is the Leader of the Government aware of a three page circular sent by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, which has many members in the Commonwealth Public Service, to members of the Senate? Does he believe that this circular indicates that the attitude of the two political parties within this Senate, which are not members of the Government, are completely out of step with the wishes of the members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association which claims to have about 25,000 Commonwealth Public Servants within its ranks?
– In the first part of his question the honourable senator asked me whether I was aware of who opposed the Post Office legislation which was introduced in this House.
– The honourable senator did not ask the Minister that.
– Yes he did. He asked me whether I knew of the opposition. I am well aware of who opposed that legislation. I am well aware of those who continued to oppose it and others who fell by the wayside. But that is another question, as Senator Willesee has reminded me. Senator Webster asked me whether I had received a circular from the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. I understand that it represents 25,000 members. If I read that circular correctly it put a case which was completely opposite to that put by the Leader of the Opposition and by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party concerning the separation of the Post Office.
– National interest is paramount.
– In due course this matter will come to the Government for a decision. When that happens the Government will take into account the points of view put forward by the Opposition in this House; the points put by the Democratic Labor Party in this House; and no doubt the points of view put forward by the 25,000 members of this Association All those matters will be taken into account and then a sound, sensible and logical decision will be made, as usual, by the Government.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that when Ministers have occasion to use a VIP aircraft members of the House of Representatives are permitted to accompany them but in no circumstances is a member of the Senate allowed to accompany them.
– The position as I understand it is that the only occasion on which a member of the House of Representatives is allowed to accompany a Minister is when the Minister is making a journey to an area represented by that member. I understand also that honourable senators are not permitted to accompany Ministers.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Did the Prime Minister use a VIP plane between Rockhampton and Townsville on Friday 22nd September 1967 on his way to a fishing expedition at Dunk Island? Was that plane held at Townsville until the Prime Minister returned to Canberra yesterday?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is that I do not know.
– I also address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. How many planes are there in the VIP fleet, and what was the total cost of this fleet? That is a simple question.
– This is a question that I think the Minister for Air will have to answer. The position as I understand it was that we had in this fleet planes that were becoming obsolete and the Government had to decide what planes it should obtain to replace these obsolete aircraft. Included in the fleet were some DC3 aircraft, some Convairs and some Viscounts. The Government had to decide whether it should buy planes of similar types to replace them. The decision arrived at was that in view of the fact that this is a progressive country and that the VIP planes could be very useful indeed in cases of emergency, it should purchase modern types of aircraft. This has been done, and I think the Government is to be commended upon purchasing modern aircraft irrespective of the price.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air whether he intends to answer the question I asked a moment ago and give the information which 1 sought.
– I did give an answer. I told the honourable senator that I did not know, if he is very keen on getting an answer for legitimate reasons other than political purposes, and if he will put the question on notice, I shall see whether [ can get an answer for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that the total tax of 600,000 taxpayers was expended to pay the sum of $2 1.6m that it cost the nation to buy the VIP fleet?
– I do not think that the figures mentioned by the honourable senator are correct. This would not be the first time that his figures were incorrect. If the honourable senator cares to put the question on the notice paper I will see whether I can obtain an answer for him.
– I ask “the Minister representing the Minister for Air: Is it a fact that one of the seven new VIP planes that have been purchased by the Government is to be attached to the Canberra Community Hospital for the purpose of transporting all emergency cases to the Sydney Hospital?
– I do not think that question requires an answer.
Motion (by Senator Henty) proposed:
That further questions be put on the notice paper.
– The question is: That the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion will say: Aye.
Government senators - Aye.
– To the contrary: No.
Opposition senators - No.
– Answers have been received to questions upon notice. I call Senator Mulvihill.
– I have a question without notice to ask.
– Order! Senator Henty has moved that further questions be put on the notice paper.
– 1 thought a motion had been proposed.
– Order! I call Senator Mulvihill.
– Questions without notice are permitted in the Senate and honourable senators have the privilege to ask such questions. If the Ministers decline to answer the questions that is their privilege. But it is our privilege to ask questions. If Ministers refuse to answer, well let them refuse. A motion has been proposed by the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty). If the Minister wants to persist with it, let him persist.
– We disagree with it.
– Yes, and the Senate will have its will. But these matters are not to be determined by the say so of the Government. They are matters for decision by the Senate. We well understand that Ministers may decline to answer questions. If they adopt that attitude let them do so; but it is not for them to end questions without notice just as they will.
– It is a well established practice in this chamber, as it is in the other House, for the Leader of the Government to request at a certain stage that further questions be put on the notice paper. I was acting in accordance with that practice. Noone can suggest that’ I did not try to give honourable senators a fair run. Anybody looking at the report of questions without notice today will see that honourable senators were given a very fair run. The time came when I moved in accordance with the established practice.
– The motion has been put. I ask that the Senate vote on it.
– Order! No motion is involved here. The Minister has followed a practice that has been established in this chamber and in the other place. He has asked that further questions be placed on the notice paper. When that action is taken, I automatically proceed to deal with questions for which we have answers.
– I dissent from your ruling, Mr President.
– No ruling is involved.
– A motion has been put, and you have ruled that there is no motion. I dissent from your ruling. I insist that you made a decision. You, Sir, as the President of the Senate, are here to obey the will of the Senate in relation to this and all other matters. You have said that the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Government does not have to be put; you have said that what he has said must be accepted and you have said that we must follow a certain course of action. I have dissented from that ruling. If a ruling .is made by you on this, as on any other matter, I believe it should be subject to the decision of the Senate. Irrespective of the matter in question, if you make a decision, however much you may conceive yourself to be right - and may be right according to the decision of the Senate - you may be wrong. Nevertheless, it is a matter which I submit must be put to the Senate for decision.
– The position is that I made a statement: you, Mr President, did not put a motion. No honourable senator rose to his feet so you called on questions on notice.
– It must be understood that I am only following the established practice of the Senate. The Minister has the right to say when question time will end. No ruling has been made, so Senator Murphy cannot dissent from a ruling I have not given. As 1 have said, I am following the practice of the Senate. No ruling is involved.
– I have dissented, Mr President, from what you have ruled in relation to the circumstances which have arisen. Whatever you say must be a ruling. If you say: ‘This is what must happen in these circumstances’, and there is a dissent, surely the position is elementary. We ask you to treat it as such, as you must. The President must be treated with all respect, but, nevertheless, he is subject to the will of the Senate. I ask that you submit your decision to the will of the Senate.
– 1 do not know whether I am right, but it has always been my understanding that the President has the right to curtail questions at any time.
– I can only speak of my understanding of. what happened, which is that the Leader of the Government moved that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– I did not move that.
– The Minister made that suggestion and we voted on it. I voted no, and so did other honourable senators. With great respect, Mr President, 1 believe that what the Senate does is a matter for decision by a majority of the Senate. I would be surprised if we had reached the situation in which, if the Leader of the Government simply says that he thinks a certain thing should be done, it should automatically be done. In those circumstances I request that you rule that questions without notice continue.
– Mr President, this started off politically and a very interesting situation has now developed-
– May I suggest that we have reached the stage at which your ruling is being canvassed? No one has moved dissent from it.
– Order! The Senate must understand that I have not given a ruling. The Minister is following his right to end question time when he so desires. I have not given a ruling and I do not want this matter canvassed any further. I do not see any useful purpose in canvassing it further. I will call on questions to which answers have been received.
– I think there has been some confusion. The Leader of the Government in the Senate said that he requested that all further questions be put on notice. Then at the end of his speech he said that he proposed a motion. I think the latter statement is quite correct. You, Sir, called for the Ayes and the Noes. We called No and asked for a division. You now say. Sir, that you are following precedent. But Senator Murphy very clearly moved dissent from your ruling. With very great respect, Mr President, I believe that you cannot ignore Senator Murphy’s motion that your ruling be dissented from. If you accept that, then I am prepared to move under Standing Orders that the matter be debated immediately. I do not have the Standing Orders with me, but my clear recollection is that the matter must be debated tomorrow unless a motion to the contrary is moved. I would be prepared to move that we vote on it immediately. If, Sir, you persist with your ruling that, somehow or other beyond my comprehension, Senator Murphy, the Leader of our Party, is to be ignored, then I will move that questions without notice be proceeded with. If you rule against me, I am prepared to move dissent from your ruling. I think it is very clearly the will of the Senate that we proceed with questions without notice. As I said, if you rule against me, I am prepared to move that your ruling be dissented from and to move that we debate the matter immediately so that the business of the Senate will not be held over until tomorrow.
– If I may speak to the new point that has been raised, Mr President, it is quite clear that a motion was proposed. Let us look at the common ground. Let us go back. Whatever else happened, the Leader of the Government in the Senate proposed a motion; no-one doubts that.
– I do.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate says that he does, but I think we all remember what he did.
– He is not conscious of it.
– Order! This is getting our of hand, senators.
- Mr President, you very properly put the motion to the Senate. There may have been an Aye which I did not hear, but there was a great number of Noes. It was said that the Noes had it. The question was put. The proper course then would have been to declare the result of that motion. There can be no gainsaying that statement and that is the course for which we asked. Mr President, you have said that there is no need to do that. I have dissented from your ruling and I ask that you now either accept the result of the motion you put or that you deal with the motion of dissent which I proposed. There can be no other way out of this situation. Let us assume that there is a practice. It is open to the Senate to alter practice at any time. The question arises that a majority of the Senate desires that there be a decision on the original motion or a decision on the motion of dissent. I suggest with all respect, Mr President, that as the Presiding Officer of the Senate - and as the servant of the Senate, as you have said on many occasions - you ought to act in accordance with what has been put here. I submit that you proceed with the original motion - I would then give way on the motion of dissent - or that you deal with the motion of dissent.
– On what grounds was I sat down when I was speaking to the dissent motion? I want to know.
– Order! All I can say is that a motion to terminate question time is not necessary. It is within the discretion of Ministers to answer questions, and no decision from the Chair is involved.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) proposed:
That questions without notice be proceeded with.
– Order! That motion is not in order.
– Mr President, I move:
I will submit my objection in writing. (Senator Willesee having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling) -
– Although it would suit the Opposition to leave this matter until tomorrow, 1 feel that for the smooth working of the Senate the motion that I have moved should be discussed now.
– Order! For the purposes of the record, is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
-I did not anticipate any trouble there. I will shortly move that the debate be proceeded with immediately. Under Standing Orders, we do not do this. The debate would proceed tomorrow. Although it would not concern the Opposition if this course were followed, I feel that in the interests of the good working of the Senate the matter should be debated now. Therefore. I. move:
That the motion be debated immediately.
-I second that motion.
Motion (by Senator Henry) agreed to:
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
– Mr President, I regret very much that I have to speak to this motion. A great deal has been said today about precedents. The fact is that the Senate has a vastly different role to perform than has the House of Representatives. It has become the practice over the years because of the enlarged size of the House of Representatives to reduce the length of speeches and question time. I have never been in agreement with this practice in the other place. It applied particularly under Mr Speaker Cameron when it was determined that debate should be confined to very narrow limits. I have always felt that this is one restriction that should not be placed on the Senate.
If we study history and refresh our minds as to why the Senate is here, we find that the purpose of the Senate is to review legislation and this is what we will be doing today. I do not think that we can do so adequately if our speeches are confined to a time limit.
I have disagreed even within my own Party, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) will recall, on this question of curtailing of time for discussion. Justice cannot be done in this way if we are to review legislation properly. I have never heard the statement emanate from one of the law courts that it had to convict some fellow because it had not enough time to hear his case.
– Which fellow is this?
– Well, I say you, because I think the honourable senator would be a good subject for a criminal court.
– Under the profiteering prevention act.
– Yes. Today we are faced with a situation where I do not see any greater urgency regarding the matter of questions without notice than I have over the period of 18 years that I have been a senator here. For some reason or other, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) - maybe it was because of the type of questions that were being asked by the Opposition - suddenly decided that all further questions without notice should be placed on the notice paper. We have spoken about precedents. Let us examine the precedents of the Senate. One precedent of the Senate has been that never has it been agreed that the length of question time should be curtailed. Even when the Senate has sat all through the night and discussions have been held between the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition as to how the business of the Senate should be arranged for the next day, never - not while Senator McKenna, certainly Senator Murphy, or anyone else has led the Opposition - has the suggestion been made that the length of question time should be curtailed. To do that is to strike at the fundamental roots of democracy and at the principle that a Government should stand up to its activities.
We have here a situation which, quite peculiarly, is paralleled only in the Lok Sabha of India. Even members of the House of Commons have not the same rights in this connection as have members of the Lok Sabha or members of the Australian Senate or House of Representatives. Because of the matters that I have detailed there is a restriction in the House of Representatives but this is not so in the Senate. There has been talk of precedent. The precedent in the Senate is that questions without notice run their full time, even when they bite into the time to be devoted to very important debates which could affect the security of this nation. We have always stood by the right of Opposition senators, and Government senators too, to question Ministers without notice. What is the situation today? I suggest that it was unprecedented when the Leader of the Government rose and made two contradictory statements. On his own admission he first requested that further questions be put on the notice paper. Then he moved that this be done. To any reasonable person these proposals are quite contradictory. When he proposed his motion you, Sir, carrying out your high office, put the question to us all. From this corner I heard an independent senator, a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, and two members of the Australian Labor Party for whom I can vouch, call ‘Divide’, because they were not satisfied with your decision. Then you. Sir, ruled that a motion was not necessary and that action was to be taken in accordance with precedent. 1 think I have said enough to show that this situation was quite unprecedented. Unfortunately - this also is quite unprecedented - I have fell hound to move that the Senate disagrees wilh your ruling. The Senate - almost like the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - adopts the attitude that it is not hidebound. Honourable senators have a fair amount of latitude in asking questions. The Leader of the Government, who is temporarily in office, whatever his ministerial duties may bc, does not control the Senate, as Senator Murphy quite rightly pointed out. A decision of the Senate must be the will of the Senate. That is why I have reluctantly moved disagreement with your ruling. Her Majesty’s Opposition wishes to put certain questions to the Government. For political considerations, which should not be allowed to intrude into the great institution of the Senate, the Government says: ‘We do not like these questions. They are embarrassing to us. Therefore we will not hear them any more’. This is an intolerable situation.
Whatever advice you, Sir, may have taken on this matter, very seriously we must disagree. Your ruling in substance is that the three sections of which Her Majesty’s Opposition is comprised, and also disgruntled senators on the Government side, are to be gagged. If we start this, it is the beginning of the end of a democratic parliament. We have no desire to give offence to you, Sir, personally; we wish only to uphold the great institution of the Senate. Great precedents must be upheld. The Government, whatever its administrative duties might be, must be subject to questioning at all times and at all sittings of the Senate whenever any senator, however humble he may be, thinks that it is his duty to question the Government.
– I second the motion. The issue here is simple. We are dealing with the supervisory functions of one of the legislative chambers over the Administration. The Leader of the Administration in this chamber (Senator Henty) has taken a step aimed at ending the scrutiny of the Administration. Those senators in Opposition, or senators obviously representing a clear majority in this chamber, wanted to continue with the scrutiny and questioning of the Administration. The Leader of the Government himself proposed a motion that question time be ended. You, Mr President, put that motion to the chamber. It was obvious that there was a preponderance of Noes.
That brings the matter down not merely to one of whether there should be a continuance of question time and a continued scrutiny of the Government on a subject on which apparently it is extremely sensitive but also to one of whether the democratic majority is to prevail in the Senate. The issue is as simple as that. Is the Leader of the Government able to say: ‘This is the end of the scrutiny’? Are you, Mr President, able to say: ‘I am not making a ruling at all. I am not making any decision. But question time must end’? That is not the way in which any deliberative assembly such as the Senate^ operates. Everything in the book Australian Senate Practice’ and ill the detailed rules are aimed at one final matter; that is, that those who are in a majority in the Senate at any time must prevail. That is what we are dealing with here.
It is of no use to talk about a practice. It is of no use to point to a particular standing order. Anyone who does not understand that, when there is a clear majority or an absolute majority of a deliberative assembly in favour of a certain course, those in the majority are entitled to have their will does not understand anything about the Standing Orders or the practices of the Parliament. That must be so. That is the principle to which we are appealing today, lt goes beyond the question of any embarrassment of the Government. If we want the Senate to pursue a certain course and there, is an absolute majority in favour of it, then we must prevail. No statement that is said not to be a ruling and no course of action that is taken by the Government can be permitted to stand against that. I ask all honourable senators to stand for the principle that the will of the Senate must prevail. I ask the Government to give way on this matter. If members of the Government parties reflect on the matter now, they should understand that in any democratic assembly the will of the majority must prevail. What the will of the majority is here is apparent. T ask that, if the Government does not give way, the Senate carry the motion.
– I wish briefly to recapitulate what has happened in the course of this debate. It seems to me that from time to time the debate has become slightly tangled and slightly confused. It may be only my own mind that is tangled and confused, but it seems to me that the debate has become that way. As I see it, this is what has happened here this afternoon: First of all. the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) took a perfectly normal and perfectly usual step - one which has been in operation in the Senate for as long as it has been in existence - of asking at the end of an hour or so of questions without notice-
– It was not an hour.
– All right, at the end of 50 minutes, if the honourable senator wants to split minutes. I repeat that at the end of an hour or so of questions the Leader of the Government asked that further questions be placed on the notice paper. That course is normal, usual and in accordance with the practices of the Senate. Then the President, again in accordance with the normal practices of the Senate, proceeded to call on questions on notice. He called Senator Mulvihill, who had a question on notice to which an answer had been prepared. I hope that nobody will argue that I have given an incorrect statement of what has happened.
