26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) rook the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– ls the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the Commonwealth Government has left Victoria’s 80,000-odd Commonwealth officers and employees completely up in the air as to whether their salaries are liable to taxation under the Bolte Government’s Stamps Act? Has the Commonwealth Government yet formed an opinion as to whether the Victorian Act, as applied to Commonwealth public servants, is valid? As the Victorian Government has made 23rd August the last day for the payment of tax for the year ended 30th June 1968, will the Government make a statement-giving guidance and advice to those in doubt as to whether they should pay up or sit pat?
– My understanding of the matter is that a short time ago the Prime Minister answered a similar question in another place. No doubt he would have given an answer in more depth than I could give it here. The Prime Minister indicated that very recently advice had been received from the Commonwealth crown law authorities that the State of Victoria did have power to impose the tax referred to. Therefore, as 1 understand the position, Commonwealth public servants in Victoria and indeed Commonwealth parliamentarians from the State of Victoria should file their returns within the time prescribed by the Victorian Act. I remind the Senate that at the recent Premiers Conference the Commonwealth, through the medium of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, made it abundantly clear to the Victorian Government that the Commonwealth regarded the tax as being in conflict with the financial agreements between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth’s view was that if Victoria, or indeed any other State, were to introduce taxation which would have greater incidence than the taxation then prevailing in Victoria the Commonwealth would be obliged to have regard to that taxation when next the Premiers Conference was held and the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States were being ironed out. f will ensure that the Prime Minister’s statement in another place is tabled here. Honourable senators may take it thai the advice from the Commonwealth crown law advisers is that Commonwealth public servants living in and earning income in Victoria, or parliamentarians from Victoria, are liable to pay the tax.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise give the reasons why the by-law admission of self propelled harvester headers has been discontinued? Why was this action taken during an inquiry by the Tariff Board into the agricultural machinery industry?
– The by-law has been discontinued because similar equipment is now available in Australia. The Department of Customs and Excise will be collecting duties on such goods until such time as the Tariff Board has made a further report, which will be available in due course.
– Reverting to the last question that I asked in this chamber about 3 years ago. which concerned tourism, J ask the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities: Is it a fact that 1,200 or 1,400 American servicemen arrive in Australia each week for rest and recuperation? Could the Minister tell me whether his Department is doing anything to use this opportunity to further the cause of tourism by making available to these servicemen propaganda and pamphlets about Australia which they can either pass on to other Service people in Vietnam or send home to their friends in America? More importantly, is anything being done to make these servicemen feel welcome in Australia?
– The question to which the honourable senator referred as having been directed about 3 years ago did not reach me. But I assure her that the availability of rest and recreation personnel from the United States Army has been the subject of the most careful attention by tourist authorities in Australia. The Australian Tourist Commission has taken a continuing interest in it and, with the good offices of the industry organisation, has established in Sydney a centre that has evoked the praise of the United States authorities. They have said that it provides the best foreign reception facilities that they have experienced. The United States Army is so pleased that it has sought to increase the number of visiting personnel within the last 2 months, and at the instance of the industry we have been engaged in conversations with the American authorities designed to relieve the pressure on accommodation in Sydney and to induce them to become interested in Queensland destinations.
With regard to the atmosphere into which these men come in Australia, 1 mention that when in Darwin recently I learned thai there has been a diminishing interest on the part of welcoming personnel as the men come through the Darwin Airport in the early hours of the morning. I gather that something of the same attitude is developing in Sydney. But the honourable senator, with her knowledge of tourism, can be assured that the Australian Tourist Commission will encourage the local community to play its part in extending a pleasurable welcome to all tourists, and particularly these servicemen.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What steps are to be taken to overcome the intolerable shortage of office accommodation for honourable senators in Parliament House? How soon can we expect to be provided with accommodation that will permit us to pursue our parliamentary duties during sittings of the Parliament?
– I remind the honourable senator that the care and comfort of honourable senators in Parliament House are your responsibility, Mr President.
Whilst it is not normal to redirect questions to you, I am sure that you will have regard to the question that was asked and will communicate wilh the honourable senator on the matter.
– In answer to Senator Devitt let me say that the Joint House Committee has been carefully considering plans for an addition to Parliament House. At the present time those plans are under further discussion. When they are cleared and the addition comes into being the accommodation position for honourable senators will be better.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the concern among Australian fat lamb producers about importations of New Zealand lamb, can the Minister give me information about the quantity of such imports for the months of April, May, June and July?
– In anticipation of a question of this nature I have obtained the following information. In April 38 tons were imported, in May 214 tons, in June 278 tons, and the preliminary estimate for July is 117 tons. These figures show an obvious decline in imports. This question is causing much concern over a large part of Australia. It is a fact that there has been a big drop in lamb prices and the tendency has been to ascribe as the reason for this the quantities of New Zealand lamb coming into Australia. However, this is not the reason. It might be of news to honourable senators if I tell them that during the 5 months ending in May of this year an additional 2,000 tons of broilers were consumed in Australia and that there has been an increased consumption of pig meats. In reply to those who feel that the importation of New Zealand lamb has had an influence on lamb prices in Australia I wish to point out that no New Zealand lamb has been imported into Western Australia, South Australia or Queensland and yet in those States the yardings of lambs have been very much higher and prices very much lower than they were at this time last year. I think one of the reasons for the lower prices could be the fact that so many growers of merino wool, seeing that the price of merino wool is so low and the costs of producing it so high, have turned to fat lambs to augment their income. No doubt this also has led to a big increase in the production of fat lambs. I hope that that information will be of interest to honourable senators.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it not a fact that the defence build-up over the past 3 years has taken defence expenditure from $560m in 1964- 65 to $ 1 , 060m in 1967-68? Has this meant an annual increase of$1 80m in defence expenditure? Is it not also correct that during this same period, despite a severe drought, national production has risen by an average of$1, 600m a year? Therefore, is it not correct to say that 12% of the economic capacity of the past 3 years has been absorbed by defence, leaving plenty of resources for other purposes? Am I also correct in saying that in the same period expenditure on alcohol and tobacco alone increased by $1 10m a year? In the light of all these facts, does the Government still maintain that 5% of the gross national product is the maximum which the nation can afford to spend on defence?.
– The Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party has asked me a series of mathematical questions as a background to his final question. Sitting as I am at this table I would not be able to challenge his mathematics. I would assume that in the broad they are accurate. He then asked whether the Government is right in limiting its defence expenditure to a percentage of the gross national product.I shall refer the question subsequently to the Minister for Defence, but I should like to make the point that the Minister and the Government have made it perfectly clear that at present they are making a very real and critical examination of the future planning for the defence of Australia and that in due course, when they have all the facts that they want from their defence advisers, they will make a statement on what the future programming of the Defence Department will be over a certain period. Until that statement is made by either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence, ] think it inappropriate to try to draw conclusions as to percentages in connection with the additional amounts being spent on defence at the present time. I hope that what the forward programming for the defence of Australia is to be will be revealed shortly.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry say whether the importation of quick frozen Surprise and other edible peas and beans from New Zealand has increased in volume recently? Will he procure for the Senate a return of the importations of each of these two commodities for each of the 5 years up to 30th June last?
– I must admit that I have not kept up with the statistics relating to the importation of beans and frozen peas from New Zealand, but I shall get that information for the honourable senator as quickly as possible and table it in the Senate.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the serious situation existing in local government finances, due to the Federal Government’s policy of inflation and the flow on in costs for the provision of facilities by local government authorities in the way of streets, kerbing, water, sewerage, lighting, garbage disposal and so on? Is he aware that local government bodies which previously granted concessions in rates to pensioners have in many cases withdrawn these concessions, thus imposing a very heavy burden, ranging to as high as from $75to $100 a year a person in the less privileged section of the community? Will the Minister advise us whether provision could be made for these rates now reapplied by local governing bodies, to be reimbursed by the Commonwealth Government and so allow the pensioners to get some value out of the pension increase just announced?
– As honourable senators would know, the line of communication for local governing bodies is through the State governments. It would be jumping one link in the chain of governmental procedures to proceed direct from local government to the Commonwealth in this particular field. But I do recall, and I am sure Senator O’Byrne will recall, that the Loan Council made special provision to allow local governing authorities to borrow up to a certain amount without reference to the Loan Council. In that way, a council which has the will and desire to proceed with a larger works programme in developing its area has the advantage of being able to go on to the loan market in the normal way.
There is nothing new or original in some municipalities or shires in the Commonwealth granting concessions to pensioners with relation to rates. When I was in local government, which is some 20 years ago, some shires and municipalities were granting these concessions and others were not. It all depended on the will of the aldermen and councillors for the time being comprising a particular local governing body. I do not think it is proper to approach the Commonwealth direct in relation to this. I believe it is the responsibility of those who comprise the municipal and shire councils to deal with the matter. If they are not prepared to grant the concessions, they should make representations to their State governments to which they are responsible.
– While I was abroad 1 noticed that strong accent was placed on national flags in the houses of parliament of the various countries I visited. I must say that I thought the display of the flag in each case added to the dignity of the House and to the understanding of its responsibilities. I will discuss this matter with Mr Speaker and arrive at some decision on it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, refers to the downturn in activity at the Commonwealth Aircraft Factories and to the future prospects of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation when the Macchi project is completed. The Minister probably knows that although these two organisations are not very safe for future production the Services are in fact making package deals for light aircraft - this was the case with the Department of the Army recently - and also for mobile equipment which might be produced by one of these organisations now contracting for other than aircraft work. Will the Minister make urgent representations to ensure that when the Services are ordering from overseas they consult first with Australian industry to see whether it can produce their requirements?