All of this has been perfectly normal and perfectly usual. But the Opposition now seeks to change, as it has the right to do, the usual method of carrying on operations in this chamber. There is no need for Senator Murphy to reverberate around the chamber. If the Opposition has sufficient numbers on its side it will be able to change the normal course of proceeding. But that is what members of the Opposition are seeking to do. They are seeking to change the normal practice. No reason whatever seems to be advanced as to why that should suddenly be done. I would hope, Mr President, that the Senate would back you in using the normal methods that have prevailed in this chamber. If it does not, let us have no histrionics about it. If the majority of honourable senators do not wish to back you, then their will shall prevail. But no case has been made out as to why they should not back you.
– Mr President, it is with a measure of regret that I support the motion of dissent from your ruling. I am left with no alternative because I believe that the action of the Government today is one of the worst displays of arrogance, petulance, discrimination and denial of the rights of the Opposition that I have witnessed in any Parliament in which I have served.
– For how many years has the honourable senator served in parliaments?
– I have been in the political life of this country for more than 30 years. In the Stale Parliament in which I served for about 28 years, except in extraordinary cases all questions were put on the notice paper and were answered within a day or two. Most of them were answered the following day.
Many times t thought that questions without notice had some merit. But I have been in the Senate Tor a few years now and I am satisfied beyond doubt that the period of questions without notice here is just an utter farce, lt will be said, as it was when I spoke along these lines previously, that I was dealing with a unicameral system of government. Even allowing for the fact that here we have a bicameral system, the snail-like speed with which questions on notice are transmitted from this chamber to the Ministers concerned is disgusting. If members of the public outside knew how long it took me and other senators to obtain replies to simple questions’ that do not involve the compilation of a lot of statistics or the collection of a lot of information, they would wonder what was going on, what the Ministers were doing and what their staffs were doing. It takes months to get a simple question answered. On the notice paper for today there are questions dating back to 23rd February, 8th March, 4th April and 5th April. There is no commonsense explanation for delays such as that. That fact justifies my saying that question time is nothing but a lot of humbug and a farce. When we reach the stage that the Leader of the Government applies the closure to the asking of questions without notice we have reached the end of the road.
I think we have reached a stage at which senators representing the various States of the Commonwealth are being gagged. In effect, they are being told not to ask questions, particularly questions which may be embarrassing to the Government. If the Government has no reply to the questions that we ask, let its members be big enough to get up and say so. Let them be forthright. Let them be true to themselves. Let them tell the public just what the position is about a lot of these matters. But no, they shelter under the power of the Leader of the Senate; the power that he has to curtail question time at any stage he desires. If that is their idea of democracy - thank God this form of democracy operates only in this place - the position should be corrected forthwith. I believe we are in a position to terminate right now this form of democracy. With all due respect to you, Mr President,’ I say there is no doubt that a question was put and that you asked the Senate who was in favour and who was against the question. We of the Democratic Labor Party voted against that question and we called for a division. There can be no doubt or misunderstanding about that. Any honourable senator who was in this chamber at the time must admit that that took place. That being the case, why was there not a division held on that issue?
I sympathise with you, Mr President, bec a use you have been embarrassed by the Government in this chamber and also by your advisers. Having put the motion I think you had a right to proceed with the division and the counting of heads. I cannot sec that you have any alternative but to follow that procedure in the circumstances that obtain at present. Long before this, members of the Government have reached the stage of treating senators with disdain and contempt.
The question I asked was a simple one. I asked whether one of the VIP aircraft was to be attached to the Canberra Community Hospital so that every emergency case could be transported to a Sydney Hospital. How did the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), representing the Minister for Air in this chamber, treat that question? He said it was not worthy of a reply. It was worthy of a reply. He could have said that it was a ridiculous question. I would not have minded had he done so. I have been insulted by experts in my time and amateurs do not worry me. It did not become the Minister to say that the question was unworthy of a reply. He, as the Minister concerned, has a responsibility to answer my question. If he thinks that he is a Minister because of his good looks and his outstanding ability he should have another think. He is in that position by accident and this can be corrected very quickly. If Government members want to treat honourable senators in such a fashion they will have to make a stocktaking of their responsibilities and their obligations to the public through us. We arc the instruments representing the public.
Today the party that I represent received a gratuitous insult at a public function and that will not go unnoticed. Senator McManus and I represent more than half a million people in this chamber and we will be up and about and will say our piece in the interests of those people and in the interests of democracy at al) times. In this case we are not speaking with a faltering voice. We are speaking without equivocation. We think that the action of the Government in this instance is aimed at stifling the Opposition. The Government will never succeed in doing so while we are here.
– I would like to make a few remarks to the Senate. Firstly I want to recall the substance of the motion which is really the issue in this discussion. The motion is ‘that questions without notice be proceeded with’. I would like to quote from a very excellent book, the third edition of Australian Senate Practice’ which was written by the Clerk of the Senate. Mr J. R. Odgers.
– There is nothing in that book which has anything to do with this matter.
– I ask honourable senators to pay attention. I have listened patiently to everything that has been said. This is a very important occasion.
– Mr President, I cannot hear what is being said.
– Order! I ask honourable senators to listen in silence to the Leader of the Government.
– I think this is a very important occasion. What the Senate is about to do may alter a long standing practice. I do not think we should do this lightly because, as honourable senators have said, at the moment certain members sit on the Government side and certain others sit on the Opposition side and that position may be reversed one day. A long standing practice should not be altered without great thought. Let me recall what Mr Odgers wrote about this subject. I quote from page 141 of his book:
The Standing Orders prescribe no limit to the duration of questions without notice. In practice, some half to three-quarters of an hour is usually occupied on questions without notice, at the expiration of which time the Leader of the Senate may ask Senators to put any further questions on the Notice Paper.
– And we declined.
– That practice is the normal practice and has been so in this chamber for many years. We have had a fair debate on this matter. Let me put the question quite objectively to the Senate. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) represents the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) in this chamber. Members of the Opposition asked a great number of questions of him. No-one tried to stop this questioning of a Minister who was not in a position to answer the questions because he only represents the Minister for Air and did not have the information available. I do not know how many questions were asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Air.
– He only answered the questions which were Dorothy Dixers.
– I said that the Minister only represents the Minister for Air. After a considerable time and after a considerable number of questions had been put I asked honourable senators to put further questions on the notice paper, as has been the standard practice in this Senate. I am not curtailing question time. We will have question time tomorrow. We will have questions for half an hour or three-quarters of an hour tomorrow and three-quarters of an hour on Thursday. Tomorrow the Senate proceedings will be broadcast. Honourable senators can ask the same questions again if they wish. Let me put one further matter to the Senate. Honourable senators may ask questions but there is nothing in the Standing Orders which states that a Minister must answer those questions.
– A Minister may decline. We will divide on this issue.
– 1 did not say that we would divide. I said there was nothing in the Standing Orders requiring a Minister to answer questions. In fairness I suggest that honourable senators should think about this long standing practice in the Senate. I have followed that practice and what is set out in the book published by Mr Odgers. I think the President of the Senate is in the clear on this matter. He in turn followed the normal practice adopted by all Presidents in this Senate.
– I would be very reluctant to vote against the normal practice of the Senate, and I suggest that we need to give this question very deep thought. But 1 ask those who talk about breach of the normal practice to indicate to me the precedent that is alleged to have established this normal practice./1 can remember one occasion during my 5i years in the Senate when Opposition senators asked a barrage of questions of the then Minister for Civil Aviation, the late Senator Paltridge, and the then Leader of the Government moved that further questions be put on notice. As the Government then had the numbers in the Senate, that motion was carried. 1 take it that on this occasion, as the Minister representing the Minister for Air (Senator McKellar) was being overburdened with questions, the Leader of the Government (Senator Henty) moved a motion similar to that moved by the late Senator Paltridge on the earlier occasion to which I have referred. In fact, you, Mr President, indicated that you accepted it as a motion, for you proceeded to put the question to the vote. Senator Henty has referred to the work by Mr Odgers, in which it is stated that there is no limit on questions without notice.
– That is admitted.
– Questions without notice can be limited if certain things are done. The Leader of the Government has told us that he or a Minister may ask that questions be put on notice. The Leader of the Government did ask honourable senators to put their remaining questions on notice. But the authority which he quoted - the work by Mr Odgers - does not say that senators are obliged to put them on notice. Standing Order 65 reads:
Any motion connected with the conduct of the Business of the Senate may be moved by a Minister of the Crown at any time without Notice.
The Leader of the Government has power to move that the order of business in the Senate may be altered. He does that by submitting a motion. When he asked on this occasion that the remaining questions be put on notice, whether rightly or wrongly that request was accepted as a motion. Standing Order 66 reads:
The Senate shall, unless otherwise ordered, proceed each day with its ordinary Business, in the following routine:
Presentation of Petitions. 2. Giving Notices, and Questions without Notice. 3. Questions on Notice.
We were proceeding in accordance with that Standing Order when the Leader of the Government, as he is empowered to do under Standing Order 65, asked that further questions be put on notice. The effect of this is to alter the order of business of the day.
– He moved a motion.
– It was accepted as a motion, whether he moved it or not. We were proceeding to vote on that question when, I take it, you, Mr President, were advised that it was not a motion and that it was not necessary to take a vote. I submit that the order of business can be altered only after completion of the particular matter with which the Senate may be dealing, and then only by way of a motion agreed to by the Senate.
The Minister has made the request, or moved the motion, and we have now to decide what we want to do about questions without notice. I agree with Senator Gair that it would be a bad day for the Senate when we reached the stage where we were deprived of the opportunity to ask questions without notice although we might not get satisfactory answers.
– First I would like to remind those honourable senators who may not be aware of it, that I had the honour of being your deputy, Mr President, for a period of something like 2 years.
– Deputy what?
– Deputy President of the Senate. During that period, Mr President, one of the things that always struck me in your conduct of the affairs of this chamber was your tolerance towards the members of the Senate and your determination at all times to see that members of the Opposition got a fair go. I was always in accord with that attitude, and I know that members of the Opposition will agree with what 1 have said.
– You have drifted since.
– ‘That is the honourable senator’s opinion. He has not been here very long, and I think he is biased. Today, Mr President, you have outlined the position as it has always been in the Senate. The action taken by the Leader of the Government was in complete accord with past practice. We in the Senate have been very fortunate indeed in the amount of time we have been allowed for asking questions. I do not say this because I am in the position of having to answer questions, or attempting to answer them sometimes, but I have seen questions being asked in the Senate for almost an hour. I make no complaint about that, for I think that is very good. Senator Gair is seeking to interject. He made his speech, and I should like him to give me the opportunity to present my views.
I should like to emphasise that although I was under fire today as Minister representing the Minister for Air I was enjoying the questions.
– Do not tell us that.
– The honourable senator has not got to believe me. I was quite enjoying them although they obviously did have a political flavour.
– All you said was: ‘I do not know. I will refer it to the Minister in another place’.
– That is right. I want to take Senator Gair to task. He said that questions directed to Ministers representing Ministers in another place were transmitted at a snail’s pace. This is definitely not true.
– The results show that it is.
– The honourable senator spoke about questions being transmitted. Why is he not a bit more accurate?
– It takes months to get answers.
– Probably it does.
– Do you nol get answers to the questions?
– I do not know whether it is impossible for the honourable senator to listen, or whether he does not want to hear my answer. If he does not want to hear my answer, that is all right with me, but other honourable senators might want to hear it. Questions asked of Ministers in this place who represent Ministers in another place are transmitted within 24 hours to the Ministers whom they represent. This is certainly so in my case, at any rate. I was charged with treating with contempt a question that was asked of me as to whether VIP aircraft would be available to transport patients to hospital. 1 think Senator Gair is well aware of the procedure with regard to the transportation of sick people in Australia.
– He is asking you.
– If the honourable senator will be quiet, I will answer him, too. The position is that where no other means of transport is immediately available for urgent cases, patients are transported by the Royal Australian Air Force. Senator Gair knows that, and so does Senator Hendrickson.
– Why did you not answer the question?
– The question was too silly for words. Why answer a question so stupid as whether VIP aircraft would be available for that purpose? We all know very well that they are not meant to be used for that purpose, but if they were needed for such a purpose as that, they would be used for it. So far as I am concerned, honourable senators can ask questions until sundown and I will answer them.
– in reply - Mr President, as there is no other speaker in reply-
– Mr President-
– Does Senator Branson wish to speak?
– I call Senator Branson.
– I rose to speak earlier. If the Opposition does not want me to speak, that is quite all right with me but I feel that honourable senators opposite may agree with some of the things I have to say. This matter is something beyond the party political level. I think posterity will look at the ruling or rather at the result of the vote which I feel will be taken finally. We are now talking about a very serious matter. It has gone out of the realm of party politics. We are now talking of what will be the future order of the day with respect to question time in this place, and there are a few points that I would like to make. When I wanted to canvass the matter earlier, Mr President, I was sat down. That was procedure. It was the perogative of the President to do that. But I think Mr Odgers might want to rewrite his book when 1 have finished. I have been here for 10 years now and I would like somebody who can do so - either the President or the Leader of the Government - to tell me of any previous occasion when we have not been allowed to ask questions either without notice or on notice.
– Is the honourable senator weakening?
– No, I am not weakening. I rather resent that remark coming from an honourable senator whom I consider to be a friend. Surely the Senate is its own master in these matters. The Senate is not governed by what happens in another place. Quite frankly, whether I belonged to the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Country Party, the Democratic Labor Party or perhaps the True Whig Party which might set itself up in this place, 1 would want to know whether honourable senators were permitted to ask questions after 35 minutes have elapsed. Whatever decision is reached today will be quite serious. Obviously Mr Odgers and the President would not be as concerned as they are in respect of this ruling unless they also considered that to be so. I believe that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has a right to ask that further questions be put on notice. But I also believe that anybody in this chamber should be permitted to object to that course being followed. Surely the Senate, as its own master, will make its own decision. If the Government is right its will will be shown to be right. If those who oppose it are right, their will will be shown to be right. That is the position that has been reached.
I .speak now as a Government supporter. I entirely believe in my leader. But I believe that the Senate is more important than the leaders of the day, because it will Se here when all honourable senators are dead and gone. The ruling that will be given by our President, Sir Alister McMullin, today will be referred to in years to come. This very same question may be raised when honourable senators opposite are in government and honourable senators on this side are in opposition. This day will come; obviously it will come, but 100 years hence perhaps. I do not know. I hope it is 100 years hence. The point I raise is that we are nol following the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Leader of the Opposition; we are deciding what will become a Senate practice. Mr Odgers has just written a book. Probably he is sorry that it was issued only recently because he may have to rewrite it in the light of the decision that will shortly be given on Senator Willesee’s motion of dissent. I hope that all honourable senators realise our position. We have to agree or disagree with the President’s ruling in respect of question time. I find my conscience very troubled indeed.
– Before the question is put I would like to make clear the points that I have noted with considerable interest. The first point is that members of the Opposition seem to query that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty), al his discretion, is able to ask that further questions be put on the notice paper. Some honourable senators have been members of this House for a considerable time. Senator Branson said that the Leader of the Government after 35 minutes, at his discretion, sought that further questions be put on notice, the reason being - I am being polite to honourable senators opposite - that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), who represents the Minister for Air, was being asked question after question about the use of VIP aircraft. 1 believe that al least fifteen questions one after the other were asked about that particular subject.
– What is wrong with that?
– I have no objections to that. The Minister for Air (Mr Howson) is not in this chamber. The Minister rightly said that he would obtain answers to the questions. Then the Leader of the Government, having heard the questions being asked, suggested to the Senate that further questions be put on the notice paper. This is what happened.
– The Senate can reject that suggestion.
– Honourable senators opposite may reject that suggestion. The decision that has to be made will be made by the Senate, and this is the important point. Whether the Government or the Opposition has a majority, the Senate has to make the decision. I suggest that the Leader of the Government has said to honourable senators, in effect: ‘We have had 35 minutes. That is long enough, because the Ministry is being subjected to a repetition of questions on one particular subject. I suggest that further questions be put on notice’. I am only saying that to honourable senators opposite because, as Senator Branson has pointed out quite rightly, the vote about to be taken in relation to the President’s ruling will be a decision as to what will happen in the future. What the Senate will decide is not what happened, in the past, as stated by the Leader of the Government. I have been a senator for 17 years, and on at least half a dozen occasions the Leader of the Government in the Senate has asked that further questions be placed on notice. That has been agreed to without any opposition and without .i division being called for. The Senate then has carried on with the business of the day. Today an objection has been taken and the Senate will have to take a vote on the matter. If the motion is agreed to a new precedent will be established. This will mean that the leader of the Government in this place will have to obtain the permission of the majority of honourable senators before further questions can be put on the notice paper.
– I asked for that to be done.
– We declined.
– I know. The Opposition is playing politics; it does not have the interests of the Senate at heart as I have. Some honourable senators will be here for many years to come. I hope the stage is never reached where advantage is taken of the fact that the Senate will be ruled by numbers and not by decency. The proposition put forward today is not very decent. In the 17 years that I have been here I have not seen any opposition to this course of action. Now that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has a majority supporting him a move is made against the present system. I think that the motion is a disgrace.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia) [4.571 - I did not intend to speak on this motion. I agree that it ought to be decided fairly quickly. It is obvious to most honourable senators that the majority of the Senate agrees with the proposition advanced by Senator Murphy and Senator Willesee. Senator Scott has very clearly argued that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty), when he decides the time is opportune has the right to gag all honourable senators who wish to ask questions. Nobody should be able to put forward such an argument without it being questioned. In a parliamentary system the Leader of the Government and the Government itself have an obligation to answer proper questions asked by all senators, particularly those in opposition. Honourable senators have just attended a very important luncheon where our parliamentary system was applauded. What sort of parliamentary system would there be if the Opposition was not allowed to canvass what it thought, in the general politics or economy of the country, were questions which the Ministers ought to answer,
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), who represents the Minister for Air, has argued that he cannot answer the questions asked by Opposition speakers. Honourable senators know that in some cases a Minister cannot answer certain questions. On this particular occasion the Minister is able to answer the questions because, during the debate on Senator Willesee’s motion, he gave information which he refused to give during question time. The honourable senator brushed off Senator Keeffe without giving any kind of information or without promising to ascertain what the information was. What has happened is simply the culmination of a set of most unsatisfactory circumstances. In the past many honourable senators on this side have asked questions and have had to follow them up a second time to obtain the information they wanted. Today I put a question to the Leader of the Government about Woomera; last week I put a question about the Chowilla Dam. If a Minister wants to. he can arbitrarily brush off questions as he sees fit. Then honourable senators have to wait until the next day or for another suitable time to raise the matter in which they are interested.
– Did I not answer the honourable senator’s question about Woomera?
– Yes, but the Minister did not answer the second part of my question. I asked about the heavy pieces of exploded Europa rocket that cannot be lifted. The reply was that all safety precautions had been taken. Honourable senators know that Ministers decline to answer questions. But what is worse is Senator Scott’s saying that the Leader of the Government ought to be able to stop question time at any stage arbitrarily.
Two things are involved here. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and Senator Willesee have very properly argued, a motion was put to the Senate and voices were raised against that motion. Obviously the situation has been too much even for Senator Branson, because he has said that this is the way to test whether the Government should be allowed to brush off questions. In the Senate we do not get enough answers to questions.
– If we asked even for the full name and address of a department we would be told to put the question on notice.
– That is right. Certain questions have been on the notice paper since 8th March awaiting answers. Honourable senators on many occasions have raised the matter of delays in obtaining answers to questions. Sometimes we receive answers months after the questions have been asked. A very important principle is involved. The leader of any government in this place, whether it be Senator Henty, on behalf of the present Government, or another honourable senator during the term of office of a Labor government, should never be allowed to brush off questions seeking information. Every honourable senator should be supplied with the maximum information available in reply to a question, and if a Minister cannot supply the information at the time he should promise to obtain it on the next day or the day after. Honourable senators are losing the fight to obtain replies to questions. I think a majority of the Senate should carry the motions moved by Senator Willesee and Senator Murphy.
– I have listened to the whole of this debate and 1 have come to the conclusion that a question involving the fundamental rights of the Senate has arisen. We have been referred to Standing Order 66 which is relevant to this question. It states:
The Senate shall, unless otherwise ordered, proceed each day with its ordinary Business, in the following routine: - 1. Presentation of Petitions.
Giving Notices, and Questions without Notice.
Questions on Notice. 4. Formal motions . . .
It will be seen that the second stage of the Senate’s business is the giving of notices and questions without notice. Mr Odgers’ book tells us that the time allotted for questions without notice is not limited but that it is the custom and practice of this chamber to accept an indication from the Leader of the Government as to the appropriate time to terminate that period. If that intimation were to be understood by the Senate as in any sense a denial of the chamber’s right to proceed, and proceed purposefully, to the stage where information was compelled from the Administration, of course the chamber would not accept it. The chamber is superior to the Administration. The Administration, on behalf of the Crown, exists to serve the people’s representatives, the majority of this chamber.
After a fairly sustained period not altogether free from some jocoseness, the Leader of the Government (Senator Henty) indicated at a certain stage the viewpoint that it was appropriate to terminate questions without notice. Having debated this matter and having evoked from both Senator Gorton and Senator Branson, as well as Opposition Senators, assertions as to the undeniable right of this chamber to require the Administration to answer for its activities, and without interpreting the intimation that question time should be terminated as, in any sense, a denial of the chamber’s right to proceed with questions without notice tomorrow or the next day-
– The Leader of the Government moved the motion and the President put it to the chamber.
– I know, but there was a good deal of confusion.
– No. The President put it to the chamber and the chamber voted against it. What way is there out of that?
– I am standing in my place only to state a simple point of view. In a deliberative assembly I suggest that it is the greatest mistake to proceed to a decision precipitately or to use an occasion which should be reserved for a display of real strength to argue a matter of only subordinate significance.
I suggest for real consideration that the Minister’s intimation that it was appropriate to terminate question time indicated full recognition of the chamber’s right to ask questions particularly as the matter of replying to a question without notice lies within the discretion of a Minister of the Crown. This aspect is covered on page 149 of Mr Odgers’ book in this way:
It is a well established rule of procedure that there is no obligation upon a Minister to answer a question.
We interpret that statement to mean that there is no legal obligation on a Minister to answer a question, but should Ministers refuse to answer questions and deny the right of the chamber to answers, the chamber would very quickly take the appropriate steps to prevent a further denial of that right.
My point is this: Having taken the matter to this stage now, surely it would be better for us to say that we accept the Minister’s intimation that it was appropriate to terminate questions, as time-honoured recognition of the chamber’s right to ask further questions if the chamber insists on it, and an indication that, in the Minister’s discretion, the time had arrived to terminate the period allotted for questions. On the other hand, we can allow this matter to occupy further time and, after due thought and consideration, pass any motion that the majority of the chamber feels is appropriate to the proper understanding of the Minister’s intimation.
Those who are less impetuous than T will feel instinctively that that should be rejected, but when we are entrusted with authority, whether as a legislative chamber or as a Minister, it is very wise to recognise the purpose for which we are entrusted with that authority. If we are deadlocked on this subject I do not believe that the chamber’s proceedings -will be made any more effective. Following this debate I should think that both questions on notice and questions without notice will deservedly receive more prompt and complete attention from those whose duty it is to prepare answers for Ministers. If my view is right, judgment would dictate to the Senate the acceptance of the Minister’s intimation in the spirit in which 1 have interpreted it - not as a denial of the Senate’s right but as an indication that a time had been reached when it was appropriate that questions without notice should be terminated for today. With what prestige can we renew this matter if dissatisfaction is occasioned by subsequent experience without the Senate putting the matter to a formal vote today.
– I listened with considerable surprise to the remarks of Senator Wright. I have admired him for years because of his firm vindication of the rights of the Senate. Without saying that he desires the Senate to abrogate its rights, as far as I can understand his statement he suggested that the Senate ought to do so. I am not prepared to accept that advice. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) has every right in the world to suggest that questions without notice be terminated at a certain point, but equally other senators have every right in the world to object to that suggestion. When the Leader of the Government in the Senate put forward his proposition, so far as 1 can recollect, we were called upon to vote. I voted with the Noes and I heard other senators around me vote No. We called for a division. In my view, if the Leader of the Government makes a proposition, as he has every right to do, and if the Senate is called upon to vote, when senators vote No and call for a division the Senate must be permitted to express its will. Any suggestion that the Leader of the Government has a vague right to determine at any point that this or that should be done is a suggestion that the Senate should abrogate its rights. Contrary to the views of some other senators, I believe that this is a most serious and vital matter. We are now to determine whether a majority of the Senate shall decide the business that the Senate will conduct. Any honourable senator who votes against this motion concedes that the Leader of the Government can take action to determine the business of the Senate in defiance, if necessary, of the will of the majority.
I do not agree with Senator Scott who said that one factor we should consider is that a great number of questions were asked about the failure of the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) to answer questions about VIP planes. On the contrary, I think it is very serious indeed that the Senate, after waiting in some cases for periods of up to 5 months for answers on questions about the use of VIP planes, should receive only one answer from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), who represents the Minister for Air in this chamber, that answer being to the effect that he had asked the Minister for Air for a reply and was unable to obtain an answer. Is not that a clear indication that the Minister for Air refuses to concede to the Senate the right to question him on these matters?
In a day or two we will be called upon to deal with the estimates for the Department of Air. How can we deal with the estimates for a department when its Minister says: T refuse to give you any information as to how an important section of my department is being used.’
– Why not adjourn the debate on the estimates until he agrees?
– It is not a question of adjourning the debate on the estimates. We will be called upon in a day or two to debate the estimates for the Department of Air and we will be met with a distinct refusal to give any information on VIP planes. We will be called upon to deal with the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry, with a distinct refusal to give us any information upon wheat prices. It is time that the Parliament determined whether we are to be ruled by the Executive or the legislature.
Senator Scott indicated that the Government believed that it had had enough questions. It is not the fault of honourable senators that the Government has had these questions directed to it. If they were answered, there would be no need to repeat them. We are simply told: ‘You will not get any answer.’ In those circumstances I do not believe that the Government is justified in claiming that it was so embarrassed that it was entitled to call for senators not to ask it any more questions. The Government was not entirely embarrassed about the questions, or at least one section of it was not. When I asked whether the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) was accompanied on his trip abroad by a representative of the Basic Industries Group, that section of the Government which represents the Australian Country Party was not embarrassed. On the contrary, I saw on the faces of Australian Country Party senators looks of ineffable bliss.
I close by saying once again that we are determining the right of the Senate to decide the business of the Senate. Anyone who votes against the motion is prepared to concede to the Leader of the Government, even when the majority of the Senate is opposed to his view, the right to determine the business of the Senate.
– I rise to a point of order. I would like explained to me just what we arc voting on. The point of order relates to the ruling given by you, Sir, on Senator Willesee’s first motion.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable senator is asking a question. He is not permitted to follow that course.
– I am still as distressed as I was when I last spoke, because this has become a party political issue. 1 again ask the Senate to take it out of the realms of party politics.
– Order! Senator Branson has already spoken on this matter.
– Senator Willesee has spoken three times.
– in reply - As my friend, Senator Branson, has challenged me, may I take it that there is no argument that under standing orders 411 and 412 I have the right of reply? I want to emphasise a point because, as honourable senators appreciate, the Standing Orders are often twisted around here. I remember one of the great anecdotes about William Morris Hughes. After listen ing to a very prominent woman in the House of Representatives make a speech, he summed up the speech by saying: ‘She is very fertile but very futile.’ Today I would paraphrase that remark by saying, after listening to Senator Wright and Senator Gorton, that they are very loyal but not very logical. Their loyalty to a Government in distress is admirable. Their logic is less than admirable. I am very disappointed that Senator Wright did not outline, as Senator McManus has said, a long line of precedents when the rights of institutions have been defended.
Over the years I have disagreed with my Western Australian friend, Senator George Branson, but I would recommend to students his speech today. He went right across party lines, because he realises that this issue transcends any small political advantage or any consideration of byelections or projected elections. When historians write the history of the Senate they will include this rather important decision. Senator Wright, said that this was a responsible action that we were taking.
– I said: ‘Do not take precipitate action.’
– I am not doing that at all. At the risk of moving a little outside the ambit of this debate I would like to say that I have been distressed by a lot of decisions in the Senate over a fairly long period of time. Recently one of my Liberal friends interjected. Unless you have been brought up in the field of argumentation, dispute and debate, as has any Labor man, you may fail to realise that the atmosphere, the question being debated, the time and everything else have very great relevance.
The other day, because of the nature of the debate each speaker had only a quarter of an hour in which to address the Senate and a friend_ of mine from the Government side started to heckle me. I said: You silly old man. Will you be quiet?’ I thought this was a pretty mild sort of reply. I was immediately called to order by the President. Yet I heard another debate here during which one honourable senator said: Sit down, you mug’ and another honourable senator said: ‘You are a Fascist mug.’ After a long time the senator who made the second interjection was asked to withdraw his remark.
All senators should be given equal treatment. Alter all, the Constitution does not recognise political parties. How are we to obtain decisions to which we can adhere? How are we to lay down the standards of debate particularly for new members? Surely we must have consistent rulings. I see this occasion as the culmination of a lot of decisions. Senator Scott took us to task in his very erudite way and lectured us on how wc should present our case. Now, Senator Scott has been in many ways a very successful man. At times I would like a lot of advice on how I should manage my political ways. But when Senator Scott takes it upon himself to act as my mentor and to advise all the members of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate on how they should ask questions, even with my great affection for him I draw the line. I feel that the people on this side of the Senate have the ability and the perfect right to handle this matter in the way they see fit.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty), whose action initiated this debate, began his speech by quoting from a book of which we all well know. But let me emphasise that this is only a book. It is the opinion of a man. This man has given a lot of study to the matters discussed in his book; nevertheless, the book represents the opinion of one man. In the final analysis of this matter, I would refer the Senate, and particularly the Leader of the Government, to some great speeches made by Senator Cormack on the rights of the Senate. The final lest of the statesman is that, after he has taken all the advice and after he has listened to everything to be said on a subject, it is he as the representative of the people who must make up his own mind. I have often said in the Senate with regard to the question of precedents established by rulings of the President and other precedents also, that for every ruling in the negative that is quoted I will furnish a ruling in the positive on the same matter. Although we recognise the knowledge that is involved in the writing of this book, nevertheless it is a book of advice. It is based on the Standing Orders; and honourable senators know my respect for our Standing Orders in their present form - very little. We cannot say that the opinions in this book are not sound. Nevertheless, we can only take it as a book. To adopt the attitude that this is to be taken as our Bible and as the last word on any matter is something which I reject immediately. The job of the statesman finally is to make the decision and to evaluate the matters for decision; it certainly is not to let something such as this book govern him in all of his decisions.
– The statesman docs not acknowledge history; he makes it.
– Yes, as Senator Branson says, it might very well be that a statesman does not acknowledge history; he makes it. I suggest that inherent in human nature is the proposition that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think this is the situation that we face today. 1 wish to give point to the present situation by referring to a ruling that has applied in the Senate for a long time. It is that when a senator asks a question of a Minister it is within the province of the Minister to say whether the matter referred to in the question does or does not relate to matters that he administers. It is clearly laid down in Standing Orders that any question asked of a Minister must relate to matters within his jurisdiction. But the ruling given by the President and followed by his cohorts is that the Minister may answer the question If he wishes. What does this decision immediately do? It immediately places the Opposition in a political sense at a very great disadvantage.
– It is behind the 8-ball.
– Yes. I see a- very great disadvantage because obviously, if a political matter is involved, a Minister will accept a question on it from a Government supporter but will not accept one on the same subject from an Opposition supporter. I have always believed that the duty of a chairman - whether he be the chairman of a bowling club, a trade union or the President of the Senate - is to adjudicate. His function is to say what is right and what is proper. Indeed, that is inherent in every standing order.
I mention this matter in passing to point out that this is the very thing that is liable to happen. Several senators bring up a matter by way of questions to a Minister, but we find that the Minister does not have to answer them. The point I am making is in relation to the attitude adopted by Ministers in answering those questions. I recall to the minds of honourable senators the time when Senator McCarthy was active in the United States of America and half of the world believed that he had something to him. Senator McCarthy was destroyed more than anything else by one incident that I recall. On one occasion he had before his committee a poor old lady whom he had accused of being a Communist. It was obvious as the inquiry proceeded that this poor old lady knew nothing about what was going on. McCarthy vacated his seat, left the inquiry, and went home. But the television cameramen who were covering the inquiry kept pointing their cameras to the empty chair. McCarthy said nothing that day. He made no accusations. But that incident did more to destroy Senator McCarthy than did any other single event. We concede the right of every Minister in the Senate not to answer some of the questions addressed to him or her. But I make the point by reference to that incident concerning Senator McCarthy, that a Minister by not answering a question can be judged on his silence just as much as he can be judged by what is contained in an answer that he gives.
I do not wish to delay the Senate in reaching a decision on this matter. I rose merely because I feel that a fundamental principle which we must face up to is involved in the matter which is the subject of this debate. The question is whether, on the ground of precedent it is the right and proper thing for the Leader of the Government, to move that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– There is no doubt about it.
– But the Minister is behaving as if there is a doubt about it and as if he has some right over the Senate. The Minister moved that further questions be placed on the notice paper. This is not a precedent in the Senate. It is not a precedent that we limit question time. It is not a precedent that we adopt as narrow an approach to our debates as does the other House. If we did so, there would be no reason for the Senate to exist. It would be an exact replica of the House of Representatives. It would be time that it was abolished. The role of the Senate has to be different from that of the other House.
The crucial question is: If I concede everything that has been said there is one thing that stands stark and clear. The motion that further questions be placed on the notice paper was moved by Senator Henty as the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It was put to the Senate by the President. He called for those ‘for’ and those ‘against’ the motion. When several of us called ‘Divide* the President’s ruling then was that there was no need for the question to be put and that it was the right of the Government merely to ask for further questions to be placed on the notice paper. Senator Branson put this succinctly when he said that it is the right of the Leader of the Government to ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper, but that it is the right of the Senate to say whether the request will be agreed to. When a question is put to the Senate - and this is the second time that this has happened in the last few weeks - the matter should go to its culmination, whatever the decision may be.
I think that this is a vital decision. Very reluctantly I have moved that your ruling be disagreed with, Mr President. I ask honourable senators to remember that, whatever their political affiliations may be, today they will be writing something into the history books for students and for people who will come into this Senate long after we are dead and gone and who will rely on the precedents that are established because the importance of precedents is rammed down our throats ad nauseam in this place.
The final point I wish to make is that the will of the people whom we represent - as Senator Gair put it - should prevail whether it be embarrassing to the Minister representing the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) or not. One point taken in this debate has been that Senator McKellar, the Minister for Repatriation, only represents the Minister for Air here. At a dinner only a few hours ago the President of Italy told us that a Minister in one House of the Italian Parliament has to come to the other House to answer questions. It is within the jurisdiction of the Government to decide to adopt this practice here. The Government should not hide behind the fact that it has a weak setup here. It could order the establishment of this practice tomorrow. We will begin our consideration on the departmental estimates next week. I sympathise with Senate Ministers who represent Ministers in another place. But the Government could say that Senator Henty, Senator McKellar or Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin must go to another place to answer questions or that Ministers in another place should come here for the same purpose. The Government should not hide behind the argument that the other Ministers are represented here. According to the President of Italy this practice is followed in his country today. It could be introduced here if the Government wished to do so. The position is that a motion was put to the Senate and as far as human nature can judge that motion was defeated. All we ask now is that the will of the duly elected members of this Senate prevail.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. This time he need not go to his colleague to get an answer, ls he aware that 2 weeks ago I asked him whether he would seek out his colleague and ascertain whether his colleague intended to answer my questions? Did the Minister then say, as he has said on other occasions, that he always took such questions to his colleague? Is the Minister aware that 1 week ago I asked a double barrelled question as to whether he had seen his colleague in regard to this matter and whether his colleague intended to answer the questions? Is the Minister also aware that he replied: The answer to both questions is no”? In other words, there is some ill treatment of the truth.