– The Senate will recall that before we rose from the last sessional period certain senators - Victorian senators notably - drew my attention to the problem that was emerging in relation to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories. Because we were coming to the end of programming, particularly in relation to Mirage and Macchi aircraft there was - as there still is - a downturn in requirements. I should like to give an answer in some depth in relation to this matter rather than at question time, but it is my understanding that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation has a fairly good programme. Honourable senators will recall that with our encouragement it used its very best offices to find accommodation within the Corporation for certain personnel who were becoming redundant at Government Aircraft Factories. Rather than give a short answer now I should like to prepare something and perhaps use the forms of the Senate next week to make a comment on the generality of the matter.
– In respect of the proposed rebuilding of the Melville Rehabilitation Centre in Western Australia, can the Minister for Works advise when tenders will be called and when it is expected that the work will commence?
– The honourable senator will recall that the Government’s decision in relation to this centre was to proceed with the construction of the first stage only, involving an expenditure of some $700,000. In answer to the specific questions, I am able to inform my colleague that it is expected that tenders will be called for in February of next year and, subject to the contractors’ arrangements, it is expected that the contract will provide for the commencement of construction in about May of next year.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the many adverse Press and verbal statements on the Budget, from pensioners and other sources including the Premier of New South Wales, is any special protection by police or other forces being given to the Treasurer, particularly in New South Wales, where Mr Askin’s reported feelings in relation to the Treasurer are similar to those expressed by him in relation to students who demonstrated against the President of the United States?
– Mr President, I think this is a deplorable question, lt has inbuilt an incitement to people to do certain things. I refuse to answer it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. What are the present holdings of water in the Hume Reservoir and the Lake Victoria storage respectively? Do these holdings indicate a necessity for a further period of restriction in water allocation, in terms of the River Murray Waters Agreement, to the three participating States?
– The capacity of the Hume Reservoir is 1.7 million acre feet and al the present time it is holding approximately 43% of its capacity. Victoria Lake is holding about 90% of its capacity at the present time and when it is filled the Victoria Lake system will hold approximately 557,000 acre feet of water. The River Murray Commission is not yet ready to ease the drought restrictions pertaining to the waters of the Murray River, but in view of the fact that there has been a very heavy rainfall in the catchment areas and very heavy snow falls in the Alps over the past few weeks the Commission feels that the position has improved considerably and is looking at the matter on a weekly basis to see whether irrigationists can be advised shortly that the restrictions imposed because of the drought will bc eased.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. So that honourable senators may have the facts without which they cannot debate properly the sections in the Budget which announce
– 1 will transmit the question to the Minister for Primary Industry and see whether he can provide the material for which the honourable senator has asked.
– Can the Leader of the Government inform the Senate whether a number of Dakota aircraft were sold recently to Mr S. Booker of Fresno, California, who has estimated publicly that the value of each aircraft is between $40,000 and $50,000? Which government department was responsible for the sale? What was the sale price? If the Minister cannot supply the details immediately will he undertake to supply them within 24 hours in view of the rumour that the aircraft were sold to Mr Booker for a fraction of their real value? If the rumour is true, the sale of government property on those terms is a public scandal.
– 1 can state practically the whole of the facts except the precise amount involved. During the course of the afternoon I will obtain that information and make it available to the honourable senator who then can direct a subsequent question to me. The facts of the matter are that the Royal Australian Air Force indicated, as it normally does, that it had seven Dakota aircraft which it no longer required. The policy of the Government - it has been in existence ever since I can remember - is that equipment, plant and machinery no longer required by the Government is sold. The Department of Supply, which I administer, has the responsibility of disposal. In accordance with normal practice, tender information- was published, not only in Australia but also overseas. I must point out that if it is proposed to use aircraft in Australia it is necessary to have a certificate from either the Director-General of Civil Aviation cr the Minister for Civil Aviation. That applies to all aircraft whether bought by tender or by private treaty. Certain requirements of the Department’ of Civil Aviation must be met. Equally, if a person purchases aircraft and he wishes to export them, under the Customs export regulations he has to obtain a certificate from the Minister for Customs and Excise.
The aircraft in question were dealt with in accordance with the normal conditions of tendering. The seven aircraft were submitted for tender, and 1 am informed - this is a matter in which 1 have got to get some verification - that there were fourteen or fifteen tenderers. One aircraft was bought by a gentleman whose’ name has appeared in the Press and the other six aircraft were bought by a Canadian firm. They were the highest tenderers. If a successful tenderer believes that he has obtained a good bargain, it is for him to decide whether he wants publicity to be given to the fact. It is, and always has been, normal practice for the Department of Supply never to disclose the figure submitted by a successful tenderer. It is the prerogative of the purchaser or successful tenderer to make the figure known. The reason for that is that quite clearly people purchase equipment at disposal sales with a view to reselling it. This has occurred ever since disposal sales began after World War II. It is therefore proper that the purchaser should have the prerogative of deciding whether or not he will disclose the successful lender price.
I can say to Senator Keeffe and to the Senate generally that, as I understand the information supplied to me, the price stated by the person concerned to be the price at which he successfully tendered for this aircraft is approximately the same as that for which he purchased the aircraft. Generally speaking, the Department of Supply is not the policy maker. Equipment is supplied to it by various departments and is put under tender. That is the proper way in which the transaction should be conducted, and that is what occurred in this case.
– Can the Minister for Supply ascertain and let me know the number of personnel to be engaged at his Department’s satellite station currently in the course of construction near Ceduna in South Australia? As the information is being sought on behalf of those interested in studying (he housing requirements of these people, does the Department of Supply intend to make provision for housing these people? If so. how many people will need to be housed?
– I do not have the information available to me at the present time. I will certainly obtain it and make it available to the honourable senator as quickly as possible.
– Has the attention of the. Minister for Supply been drawn to a recent statement attributed to the Minister for Defence that there are some sorry stories of Australian contractors who have failed to justify confidence placed in them for the production of advanced defence equipment? Does the Minister agree with this assertion by his colleague? If so, is he prepared to indicate instances that have come to his knowledge from his Department where Australian contractors have failed to meet the required standards of his Department, or is this merely another excuse by the Government to enable overseas suppliers and manufacturers to cash in on Australian defence contracts?
– 1 have been the Minister for Supply since, I think. 28th February 1968. The whole of my time has been occupied not only as Leader of the Government in the Senate and as a member of the Cabinet but also in working in my own Department. I have been working forwards, not backwards. I certainly do not intend to probe into the past to find instances - no doubt there are instances - where Australian industry was not technically equipped to tender successfully for certain equipment for which the Department of Supply was seeking tenders.
But this is inevitable in a young country. Very often our scale of requirements is so small that it is not an economic proposition for industry to tender successfully for equipment and to embark upon production. Certainly there would be examples of certain Australian companies having tendered for equipment and then finding that they were not capable of meeting the requirements of the tender successfully. Those companies fell by the wayside.
This is not a criticism of Australian industry. In the generality, Australian industry is doing a magnificent job. There is a clear policy in my Department - I did not create this policy; it existed before I took up this portfolio - in accordance with which, wherever practicable and possible Australian industry is to be given encouragement, particularly now that we are reaching a certain stage of technical know-how. We are encouraging the building up of Australian industry so that it is equipped to handle very technical and very involved processes. Honourable senators will recall that I let a contract recently to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd for development work and the manufacture of some micro circuitry. The value of that contract was of the order of $600,000. The contract not only will be of advantage to that company but will be the means of providing skill and know-how which the company will be able to serve and feed into other Australian industry. 1 do not want to go any further with what Mr Fairhall said. He said what he did against the background of his experience as a Minister. I will answer in the light of my experience as Minister for Supply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, ls he aware that the honey industry in Australia, particularly in South Australia, is in a very sticky mess? ls it a fact that at a recent conference in South Australia, attended by about 1,000 apiarists, a representative of his Department urged the apiarists lo organise themselves, and perhaps, adopt a plan for cost stabilisation? Since we have, in Australia, some $ 1, 000m worth of crops growing each year which depend upon bees for pollination, could the Minister indicate whether he intends to do something more positive to maintain the bee-keeping indus’.ry, otherwise we might be in a great sticky mess ourselves?
– I am not aware of the facts outlined by the honourable senator. I do know that the honey industry, like a lot of other primary industries, suffers from time to time from the ‘ vagaries of the weather - droughts and other factors. I will convey the questions asked by die honourable senator to the Minister lor Primary Industry and see what information he can give by way of a reply.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he would agree that the re-siting of Sydney Hospital is causing great public concern. Will the Minister consider using his influence to get the Commonwealth Government to make the Victoria Barracks area in Paddington available to the New South Wales Government for the building of a new Sydney hospital?
– 1 would not intervene in the affairs of a State government because I know what answer 1 would get if I dared to do so.
– You would get run over.
– I might get run over, and any other senator who tried to intervene in the affairs of the government of his State would also get run over. The
Government of New South Wales is perfectly competent to make a judgment as to where it will put its city hospital. As to the proposition that the Commonwealth might make a. site available, my reply is that the State Government concerned will choose a site, not because of the possibility of getting it from the Commonwealth or buying it from the Commonwealth, but, I presume and hope, because it is the best site, having regard to population trends, to the area, to the availability of transport, and to a lot of other factors. I think we can safely leave the matter to the State Government and keep out of the controversy.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Government is aware that the current price per lb of butterfat being paid to Australian producers is by far the lowest price that has been paid for many years. Does the Minister believe that the price being offered and being paid will support the business of even the most efficient dairy farmer? Will the Minister give an assurance to the Senate that this matter is under the close scrutiny of the Government?
– I am not aware of the facts as outlined by the honourable senator. I think most of us are very much aware of what I can describe only as the parlous condition of many dairy farmers throughout Australia. Some are more affluent than others, but a great many are in a very parlous condition indeed. I will convey the honourable senator’s question to the Minister concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. By way of preface I refer to the provision in the new customs section at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport of a small theatre to screen films subject to censorship. I now ask the Minister whether my submissions of 8th July seeking reasons for deletions from the film ‘Point Blank’ will result in my being able to see a screening of the film in its original form. Also will the Minister give an answer in relation to the despicable practice of some motion picture exhibitors of making further deletions, over and above the normal censorship deletions, without any corresponding reduction in admission prices?
– As the honourable senator well knows, the Film Censorship Board examines every film imported into Australia. The Board has the right and the power to delete sections of any film. Whether a private commercial picture exhibitor decides to delete additional feet of film is entirely the business of the film industry and the film producers.
– But the people are being fleeced.
– 1 do not know anything about that. If the honourable senator has any further complaint, the Department of Customs and Excise will look into it.
– I gave the facts on 8lh July.
– I know. The honourable senator will receive a letter in due course. The Department is considering that question. The present question is in relation to the customs section and the film theatre at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport which will be opened by me on Friday next.
– Did the Minister for Works pay close attention to the excellent sentiments expressed earlier by the Leader of the Government in the Senate in relation to Australian industries? My question refers to the use by the Department of Works of Australian consultants. I ask the Minister: During his term of office has he impressed upon his Department that it is in the interests of the Australian community that at all times Australian consultants, whether they be engineers or architects, should be used in the development of Australian projects? Can he give the Senate an assurance that this has been done in all instances during his management of the Department?
– On one or two occasions I have given my colleague Senator Webster assurance to that effect. I renew (hat assurance. Speaking from memory - as an indication of the situation, in the financial year before last $2. 6m was paid by my Department, to consultants for various works. I think the figure rose to nearly S3m in the last financial year. However I want to discourage the idea that, the Department will pay for Australian consultation any fee that is asked, irrespective ofexperience. In many of the projects in which the Department is concerned it is essential that we go beyond Australia for particular fields of experience such as the wave action in Botany Bay and one or two other matters that 1 could bring to attention. There is an unwavering disposition to utilise Australian engineers, architects and other experts if their experience and fees are acceptable.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a Press report that, the South Melbourne City Council had successfully established before the High Court of Australia that the State Electricity Commission of Victoria is liable to pay municipal rates to that Council for properties owned by the Commission within the municipality? Does this High Court decision make similar Commonwealth statutory bodies liable to pay municipal rales?
– lt may well be that that question would be better directed to the Attorney-General; but I will seek information from the Treasurer first, and if that is not complete I will redirect the question to the appropriate Minister and obtain a complete answer for the honourable senator.
– I would like to give the Senate some information that 1 actually had with me when I answered Senator Keeffe’s question about the sale of seven Dakota aircraft. The information, as supplied to me by my Department, reads in part:
As far as the Department is concerned, seven Dakota aircraft were sold recently following public tenders being publicly advertised in the United States of America, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, in addi- lion to the usual advertising throughout Australia. The highest tenders were received from Calgair Sales Ltd of Canada for six aircraft and Stanair Incorporated of California for one aircraft. A Mr Booker signed a tender for Stanair as President of that company. After Calgair had been advised of the acceptance of its tender it informed my Department that Mr Booker was empowered to lake delivery of and pay for its six aircraft. Delivery and payment were made accordingly. I am not aware of any other arrangements between Mr Booker and Calgair. The price offered for the seven aircraft sold totalled in the order of . . .
And then the figure is quoted. For the reasons that I gave before, 1 do not propose to quote the figure; but 1 assure the honourable senator that the figure quoted by the person who was interviewed was substantially accurate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Was an underwater detector to be used on aircraft engaged in sea search designed and developed at the long range weapons research establishment at Penfield in South Australia? Was this detector far superior to any other known similar device? Did the project have to be scrapped because the device was not acceptable to the American Army? Could the device not be used by Australia because of the policy of standardising Australian Army equipment with American Army equipment?
– I am not informed on this matter, but I certainly will obtain information on it. 1 do not imagine that it would take long to do so. I will supply the information to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Is it a fact that officers of the Department of the Interior were responsible for advocating to the Government the employment of the consulting engineers to be used in the feasibility study of the Darwin Harbour?
– A survey of the Darwin Harbour is being made by Maunsell and Partners, I think it is. That company was recommended by members of the staff of the Department of Works and the Department of the Interior.
– ] direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. As approximately 45% of Australia’s total trade and at least 80% of our total oil imports pass through the Indian Ocean and as British naval power, which has maintained the security of the Indian Ocean since the middle of the last century, will be withdrawn completely within 2 years, what steps does the Government propose to take to meet this situation?
– The Leader of the Austraiian Democratic Labor Party has asked a question which clearly involves Government policy. For that reason I cannot provide him with an answer at question time. However, if he cares to put the question on the notice paper I shall send it to the Minister for Defence.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, refers to the development of the Chowilla project. Have reports of the preliminary engineering investigations carried out in respect of the Upper Murray and the Mitta Mitta storages been completed? The Minister will recall that he promised these reports by the end of March 1968. If they are available now, can the Minister indicate whether they have been made available to the four governments which are concerned with Chowilla? If they have not been made available, will he ensure that the reports are made available to the Senate for consideration?
– The honourable senator knows quite well that it is the desire of the River Murray Commission and its Chairman, who is the Minister for National Development, to obtain for the people of South Australia the greatest supply of the best quality water from the most suitable site on the River Murray. With this in view the River Murray Commission has authorised the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to investigate sites on the
Upper Murray, with particular reference to a site known as Dartmouth on the upper Mitta Mitta. The Authority is at present performing this service and the results of the investigation are expected to be available to the Minister towards the end of this year. I have no doubt that the Minister will make the reports available to the River Murray Commission and that the Commission will make them available to this Parliament.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, ls it a fact that at present officers of the Department of Trade and Industry are abroad in South East Asian countries endeavouring to promote the interests and the work of Australian based consultants in engineering and architecture? ls the Minister aware that the British Government gives compensation through subsidies and in other ways to British firms which gain work in overseas countries? Does the Minister find that his officers are having great difficulty in selling the services of Australian consultants, whose earnings could be regarded as ‘export’ income for Australia, because of the fact that work in Australia is given to overseas consultants who may have world wide reputation?
– I think it is proper that I should direct the substance of this question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I shall do that. However, if I may make a general statement, 1 am sure that everybody in Australia is proud of the work that our Trade Commissioner Service is performing in all parts of the world in seeking trade for Australia which in turn provides an avenue for earning income from exports.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration indicate the attitude of the Government to Rhodesia’s decision to participate in the Eisenhower Cup, the major world amateur golf event to be played in Melbourne in October? Have discussions ensued between the Department of Immigration and the Department of External Affairs on this complex issue?
– All I can say in answer to the honourable senator is that the question of the entry of Southern Rhodesian passport holders and persons ordinarily resident in Southern Rhodesia is, in consequence of the United Nations Security Council Resolution on Southern Rhodesia, currently being examined by the Government.
– Mr President, there are some forty-odd questions on noticeto which answers have been provided. If it were the unanimous will, and only if it were the unanimous will, of the Senate that all these questions and answers be incorporated in Hansard, I would so move, but I shall certainly not do this if there be any objectionto it.
– Is it the unanimous wish of the Senate that this coursebe adopted?
-I see it is not the unanimous wish of the Senate. Therefore, I do not press the proposal.
(Question No. 23)
– I express my regret to the Minister, after the discussion last night. I now ask the following question, which was placed on the notice paper on 13th March last:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 42)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has suppliedthe following answers:
(Question No. 43)
askedthe Minister representing the Attorney-General upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has suppliedthe following answer:
Statistics are not kept bythe police forces of all the States in a form which enables information to be provided with respect to Federal offences as distinct from State offences. The Annual Report of the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police Force for the year 1966-67 contains a list of crime investigations completed for all districts for the year 1966-67. This list is not a complete list of offences known to the Commonwealth Police as no record is kept by them of offences against Commonwealth laws which are handled by the investigation services of Commonwealth departments such as the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Taxation Department and the Department of Customs and Excise.
(Question No. 46)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
How many prisoners serving sentences for offences against Federal law are imprisoned in each State and Territory?
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
Statistics kept by the States arc not uniform as they do not all record persons imprisoned for offences against Federal laws separately from Stale offences. The Commonwealth Crimes Act provides that any person may institute proceedings for summary conviction of a person in respect of any offence against Commonwealth law unless the contrary intention appears in the Act or regulation creating the offence. Records of prosecutions kept by Commonwealth departments do not therefore represent the total number of persons prosecuted. Information supplied to me from time to lime by State authorities indicates that approximately 50 persons are heldat any one time in State prisons for offences against Federal laws.
(Question No. 76)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Government give consideration to financing, through the World Health Organisation, a project to eradicate malaria in Timor, with the consent ofthe governments concerned in the island?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
As a member of the World Health Organisation, Australia contributes towards the cost of the malaria eradication programme administered by the Organisation. However, as a result of a deci sion by the World Health Assembly in 1966 technical assistance to Portugal, including the Portuguese overseas territories, has been suspended. The Australian delegation to the 21st World Health Assembly in May 1968 made it clear that it was opposed to the continuation of the suspension.
I am informed that Indonesia is not undertaking a malaria eradication programme in Nusalenggarra.
(Question No. 122)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– TheMinister for Education and Science has provided the following answer:
(Question No. 184)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 198)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
5.The following amounts have been written off by public hospitals coming within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has furnished me with the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The total number of staff called up since reintroduction of national service in June 1965 is approximately 1,350.
Individual officers and employees may be in receipt of higher rates of pay as a result of promotion to, or acting service in, higher grade positions. They may also have attained these positions through having their call up deferred for several years to enable them to complete their studies and obtain higher qualifications than they would have possessed had they been called up with others of their age group who were hot deferred. In making comparison in any . individual case, however, it should be noted that, over and above his basic rate of pay, the national serviceman receives full board and lodging, free clothing and medical and dental treatment.