– I would have been very disappointed indeed if I had not been asked the first question. In reply to the second part of the question I distinctly remember the honourable senator asking whether I had seen the Minister for Air ami if I knew whether the Minister intended to provide an answer. I think my reply was: The answer to both questions is no”. This was quite true. I had not seen the Minister for Air and I did not know whether or not he was going to reply to the question. That was a perfectly honest answer to the honorable senator’s question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. In view of the fact that six Mirage fighters have been lost since the aircraft went into service in 1964, will the Minister make a statement to the Senate or present a departmental report on the overall safety of the aircraft? Will there be an official inquiry in depth into the latest catastrophe and will Mirage aircraft be grounded pending an inquiry?
– I think the Minister for Supply would be better fitted to answer that question.
– I have some information on this matter. I thought the Senate might be interested in it, so 1 obtained from the Minister for Air the following information, which he is supplying to another place today:
The following advanced details have been received from RAAF Williamtown re the circumstances of last night’s Mirage crash.
The aircraft No. A3-52 was a IIIO-A version which was delivered to RAAF Williamtown on 27th July 1967. The engine had flown approximately 240 hours.
The aircraft, which was flown by Flying Officer Susans, was proceeding from Tamworth to Williamtown on the last leg of a night navigational exercise at 37,000 feet.
At 1913 hours (local), when approximately 58 miles from Williamtown, the pilot radioed that he he had experienced an engine failure.
The failure first manifested itself in a lack of engine noise and a dimming of the cockpit lights. This was almost immediately followed by the illumination of nearly all the failure lights on the main failure panel.
The pilot commenced a descent using standby artificial horizon, and at 35,000. feet attempted a relight although he realised it was too high for the purpose.
The pilot then shed electrical load and continued the descent to 25,000 feet where he again attempted a relight. This proved unsuccessful and the pilot noted that engine r.p.m. was zero, and assumed a seized engine.
As the aircraft passed through 23,000 feet the Are warning lights illuminated. The pilot then ejected. The fire warning is not significant in itself, as low battery power would result in the illumination of the lights.
As indicated above, the cause of this latest crash will not be established until the wreckage a found and the investigations are completed. Personnel at Williamtown are convinced they will find the wreckage.
On 16th August the Minister for Air supplied the following answer to a question about the tragic loss on 17th May of an RAAF Mirage, aircraft and its distinguished pilot:
There has not been a relatively high incidence of mishaps to RAAF Mirage aircraft. This aircraft is fully meeting our requirements, its squadron operational and technical performance has been excellent, and our Mirage aircraft losses have not exceeded our anticipated wastage rates.
It is standard practice for this to be done. A court of inquiry is invariably convened to investigate major accidents and to make recommendations. In addition, a specialist flying safety team from the Department of Air investigates all accidents with a view to determining the cause and preventing similar accidents. The results of these courts of inquiry and investigations are closely examined by experts in various fields and appropriate action is taken where necessary.
That is the only advice which I have at the moment and which 1 can give the Senate. I will answer any further questions as soon as I have further advice.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the drastic fall in wool prices in the current selling season and that this fall is endangering the industry as a whole and affecting the economy of the nation? If the Government is aware of this situation, what action is it taking to maintain the financial stability of this vital industry?
– The Minister for Primary Industry, I myself and all the other members of the Government are well aware of the tragic fall - I say ‘tragic’ advisedly because it is tragic for the wool growers - in wool prices. There has been a slight improvement of something like 21% in the last week or so.
– That has been confined to Merino wool.
– I did not hear the honourable senator’s interjection. There has been a slight improvement. Admittedly prices are not yet anywhere near what they were at this time last year. Today’s prices, although they are low, might have been all right 8 or 10 years ago; but. in the meantime the costs in the industry have risen so high that today’s prices are not profitable. The honourable senator asks what measures the Government is taking to assist the wool growers. The Government has taken certain measures over the years. There have been relaxations of bank credit, new banking facilities, drought relief and relief in other forms for those who have needed it. Those are some of the measures that have been taken.
I know that many people believe that the Government should come in with a system of wool marketing. I remind honourable senators that it is not very long since the Government agreed to give the wool growers a referendum to see whether they desired a marketing system outlined by their representatives. That referendum was held and the growers decided against that marketing system. I believe that any government would be very foolish to put forward that or a different scheme for the marketing of wool unless there was a demand from a majority of wool growers. That is the attitude that the Government is taking. It is watching the fall in wool prices with quite a deal of concern. It is a matter of concern not only to the wool grower but also to the whole community. That is all the information that I can give the honourable senator on this matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Does an officer of the Department of Civil Aviation have to give a clearance for all aircraft taking off from the Canberra Airport? Are clearances given each Friday between the hours of 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. for four flights between Canberra and Melbourne? Do such nights include one each by the two commercial airline operators and two by VIP aircraft - one for the Prime Minister and one for the Governor-General? How many of such flights are fully loaded?
– This is a classic example of a question that is not within my knowledge or competence to answer. For that reason I ask the honourable senator to follow one of two courses: Put the question on the notice paper or allow me to obtain an answer for him and to send it to him direct.
– I wish to follow up the question that I directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate about the faulty firing of a Europa rocket. As large sections of the rocket, which measure 7 feet by 6 feet and are too heavy to move, have been found recently, is he satisfied with the existing safety systems? Is it likely that in the future residents and property in the rocket flight path will be subject to further hazards? Will he investigate the position and see whether some remedies can be implemented?
– The honourable senator has asked what further safety precautions will be taken. If he puts his question on the notice paper I. will obtain a statement on what further steps, if any, can be taken to improve the safety position.
– Will the Leader of the Government obtain and place on the table of the Senate for the information of hon ourable senators and for public consumption the expenses incurred by each and every member of the Australian Government, and the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy, at home and on overseas trips in the financial year ended 30th Jute 1967?
– I will refer the question to the Treasurer. 1 now ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– Answers have been received to some questions upon notice.
– On 31st August, Senator Sim asked me, representing the Minister for External Affairs, the following question without notice:
Has the Government received any confirmation of the report by TJ Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, that he considers that a renewed reference of the Vietnam issue to the United Nations would not be helpful at present?
I said that 1 would endeavour to find out whether the report had been confirmed or not. 1 have now ascertained that, on 29th August, a spokesman for the SecretaryGeneral issued a Press statement on his behalf to the effect that, while the SecretaryGeneral’s views regarding the effective involvement of the Security Council in the Vietnam war were well known, it was entirely up to the Security Council to act or not to act in the matter. The spokesman said the Secretary-General’s views had not altered since his statement on 1 1 th May in which he said he could see no way in which the United Nations could be effectively involved in settling the conflict.
It seems likely that these statements gave rise to the report to which the honourable senator referred.
(Question No. 283)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
In view of the poor industrial relations which existed between Qantas management and its work force earlier this year, what steps has the Minister taken to ensure that a more flexible attitude is adopted by the Qantas Industrial Department?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer:
The development of sound industrial relations in any organisation depends on the attitudes adopted not only by management but also by its employees and the unions to which they belong.
In view of the discussions and negotiations at present taking place between Qantas and representatives of some sections of its work force, no useful purpose would be served by my commenting on the attitudes being adopted by those involved.
(Question No. 242)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
Following the recent conviction of twenty-one Army apprentices at the Balcombe Training Camp for the illegal use of cars and stealing car parts, will the Minister advise: (a) What was the ratio of apprentices involved to the total strength of apprentices at this establishment? and (b) Has any change been made in the status of the commanding officer or any of his subordinates?
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In amplification of the latter, the court of inquiry into the incident produced a number of recommendations and these are at present being examined and it is expected that substantial changes will possibly be made to conditions at the centre. As a matter of interest 1 will personally inform the honourable senator of these changes when they are effected.
(Question No. 247)
Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers:
Cartridges . 22 rimfire.
Total value $24,171.
Cartridges 30 mm.
Total value $519,220.
From the United Kingdom
Total value $86,500.
Cartridges 9 mm.
Total value $13,300.
From the United States of America
Cartridges 7.62 mm.
Cartridges 40 mm.
Total value $2,240.
(Question No. 250)
Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 252)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 291)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
The question of cigarette advertising was discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health held in April 1967. The Ministers agreed that no further action to restrict cigarette advertising should be taken, at least until the results of the survey of smoking habits and attitudes to smoking being conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council are known. At this stage, it is not known when the results of this survey will be available.
(Question No. 255)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What has been the value of imports to Australia of all items of foodstuffs for the last five years?
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answer:
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that the value of imports of unprocessed and processed foodstuffs, including feedstuffs for animals, dining each of the last five years has beenas follows: -
(Question No. 287)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
Senator HENTY: The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers:
Sitting suspended from 5.51 to 8 p.m.
– 1 present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Development of Airfield Pavements at Rockhampton Airport, Queensland.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusionsof the Committee is as follows:
– by leave - I read now a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in another place this afternoon relating to the date of the Senate election. Honourable senators will understand that where the singular pronoun in the first person is used it refers to the Prime Minister. The statement was:
I wish to make a statement concerning the date of the next Senate elections. Honourable senators will be aware that under the provisions of the Constitution the next Senate elections must be conducted and completed by such time as will allow the newly elected senators to commence their term of service on 1st July 1968. Accordingly, the Government has decided to invite His Excellency the Governor-General to communicate with the State Governors proposing that the next Senate elections be held on Saturday 25th November 1967. When a reply has been received from the States I shall inform Parliament of the full timetable proposed for the elections.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Breen on account of family illness.
– by leave - The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) has asked me to advise honourable senators that in the light of the views recently expressed in this chamber concerning the composition of the Management Board of the Canberra Community Hospital, the Government has repealed Ordinance No. 28 of 1967 and replaced it by Canberra Community Hospital Ordinance (No. 2) 1967 which was gazetted yesterday and tabled in both Houses today.
The Government has not been unmindful of the necessity for the Hospital Management Board to be representative of the people of Canberra and has had regard to a general opinion that representation should be expressed in the legislation itself rather than being left to ministerial decision. Accordingly, the new law provides that the board of five should include two elected members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, elected by the Council for a term of 3 years.
The amendment also provides that the present Board shall continue in office until the date of commencement of the amendment is published in the ‘Gazette’. This will enable the newly elected Advisory Council to meet and choose its representatives before the new Board takes office. I commend the new amendment to honourable senators.
Debate resumed from 5 September (vide page51 2), on motion by Senator Dittmer:
That the Canberra Community Hospital Ordinance 1967, as contained in the Australian
Capital Territory Ordinance No. 28 of 1967, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1963, be disallowed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21 September (vide page 848), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1967-68;
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure, for year ending 30th June 1968;
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the services of the year ending 30th June 1967;
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1968;
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1967;
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics, for income year 1964-65;
Upon which Senator Murphy bad moved by way of amendment:
At the end of motion add the following words: but condemns the Budget because:
it places defence costs on those least able to pay them;
it fails to curb administrative waste and extravagance;
it defers and retrenches development projects; and
it allows social service and war pensioners to fall still further behind their following citizens’. and upon which Senator McManus had moved by way of amendment to Senator Murphy’s proposed amendment:
At end of proposed amendment add ‘; and the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget should be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for:
increases giving justice to pensioners of all kinds to compensate for higher living costs; and
no postal increases pending reconstitution of postal administration under a statutory authority’.
– Last Thursday, at 6 o’clock, I was asking the Senate to direct its attention to one aspect of the national economy that to me seems to be of .exceptional significance. That is the economy of the rural sector of this country. At that time I furnished to the Senate figures that had been supplied to me from such sources as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and which seemed to me to show that the rural sector is sustaining a somewhat dwarfed position in the economy of the country and that whereas we are growing magnificently in other sectors its welfare should be thoughtfully considered.
One statement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his Monash University lecture on the economy I think summarises a facet of our rural industry quite fascinatingly. He said there that three-quarters of our export earnings still derive from primary industries although these industries contribute only 15% of the national product and 11% of our labour force. It strikes me that the computation of our national product on those figures is based on a few mysteries. But I pass that by. The fact is that three-quarters of our export earnings come from the primary industries and represent the product of 1 1 % of our labour force.
This country - a continent, as we were reminded at the luncheon today, that a united people has settled, with opportunities for development - to my way of thinking should be concentrating much more on the productivity of the agricultural and pastoral industries. The costs that we are generating in Australia are increasingly constituting a threat not only to the promotion but also to the continuance of these industries. It gives me no pleasure to recall, but I want to put on record the fact that one of the foremost Ministers of the Government, in a recent statement, said:
To much of the rural industry, this process of cost increases puts them at the end of Dead End Street.
The only solution that I can find offered in the address is in these terms:
The basic task of keeping ahead of costs is on the farm itself.
I wish that all those people who urge the farmer to become more efficient and to subdue his costs would take off their coats, roll up their sleeves and show him, by just one day’s work, how this ls to be done. Nothing is more futile titan politicians speaking in terms which beggar description of the ineffectiveness of the policies that could be brought to bear to rescue agriculture from the present situation.
I refer again to a statement made in the course of the speech to which I have referred and in which the ratio of costs to increases in prices is shown to be quite threatening. That statement shows that whereas farm income plus depreciation increased by 41% between 1955-56 and 1965- 66 the increase in farm costs excluding depreciation over the same period was 57%. The Minister in question went on to say that a significant decline has taken place in the relative degree to which surplus internal funds - that is the farmers’ own income - can provide the costs to carry on. The Minister added:
This decline has been a factor in the increase of more than 75% recorded in farm indebtedness to the main institutional lenders over the last decade.
That is an indirect way of stating the proposition. The proposition I want to state directly ls that over the last decade farmers’ indebtedness to institutional lenders has increased by 75% . No good purpose would be served by telling., me that their assets have increased. Their assets have been subjected in inflation. If their assets, even on the inflationed scale, have been sufficient to provide them with capital and operational costs there is no need for institutional lending. As I have said, a significant increase of no less than 75% in indebtedness to institutional lenders has been shown. A Liberal-Australian Country Party Government would be recreant to its trust if it did not take a warning from the figures, because the huge load of indebtedness to which farmers were subjected just before and during the war led them to find leadership in Labor at that time. Make no mistake, if the Government allows agriculture to drift back into the hands of institutional lenders - the banks, the hire purchase companies and their subsidiaries - the Government will not obtain that degree of development in the agricultural industries that is required not only to maintain our relative position but to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that this country affords. 1 have referred to this very wide subject. I have no special responsibility to do so in this chamber, but my friends in the Country Party have a very special responsibility to concern themselves with this matter.
For my part warnings have been given that the process of tariff making should be revised. Decisions should be required to conform more closely to the demands of sound economy, and established secondary industries should no longer be afforded tariff protection. I recall in particular, only to deprecate again, the highly fantastic machinery that was evolved in the Tariff Board report on the chemical industries, whereby not merely was a percentage increase put upon the cost of imports but if that cost were not brought up to within a stated gap of Australian costs then an arbitrary figure was added. 1 do not join with the Basic Industries Group or the people who deprecate the contribution that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has made to the administration of his portfolio, including tariff policy. I do not’ wish to emphasise what the Minister believes in relation to the need to reconcile the requirements of primary industry with tariff making. Those problems cannot be laughed off or escaped. We must moderate the inflation that tariffs are putting into new and not so new manufacturing industries so as to temper this cost that the agricultural industries have to bear from that source.
I cannot resume my seat without referring again to our arbitration system - not merely the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s annual review but the wholesale review that takes place in the Public Service and in regard to margins and all the other inevitable wage costs. A much more responsible attitude should be adopted to the problem of cost increases in the rural industries. On the last occasion that I spoke on the matter I quoted figures to show that after the rural industries earned about $900m the only reward received by them was about $100m, the difference of $800m being absorbed in needlessly recurring costs that are imprudently generated by lack of judgment and lack of appreciation of sound economy in our own arbitration system.
I appeal for concentration on a general policy on special subsidies. Do not tell me that subsidies cannot be applied. The special payroll subsidy is applied in favour of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, General Motors-Holden’s Ry Ltd and other secondary industries in respect of their exports. A subsidy has been applied in respect of superphosphate, but that has already been absorbed by the rise in costs since that time and has been rendered worthless. I hope that some means will be devised in this drought stricken country to help especially the primary producer in relation to matters such as irrigation plant and dams - not merely by way of income tax deductions but by means of positive help to provide constructional works of a significant dimension to ward off the effects of drought. Such great projects were announced by the New South Wales Government about 18 months ago that I thought that dams would be established all through that State to temper the effect of flood and drought. Surely those things should not be frustrated just because of the contrariety of politics between the Commonwealth and the States.