(Question No. 203)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer:
(Question No. 245)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
Under the present income tax law fees paid for therapeutic treatment administered by direction of a legally qualified medical practitioner may qualify for a concessional deduction as medical expenses. A deduction is, therefore, available for payments made for therapeutic treatment by a person not legally qualified to practise medicine only where the treatment is administered by direction of a legally qualified medical practitioner. The question of extending the concession in the manner suggested has been noted for consideration during the preparation of the next Budget along with other requests for taxation concessions. (Question No. 246)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: 1 and 2. I understand that chiropractors do make use of X-rays to assist them in their diagnoses but I am unable to comment on the value of this practice.
(Question No. 279)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has replied as follows:
(Question No. 280)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Prime Minister provideto the Senate a list of those meetings, held during the past five years, of the various State executives and federal conferences of the Liberal Party to which the Press or the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been admitted?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
This question does not concern matters relating to the ministerial responsibility of the Prime Minister or of any of his colleagues.
(Question No. 283)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice:
With reference to the arrival at Edinburgh Airfield on Monday 13 May of three Lockheed Orion maritime patrol bombers, and also to the crash, in the United States of America, in which an Orion was lost, has a report of this crash arrived in Canberra, and when will the results of the inquiry be made known, particularly as far as compensation is concerned?
– The Minister for Air has replied as follows:
The proceedings of the Royal Australian Air Force court of inquiry into the crash of the RAAF P3B Orion aircraft at Moffett Field, California, on11th April have now been received. The court of inquiry found that during a normal landing run carried out as part of a programmed series of circuits and landings, the port wing of the aircraft suddenly dropped and although corrective action was taken immediately the aircraft continued along the runway for a short distance only before swinging through 270 degrees off the runway. The aircraft began to burn before it came to rest and the fire completely destroyed the aircraft within minutes. However, the crew’s excellent reaction to the emergency enabled all eight members to escape fromthe aircraft without injury.
The court found that the cause of the accident was the failure, due to a structural defect, of the left main landing wheel strut shortly after touchdown, and on the basis of this finding my Department is at present pursuing the question of compensation. (Question No. 284)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The Minister for Air has provided the following reply:
(Question No. 286)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister has replied as follows:
(Question No. 287)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 293)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The answers provided by the Minister for Air are as follows:
(Question No. 294)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
Employment records within my Department are not maintained on a racial basis. However, from knowledge available to my officers the following information is supplied: 1. (a) Four males and one female are employed by this Department in the Northern Territory (Darwin), (b) and (c) None are employed by this Department in these States.
All adults receive at least the minimum adult wage. One male, who is employed as a junior clerical assistant, receives a rate for age in accordance with the First Schedule to the Public Service Regulations.
Males: One is employed as a junior clerical assistant, one as a boatman on an Army workboat and two on general labouring duties. Females: The only female is engaged on general domestic/cleaning duties.
(Question No. 295)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 298)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Queensland coast, employing Torres Strait Islanders and other aboriginal persons?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has suppliedthe following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 301)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
When an Aboriginal is injured or ill on a remote station property of the Northern Territory, does the station manager or the injured or ill person make the decision as to whether medical treatment of a professional nature is required?
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Medical advice is available to all remote properties through usual radio schedules. The decision as to whether professional medical attention is required is a matter for the medical officer on duty having regard to the information given him over the radio. The radio medical service is available to any resident of the Territory.
(Question No. 312)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer given by the Minister for Education and Science is as follows:
Discussions within CSIRO on the possibility of the Organisation obtaining a ship for oceanographic purposes have been of a preliminary nature only. The Executive of CSIRO has not given consideration to making a recommendation to the Government in the matter.
(Question No. 320)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:.
(Question No. 324)
– On 29th May Sena tor Turnbull asked me as Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service the following question, upon notice:
In view of the fact that it is the Government’s stated policy, as announced in the Press, to submit another amendment to the National Service Act to take cases such as Townsend’s out of the hands of military authorities and place them under the jurisdiction of civil courts, will the Government make such an amendment retrospective to Townsend’s case?
The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer:
The national service legislation was amended in the Senateto place beyond doubt that section 51a could apply to a man who fails to render national service where specific failure occurs after the date of operation ofthe amending Act, at the same time making it clear that no man is punishable under this section by reason of conduct occurring before that dale.
(Question No. 326)
asked the Minister for Supply, on 30th May, upon notice:
– I supply the following information for the honourable senator:
I might add that this is very significant in view of a question I answered today during question time.
(Question No. 329)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Since the National Materials Handling Bureau aims to assist industry in handling and distribution methods, why are representatives of road and rail unions not co-opted to this body?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer:
Since the Bureau is a part of the Commonwealth Public Service, it would be quite inappropriate to co-opt to it any members of outside bodies, but the honourable senator may have in mind the addition of such persons to the Federal Advisory Committee.
In view of the very wide range of industries and activities coming within the scope of the Bureau’s programme, it is apparent that any group which included in its membership representation of all the interests concerned would be quite unmanageable in size. The Bureau has carried out studies affecting many interests in addition to road and rail transport. Present and current studies have included topics affecting the canning industry, stores in various industries, potato farmers and processors, various sectors of the wool, meat and dairy industries, hospitals, manufacturers, and air transport. I am confident that the present Federal Advisory Committee, the members of which were detailed in answer to a previous question, provides a very adequate range of knowledge and experience as a basis for advising on priorities for studies to be undertaken by the Bureau.
However, I would also assure the honourable senator that the officers of the Bureau give very thorough consideration to all aspects of the materials handling problems with which they become involved, and this includes discussion with union representatives where appropriate.
(Question No. 334)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answers:
Internal cabling by approved contractors has been in operation to some extent since 1957 and has proved satisfactory. This method is in line with that of electricity authorities and other public utilities. The use of contractors is being progressively extended.
(Question No. 336)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 337)
Has theMinister seen theLatey Committee’s Report on the Age of Majority; if not willbe read the British Medical Journal of 29th July 1967, page 317?
Will the Government be prepared to amend the law to include ‘statutory power for a minor of 16 or over to consent to medical or denial treatment including blood tests’?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
The Minister has seen the British Medical Journal of 29th July 1967.
This is a matter which is primarily one for the State Governments,the Commonwealth’s responsibility being limited to the laws of the Territories under its. control. Apart from such territorial laws, there are no Commonwealth laws involved. Having regard to the larger Stale populations, it would not be appropriate for the Commonwealth Territories to have laws substantially different from the Stales on amatter such as th is.
(Question No. 339)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister upon notice:
– The Acting Prime Minister has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 343)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Will all rifle ranges at Warwick, Dalby and Toowoomba be made serviceable and how much responsibility for serviceability will rest with the respective rifle clubs?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer:
Only costs of works and repairs required for military practices on both military and rifle club ranges are borne bythe Army. Other costs are the responsibility ofthe rifle clubs. The rifle club range at Warwick is serviceable. Any additional work necessary to cater for military practice will be carried out at Army expense.
The Dalby rifle club range is not used for military purposes, and expenditure on this range, in keeping with the policy stated above, is the responsibility of the rifle club. TheBraemar military range at Dalby is suitable for restricted military practices only and will continueto be maintained by the Army.
At Toowoomba there is a military range which is used by both Army and rifle clubs. Recent improvements were carried out by the Army but no further work at Army expense is envisaged other than normal maintenance.
(Question No. 344)
askedthe Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer:
It is well known that there are factors in the economy of the Australian dairy industry that would indicate the inevitability of a reduction in producers’ returns in the new season. For some time my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) andI have been pointing out the difficult export market situation facingthe Australian dairy industry. The price support policies of most overseas countries have stimulated production tothe externthat there has been a build up of world surpluses of butter, cheese and skimmed milk powder. As a result export marketing conditions arc severely depressed and Australia is confronted with heavily subsidised competition in overseas markets.
In addition Australian currency returns from exports tomost markets have been reduced by the devaluation ofthe pound sterling. Australia has been unable to increase prices tooffset devaluation because of the competitive nature of export markets and because other major exporters, New Zealand, Denmark and Ireland, also devalued. The effect of devaluation continues. In order to reduce its effect on dairy farmers’ returns the Government has already paid devaluation compensation totalling $2.5m for immediate losses and has announced a decisionto pay out this year further compensation for losses totalling an estimated$9m.
Despite the poor export outlook for dairy products the Government has continued the underwriting of equalisation values for butter and cheese at the same levels as last yearto enable factories with average manufacturing costs to continueto pay producers 34c per lb commercial butter basis. This has a much greater potential liability for the Government this year because of the factors already mentioned but of course any devaluation compensation which might ultimately be decided upon for 1968-69 production will be counted towards the final return.
The answers to the honourable senator’s specific questions are:
The price of Australian bulk butter on the British market has held at 300s sterling per cwt since February 1966. The price of Australian Kangaroo brand butter in the United Kingdom was reduced by 20s sterling per cwt initially for a month from 11th July 1968, as a special promotion effort. As weekly sales of Kangaroo butter have more than doubled since the price reduction the Dairy Board has given its London representative discretion to continue the special Kangaroo price for longer than the month. Kangaroo butter, which accounts for approximately 20% of Australia’s butter sales in Britain, until the reduction enjoyed a 15s sterling premium over the bulk butter price. Dumping on that market by the European Economic Community is controlled by import quotas imposed by the British Government at the request of the Australian and New Zealand Governments under the terms of Trade Agreement preferences which have operated with Britain since 1932.
This part of the question relates to skim milk powder which does not contain any butter fat whereas Senator Devitt’s question without notice to Senator McKellar on 12th June referred to factors that could support the suggestion of a reduction in the butter fat price to Australian dairy farmers. However it is a fact that the Australian Dairy Board’s minimum export price for spray dried skim powder has been progressively reduced from $276 per ton fob ruling prior to October 1967to $162 in July 1968. It is not correct to say that 20,000 tons of last season’s powder is yet to be sold. The quantity is about 13,000 tons.
The price of Australian cheese has fallen from 270s to 225s sterling per cwt since the beginning of March this year.
Because of the drought, production in 1967-68 fell to 193,000 tons. A recovery from this level is expected in 1968-69 but it is anticipated that Australia will be able to sell most of the additional production within its United Kingdom quota. Australia did not supply its full quota in 1967-68 because of the drought.
– On 11th June, Senator McClelland asked me a series of questions without notice about the visit to the United States by a specialist Royal
Australian Air Force teamto investigate problems facing the F111 Aircraft as a result of operational experiences.
As announced by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) on 19th June 1968, the leader of the specialist team, Air ViceMarshal Hey, Air Member for Technical Services, and his team made a detailed examination of the United States Air Force investigations and engineering, operational and quality control measures being taken. The investigations pointed to problems with the control system and modifications are being incorporated to overcome these.
The total order of costs for the F1lls and their equipment remains unchanged at the estimate of $US300m, which was announced by the Minister for Defence in his statement in the House of Representatives on 2nd May 1968.
– Mr President, under standing order 408 I seek the indulgence of the Senate to make a personal explanation.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– At page 23 of today’s edition of the ‘Canberra Times’, under the heading ‘Senator McMullin again President’, which reported your election, Mr President, and then Senator DrakeBrockman’s election as Chairman of Committees, this statement appears:
Senator G. H. Branson (Lib., W.A.) abstained from voting in both ballots.
The inference is that I did not want to vote. I do not know whether or not this was deliberately mischievous. I had asked you, Mr President, whether I could stay in the chamber for the vote while not taking part in it, as I was paired. I stated that quite clearly. I am paired with Senator Toohey. I hope that the paper concerned will correct the wrong impression that I abstained from voting. The position is that Senator Toohey and I are to represent this Parliament at the United Nations, and as I was paired with him I could not vote. Senator Toohey is on his way overseas. I want to have the position stated correctly.
– On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, I present the following paper:
Special Report Relating To Siting.
– i move:
That the report be printed.
On Tuesday next 1 will move a subsequent motion which will form the vehicle by which wc can debate the subjects of the report. At this stage I suggest that the motion be carried and everybody will have the document in his possession in the intervening period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Replacement of Accommodation - Phase 1 al the Naval Air Station, HMAS ‘Albatross’, Nowra, New South Wales. 1 ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
– I present the following paper:
Post and Telegraph Acts - Postmaster-General - First Annual Statement: Post Office Prospects and Capital Programme 1968-69.
I ask for leave to make a statement on adjustments of postal charges.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Post Office has adopted a business attitude to the provision and pricing of its wide range of mail services. Each service must reflect the real and changing needs of the customer who uses it, the actual cost of each service and the value the customer places on the service. This is consistent wilh the Government’s attitude to the operation of the Australian Post Office on modern business lines. As a business enterprise the Post Office must not only provide a range of services but be prepared to attract and develop new business while constantly surveying its markets.
Any modern mail system, which is a highly labour intensive enterprise, must necessarily introduce changes. No longer can the mail system of today be regarded as a social service which was once necessary in the days of less literacy and less development. The growing volume of mail and the logistics of its handling have caused a rethinking of what a modern mail system should be. The sheer enormity of today’s mail system can be gauged from the fact that each article is handled many times both individually and in bulk between its posting and delivery.
With a wide variety of mail articles, from lightweight aerogrammes to heavyweight parcels, from urgent business mail to purely social mail, the correct business approach is to assess what each group of articles costs to collect, process and deliver. Market surveys have been made to evaluate the varying types of services which people really want. Cost/ benefit analyses have been studied. One inescapable fact is that the Australian mail system is running at a loss in the vicinity of $15m to $20m per annum. However, Australia’s postal losses are not as heavy as those of many overseas countries. Its standards of mail service are still higher, despite its unique size and population spread. This is because of Australia’s ready acceptance of postcode and our world leadership in mechanised mail handling.
That the Australian mail system makes a loss is attributable to four things. These are: Firstly, any highly labour intensive industry is hit hard by wage rises - $6m last year. Secondly, rail, road and air transportation of mails accounts for 25% of its operating costs. Thirdly, there is practically no revenue from some classes of mail; and fourthly, it must provide many uneconomic but nationally important services for outback country areas.
Twenty million items of mail are posted at a half cent each. The time that it takes to pick up an item, read the address and sort it, costs more- in wages than the payment received. Against this background and the posting habits of people which are varied and variable and mostly confined to the very last minute, changes are therefore inevitable and necessary.
There are two possible courses: Firstly, to subsidise the many special categories of mail by making an increase in the basic postage rate, and secondly, to hold the basic rate for the overall community benefit and to adjust the rates for specialised services. The second course has been chosen. Added to this there will be a drive for new business which will help ensure a return on investment and thus help to contain the overall costs of providing Australia with a modern national and international mail service. The reasons for price adjustments, which are set against the philosophy of providing adequate and dependable services at realistic and reasonable prices, are dealt with in more detail in the following comments.
Interstate parcels will be charged on a per pound’ basis, with a minimum charge per parcel set at average cost. Modern parcel carriers use this pricing system. Following a close study of costs and competition, some parcel rates are being reduced and some increased. Heavier parcels will generally be cheaper than at present. Lighter weight parcels will be dearer. Since 1959, when the present rates were set, sorters wages have risen by 48% and rail freight and other costs by 19%. Far distant States have been grouped into a separate charging zone because of the heavy transport costs involved.
Changes in fees for private boxes, private bags and private posting receptacles are designed to reflect more realistically the cost of providing such services. There will be no change to private box rentals where the private box holder is not served by a postman or mail contractor. The last adjustments to the charges for these services were over 12 years ago.
Although pre-sorting of mail has been a feature of the Australian scene since 1911, only since last year has a special rate been set for bulk pre-sorted mail. The users of this service have modern office systems which can be readily programmed to print out accounts, labels, envelopes, etc., in postcode order. Handling of this mail results in substantial economies for the Post Office - no facing and postmarking, less sorting, surface transmission instead of air, and deferred delivery. The special rate represents a return to the customer of a share of these economies, making this service an attractive one.
This category of mail has already created a substantial volume of completely new business for the Post Office of about 10 million items. The potential for its further growth is encouraging. It also generates other normal rate mail as people order by mail, are supplied by mail, are billed by mail and pay by mail. Several international companies which previously posted their Australian mailings from overseas countries now post in Australia. This brings the revenue to this country.
New business has meant expanding employment for postal workers - sorters, drivers and postmen - and considerable benefit to the paper, printing and envelope manufacturing industries. The new rates will encourage greater use of the service. New features include extension to cover Australian books. Exporters will also be able to participate as this service is extended to overseas countries, commencing with New Zealand.
A re-assessment of charges for overseas air mail - excluding aerogrammes - and surface parcel mail has become necessary because of transportation costs and handling charges made by overseas countries. The charge to the Post Office for carrying air mail to Britain and Europe is 29c per half oz. The new rate of 30c will leave the Post Office with only lc to cover its costs.
For parcels sent overseas by sea freight, rates have gone up by 24% since the last rate adjustments in 1959, wage rates have increased by 48% and handling charges made by overseas countries have risen sharply. On a 22 lb parcel for Britain, the freight is 51.30 and the British Post Office charge is $3.70. The Australian Post Office is left with 10c of the new rate of $6, providing domestic handling costs can be held at 90c.
There has been a review of the mail delivery system in Australia. Present day living places less dependency on mail since many more people have access to telephones and telegraph services. Surveys have shown that with a once-daily delivery service less than 10% of mail would be affected. They also point out that in 25% of the suburbs and country towns where one delivery a day has long been the order, there has been no interruption of business activities. This once-daily delivery system has proved that it meets the needs of modern communities in many overseas countries including New Zealand, Canada and the United Stales of America.
The plan for Australia’s new mail system is to provide two deliveries a day in inner capital city areas, and in certain concentrated industrial and commercial areas, and one delivery elsewhere. For the main business areas in cities, suburbs and towns, the time of delivery will be much the same as it is now. Residential deliveries will be from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. There will be a morning delivery by postmen on Saturdays to handle letter mail. The Post Office will continue to provide service for private boxes and bags and special delivery mail. In addition the special despatch mail service will be expanded to handle urgent interstate mail for the suburbs.
The new arrangements will improve the working conditions of postmen. For most it will mean the end of the long break of up to three and half hours between their morning and afternoon shifts and will reduce the length of their working day which commences before 6.30 a.m. No present member of the staff will be retrenched but there will be some lessening in the recruitment of new staff. Consultations with the unions on the staffing implications will oi: course, take place before the changes are introduced. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard statements showing proposed adjustments of postal charges.
BULK PRE-SORTED MAIL- PRINCIPAL CONDITIONS
(As from 1st October, 1968)
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1966 to provide for enrolment and voting at the age of 18 years.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to alter the Marriage Act 1961-1966 to provide that for the purpose of marriage a minor shall mean a person who has not attained the age of 18 years.
– I withdraw notice of motion No. 1, Business of the Senate, standing in my name.
– The honourable senator must ask for leave.
– I am advised that I do not need to seek leave and that I am at liberty to withdraw the motion. Unless you, Mr President, tell me that I need leave I shall simply re-state the position that I withdraw the notice of motion.
– The honourable senator is in order in withdrawing his notice of motion.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate, at is rising, adjourn to Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
– 1 have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate appointing Senator Buttfield to fill a vacancy on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– I move:
This motion is precipitated by the recent controversy between the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) and the Returned Services League, the resolutions of no confidence in him passed by branches and by the Federal Executive of that body, and the statements made by the Minister himself. Substantially I base this motion on the grounds that the Minister acted improperly in dealing with Mr Mooney, the Chairman of a War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal, and that the Minister for good cause has lost the confidence of exservice organisations and ex-servicemen.