The inanity of the situation can be illustrated by the poultry scheme. Recently I visited a young man in my electorate and was appalled to find that, having established a business in the poultry industry over the last 7 or 8 years, and built up for Tasmania an undertaking of very sizeable dimensions, he was required to pay a tax of approximately $1.40 or $1.60 per head per year on 40,000 birds. These things are foisted on us by the Country Party. The Country Party Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) jumped into this situation the moment Sir Thomas Playford vacated office in South Australia; all the State Premiers agreed to put up what they thought was a satisfactory scheme in relation to poultry. With any assistance for the poultry farmer? No, but the product was taxed so that the consumer would have to pay higher prices. As I have mentioned, the taxation on one small farmer alone, who is aged about 30 or 32 years, was of the order of $30,000 or $40,000 a year. On the other hand, the Imperial Chemical Industries company and other big chemical organisations are receiving dray-loads of subsidy assistance under the tariff. The whole thing is ridiculous. -
The fruit industry in southern Tasmania will be driven out of existence because of increased costs. Freights have risen to such an extent that they now are more than $2 a case. That does not seem to irk anyone. We cheerfully go on our way and give plaudits to Mr Woodward. I join in them, because his diplomacy must be consummate. He has achieved agreement on the waterfront. No-one would venture to suggest that any assessment of costs has ever been made, but the Government has adopted in principle the proposals which have been put forward. But with what increase in freight to the apple industry of southern Tasmania? Where, in the name of fortune, is responsibility in government in these matters? I make a plea for a little sanity to be exercised if we want to retain the confidence of the primary producing sector of the community. We must restore to it some fraction of the profit that it earns.
When I started on this discourse I intended to deal with the subject of repatriation, but having regard to the time I have occupied I forbear to do so on this occasion. I content myself with having adverted to what I think are significant incidents in Senate history - a referendum of unique significance registering the nadir of the Senate, an occasion from which the Senate will grow. Glad am 1 to see it growing as a factor of potency in this Parliament I have pointed also to the national significance of taking stock of present trends in the rural industry, because unless we capture the opportunity that is ours with our national capacity for productivity we will lose what I regard as a wonderful chance to contribute to a food hungry world.
– I want to mention an omission in the Budget Speech - a reference to a change in Government policy in regard to the formation of a third airline. We have one airline on which we fly the friendly way, and a second airline which takes care of us all the way. Today we have a third airline whose slogan is: ‘Go free, fly VIP’. It is this airline which unfortunately caused some considerable agitation in the Senate this afternoon. If there is something for the Government to be ashamed of - this appears to me to bc the case in relation to the VIP aircraft - then I think we should keep on mentioning the matter until we get some satisfaction from the Government.
Let me repeat that I am not opposed to a VIP airline. I believe that it is a neces sity. I believe that the Government should have one. It is only a question of how large the fleet should be and how many people should use it. I have asked only that guidelines be laid down so that everyone will know the rules in regard to the VIP planes. I think it is only sensible that these guidelines should be established because then no one will quibble about the fleet being used. What do we see today? There is an air of mystery about the whole procedure. We do not know what is going on. We do not know the size of the crew on each aircraft, especially the older ones - the Viscounts. I understand that they carry a crew of at least five. I do not know how many Royal Australian Air Force stewards are used on these planes to serve drinks and meals to the selected few entitled to fly in them. Five of these aircraft are available for VIP use, so obviously there must be at least three stand-by crews, because at the rate at which they are being used one never knows when they will be called upon.
There are no guidelines, and Ministers are using these aircraft for electioneering purposes. I object to that. I do not think they were provided for that purpose. In one Queensland by-election a Viscount and a DC3, both part of the VIP fleet, were taken north for electioneering purposes. Certainly one Minister and two of his departmental heads used a Viscount to travel from Canberra to Hobart, where they spent one day; then to Launceston where they spent another day and then back to Canberra. A crew of at least five persons was used to cater for three people. One senior Minister, according to one of his colleagues, used a VIP aircraft to travel from Canberra to Sydney within a quarter of an hour of a normal airline flight. I am certain that Opposition senators, like myself, have received complaints about this from the public. To say the least, it is irresponsible to use the VIP aircraft for such purposes.
If the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has nothing to be ashamed of in relation to the use of these aircraft, why does he not come out in the open and tell us who uses them? Instead he goes on with all this rot about the Department of Defence or the Department of Air or the Royal Australian Air Force, but that cannot explain away the purposes for which they are being used. I have placed a question on the notice paper - of course I will never get a reply - in these terms: ls il a fuel thai when Ministers and departmental o (lice rs use official cars the charge is entered against the Department concerned? If so, why cannot a charge be made against the Departments concerned when Ministers and departmental officers use VIP aircraft?
It is only a matter of accounting procedure. There is no difficulty whatsoever in it. Every aircraft carries a logbook, and every time the aircraft leaves the ground the pilot has to enter in that logbook the names of his passengers, his departure point and his destination. All the questions I have asked in relation to this matter could be answered quite easily.
The Prime Minister has stated that the aircraft cannot be used unless an application is made to the Minister for Air (Mr Howson). Therefore we should know, or should be able to find out, who is using them, because an application must first have been made to the Minister for Air. As I have mentioned previously, we have heard stories - I do not know whether they are true but no one has contradicated them - about an aircraft being sent from Melbourne to Sydney to meet the former Prime Minister and fly him to Melbourne. I do not know whether it is proper for a former Prime Minister to have the use of VIP planes. I am not quibbling about it. It is a matter for the public to decide. But when commercial flights are operating it seems most unreasonable that an extra Viscount aircraft should be used for the purpose. It also seems to me to bc irresponsible and reprehensible that the same person can use a VIP aircraft to go from Melbourne to Adelaide to see a test match. In the case of urgent business or an emergency there would be very good grounds for the use of these aircraft by Ministers, but when commercial flights are available I do not think that the Government should set itself up in competition with the two domestic airlines and cut across its own policy of having only two airlines.
Every time a question is asked as to who is travelling in the VIP planes, we are told that they all are departmental officers who, it is suddenly found, have to go with a Minister. If a plane is going to Melbourne I think it is quite right that it should be filled, but the excuse is given: ‘Well, we have an extra number of departmental officers. We take a VIP plane because it is cheaper.’ I do not think it is cheaper, but it is not possible to tell because no cost factors arc given to us.
I have not travelled on a VIP aircraft and 1 do not suppose I ever will. Members of the House of Representatives are entitled to be carried in them from any point to their electorates. Senators are not. Again this is nonsensical. Why should not a senator be allowed to travel in a VIP plane to his own State? If it is good enough for a member of the House of Representatives to go in a VIP plane, why should not a senator do the same? 1 will go further and ask: If a number of senators and members of the House of Representatives want to go to a State and a VIP aircraft is going, as the Government wants to say it is economising why does it not take everyone aboard and keep to the motto Fly free, fly VIP.’? I have been told that any drink requested by passengers is available on VIP aircraft. Stewards of the Royal Australian Air Force attend to the wants of passengers and meals, described to me as chicken and champagne’, are the order of the day.
– Meals on wheels.
– Meals in the air. Today I asked a question on this matter. I think it is a proper question because my next point is this: Who pays for these meals? I am dead against the fact that the cost is charged to the RAAF as part of our defence vote. It is almost incredible that when we spend so little on defence we take even from that small amount to pay the costs of meals on VIP planes. The cost must be fairly high. I cannot be sure because I am still trying to find out, but I presume that the catering is paid for by the RAAF out of the defence vote. In other words, our war effort is paying the cost. Should we not be ashamed of that? Should not Government supporters rise and demand that these questions be answered out in the open?
Have not honourable senators opposite been pestered - perhaps not pestered, but asked - by people in their electorates about the VIP planes? I have been asked, and I should think that every member of the Parliament has been asked, about the VIP planes. I have heard very few complimentary remarks about them. That is the attitude of the general public to them. We do not know whether the VIP planes are being misused. Even if they are being properly used, it is almost incredible that the costs are charged against the defence vote and that such a small defence vote is being whittled away in that fashion. That is why I asked who is paying for the food and drink served on these aircraft.
Ministers get very good allowances and they travel in the VIP planes. I am not sure of the amount of the allowances. We are paid $12 a day and I presume that Ministers receive from $20 to $30 a day. The food and drink served on VIP aircraft are free to them. They do not have to pay and I understand that they can order food and . drinks and obtain what they will. We do not know enough about the VIP flights. The public wants to know. If there is no mystery, let the Government say so. Surely it would have been good politics, if nothing else, for the Government to have come out in the open on this matter because it is certainly harming its image throughout the country. I am sure it would be good- politics for the Government to say in the open what it is doing with VIP planes.
I believe that we should have VIP aircraft. I believe we should use more of the smaller Mysteres. Even though these aircraft hold only eight passengers, they carry a big crew, as I understand it. There is room for RAAF stewards who could be doing far more vital work than serving people on VIP planes. We keep on knocking our heads against a brick wall. Ministers in the Senate, to take a generalisation, are paid to know something about the portfolios of their counterparts in the other House. One would think that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), who represents the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) in the Senate, would anticipate questions about VIP planes and would learn something about them. But he does not know anything that he does not want to know. I maintain that the Minister for Repatriation discredited himself when answering a question I asked. It can be seen in Hansard. I asked the Minister whether he would see his colleague. The Minister said that he always did.
When the Hansard report of today’s proceedings comes out tomorrow it will show that today the Minister said: ‘All I can do is see my colleague, which I do the next day’. That is what the Minister told me in answer to my first question. Yet a week later when I asked him if he had seen his colleague and whether an answer was available to my question he got into a huff. He is always in a huff and today is the first time that I have ever seen him smiling. Apparently he enjoyed today’s proceedings but usually he is in a huff about these questions. On that occasion he blurted out ‘No’ in answer to both questions. If what he said a week earlier was true, his answer then was untrue. Although he had said a week earlier that he always took questions to his colleague to find out the answers, he then said that the answer to both questions was no; that is, that he had not seen his colleague and that they were not going to answer my question. How did he know that they were not going to answer my question? According to his own words he had not approached his colleague, but he knew that. Perhaps he was speaking in general terms, because everyone knows that they are not going to answer questions on this subject. That is all I want to say about VIP aircraft. Other people have ideas on the matter, judging by the number of questions being’ asked on it. They are coming thick and fast and probably there will be more tomorrow. The subject of VIP aircraft is harmful to .Government supporters and one would think that they would wake up to that fact and do something about it.
– They are unconscious.
– Or they are arrogant because of their majority. They could not care less. If I may say so, I think the swing is slightly against the Government and I do not think the VIP aircraft are helping. I turn now to the Fill aircraft, the new Opera House plane. It was known as the TFX. Then there were the F111A and the FU IB, and now the F111C. I believe that our order was for Fill A aircraft, but today it is called the F111C. Originally it was the TFX, which was easier to say. I do not want to go into the facts, but in 1963 1 raised the point that we had sunk the British aircraft industry by our refusal to purchase the British TSR2 aircraft. We chose the TFX. There is no doubt whatsoever that we gave the final blow to the British aircraft industry. It had the TSR2 flying and the British Government made us a very handsome offer. It offered not to charge us any of the developmental costs of the TSR2. We turned the offer down because we wanted to buy the super plane that is yet to be delivered.
– All the way with LBJ.
– That is so. and it was election time. On 23rd October 1963 1 asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence a lot of questions about these planes. Among other things I asked: ls he aware that, if plans are made to go ahead with the TFX, it will bc unavailable until 1972 and the cost of the plane will also be supersonic?
I suppose I am lucky that my prophecy of 1963 has more or less been borne out. Then I went on to say:
As defence has become one of the major issues in the forthcoming election, will the Government give an undertaking not to make a final decision on the Canberra replacement until after the election, as such a decision should not be made in the heat of a general election debate, wilh the distinct possibility that the future defence pattern of this country will be prejudiced and even crippled for a very long time to come?
This is what has happened. The Government needed something to offer the people at that election. So it said: ‘We now have a new plane for you. Here it is. To hell with the cost.’ The Government did not know the cost. When I asked the Minister again whether the cost of the British plane was known he said that the Government had a far better package deal with the Americans. In fact I think the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was very optimistic about the cost. I said this:
We have heard the Prime Minister say recently that the FI IIA will be very, very, very - I must not forget that third ‘very’ - much cheaper . . .1 should say that those prognostications would be very, very, very silly, because it cannot bc staled how much an aircraft wilt cost. The British have said straight out that they will not add the developmental costs to the cost of the aircraft that they are selling to Australia.
Those were my remarks in 1963.
What are we doing in effect today? We arc relieving the American taxpayer of portion of the burden of the developmental costs of this plane. This is why it is costing us so much. We have to pay a share of the developmental costs of the aircraft. The British told us that they would not charge us these costs, but the Americans are our friends and we have agreed to assist the American taxpayers by buying this aircraft.
– What would the honourable senator replace the aircraft with?
– I will come back to that matter. Senator Branson was not here when I was referring to the TSR2 project, which we killed. I know that on each occasion that I have mentioned this matter - three occasions at least - the honourable senator has interjected and said that that was not true. But it is true. We dealt the final death blow to the British aircraft industry by our refusal to purchase that aircraft.
– That is not right.
– It is right. I think that most people in Britain will agree with this statement too. Anyhow, it is a matter of a person’s view.
– The official figures disprove what the honourable senator is saying.
– Ali right. Perhaps we sacrificed the TSR2 on the altar of America. I do not mind which way we take it. Why did Australia want such a - the word is ‘sophisticated’ - sophisticated plane? Of what value is a sophisticated plane? lt is a plane for use against a sophisticated enemy who has electronic defences. It is a plane that is of no use, or rather limited use in the jungles. It has its uses, but there is no need for us to purchase such a sophisticated plane. Australia could use an ordinary plane and the TSR2-
– It did not fly.
– It did fly. The prototype flew. This was the plane that the Government did not need. But of course we know how children when they see an expensive toy say: ‘Daddy buy me that’. The purchase of this aircraft did not cost our Defence chiefs anything and so they said: ‘Yes, all right, we will give it to you. You have been a good boy. You have helped me in my Department. We will give you this fine aircraft’. So, Australia has purchased this aircraft that it does not need and that it cannot use anywhere in the vicinity of Australia. If we were at war with anyone within the vicinity of Australia, this is not (he aircraft that we would need. We do not need high powered electronic aircraft for attack or defence In Australia or its surrounding areas.
– Nobody wanted the TSR2.
– Are not the British buying the Fill?
– Yes, because there is nothing else for them to buy.
– Why did not the British go on with the TSR2 project?
– The British have a different point. If they were involved in a war it would be against a sophisticated enemy that would have sophisticated defence. Their requirements are totally different from ours. If one is fighting on the Russian front or on the French front - to get into the European Common Market Great Britain might have to do this - or anywhere else in Europe, one needs to have sophisticated attack planes.
Let me refer again to my remarks in 1963 because what 1 said then applies today. I said:
What does the Royal Australian Air Force want? It wants a supersonic reconnaissance bomber. Both the TSR2 and the FI IIA satisfy this requirement, but there is an important difference. Both fly at mach 2 or more than mach 2, but the TSR2 is bigger and therefore can carry a more economic load of conventional bombs and still fly at supersonic speed. We do not want war, but if war comes we all pray that conventional bombs and not nuclear bombs will be used. The FI 1 1A cannot carry an economic load of conventional bombs.
This is why the United States of America is having so much trouble with its aircraft now. The United States has had to convert the aircraft from a carrier of atomic warheads to a carrier of conventional bombs. This means that it will be much heavier and will fly slower. That is why the Americans are having difficulties with that aircraft now. I went on to say:
The TSR2 will carry both conventional and nuclear bombs. So if we were engaged in nuclear warfare, we could still use the TSK2.
That is the difference between the sophisticated plane and the plane that is not quite so sophisticated. In my book, we do not need this type of aircraft whatsoever. The Americans are doing very well at the moment with Phantom bombers, are they not? These aircraft could be used in Australia should we be involved in a war here.
But no, we have to spend our money on this other aircraft. So, the Government can go to the people and say: ‘Look what we are spending on defence.’ I have already mentioned that in the Budget speech the Government was very proud that the percentage expenditure on defence had risen from 3% to 5%. But that 5% includes expenditure in the future. The Government has sold the future security of Australia, at what price we do not know, for a plane that the Government does not even know yet will fly. The Government has no more proof than I have that it will fly. If the Government wants to have it that way, let it. It may fly. The Minister for Air (Mr Howson) has said that this is a beautiful plane. He has flown it. Other people seem to be having a lot of trouble with it. 1 doubt whether the aircraft will ever come to Australia. If it does come here I doubt whether it will be ever used for the purpose for which such an expensive plane is required.
I have concluded my remarks now on the TFX now known as the Fill. I move on to the subject of defence and say again that I do not think that we are doing enough in this field. I have advocated and still advocate the necessity for Australia to spend more on defence. We are so afraid of raising taxation. I know that it is easy when a person is not a member of the Government to say that taxation must be increased. But we find that for 2 years running with deficit budgets taxation has not been increased. An election was held last year and another election will be held this year. Perhaps the Government will increase taxation next year. In the end it will have to increase taxation.
Australia does not spend enough on defence. If this country is worth defending, it is worth spending some money on defence. I have no time whatsoever for those people who ask: How can we defend Australia? If anyone accepts that attitude and says: ‘We cannot defend Australia. We need to have American help or the .help of some other country’, then God help Australia. If this is the attitude of the members of the Government, then I say again: God help Australia. If we need to defend ourselves, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves. lt is rubbish to insist on holding ballots lo select people for national service. This is preposterous. We should have a complete national service training scheme in which everybody, including women, is made to do national service training. The situation of some of those undergoing national service training is unfortunate. I know of one young boy who is in a special unit. Only six vehicles are available to the 18 drivers in that unit. These lads must take turns. They get bored waiting around to take their turns. We have not the equipment because we are not prepared to spend the money to purchase the equipment with which these boys can train. When I see the example set by Israel, it makes me sick to see the attitude that we adopt here regarding defence. it is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that we are living in lotus land. Of course we are living in lotus land. The amazing thing is that the Prime Minister has just discovered this. We have been living in lotus land for so long doing nothing at all about our defences and praying to God that some country will come to our aid if we arc attacked and believing that by sacrificing enough men in Vietnam we will buy American help. This is all that we have done regarding defence.
– This is a good DLP speech.