The background is one of dissatisfaction inside and outside Parliament with the administration by this Minister of the Department of Repatriation. Honourable senators will be well aware of the dissatisfaction which has been voiced in this chamber, not only by members of the Opposition, on the occasion of each Repatriation Bill and on the occasions when repatriation in any form has come to be dealt wilh by this chamber. It is something transcending mere disagreement with Government policy. There has been aired on every occasion the dissatisfaction and the increasing discontent which has been felt in the outside community with the administration of the Department by the Minister. In 1966 this was very evident in the debates on the Repatriation Bill and it has continued right through the period that the Minister has been in charge. As an example one has the pamphlet which was referred to in questions in the Senate on 8th November 1967. The pamphlet, authorised by the 52nd National Congress of the Returned Services League of Australia, stated that the present levels of war pensions are a disgrace to the Government and Australia and a betrayal of those who have suffered in war. It went on to deal in detail with the complaints against the administration by the Department.
On 26th March of this year officers of twelve ex-service organisations representing more than 1 million Australians made a strong protest on war pensions to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). In a motion approved by unanimous vote they told him that the Federal Government had not honoured its obligations to ex-service men and women. The motion went on to say.
Evidence of hardship and distress existing as a result of inadequate pension levels is widespread and grows progressively worse.
Later the Minister for Repatriation replied to the motion saying that he had anticipated it. The meeting called by the RSL and the first joint conference of ex-service organisations representing war widows, air and naval associations, disabled, limbless and blinded ex-servicemen and the Rats of Tobruk resolved that they regretted the absence of Senator McKellar and criticised his failure to send a representative. The RSL national president, Sir Arthur Lee, said that repeated RSL submissions to the Government had met with consistent rejections or, at best, small increases that did little to provide real justice to pensions. In this year again, on 28l:h May 1968, the pension plan submissions for presentation to the Exservicemen’s Committee of the Federal Cabinet indicted the Government for its failure to maintain the value of war and service pensions.
Then on 25th July 1968 it was reported all over the country, and subsequent events showed the reports to be correct, that the Victorian RSL annual conference passed unanimously a vote of no confidence in the Minister for Repatriation. It is proper, I think, that the basis upon which that motion was passed should be put to the Senate so that there may be a full account so far as it affects him and so that it may be open for anyone to correct it, if it is not correct. It was reported that a State executive member, Mr B. C. Ruxton, said it had been strongly rumoured that Senator McKellar had been interviewing members of independent tribunals as to their generosity regarding repatriation benefits. When making the motton of no confidence, Mr Ruxton said, according to the report:
I suggest members of independent tribunals have been taken to Canberra and had the stick waved over them because of what they have granted.
If the rumours were true the Minister’s actions could be likened to the Prime Minister of the day standing over the High or Supreme Court bench.
And it would be a sad day for us to try and appeal to any of those tribunals.
Referring to the Minister, he said:
We have given the man a go, and we think he’s tried and failed.
He went further and said:
When the Minister had first taken over the portfolio it had been a sort of marriage with tha Service organisations, but now there was a separation which was heading for a divorce.
We hope that the Prime Minister will give the. decree nisi when he sacks the Minister in his next Cabinet reshuffle.
The report continued:
During Senator Mc.Kellars administration, repatriation benefits had failed to keep pace with rising wages and prices.
The decline and erosion in the value of war pensions is incapable of being changed, no matter what the Minister or his colleagues choose to tell us’, Mr Ruxton said.
Senator McKellar had staled in speeches that as far as he was concerned he was throwing responsibility for ex-servicemen back on their organisations.
An atmosphere had been created by the Minister which said ‘that as time goes on the less you’ll get because you are getting fewer.’
The call for Senator McKellar to resign was no reflection on the efficiency of the Repatriation Department which could only do the job given it by politicians.
The report also stated that Mr Ruxton also attacked the Minister for introducing a Bill for changes to the Repatriation Act in the last Budget session as a money Bill on which there could be no amendments and on which the debate was restricted. The motion was seconded by Mr Ian Stewart, president of the Geelong sub-branch. Mr Stewart endorsed the accusations levelled by Mr Ruxton and said Senator McKellar was tucked away nice and safely in the Senate where people cannot get at him’.
– ls the honourable senator reading from a Press report?
– As I indicated before, the reports were substantiated by the subsequent material which was sent by the Minister. I am giving the basis, because part of the basis of this motion against the Minister is the lack of confidence in the Minister which exists in the community and in the ex-servicemen’s organisations in particular. lt is important for the Senate to know, and it is fair to the Minister that the Senate should be informed of the basis upon which the motions were passed so that the Senate may judge for itself whether the bases were proper or not. If there is anything incorrect in them, the Minister has a chance to answer. What I have put is what has been reported as being the basis of the unanimous motions. As 1 understand the position, the Minister has not contested that these motions were passed and that this was the basis upon which they were passed, because he has answered them. I shall state what his answers were and he will he able to correct me if what I say is not so.
– The honourable senator should use material and what he puts before us on his own responsibility.
– I will produce sufficient material to substantiate what f am putting before the Senate and to cause honourable senators to draw a proper conclusion as to whether the Minister is lacking in confidence or not. The Minister then sent a telegram to the organisation saying:
In view of the gravity of the allegation published In today’s Press that Mr Ruxton, a member of your executive, claimed that his branch could produce evidence that tribunal members had been called before me and dressed down for making too generous decisions on pension claims T now ask you at your meeting today to invite him on my behalf to produce to me the evidence he claims is in the possession of his branch. If he is not prepared to do this 1 demand an unqualified apology at your meeting today.
He went on in the telegram to say:
I categorically deny that I have ever attempted to influence the decisions of the appeal tribunals in any way and it would be most improper of me as Minister to attempt to do so.
The important fact is that the motion of no confidence in the Minister was passed on a basis which the Minister accepted as alleging impropriety against him. and the Minister then categorically denied it and asked for the production of evidence to support the attack which had been made upon him.
The next event was that Mr Mooney, a Melbourne solicitor, was reported lo have said:
Bruce Ruxton has been a friend of mine for many years. Some time ago I discussed wilh him my reappointment as chairman of the tribunal. As far as 1 am concerned, 1 am quite prepared to stand behind what I told Mr Ruxton.
Mr Mooney said he had not been summoned to Canberra to discuss tribunal decisions with the Minister but he had discussed them with the Minister in Sydney. Mr Mooney said: ‘The Minister and 1 have never had a fight over a decision by my tribunal, but I have not been happy with the Minister’s approach to the tribunal since he took over’. Mr Mooney, who was halfway through his second 5-year term as chairman of the tribunal, said he had had no trouble with previous Ministers of Repatriation. He said: 1 have served under the past three, and all 1 can say is that Senator McKellar is certainly not the best.
Mr Kevin Mooney, whom 1 referred to, is chairman of No. 6 Assessment Appeal Tribunal, and he is reported as saying:
I back Bruce Ruxton to the hilt.
Senator McKellar, the Minister, is then reported as having sent a further telegram. As T understand the position, these reports are based on the telegrams which were issued by the Minister. He can correct them if he has been erroneously reported, but I think that if they wait honourable senators will find that although the history is interesting the subsequent statements are more revealing and that it is not a dependence upon the history which will be necessary for them to arrive at a conclusion on the matter.
The Minister sent a telegram to Sir William Hall, President of the Victorian RSL, saying: 1 am prepared to discuss with you the allegations made al your branch congress as varied in subsequent Press statements attributed to yourself or Mr Ruxton. [ repeat my denial thai 1 have ever attempted to interfere in the independent functions of the tribunal in deciding claims, and in particular I have never suggested to any tribunal that it has been over-generous in its decisions, f repeat my challenge to your branch 10 produce the evidence it claims to have.
The next happening in the matter was a discussion among Sir William Hall, Mr Mooney and Senator McKellar, and what the Minister said was reported extremely widely, but never, with his resources, has he denied the statements attributed to him. He said that the RSL stand was a great disappointment. He said:
This is a very serious thing as far as 1 am concerned and I feel it is serious for the Government.
– You are making heavy weather.
– That was the matter which had been raised. He said-
– Perhaps we should have a little recess.
– No, we need no recess. If Senator Webster would be quiet for a moment, I could continue, lt is important to the Minister and it is no doubt important to the Senate that these matters hi presented exactly. The statement by Senator McKellar was in these terms: The allegations stemmed from an interview he had had with Mr Mooney in September 1966 about complaints from two medical practitioners who had sat on the Tribunal wilh him. He said the medical practitioners had complained that Mr Mooney had displayed lack of courtesy, had tried to dominate the Tribunal, had impeded the work of the Tribunal while he carried on private business over a telephone and had tended not to look on the position of Chairman as a full time occupation. The Minister also said:
At no time during the interview with Mr Mooney did I mention appeals or the fact that he was too lenient in his decisions. I have not the power nor the inclination to ever direct a chairman of a tribunal.
He fell that Mr Mooney’s inference was nol warranted by the views exchanged and as confirmed in the letter from Mr Mooney to him a few days after the meeting.
– Can you tell me from what that reference is taken.
– This is from a number of papers, including the ‘Canberra Times’ of 30th July. I must say in fairness to the Minister that there is some variation in one or two widespread reports. Instead of reporting that he had taken up with the Chairman of the Tribunal complaints that he had dominated the Tribunal, some of the reports indicate that the Minister had stated that he had taken up complaints that the Chairman had tried to dominate the Tribunal. Otherwise the widespread reports are consistent. Sir William Hall said after the meeting that took place that he was satisfied that Mr Mooney was correct in assuming that the Minister had inferred that Mr Mooney had used undue influence on his own Tribunal. Sir William Hall said:
We support Mr Mooney, who we believe was accused by the Minister of dominating the Tribunal …. The Minister’s action could only give the impression that he was concerned by the number of successful applications for pensions cutting into the Government’s Budget …. The meeting today lasted 1 hour and 10 minutes and was occasionally cordial.
Following this, on 7th August 1968 a statement was issued by the National President of the RSL. Sir Arthur Lee. which read:
The National Executive at its meeting today had before it submissions from the Victorian Branch relating to the motion of ‘no confidence’ in the Minister for Repatriation, Senator McKellar, carried by the Branch at its recent Congress.
The National President of the Returned Services League, Sir Arthur Lee, said that the Executive had resolved that there was no action they could take on the matter of the Minister’s relations with independent tribunals al this lime. This was obviously a matter of individual impressions arising from a meeting held between the Minister and a tribunal chairman, Mr Mooney. Mooney had come away from that meeting with a clear impression that the Minister fell thai he had exercised an unduly lenient attitude towards appellants. As this meeting was held just prior to his re-appointment as chairman he was of the opinion that it constituted a warning by the Minister against what he, the Minister, felt to be an over generous attitude. The Minister for his part denied that he intended to convey this attitude or that his discussion with Mr Mooney could be construed in any way as a warning.
While the Executive had no way of determining the merits of each separate viewpoint, concern had been growing in League circles at the tendency of some medical advisers to be rigid and uncompromising in their attitude to disabilities. Evidence of this trend was contained in the fact thai the Repatriation Department itself had produced documentary films to show the extent of hardship under which men served in war. They were to be used to give the younger medicos who had not had war service an idea of the conditions in which men had served and which could contribute in a general way to a breakdown in health.
The Executive had noted the resolutions of no confidence’ in the Minister carried by both the Victorian and New South Wales branches and these would be conveyed to the Prime M Minster lt had been resolved, however, that in the Executive’s view the present state of emergency that existed in many areas of repatriation was the responsibility of (lie whole Government and not solely of the ministerial head of the Repatriation Department. The Executive placed on record the fact that it had lost all confidence in the Commonwealth Government’s approach to war pensions and deplored the fact that the Government had failed to recognise the just claims of exservicemen and women and their dependants. The Executive expressed the hope that the coming Budget would provide a remedy to the totally inadequate level of war pension payments.
I think everyone would recognise that ils hope was unfulfilled. There is no doubt about this: There is a Chairman of an Assessment Appeal Tribunal who has claimed, and still claims - and is believed by the head of the RSL in Victoria - that the Minister leaned on him, interfered with him in the independent functioning of his tribunal. The Minister claims that he did not. There is no doubt also about this - let the Minister deny it now, in view of the remarks that were made by his own colleagues - that the Minister spoke to the Chairman of that Assessment Appeal Tribunal and he complained to that Chairman that he had dominated, or tried to dominate, the proceedings of the Tribunal.
– You make your speech. I will make mine.
– You have already said enough, Mr Minister, to disclose the position. You have already stated that you approached the Chairman of that Assessment Appeal Tribunal with these complaints and one of these complaints was a complaint of dominating the Tribunal or trying to dominate the Tribunal. What does that mean? 1( means that that complaint is a complaint that the Chairman was unduly influencing the Tribunal, that he was unduly swaying the Tribunal to his own way of thinking, that in some way the decisions which were coming out of that Tribunal were being unduly affected by the Chairman of the Tribunal.
– That could be either way, of course. You are not saying which way.
– Senator Prowse interjects lo say that that could be one way or the other. The point is that it would not matter which way it was. It would still be wrong. This is an independent tribunal and one of the most important principles of the rule of law is that any judicial or quasijudicial tribunal should be independent, and any attempt by a member of the Executive to interfere with the independence of such a tribunal is certainly an impropriety.
– Your earlier attempt was to imply that the Minister was trying to sway them unfavourably.
– The allegation was made by the RSL that the Minister was endeavouring to sway the Chairman from being over generous. If he was trying to sway the Chairman, in what way do you think he would be trying to sway him? He is the Minister with a certain amount of money allocated to his Department.
– An admission that you have not a tittle of evidence.
– What purpose would there be in the Minister attempting to sway the Chairman unless it were that? But that is not the point and it is not necessary for that to be established. If Mr Mooney is correct-
– If he is correct.
– If Mr Mooney is correct that is precisely what the Minister did. and that is what the RSL in its common sense believes, as any man would believe. If he is complaining about the actions of the Tribunal, he is complaining in a certain direction, but I say to the Senate that it does not matter which way it was. Surely it must be recognised that he has no right to interfere with the independence of the Tribunal and that he has no right to say that the Chairman is endeavouring to dominate the Tribunal. No-one has any right to go to an independent tribunal and say in effect: ‘You are having too much say. You are having too much influence. These decisions are going too much your way’. It does not matter which way they go, that is an impropriety. It does not matter in which way you try to sway a judge or influence a decision, it is an impropriety. It is no answer to say that (he point has not been proved because Mr Mooney is adhering to his statement that ‘he was trying to sway me and to stop me being what he considered to be over generous’. It is enough that the attempt was made by the Minister to say: ‘Don’t push your views too much. You are having too much sway. You are trying to dominate this tribunal’. He has no right whatever to do that. He approached the man in September 1966 just before the man was to be reappointed.
– This is August 1968.
– In 1966 he went to the man.
– In 1966, 2 years ago?
– And revealed in 1967. If Senator Marriott thinks this is a joke apparently those who comprised the RSL Congress - some 300 members as I understand it - did not think it was a joke when they adopted unanimously a resolution of no confidence in the Minister, and it is no joke that apparently a similar resolution was passed in New South Wales. So the two large States in the Commonwealth were concerned.
– On the same subject?
– A motion of no confidence in the Minister. I am not saying it was on the same subject.
– We gained an impression.
– Well, correct the impression. I say that it is no joke, if you are laughing as Senator Marriott is, that the RSL organisations throughout this country should express their Jack of confidence in the Minister, and it is no joke that the Minister should say that the allegations are unfounded when he has admitted himself that he approached the Chairman of an assessment appeal tribunal with a complaint that the Chairman was trying to dominate or was dominating the tribunal.
– What do you think the Minister should have done when he received such a complaint? What should a Minister do? What would you have done?
– The Minister has no right, and never would have any right, to approach a tribunal with a duty to-
– He just laid the complaint before the officer and asked for the answer.
– The answer of a Minister of the Crown, Senator Wright, is that the Minister did not approach the tribunal, he merely approached the man.
– He had an interview with the man, I said.
– He had no right and you know it. What does it matter whether he went to the tribunal in full session or took the Chairman aside and put to him - this is the nub of the matter - a complaint that the Chairman was dominating the tribunal? That is a matter he is never entitled to take up with the Chairman of the tribunal because that amounts-
– That is nonsense.
– If these are the ethics which the Liberal Minister is proposing for the Executive in dealing with persons in a quasi-judicial capacity, then we are certainly in for a fine era in Australia. If members of the Executive are to be entitled to approach persons in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity and take to them complaints that those persons are dominating the tribunal, or trying to dominate the tribunal, then we have a fine time ahead of us. Is it claimed that that is perfectly proper? Is that what the Minister has to say in his reply? Is there to be no apology or statement that he will not do it again? ls it to be asserted that the Minister is entitled to go to the chairman of a tribunal and take up with him the conduct of the proceedings - leave aside the other matters - and the chairman’s actions in dealing with matters before him? It is of no use Senator Wright attempting to gloss over this. Every person with a background of understanding of the rule of law knows that this is impermissible, that the independence of these bodies must be maintained.
– You are distorting the incident into rubbish.
– If he wanted-
– What about mentioning some of the other points in the letter. You said, leave them aside. Would it not be fair to take up the other points and deal with what the Minister was doing?
– What about the other points - discourtesy, using the telephone while the tribunal sat and not looking upon his job as a full time job?
– There is- a proper procedure for dealing with matters of that nature. There is no proper procedure for dealing with matters in the nature of an assertion that the chairman was attempting to dominate a’ tribunal because that is a matter that cannot be-
– In the event that the chairman was not proceeding judicially what would be’ the responsibility of the man to say-
– Mr President, I raise a point of order, ls Senator Byrne running the show?
– Order! No, I am.
– In the event that a chairman of a tribunal was not conducting himself judicially the remedy would lie in the ordinary courts of law. Otherwise the procedure set out in Section 61, I think it is, of the Act relating to suspension could be adopted and the Chairman dealt with but the Minister must never deal with the chairman in the way that he did. For his colleague, the Minister for Works, to attempt to justify it would open the gate to members of the Executive to endeavour to sway members of such tribunals from carrying on their proceedings in their own independent way subject to control by the ordinary courts and by the methods of suspension contained in the enactment. The way in which they carry on their duties should be left entirely to them.
– Or failure to reappoint.
– Or not to reappoint.
– And would it be fair so to do without giving the officer an opportunity to explain and then come here and distort the whole incident into rubbish?
– The important point is that the Minister has no right to take up in this way any complaint that the Chairman has endeavoured to dominate the Tribunal. The evil that flows is what has flowed in this case. The Chairman of the Tribunal has said that he is left with the impression that the Minister has been leaning on the people who constitute these tribunals. He sticks to his statement and be is believed by the head of the organisation and presumably by the members of the organisation who have an intimate acquaintance and concern with the matter. When you start this sort of thing you undermine confidence in these tribunals. You would undermine confidence in the courts if you did it there, and you would undermine confidence in quasi-judicial tribunals if you did it with them. The Minister has no right whatever to take up with the Chairman the question of the influence which the Chairman has on the Tribunal. That is not a proper subject matter to be taken up with him at all.
– Has the Minister any responsibility for the efficient working of the tribunal?
– He has a responsibility - it is an important one - to see that the provisions of the Act are carried out. But there is a qualification on that responsibility which runs right through the whole of our law - that is, that no member of the Executive is entitled to interfere with a person who is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity in the independent carrying out ot his functions. If something wrong is done by a man other remedies are available. The Minister is not entitled to interfere with the independence of a tribunal, but that is precisely what he has done in this case.
– He is entitled to get information on facts relevant to reappointment; he is asking the officer concerned for the facts.
– He is not asking the officer concerned for the facts. He is not entitled to ask the officer for facts which concern the independent functioning of the Tribunal. The amount of sway that that officer might have on the Tribunal and his ability to swing other people to his point of view or to dominate them in that way are not proper subject matters at all and they can never be proper subject matters.