– Yes. Another matter that I wish to raise concerning national service relates to a question that I asked the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) when he was Minister for Works. Apparently in the Senate when an honourable senator asks a question and receives his answer from the Minister he cannot answer back. This obviously is wrong. It is a matter for public information-
– The honourable senator can ask a question after his first question.
– Sometimes one does not have the time. In my question to the Minister, I pointed out that before a man who has been ballotted into the Army joins the forces following his call-up his police record, if any, is sought by the local officer. I raise the point that many of the delinquent youths called up and rejected because of their police records would benefit considerably if they served time in the
Army. We did gel into a rather peculiar discussion on homosexuality when the Minister raised the point of whether we would include rapists, or mentioned something to that effect. The point is that many of these people avoid national service by having minor police records. Honourable senators who care to go out and ask the electors will find that the electors believe wholeheartedly that anybody with a police record should be made to serve his period of national service and not only if he is called up by means of the ballot. Nobody under the age of 25 or 27 who has a police record should be allowed to escape national service. I suggest that this would be the sensible opinion of nearly everyone in Australia. It would be the opinion of nearly everyone except Senator Gorton. I do not think that many Government supporters would support him in his attitude on this matter that a person who has a police record should be exempt from national service. How ridiculous can you get? This is a way in which these boys could be made.
– Having a record is a good way of keeping out of it.
– Yes. All that a person needs to do is to take somebody else’s car for a joyride. For some unknown reason an offender is not punished very much for joyriding, but he is exempted from national service. We are happy to send Australia’s best youths away with a possibility of their being killed but because someone has committed a minor crime he is exempted. If the Government wanted to exclude persons who have committed serious crimes, that would be quite all right. If it made its own definition I would be quite happy about it, but there is no excuse for the Government to exclude from national service persons who have committed minor crimes. I raise this point again, knowing that nothing will be done about it, because that is the tenor of the Government’s approach in this chamber. We can yell ourselves hoarse. One Minister sits in here, the others are busy outside, and no-one takes any notice of what is said. Nothing is done.
I come now to the question of smoking, lt is some years since this question was first raised in this chamber. The Government’s attitude in regard to smoking is negative, to pass the buck as much as it can, but the Commonwealth has an interest in the matter not only in relation to the health of its citizens but also in relation to financial aspects. Here wc have a substance - call it a drug - that v/c know causes serious diseases. Tt is implicated strongly in lung cancer, lt is implicated more than ever now in coronary disease, peptic and duodenal ulcers, chronic bronchitis, and many minor diseases. The result is that the morbidity on account of smoking in Australia is pretty high. Apart from this, people are away from work for various periods because of these illnesses. The total cost must be alarming and the gross national product must be reduced as a result. Therefore, it is in the interests of the Australian Government to do something about this matter. But no, it washes its hands of it. It blames the States and says that it can do nothing, but by amending the Broadcasting and Television Act it could stop advertising of cigarettes on television. However, it would not dare to do this because this would hurt the people who supply the Government with money.
Let us face the issue. That is what it is. The Government will not take action because the people who make money out of this advertising are the newspapers and the television companies, which are owned by the newspapers. The result is that we do not get much support from the Press, although some newspapers are quite open in supporting the campaign for elimination of this kind of advertising. What right have we to permit the advertising of a drug such as this? The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) has introduced into this chamber legislation to provide severe penalties for the taking of certain drugs. Cigarettes are another form of drug. If a person wants to smoke, I am quite happy for him to do it. If he likes to smoke, if he wants to kill himself in this way, let him keep on smoking. But why do we have to encourage this? That is what gets me. Why cannot the Government do something? Why does it pass the buck? 1 was never before so ashamed as I was the other day when we considered a motion to call Ministers of Health together to try to deal with LSD. The Government prefers to play politics all of the time. All that it needed to do was to agree to the proposal. Some States are taking action. But no idea is any good if it comes from anyone but the
Minister. That is the tragedy of this Government. No-one on ibis side of the chamber has any brains. Nothing is any good unless it comes from the Government side of the Senate. The same attitude applies in respect of smoking. The Government will not do anything about cigarette advertising. lt knows that cigarettes arc harmful. Every person who gives the Government advice agrees about this. Even the Department of Health, so help mc. is on our side in relation to this. The National Health and Medical Research Council believes that smoking is ruinous and every medical authority supports this view.
– The Government will not do anything about television advertising.
– lt will not stop this advertising, as it could do under the Broadcasting and Television Act. That is what should be done but the Government is scared of someone. It is never prepared to go out and do something for the good of the people unless it will help the Government. If somebody smokes and gets bronchitis or heart disease he will probably die and so he will not be voting. Therefore, the Government will not do anything for him. The Government is afraid of stopping the revenue of the Press and television interests. The bulk of their revenue from advertising is from the advertising of cigarettes.
– What did the honourable senator do when he was Minister for Health in Tasmania?
– 1 did a lot. 1 must say that this connection between smoking and disease had not been discovered when I was Minister.
– He did not know about lung cancer?
– Not about the relationship of lung cancer, to smoking. If Senator Branson would like me to tell the Senate what I did as Minister for Health 1 shall be happy to devote 5 minutes of my time to it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Order! The honourable senator will address the Chair.
-4 am sure that you, too, Madam Acting Deputy President will be interested to know that we set up the Hallstrom cancer clinic.
– The honourable senator has given up smoking, I presume.
– I did not smoke before. Here is something that medical authorities agree is harmful but the Government is prepared to allow this advertising to continue. The Government is prepared to provide high penalties in relation to drug taking but not to do anything to stop the advertising of cigarettes. 1 am not suggesting that smoking should be abolished. I do suggest that the Government should increase the tax on cigarettes.
– I appreciate the point that the honourable senator makes, which I think is valid, but has he not to go further and take into account consumption of alcohol in the community?
– The consumption of alcohol is not so prevalent as cigarette smoking.
– Has it not more effect on the national economy?
– I do not know the answer to that question because I have not the figures. One has to have some pleasures in life. Alcohol has a ruinous effect only on a limited few whereas cigarettes affect many people. Many are affected in a minor way. They do not realise that they are chronic bronchitics and are subject to peptic ulcer and other complaints.
– 1 agree that cigarette advertising is shocking and that it should be wiped out.
– I do not mind what the reasons are for doing it but I want it wiped out. All that is needed is for honourable senators opposite to take up the matter in their party room and get the Government to display some courage. If this is done they will have the wellbeing of the people of Australia at heart and the people will thank them for it. Let anyone smoke who wants to do so, but do not advertise and encourage smoking.
– What about pipes? Are they not so bad?
– Except the honourable senator’s. Pipe smoking and cigar smoking are not so bad. I now come to the question of pensions. The great disappointment in the Budget was that no increase was given to pensioners. I just wonder how many of us have ever stopped to think as did the ‘Herald’ reporter who spent, I think, 6 weeks living on the amount that is allocated to a pensioner. I wonder how we would get on if we tried to do this. The Government is denying to the pensioners of Australia any increase whatever. If the Government were so hard pressed for money, 1 would even go along with it, but we are to increase the parliamentary pensions to former members who are not now contributing to the scheme. We are to raise their incomes because the value of these has gone down. How can this Government in all sincerity face the charge that it is slowly murdering pensioners? That is what it is doing. It is forcing them into malnutrition. It cannot escape that. The value of the $1 is going down all the time. There is no doubt whatever about that. Inflation is still with us. Every quarter the cost of living rises. Yet the Government does not have the humaneness or charity to give the pensioners anything. But the Government proposes to increase the pensions of former members of the Parliament whose incomes are much lower than those of some present members of the Parliament will be when they leave the Parliament. That is pretty terrible. That is what made me decide to support the amendment moved by Senator McManus to the effect that the Budget be returned to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) for redrafting.
The Government cannot escape the fact that the pensioners are really suffering. I know that some of them are in a good position. Both husband and wife are receiving pensions and they can earn quite a bit of money. They have no children. They have paid off the mortgage on their home. There are a few pensioners in that position. But many pensioners are suffering from malnutrition because of the small amount of money that they receive. Even if $50m - the amount that the Treasurer said would be the minimum - were involved, could not Australia afford that amount? It does not matter what we pay on Fill or VIP aircraft.
– Or on spare parts for ships.
– That is so, or on electronic complexes. We can waste money hand over fist on such matters, but we cannot afford to increase pensions by a minimum of $1 a week. That is the tragedy of this Budget.
I am not trying to be emotional about this matter. If any honourable senator has worked among these people, as some doctors have to, and has seen how they live, he will have found that nome of them cannot live on the money that they receive. It is an absolute disgrace to Australia that the older people of this country should be in that position. Some members of the Government parties say that their position is their own fault because they have not saved. Nevertheless the position is that they have not enough money. We might as well say that former members of the Parliament should not receive any increase either because they should have saved. That excuse holds in both cases. If we do something for one we should do it for both. That is why I support the amendment moved by Senator McManus.
– Tonight we have listened to two very fine addresses on the Budget. I hope that the practice or policy that is enunciated by governments will be followed in that top public servants who not only advise on financial matters but also administer policy will continue to take some notice, in company with the Ministers concerned, of the speeches that have been made in this debate. On one occasion I had an opportunity to question a top public servant at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. I asked him whether top public servants took any notice of speeches made in the Parliament. He replied that they did but he thought that another effective way was to direct representations to the Minister. 1 think it is imperative that permanent heads of departments advise their Ministers as well as their departments.
The Budget debate has always been regarded as the most important debate in the Parliament. The Budget is the Government’s report to the nation. Today Budget debates are completely haphazard. This- year the Budget was delivered on 15lh August. We are still debating it some weeks later. I have no objection to that. I point out that no more than 6 days have been devoted to this important document. Many other matters have been intruded into the period since the Budget was delivered. The Budget debate has been interrupted on numerous occasions. International affairs has been debated on more than one occasion. My experience in both this chamber and the House of Representatives has been that international affairs is debated only when the Government has no business or is worried about something and believes that it could gain some advantage by interposing a debate on international affairs.
– In order to draw attention away from other matters.
– That is true. Today we have heard question time described as an utter farce and a period of arrant humbug. I suggest that the way this Budget debate has been conducted shows the arrant humbug of the Government in respect of this very important document.
In money terms this Budget is the largest ever presented to the Australian Parliament. It provides for a total expenditure of almost S6,500m. The White Paper shows a gross national product of S22,729m in 1966-67. That was an increase of more than $2,000m in 12 months. I repeat the words of other speakers when 1 say: ls it any wonder that 750,000 pensioners - people in need - ask for a just share of the amount of money that is being spent and the amount of goods that is being produced in Australia today? They are justly entitled to that. The Government goes into detail on how the large increases in expenditure and gross national product are made up. The Government’s figures themselves show that prices rose by more than 3% and that there was an increase of 296 in the work force. The Treasurer said:
Let me now outline the Budget briefly in terms of total expenditure and receipts.
He then went on to give some of the figures that I have mentioned. He also said:
For 1966-67 as a whole, gross national product rose by 9%. After making full allowance for price increases, there was an increase of between 5% and 6% in national production in real terms. This achievement was close to the best of recent years. Plainly, there must have been some goods gains in productivity.
The number in employment In 1966-67 was 2,5% greater than in the year before. This was a smaller increase than has been usual.
He went on to say:
Wage rates have increased strongly: Over the year to June, minimum weekly wage rates rose by about 7%. As to prices, the consumer price index rose in the first three quarters of 1966-67 at an annual rate only a little above 2%. However, in the most recent quarter, the rise approached an annual rate of 5%.
I repeat: Is it any wonder that the pensioners are concerned, upset and worried about the rise in the cost of living? I refer to a statement made by Mr Tieck, who is the head of Franklins Food Stores, one of the huge chains of shops that operate throughout Australia. His statement was reported as follows:
He said that manufacturers had notified his chain of 68 stores of 968 separate price increases since 1st October last . . .
But so far this year there have been 730 price rises . . .
But between April and July this year they rose by 1.16%.
This meant housewives were obliged to pay $2.5m more a year for their groceries.
This is in only one sector and this is the problem which the people of Australia are concerned about. I refer -particularly to people with large families and unfortunates who have to try to live on the pension.
The Treasurer boasted about the increased productivity which had taken place. 1 again ask: Is it any wonder that the nation resents the failures, the lack of realism and the lack of progress implicit in the Budget? Government supporters have spoken of the small benefits that have been granted in this Budget. They have spoken about the increase by $26 a year in the income tax allowance granted for dependants. They have also spoken of the increase in child endowment payments for the fourth child and succeeding children. The Treasurer spoke at length about this increase in child endowment and went into great detail in speaking of the benefits that people with nine children would obtain. I do not know how many families in Australia have nine children but I do know of the difficulties facing such people because of the price increases which are occurring these days. I know of the problems facing people with families. I know also of the problems facing our aged people.
The increased taxation deductions granted in- this Budget in respect of payments for insurance and superannuation covers have been mentioned by some honourable senators in this debate. The maximum deduction for such claimants is to be increased from $800 to $1,200 a year. This concession will benefit the wealthy. It will help the Ministers in this Government and some parliamentarians. I think that this deduction could have originated from suggestions made in the rooms occupied by the Government parties. Superannuation contributions by parliamentarians are approximately $800 a year. Members who in addition pay insurance premiums or have other superannuation cover have received no taxation rebate in respect of payments in excess of $800. That is why I say that influence exerted by Government supporters could have had something to do with the decision to increase this allowable deduction to $1,200.
We have heard talk about the benefit of having VIP aircraft. These aircraft cost more than $20m a year. We have just heard Senator Turnbull speak of what is happening concerning the use of these aircraft. I did not have the pleasure of watching the television programme which featured the Treasurer in mid-August but I am advised that he made the point that the Federal Budget for this year was an investor’s budget. Above all, he claimed that it was a businessman’s budget. A report of that programme states:
I went just as far as was reasonable’, Mr McMahon said. ‘We have a deficiency in our accounts of $595m and if 1 had gone any further I would have created expansion tendencies that would have led to inflation, rises in cost and all the problems associated with it. 1 would not have gone one dollar further unless ) had absolutely been forced to.’
Mr McMahon said that he had sympathy for the pensioners because they had been left out of the Budget. He went on to say:
Last year 1 was able to give them an increase of $1 but when 1 saw the deficit I had and the other people 1 thought we had to look after, 1 had to recognise the difficulties. On this occasion 1 doubted if the economy could afford it. I did this against this background, which 1 do not like mentioning, that once we touch them they cost us something of the order of $50m.
The Treasurer was referring to pensioners. He went on to speak about the new Vfl? planes. Concerning the report by the Auditor-General that seven new VIP aircraft which the Government had ordered would cost $21. 6m as against the original estimate of $llm, he said that he believed that this was money very well spent. According to the report of the television programme the Treasurer said:
I believe that men like the Prime Minister need this kind of transport for getting into and out of Canberra. 1 could not have prepared the Budget and done the amount of work 1 did unless 1 had this special kind of transport.
That is the explanation given by the Treasurer about these VIP aircraft. The subject has had a fair airing not only in this Budget debate but also during question time today. I repeat what other honourable senators have said: The people of Australia resent money being spent on these aircraft. The people are short of homes, schools, and sewerage facilities in our major cities. In some places they do not even have sufficient water supplies. One instance is the area outside Sydney which is known as Bayview Heights, lt is about 10 miles from the city. There is not sufficient money to provide the residents of the area with a water supply. Money is not available because it is being spent on the provision of such things as VIP aircraft. This kind of nonsense is bringing reactions from and objections by the people throughout New South Wales and indeed the rest of Australia particularly in view of increased imposts which have been announced in this Budget.
For example, there are increased postal charges, levies made at airports on people wishing to farewell friends, and increases in fees for the use of car parks at airports. The prices of petrol, bread, beer and indeed, practically, every commodity which the Government has an opportunity to tax, have risen. Extra charges are also being imposed by State governments. The State governments at present have to use every lurk that they can to raise more money because of the financial problems they face. 1 repeat: Is it any wonder that large sections of the community are in uproar? The electors will show their hostility to the Government, I am certain, at the Capricornia by-election on Saturday and at the Senate election to be held later this year, as they did at the Corio by-election on 22nd July.
– I would not count on thai.
– I am counting on it. 1 know that the Government is worried about this by-election. I come back now to a great tragedy - the failure of the Government to increase pensions. There are people in desperate circumstances. I read with interest about a lot of the appeals for assistance which have appeared in the Press throughout Australia, particularly the Sydney Press. I have with me a cutting from one of the Sydney newspapers which states:
Thanks to the Mirror for giving full publicity to the plight of pensioners since the last Budget.
Pensioners must realise it is necessary for them to get together in a united front.
The original Old Age and Invalid Pensions Association is a fighting body and pensioners are urged to get into its ranks. They should join the nearest branch at once.
Pensioners have the numbers to elect or unseat any Government and the machinery is being set in motion now.
The cause is just but pensioners need help and public sympathy.
During the last general election the pensioners published a magnificent booklet as part of their campaign to obtain help from the Government. I am certain that their campaign will be continued during the coming Senate election and until justice is given to people in need. The heading on this booklet reads: ‘The Charter of Pensioners Claims. We want to live’. This is the cry of the pensioners. Many of my parliamentary colleagues and I have met the pensioners when they have come to Canberra. They have come here on numerous occasions and have told us of their circumstances. Most of them have only one full meal a day. If it were not for help given by their families to enable them to pay rent and buy clothes many of them would be out in the street. Senator Tangney mentioned, in her speech on the Budget, the depressed conditions of these people. She also referred to our Aboriginals, the children of civilian widows, deserted wives and the parents of handicapped children. Very little has been done for those unfortunate people. Furthermore, there is tremendous discontent in industry, and among postal workers, nurses, the pilots employed by Qantas Airways and the other airlines, members of the Australian Bank Officers Association, the metal trades workers, who have held general stoppages, and the transport workers engaged in bus and rail movement and petrol distribution. The Bank Officers Association even issued a full page press advertisement stating: Our Australian girls - Do our banks use them as cheap labour?’ I could go on naming many others who are vitally affected through this Government’s failure to give them any benefit under this Budget. People ask whether these conditions are likely to improve. In moving the amendment, which we on this side support, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the sell-out of Australia by this Government. It would be well for our people to realise how that sell-out has been effected. The Prime Minister and his Ministers no longer govern; they only serve the interests of the great corporations which control this country. The Budget is plainly designed to serve those great corporations.
– You do not believe that.
– If the honourable senator will listen for a few moments he, too, will believe it. Each year the proportion of our industry passing into foreign hands increases. Already many of our most important Industries are under foreign control. The equity held by foreign control in the overall secondary industries in Australia is from 25% to 30%. In the pharmaceutical industry it is 97%; in petroleum refining and distribution it is 95%; in motor vehicle manufacture it is 95%; in oil exploration and production it is 85%; in telecommunications it is 83%; in bauxite and aluminium it is 75% and in food processing it is 50% . That is the situation that confronts the people of Australia at the moment and I feel that when this is brought home to them the people of Australia will realise the necessity for the change that we think will be forthcoming in the few months ahead.
Our State governments and our local authorities are crying out for financial help. They need help for such important purposes as health, hospitals, housing and education and such rural needs as roads. Only :c night a group of 20 representatives of country municipalities and shires throughout New South Wales submitted their plea to the Government for funds. The Commonwealth Government must take a greater responsibility for the development of Australia. These local authority representatives pointed out the advantages that will accrue to Australia if the Commonwealth takes more responsibility. They emphasise the need for the Commonwealth to provide financial aid to the State governments, by way of either straight out grants or loans at low rates of interest. They made pleas for finance to bc made available for housing in country areas. They asked for taxation concessions for industrialists, especially in the fields of company tax and payroll tax. They asked for special allowances to country industries for the depreciation of machinery. They also sought an equalisation of telephone charges to relate them to comparable costs in metropolitan regions and for tariff rebates to encourage the establishment of country industries. Another request was for the establishment of a Federal department of decentralisation and the decentralisation of such Federal departments as the taxation office, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Reparation, Department of Primary Industry and the department dealing with mineral resources and national development in regional areas. They asked for assistance in water conservation projects, with particular relation to the construction of dams and for the construction of pipelines to serve country areas with natural gas. The Mayor of Lismore stated that unless positive action were taken in these matters the people in the country areas would become a population of school children and pensioners, and that statement was endorsed by a number of other representatives. That is the situation that does confront our country people unless the Government is prepared to do something in the way I have outlined.
I come now to defence. We on this side of the chamber have stated that every Australian is anxious that there be proper defence and development of the nation, but they are disgusted with the waste, mismanagement and inefficiency of this Government. As honourable senators know, I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee. That Committee has had before it the annual report of the Auditor-General. Time will not permit of my dealing with the report in detail, but the Auditor-General’s condemnation of the Government’s mismanagement of the affairs of the nation should be brought to the notice of the Australian people, and I hope they will get to know more about it in the near future.
– Would the honourable senator say that the Auditor-General’s report reflects better activity by the various departments than in previous years?
– The honourable senator is a fellow member of the Public Accounts Committee and he refers now to what that Committee has done. Two matters about which 1 am particularly concerned relate to the FU 1C aircraft and the Charles F. Adams destroyers. Both these items have been subjected to some degree of condemnation by the Auditor-General in his report. I do not propose to read out the report, but I do want the members of the public and all members of Parliament to appreciate exactly what has taken place in connection with those two items.
The Public Accounts Committee took evidence from the First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Air. He stated that the initial cost of twenty-four of these FII1C aircraft was $US125m. These are the aircraft which were selected by the Minister who was sent over to America on the eve of the 1963 elections and which the Prime Minister heralded as being the saviours of Australia. This Government won the election, but the Auditor-General points out that there had been no thorough check in connection with these aircraft and that no firm price had been arrived at and no contract had been drawn up. In fact, no final price has been settled on for these aircraft yet. It is now estimated that they will cost $US237,750,000 compared with the original figure of $US125m. The first of the aircraft is supposed to be delivered in July 1968 and the order is to have been completed by December 1968.
I come now to the Charles F. Adams destroyers, of which three were ordered but of which only two have been delivered as yet. Let mc say that I have great respect and admiration for the United States of America, lt was by Labor, through the late John Curtin, who was then Prime Minister, and Dr Evatt, who was Attorney-General, that an appeal was made to America in 1941 to help our own boys to save Australia.
– But now you are doing everything lo break the alliance.
– I would not do anything that would in any way sever our connections with that great country, but I do argue that Australia should not be a lackey for any nation. At the moment she seems to be getting into that position with America.
Much is being said about the Centurion tank at the present time. We have had a great deal to say about these tanks on previous occasions. I only hope that the Government is not taking advantage of an opportunity now to get rid of these tanks because they have been found to be not very effective in Australia. I do not know whether an attempt is being made to placate the United States, but I most earnestly hope that the lives of Australians are not to be placed in jeopardy through this Government’s eagerness to get rid of the Centurion tanks in a backhanded attempt to carry out its promise to go all the way with LBJ. 1 have had the opportunity of seeing the terrain in North Vietnam. They have bridges and rivers there too, and Centurion tanks are of no value where bridges and rivers have to be crossed. We found that out from experience gained during Army manoeuvres in Queensland at one period. There were certain circumstances under which the tanks could not be moved at all and I am hoping that our boys are not to be placed in charge of these tanks under similar conditions in Vietnam. The AuditorGeneral likewise drew attention to credit arrangements that were entered into with America, which he strongly criticised. Australia is acting in blind obedience to the dictates of United States business; we are writing blank cheques for the United States war magnates. The shameful treatment that is being given to our pensioners is pointed out in that article to which I referred and in the broadcast delivered by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in Melbourne shortly after the Budget was presented.
– The honourable senator’s party criticised the Government recently for being out of line with American policy in relation to trade with China.
– We object most strongly to the method adopted by the Government in trading with mainland China but which is described as Communist China when the Government is making attacks on the Labor Party. We object most strongly to the double standards that ate adopted by the Government. That is the condemnation that we level at the Government.
– All honourable senators will agree eventually with the DLP policy on Vietnam.
– Senator Fitzgerald has just finished saying that Australia is a satellite of America.
– We say that we should have equality. We are concerned with what is taking place in relation to the defence of this country. I have pointed out what has happened in relation to the Charles F. Adams class destroyers. If any minor fault occurs with those destroyers the Navy has to send to America for parts to repair them. If any major fault occurs the destroyers have to be sent back to America for complete repair. I know that the suggestion has been made that certain parts cannot be obtained because of the demand for them in America and that Americans are the only ones who can utilise those parts. Not only are we involved with the American Government; we are more involved with American big business. Unfortunately that seems to be the position which we have reached.
I do not want to continue at any great length because I know other speakers want to speak tonight. But I do support strongly the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I believe the Australian people, to some degree, welcome the fact that a Senate election will take place within 2 months. Had that election not been due greater hardships and penalties would have been inflicted upon the Australian people per medium of the Budget. I suggest that if were not for the coming election more people would be worse off than they are at the moment.
Senator DEVITT (Tasmania) 19.33]- The Budget debate is drawing to a close. Before proceeding to a consideration of the Estimates I wish to make some observations on the Budget, firstly in general terms and then to follow with an analysis of various aspects of the Budget and governmental policy over the past 12 months and for the foreseeable future. However much one may wish to be charitable in one’s assessment of the Budget it is a colourless and completely uninspiring document. It is an anaemic document which has emanated from a rather tired and listless Government.
– The Government has a very good record.
– I ask the honourable senator not to interject. He has another week to wait before he will have the opportunity to speak.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - -Order! The Chair will watch interjections.
– The Budget is either an anaemic document or it is the result of the work of a Government that is so preoccupied with internal strife and bickering that the affairs of the people of Australia take second place. One would expect to find in a national Budget presented to the people of Australia a documentation of some developments that have taken place in the previous 12 months based on assessments made at the time of the previous Budget, and ako some predictions that would benefit the people of Australia in the future. However much one examines the document it is very difficult indeed to find any record of which a Government may be proud, and it is equally difficult to find any heartening prediction for the welfare of the people of Australia in the next 12 months. 1 want to deal with certain aspects of the Budget which on examination show up deficiencies in many of the areas of governmental administration. The first - it L- one to which I have referred on previous occasions when 1 have addressed myself to the Budget and other questions which stem from it and which are of concern to the people of Australia - is the situation of local government in Australia at the present time. As you know, Mr Deputy President, this is a field in which I spent quite a number of years of my early life. I have always had a high regard for the administration of local government in Australia. My considered opinion is that local government is vital and extremely important aspect of government in this country. So one might expect to find some recognition from the National Government of the role and importance played by local government in Australia. Almost a total lack of recognition and acknowledgement of the very fine work that is done by local authorities is evident. They are still faced with the very big financial problems which have, beset them, particularly in the post-war years. These problems seem to be growing in magnitude all the time. Local authorities are finding it extremely difficult to carry out their administrative functions and to provide facilities and necessities in their realms or areas of government. The only course open to local authorities is either to curtail the provision of services for the community or to go further into debt than they are already. Some local government authorities ultimately decide that they are not in a position financially to carry out the functions with which they are charged. Their decision is based solely on their inability to obtain finance from the usual source, that is. from the ratepayers of the community. The stage has been reached where, as 1 have said on at least one previous occasion, the ownership of a home in Australia now is a luxury, due to the level of rating imposed by local authorities. This indicates to me that something is wrong with the overall financing of the various levels of government in Australia.
We have the national government which has the great call on the finances of the nation through taxation, import duty, tariff and the other means open to it for the collection of revenue. We have the State governments, some of which are self supporting and some of which are dependent on Commonwealth grants following investigation by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Then we have what some people describe as the grass roots level of government - the municipal councils. The national government takes its share of available finances by various formulae which have been worked out over a period. The State governments receive a share by way of grants and votes of one kind and other, and at the end of the line is local government. It is so far removed from the area of operation of the national government that it is the Cinderella - the neglected - form of government.
The level of rating is placing such a heavy load on our citizens that they are kicking against it - and rightly so - particularly as local government instrumentalities cannot provide the services which the people feel they have a right to expect. Councils are faced with the problem, as they have been for some years, of providing roads, kerbs, channels, water and sewerage services, recreation grounds, public halls and a number of other facilities which are required in a community. Because of the stringency of finance they cannot provide services adequate to meet the needs of growing communities within 10 or 15 years. They have to cut their cloth according to their measure. Although they have obtained loans they cannot provide all necessary services because of the substantial repayments on those loans. The services they provide are inadequate to meet the needs of a growing community so they must reborrow and redesign their development schemes. This is a completely unsatisfactory way of carrying out public works.
Let me refer to the National Capital Development Commission. I am a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. Recently I had the pleasure of a tour of the proposed Belconnen sub-division. There I saw things which would make local government authorities turn green with envy. One certainly must acknowledge the great planning work that has been carried out in the development of this sub-division. The planners, with the finances available to them, were able to develop the whole area. They were able to level hills and fill in valleys. They were able to change completely the contour of the area; to provide streets, kerbs and channels; water, drainage and sewerage services; post offices; schools; recreation grounds; public land; shopping centres and building blocks. The area has been planned so well that a prospective leaseholder can even select a building block with a gum tree in the front if he so desires.
I was most impressed with the efficiency of the planners. To prove the point I was making a moment ago, because the Commission can engage contractors who have all the modern equipment available for this kind of work, and because the contractors can undertake the scheme in its entirety and plan on the basis of a population of 60,000 people, knowing future demand for all services, the Commission can offer contractors sufficient work to enable them to set up their organisational capacity and get the work done for, I understand, 20% less than would be the cost of doing the work in the manner in which local government authorities are required to do it. There is an immediate substantial saving of 20% in the cost of developmental works which I was told runs in the vicinity of $30m to $35m a year.
If there could be some recognition at the national level of the disabilities and problems of local government authorities, and some recognition of the fact that people must live in other parts of Australia besides Canberra - and I believe they are entitled to services as good as are available in the Australian Capital Territory - perhaps local government authorities would receive something from their largely unpaid work and would be able to provide services for the people, planned on the basis of future needs, at a cost substantially below that which they are required to meet at the present time.
Let mc deal with only one aspect. The annual rates and charges levied by municipal councils are rising year by year. In an election year - this indicates the Government’s cynical approach to this matter - -the Government usually manages to find from its coffers 50c or $1 for pensioners; but I point out to the Senate, with all the seriousness and sincerity that I can command, that the annual increase in rates alone, apart altogether from the increasing cost of foodstuffs, clothing and the other things people need, almost chews up the increased benefit conferred on pensioners by the Government every third year when an election is due.
The relationship of drinking and driving to the road toll has been aired in this place on occasions. I know that Senator Morris, in particular, and other honourable senators have addressed themselves to this matter from time to time. I have listened with a great deal of interest to the statements that have been made and I have wondered why the road toll has not been linked with the inadequacy of the country roads system. I concede that drinking and driving going together are very strong factors in the level of road accidents in Australia, but we do not want to be blind to the fact that the condition of road surfaces is a very important factor. It tends to be forgotten.
– And the type of road.
– Yes. I mean the general country roads system. We have high speed motor cars with a lot of sophisticated equipment in them, and unless the roads are of a sufficiently high standard to cope with the modern, fast-moving traffic which uses them the level of accidents will rise. This statement is borne out by statistics and by the results of surveys in the United States where, following an improvement of road systems, the redesigning of roads and so on, there has been quite a dramatic drop in the level of road accidents. We must concede that road conditions are an important factor in the preservation of human life. Local government authorities, equally with State and Commonwealth authorities, ought to be put in the position that they can do something to cut down the great toll of the road. My colleague Senator Fitzgerald said that twenty local government administrators are in Canberra today. I believe that the time has been reached when there has to be a concerted effort by local governments throughout Australia to bring to the attention of the National Parliament the parlous conditions of their finances. Just where they will go from here I would not know. It is a matter of very deep concern to them. The citizens of the community, subject to the buffets and pleadings of the people around them, are very conscious of the need for improvement in the affairs of local governments. Unless money is provided, those improvements cannot be effected.
Since the introduction of the petrol tax in Australia in 1926 about $670m has been raised by that means. Perhaps the figure which has been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund from petrol tax is now approaching S700m. With proper foresight and vision some of that money could have been used to place our road systems in a better shape to take the severe demands that are made upon them by modern road transport.
It is a deep disappointment to me, and I suppose to a great many people - perhaps the majority of Australians - that social service benefits have not been increased. Surely Government supporters are aware of rising costs of goods and services in this country, but they are not prepared to acknowledge the part that has been played by pensioners in the development of Australia in past years. To me it is unforgivable that we should have in Australia a vast army of people in very dire need. Many people in the southern areas of Australia during the cold months of winter cannot afford to buy firewood or other types of fuel to keep themselves warm. They cannot afford to buy sufficient food to keep body and soul together and they cannot afford to buy the clothing that is necessary to keep warm.
They cannot preserve their sense of dignity and self respect because of their lack of finance, lt would be a simple matter for the Government to say: ‘We have these people with us and it is our obligation as the responsible Government, and having the necessary finance, to make sure that the lot of these people is improved considerably.’ Year after year the plight of pensioners and persons on fixed incomes is getting worse and worse. This Government refuses to acknowledge that, except in an election year. Just how cynical can Government supporters get?
The Tasmanian ‘Mercury’ of 9th September 1967 cited figures that surely must be known to the Government. I am aware that a tremendous amount is ignored in the Government’s administration, but I cannot for the life of me understand how it can ignore the fact that wholesale food prices are soaring. That is demonstrated by figures released, not by somebody out of his head or by somebody who has made a round robin assessment of the position, but by the Federal Bureau of Census and Statistics. This official organisation explores all these questions and according to the Mercury’ of 9th September last it said that food prices are soaring.
In the light of statements made in this debate, of facts revealed day after day in the local Press, and of the observations of Government supporters in their movements about, the country, can the Government be satisfied in all sincerity that justice has ‘been done to a big section of the Australian community? During the ANZAAS Conference a few months ago Professor Harper delivered a paper dealing with people who live on incomes below subsistence level. He made the rather startling statement that approximately 13% of the Australian community does not receive sufficient income to live at a reasonable level of decency and comfort. It is indeed a startling figure. Government supporters crow about what a wonderful country this is and about our great affluence. They speak of people living in poverty in countries around us and of our need to be conscious of their plight. I think we should be a little more conscious of the plight of the unfortunate people in this country. If we are not prepared to study these areas we are failing in our public responsibility to the people of Australia.
Pensions have not been increased in the Budget. Some concessions have been granted to families, for the fourth child and so on. In an election year pensions would be increased. The load of municipal rates falls heavily on pensioners who have saved sufficiently to buy their own homes. We ought to take account of the fact that in past years adequate opportunities to save have not been presented to people who are now entitled to age pensions after raising their families and after spending a great deal of their money in the development of this country. Past generations have made a tremendous contribution to the development of Australia, to the stage where we can enjoy the benefits of their labours. In our turn we ought to acknowledge that it is our responsibility to consider them. I cannot agree with some of the statements made by honourable senators opposite that the more pensions are increased the weaker becomes the economy, and so on. To me that is a lot of claptrap and rubbish. We owe a responsibility to the people who have gone before us in the development of this country. At least we should ensure that they are not living in poverty, below the bread line and in want. They are the responsibility of this generation and the alleviation of their problems must come from the central government.
It is time that the Government had another look at the situation and attempted at least to recognise the particular plight of people who are less fortunate than we are. Throughout this year the Government has maintained its attitude that the cost of goods and services should not be controlled. There is always an outcry when the Labor Party suggests that some control should be exercised over prices. Government supporters have always agreed that wages must be controlled. I am not sufficiently versed in history to know where the concept originated that it is proper to control wages. I suppose in times gone by the wage earners were of the lower orders of society. It was then quite proper for the people who sat in judgment on the wage earners and rode around to make sure that they did the jobs they were paid for, to ensure that they were at least kept alive so that they could return to work the next day.
I suppose that from this ancient tradition arose the idea which has been perpetuated in our society that it is proper to control wages. I have said before in discussions on this subject that wage and salary earners throughout Australia have never really raised a kick except to say: ‘If you are going to ensure that wages are controlled, for goodness sake give us an opportunity to maintain our position in society and to make sure that the prices of the things we need to live on are also subject to control’.
I have never had explained satisfactorily to me why it is right and proper to control wages while completely disregarding the other factors that influence our whole economy. In the calculation of the gross national product, wages and salaries represent some 53%. The factor of 47% is not subject to any restraint or control at all. 1 am still waiting to hear from somebody why it is proper to do this and, taking a broader view of the matter, how the economy of a country can be satisfactorily controlled when a 53% factor that is subject to control is taken into account and when what happens to the- other 47% is totally disregarded. One of these days, somebody may venture to offer an answer to me but up to. the present time this has never been done.
Senator Wright, who makes valuable contributions to debates in the Senate, took part some months ago in a discussion on the problems of the Australian dairy industry. I remember him say what a problem the wages of the work force in that industry presented because they were subject to increases from time to time. Senator Wright doubtless recognises, as anybody else must recognise, that an increase of wages is the result of protracted discussions in the processes of our arbitration system and is, in fact, justified on the basis of the consideration of all the factors that go into the determination of wages.
– In fact, wage increases are out of date when they are granted.
– Yes. It takes at least 3 months for a decision to be handed down by a tribunal, and an increase, when granted, is based on something that happened 3 months earlier. We see on every hand people in business trying to anticipate the decision of the arbitration court. As I mentioned previously concerning an occasion when a margins rise that amounted to 6s per week in the currency of that time was granted some years ago, we saw people in shops marking up prices by about 10%.
Let me come back to the point that I was trying to make. Senator Wright deplored the fact that this sort of thing happened in Australia and that it had such a tremendous impact on the dairy industry. I agree with him on that point. He made those remarks one Thursday. What happened on the very next day? We saw the headlines in the Press throughout Australia: ‘Government to increase postal charges substantially’. Senator Wright said the day before that some sort of restraint must be applied somewhere alone the line. I agree that there has to be some restraint somewhere along the line because these factors can go on spiralling in this way. The ultimate result is to price Australian products off world markets. We are very vulnerable in this respect.
So we heard an honourable senator quite properly refer to the problem arising from increases in wages, which are granted by a court after a protracted discussion and a deep consideration of all the relevant factors, and urge the Australian community to exercise some restraint and pay some regard to the position of the dairy industry. Heavens above, we all must have some regard for all aspects of Australian industry. But the first one to do anything to disrupt the then existing state of affairs was the Government which, the day after this speech by Senator Wright, announced the new punitive postal charges. Now the Government is a substantial contributor to rising costs.
The situation has developed in the Australian community in which both husband and wife now go to work. I have said before - and 1 am going to put it on record again - that I deplore this development. I think that once husband and wife are compelled by economic circumstances to go to work, erosion immediately commences in a major part of the family life. We do not need to look very far to see the results of this situation. I have seen it many, many times in my association with the administration of education in Tasmania. I have seen the problems that have arisen through economic circumstances that have been forced upon the com- m unity and caused husband and wife to go to work in order to meet various commitments, to provide what they think is necessary by way of a home and the services of a home, and to meet the costs of education. Both partners in marriage find themselves obliged to go t& work to meet their portion of Australia’s hire purchase debt which stands so high.
What happens? The children come home from school at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. There are no parents to meet them. They lack parental control and assume, often quite wrongly, that they lack the love of their parents. All sorts of undesirable social influences creep in as a result of this position. This is very sad. I do not give the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) high marks for telling the womenfolk of Australia that they should go to work. When they do, naturally they make a contribution in industry. We acknowledge this. In certain fields of industry they do a better job than men do. Let us acknowledge that. too. But the fundamentals of our society are affected. When the home life of the Australian community is disrupted, we ought to take another look at this state of affairs and see whether the breadwinner, as he used to be known, is paid sufficient to enable him to provide for his family or whether our thinking should be completely reorientated along economic lines to ensure that the family life of the Australian community is restored to the position in which it ought to be.
The Government makes no great contribution concerning this situation, either. It tells parents that when their sons reach the age of 20 years, their names shall go into a barrel, that one name out of eight will be drawn out, and that one person will serve his country where we desire to send him, where we elect to send him, and the other seven persons will get off scot free. I do not think that this is any help to the family life of the Australian community either.
It can be argued that there are other aspects of this matter, but there are, again, some fundamentals. We seem to be getting carried away with all these airy-fairy ideas of what should be done for the people, what they should earn, what they should have in their homes, who should work and who should not work. It is nearly time that we took notice of the vast improvements, advanced technology, developments in science and so on which are tending to divorce us from the realities of life. I do not think this is helping us greatly.
I said when I commenced to speak in this debate that our administration seems to be tired and listless and has allowed things to get out of hand. During the course of this debate many references have been made to the ordering of defence equipment. Where the Government gets the idea that the more -it pays for defence equipment the better the case its record will appear to the Australian people I do not know. This idea is completely farcical. I think that it would be far better to get the right type of equipment at a price - for so many of the things we are getting now we do not know the price - and to place proper restraint upon the expenditure of the various Service departments to ensure that we get the goods for the money that we spend. Instead of this, the Government takes pride in being able to say that we have increased the Budget this year by some $500m, or however much it is, to pay for our defences. Then some people say: ‘Hooray! You are doing a good job. You are spending more money on defence than you ever did’. What a farce is this position in which the Government finds itself at the present time. In 1963 it gave a blank cheque for the purchase of an aircraft that had not been tried and which was still on the drawing board. At present we find that nobody in Australia - not a soul in Australia- can tell us what we will pay for this aircraft.
Let me endeavour to recall to the minds of honourable senators the situation as it was in 1963. The Government was facing an election and the Australian Labor Party was showing that a proper approach ought to be made to the development of Australia’s defence system. The Government, feeling itself vulnerable in this field, said to the then Minister for Defence: ‘For goodness sake, go overseas somewhere and try to get the best aircraft that you can for Australia’. So the Minister went on a trip around the world and found himself in the United States of America, having discussed the merits of various types of aircraft and the equipment that goes with them. He was on his way back to Australia to report to the Government. These are the facts, as. I recall them. Suddenly the Government found itself under strong attack by the Opposition for its failure to do something to replace an aircraft which had been ordered by the Chifley Labor Administration in 1949. In a precipitate manner the Minister made the best deal that he could make in the United States. It was even suggested that he left the aircraft on which he was to return to Australia and went back to conclude the deal.
As part of the deal the United States told the Minister - this was passed on to the Government - that while it was making this bomber for us it would give us free of cost the B47 bomber which was in use by the United States. Everybody said that this was a wonderful deal and that we were to get the most sophisticated, highly developed aircraft in the world. It was preferred to the TSR2 which the British intended to manufacture. We thought we would also get a bomber that would see us through to the stage where we took delivery of the TFX. Incidentally, those initials come from the words ‘tactical fighter, experimental’. I suggest that it is still a tactical fighter which is still very much experimental. Instead of paying $4.5m we are now to pay something like $10m. This is the latest figure and we still have not got delivery. When we do get delivery we will be paying $300m or more for 24 aircraft which Senator Turnbull suggested were far too advanced for the needs of Australia with its 3,000 miles of coastline to provide the defence that this country wants and needs.
This is an indication of the maladministration of this Government, which cannot be too roundly condemned for its failure to keep abreast of reality. We have seen the same sort of thing in relation to the Charles F. Adams destroyers and the expenditure of $42m. I recall having raised a question as to the effectiveness and efficiency of the Tartar missile. When I suggested that it had made ten hits in 200 firings, that is, that it was about 5% efficient, 1 was told that it was a magnificent piece of equipment and that to all intents and purposes it was 100% efficient. Now I find that there are grave doubts within the Department as to the efficiency of this equipment. We have had assurances over the past 12 months or 2 years that this is a fine piece of equipment, that there is nothing better and that we could not go wrong in getting it. I raised with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) who was dealing with the matter during the Estimates debate last year the question of the Ikara missile. I understand that at present there are some doubts about this equipment on which we are spending millions of dollars.
We have for some years been manufacturing the Mirage aircraft in Australia but I believe that we still have not the radar equipment necessary to operate the aircraft satisfactorily and efficiently. Whether this has anything to do with the present spate of difficulties that we are meeting with the Mirage I do not know. Apparently it is necessary these days not only to buy an aircraft but also to buy the modern equipment that goes with it. We have the aircraft in this instance but we have not the equipment that is necessary to keep the aircraft operating satisfactorily as it was intended to operate. The same sort of situation arises in relation to computers. There has been a 300% increase in cost. Someone has suggested that the increase is 500%. Goodness gracious, this is not evidence of the performance of a Government which is conscious of its responsibility to practise maximum economy in the use of money which is taken out of the pay envelopes of the people of Australia or is obtained from them in various other ways. This is not the performance of a Government that is competent to run the affairs of the country adequately and profitably. I. suggest that it is time the people had a pretty good look at what is going on and decided whether this Government has their confidence and is capable of running the affairs of this country.
I referred at the outset of my speech to the internal problems that are natural in a composite Government formed by the Liberal and Country Parties. I suggest that these problems are bedevilling the efficiency of the Government at present and that the people ought not to have to suffer the consequences of what is going on between the two component parts of the Government. I do not think it is fair that the people should be required to pay the piper or bear the burden of the problems that exist in this direction. The Budget makes no mention of any real’- plans for decentralisation. One of the things that the Government talks about so much is its approach to decentralisation. What has it done in this direction? All that I have seen in recent times is strong condemnation by people in the rural community of the approach of the Government - or a part of the Government - to the tariff on imported machinery required for use by the rural community. This is one of the things that is causing bitterness between the Country Party and the Liberal Party at the present time. It has even flared up in Capricornia, although why Capricornia should have to bear the brunt of the problems that exist between the component parts of the Government I do not know.
The benefits of the superphosphate bounty which was introduced a couple of years ago have been dissipated. What do the people in the rural community get out of the superphosphate bounty now? It has all gone in increased costs. The manufacturer has the lot and the poor old farmer finds himself again in the position that he was in before. What about the dairying industry which was discussed some time ago? Has anything concrete been done yet to rehabilitate areas where dairying is carried on, where the lactation period is 5 months and the production per cow is 75 lb butter fat? Has the Government any plans to rehabilitate this area of the economy and to put the people concerned - the people are the important ones in this community - in a position to make an economic living?
What about the soldier settlers on King Island, whose farms the Government is selling because the holdings were not large enough to be economic propositions? Areas opened up for soldier settlement are gradually going out of the hands of soldier settlers into the hands of private members of the community. Vast sums of money were spent on developing these projects. Ultimately only a few soldier settlers will be left on dairying properties and in the main the holdings will go to bigger operators. I have attempted to find out why there is such a vast fluctuation in the price of potatoes in the Sydney market, why potatoes should be worth something today and a substantially different figure tomorrow and the week afterwards. Why should this be? I suggest very strongly that it arises from a type of manipulation amongst potato merchants to the disadvantage of producer interests.
I strongly urge the Government to consider the effectiveness of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. A person who wants to borrow money for a home must have 35% of the price as a deposit. I thought when this proposition came before us and we agreed to the establishment of the Corporation that it would be of some substantial value to lenders so that married couples who wished to build homes could obtain finance by providing 10% of the cost. Surely in this great affluent society of ours there ought to be some means whereby these people can buy homes on a 10% deposit, with the financial backing available within the banking system. How manyyoung people in Australia today can provide 35% of the price as a deposit on a home?
We are going through the form of taking note of the Budget Papers. The Budget is certainly a most uninspiring document. It certainly does not enthuse people for the good of the Australian community. Of course, the motion to take note of the Budget Papers is only a form. But it is quite proper that the words contained in the amendment moved by Senator Murphy should be added to it. Those words are that the Senate:
. condemns the Budget because:
Time will not permit me to go into the details of the last point, but I hope to have the opportunity to do so in the Estimates debate. In conclusionI say that I give my complete support to the amendment moved by Senator Murphy, which condemns the Budget in the terms thatI have just read.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) adjourned.
Matrimonial Causes ActEmployment at Whyalla
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– About a fortnight ago in an adjournment debate I raised the matter of section 123 of the Matrimonial Causes Act. For the benefit of honourable senators who were not present at the time, I point out that that section allows a judge hearing a divorce case to issue an order prohibiting the publication of the names of people associated with the case. 1 pointed out at the time that that was most unfair; that it was one law for the rich and another for the poor; and that if a person had friends at court in more ways than one he could have his name suppressed by order of a judge.
On that occasion the Minister representing the Attorney-General was not present. The only honourable senator who showed any interest in the matter was the Government Whip (Senator Scott). He nodded to me when I asked him whether he would take the matter up with the Minister. 1 do not know whether he has done that. My reason for rising again is that I would like Senator Anderson, who is in charge of the Senate tonight, to take the matter up with the Minister and see whether a statement can be made on it.
The case to which 1 was referring was heard in Victoria. I understand that the Federal Government has an overriding power over a judge in a State in regard to orders for the suppression of names. I would like Senator Anderson to find out whether the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) will make a statement on the powers that the Federal Government has over State judges and what are the guidelines in regard to the supression of names. It is totally unjust that a rich, powerful and important person can get away with this, but ordinary people cannot. There must be some guidelines for the judges. Could the AttorneyGeneral make a statement along those lines? I wonder whether he would publish the reasons given by the judge for supressing the names in the case to which I have referred and of which he is aware. I know that because I have taken this matter up with him.
Quite a lot of publicity has been given to the case in Victoria now that the story has spread. I believe that the public would like to know on what grounds judges may use this power for the benefit of petitioners who appear before them. I am not interested in the fact that a certain person received this benefit. I am interested in the fact that some directions must be given to the judges on how they may use this power that has been given to them. We should know what those directions are. If we do not, the public will continue to think that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. I ask Senator Anderson to take the matter up with the AttorneyGeneral and to see whether he can obtain answers to the questions that I have raised tonight.
– I wish to take only a few minutes in order to mention something that is happening in South Australia. I did not intend to mention it this evening, but perhaps this is the most opportune time in view of the earliness of the hour. T regret that I did not notify the Government Whip (Senator Scott) or any member of the Ministry that I would be speaking. Because I did not do that the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service is not present. All that 1 am seeking is an inquiry by the Department of Labo.,r and National Service and later a report on the matters that I will bring before the Senate. If Senator Anderson, who is in charge of the Senate to night, will convey my remarks to the appropriate Minister, 1 am sure that we will receive a report.
I am concerned about the existence of what in South Australia is termed industrial conscription. It is operating in Whyalla, which is about 250 miles north of Adelaide.The basic industry in the town is that of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. It is known in the town that anyone who is dismissed by the company finds it difficult to get another job and cannot get a job with any of the sub-contractors to the company. Many men who are dismissed by the company are unemployed for some time. They are unable to obtain employment in the town and are unable to move away from it because they have established their homes there. This policy seems to be pursued by the company as a penalty for failure to give satisfactory service to it.
Anyone who applies for a position with a sub-contractor to the company or any of the large firms in the town is asked where he worked previously and what was the reason why he left his previous employment. If his previous employment was with the BHP company, in most cases he does not get the job. The firm of F. Fricker Pty Ltd, building contractors, advertised for bricklayers. It was building a number of homes for the BHP company. The advertisement in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ stated that no employee or former employee of the BHP company need apply. Any bricklayer who desired to be employed by this firm was unable to compete for this employment if he had previously worked for the BHP company.
I wish to refer to the case of Mr Clyde Carter who was a shop steward for the Amalgamated Society for Carpenters and Joiners (Adelaide Society), which is not affiliated with the federal body of the union. This representative of the union was failing to clock in as he went in to work. That was a breach of the company’s rules. He was dismissed. A stoppage of work resulted from his dismissal. The employees went back to work. The case was heard by Conciliation Commissioner Marshall, who stated that, whilst the company was within its rights in dismissing Mr Carter, the fact that the practice had been going on for some time without any warning suggested that if the company did not condone the practice at least it permitted it. He said that the company should re-employ Mr Carter. The company refused to re-employ him. He then went to various contractors. He obtained a position with a sub-contactor to the company. But the company informed the sub-contractor that Mr Carter could not be employed for a period of 3 months. So for a period of 3 months Mr Carter was unable to get employment with any business that had a contract with the Broken Hill Co. This was a disciplinary measure because he had been dismissed from the Broken Hill Co. and that dismissal had caused some disruption in that town.
– This sounds like the action that some unions take over nonunion labour.
– If unions did take similar action I do not think that the honourable senator would condone it. I. only ask the honourable senator in fairness, not to condone action taken by an employer organisation when he would not condone such action if it were taken by a union. If the honourable senator wants to be fair he will support me in seeking an inquiry into and report upon this matter. The Department of Labour and National Service should do anything that it can to overcome the position that has arisen in the town because of the system of industrial conscription that operates. The Department should ensure that freedom is given to workers to seek and change employment if they so desire. I think it would be beneficial and desirable that this be done by the liaison officers of the Department of Labour and National service who are operating in and are connected with the various establishments concerned.
-in reply - I will examine the remarks made by Senator Turnbull and Senator Cavanagh when I read the Hansard report tomorrow. I will direct the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) to those remarks and ask the Ministers to communicate with the honourable senators on the statements made by them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670926_senate_26_s35/>.