– What would be the obligation on a Minister if he had received a written complaint that the chairman of a tribunal was in the habit of presiding in a half drunken state? What would he do?
– The Minister would proceed under section 61 (1.) of the Repatriation Act which states:
The Minister may suspend a member of an Appeal Tribunal, or an acting member, from office for inability, inefficiency or misbehaviour or neglect or failure to carry out any of the provisions of this Act or the Regulations.
The member would be called upon formally, the complaint would be put to him and any answer that he might want to give would be dealt with in a formal way. Provision ls made for these matters to be dealt with by both houses of this Parliament.
– Before action for suspension was taken or afterwards?
– I shall read subsection (2.) which provides:
The Minister shall, within 1 days after the suspension-
– But before or after he suspends him?
– As 1 conceded, the Minister would be entitled to put the formal matter to him and say: There is an allegation of drunkenness’.
– That is exactly what he did.
– That is not what the Minister did. Despite the hilarity of Senator Wright, the serious consideration here is that under no circumstances would a Minister be entitled to use as the subject matter of a complaint the influence which a member of a tribunal had on the other members.
– He is more than a member of the tribunal. He is a chairman. He uses his position. Surely that is relevant.
– This matter affects the independent functioning of the tribunal. There is a complete distinction between that and the other matters of complaint which were made. To say to the chairman of a tribunal that there is a complaint that he is dominating the tribunal is an interference with the internal functionings of a tribunal. No member of the Executive is entitled to use that as a matter of complaint in an endeavour to sway a chairman or to influence him. lt should not be taken into account.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– The Senate is considering a motion of lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation not only because he has lost the confidence of exservicemens organisations, and of exservicemen, but also because he acted improperly in dealing with Mr Mooney, the chairman of an assessment appeal tribunal. Honourable senators on the Government side may think it is a small matter that the Minister has lost the confidence of these organisations. There is no doubt that he has lost their confidence. There was a resolution to this effect passed unanimously by the Victorian Congress of the Returned Services League. There was another resolution passed by the New South Wales Branch of the RSL. There were statements made by the Federal Executive of the RSL that it had lost all confidence in the Commonwealth Government’s approach to war pensions and that it deplored the fact that the Government had failed to recognise the just claims of exservice men and women and their dependants.
The Minister for Repatriation is the agent of the Government in dealing with exservicemen on repatriation matters. He is the man responsible, on behalf of Australia, for dealing with compassion, with justice and with understanding with this important section of the community - all’ the people entitled to benefits under the Repatriation Act and their dependants. And now the chief organisation representing those people has lost confidence in dealing with him. Are honourable senators on the Government side proud of the fact that those organisations have said that they have no confidence in the Minister? Are they proud of the fact that the people concerned in Victoria have said this, that those in New South Wales have said it and that the Federal Executive of the RSL has said it? Are they proud of the fact that there were other statements earlier this year, by a number of other organisations, along the same lines and showing the same trends - a lack of confidence in this Government and a lack of confidence in the Minister? These people have lost confidence in him. The chairman of one of the assessment appeal tribunals has maintained that the Minister endeavoured to influence him and dissuade him from the course he has been pursuing. What was said by the chairman concerned has been read to the Senate? He said he had been left with the distinct impression - and I am paraphrasing his words - that the Minister was endeavouring to influence him in his course.
– In his course or in his behaviour.
– The honourable senator opposite asks whether this was as to his behaviour in dealing with claims before the tribunal. No member of the
Executive should endeavour to interfere with a member of a tribunal and influence the way in which he decides matters. This is the interpretation which is properly put upon the words used by the Minister. This was the interpretation put upon them by the chairman of the tribunal. It was the interpretation put upon them by the Victorian RSL. The Minister’s words were improper and he has deservedly lost the confidence of the RSL. How can the Government retain a Minister who has continued in this fashion? Why should the Senate have confidence in the Minister when the RSL does not have confidence in him? The Parliamentary Labor Party has no confidence in him. He has destroyed confidence.
– The Senate has no confidence in the Parliamentary Labor Party.
– It is all very well for Senator Little, one of the new Democratic Labor Party senators, to interject. Apparently he is endeavouring to support the Minister against the ex-servicemen. The ex-servicemen say that they do not want him. They have lost confidence in him. This organisation, which has a special place in repatriation matters because it acts on behalf of all these people, says that it has no confidence in him and it does not want him. Honourable senators heard what was read to them about what the exservicemen said and what’ they acted upon. They do not want him. Why should this Senate have any confidence in him at all? Mr Mooney is a distinguished solicitor, a legal officer in the Air Force; a man who has been a lecturer in commercial law; a man who is presently occupying this important position in which he has to act judicially. He has said that he was spoken to in a way which even the Minister would concede was improper. That is what Mr Mooney maintains and these great organisations have no confidence in the Minister. I ask the Senate to deal with this matter in the way that it should. Why should we have confidence in a man who has succeeded in breaking down the proper relationship which should exist, above all, in this sphere? It is necessary that there be confidence between the Minister and those with whom he deals. That confidence has been destroyed - improperly destroyed - and I ask the Senate to endorse the action that has been taken.
– As Leader of the Government in the Senate I used the forms of the Senate to bring this motion forward. Notice of it was given yesterday. At the outset 1 want to make it abundantly clear that I did not bring it forward because it had any validity, substance, merit or value. I brought it forward because the wording of the motion is cruel in intent. This is a censure motion against a Minister of State, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), and it is without substance or validity. As such I believe it should be dealt with immediately, disposed of immediately and put in the place it belongs - and that is the waste paper basket.
– Tell that to the Victorian RSL.
– It is not a question of the RSL. This is a motion moved in the Senate. The Opposition is nol going to shelter behind the RSL. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has moved this motion and he has to stand up to it in his own name. He has to face up to this motion and accept responsibility for it: In moving this censure motion he’ used words to the effect that the Minister for Repatriation had acted improperly. The Leader of the Opposition brought not one tittle of evidence to support such a grave and serious accusation - not a single tittle of evidence. I want to make perfectly clear that I- believe this motion deserves looking into. The motion simply says that the Minister for Repatriation lacks the confidence of the Senate. Whatever we do, this motion must remain in the Parliamentary records even though we are going to dispose of it very rapidly tonight, I am sure. This motion, in its vagueness, attacks the integrity of a Minister, a senator, but has nothing in it to support that attack. 1 suggest this is a very grave and serious thing to do.
– I indicated to you the grounds of the motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition put forward certain arguments during this debate. But this motion is framed according to the forms of the Senate.
– I gave to you the specific basis upon which I was framing the motion.
– The Leader of the Opposition has to accept responsibility for what he did. He does not have to come to me to get approval for what he, as Leader of the Opposition, is going to do. ( hope not. Because I regard this as such a serious matter I propose to move an amendment to the motion. I will table the amendment before concluding my speech. The wording and substance of my proposed amendment is that all words after ‘that’ be deleted with a view to inserting the following words in lieu thereof:
The Senate affirms its confidence in the integrity and propriety of the Minister in the discharge of his ministerial duties. The Senate rejects the charge made against him of interference in decisions of a repatriation tribunal.
– That is a direct negative of the motion.
– That is not a direct negative. My proposed amendment continues:
The presentation of so serious a charge unsupported by acceptable evidence is a misuse of the forms of the Senate.
Senator Murphy’s case was a stringing together of a series of Press cuttings. The honourable senator did not read the Press cuttings in their entirety, but just read various parts and joined them together in purporting to make a case. We heard a farrago of nonsense, a series of bits and pieces, and jargon, which T am quite certain was incomprehensible. Senator Murphy made two points in support of his case.
– He did not make points. He made allegations.
– They were allegations. They formed part of the presentation of his case. The allegations were that the responsible Minister had acted with impropriety in having communicated with a Mr Mooney, the Chairman of the War Pensions Assessment Appeals Tribunal. Again after dinner the honourable senator used the words ‘acted improperly’. That is the substance of that part of the honourable senator’s argument. His second point was that the Minister had failed to secure additional, desirable benefits for ex-service personnel. I want to deal with the second argument first because that is fairly easily handled. The Minister for Repatriation, who is a responsible Minister of the Executive, administers the Department of Repatriation. He makes his presentations and his representations for ex-servicemen to his Government as he believes they should be made. To move a vaguely worded motion of censure, which could mean anything, of the Minister for Repatriation, in isolation, because of certain views and opinions in regard to what has been provided at Budget time for certain levels of ex-servicemen, surely is completely extraordinary because the Government is responsible for the Budget. 1 am just as responsible as is Senator McKellar. Each Minister is as responsible as his fellow Ministers for what ultimately are the conditions and benefits which are provided for in the Repatriation Act.
– That is Government policy.
– It is a matter of Government policy. While we are on the subject, the Government has nothing to be ashamed of about its policy in regard to repatriation benefits. The Minister has nothing to be ashamed of in the part that he has played in making submissions to the Government in relation to repatriation. The situation is that the motion is one of censure of the Minister for Repatriation. The point I make is that to move such a motion is completely illogical and not in any way sensible because everybody, including the Leader of the Opposition and other honourable senators opposite, knows that the responsibility of the Minister for Repatriation for repatriation is the same as the responsibility that the Minister for Social Services has for social service benefits. It is the same as the responsibility the Treasurer has for the provision or non-provision of special concessions in the Budget. Those matters are the responsibility of the Government. If we are to have a vaguely worded motion of censure, which could involve an implication against the Minister’s integrity, then I suggest that there is no justice and indeed there is impropriety in moving a - motion such as that moved by Senator . Murphy.
What are the facts in relation to the accusation of acting improperly? During the course of this debate Senator McKellar will stand in his place and give chapter and verse, but I have been supplied with sufficient evidence to be able to make particular points. At the Victorian RSL meeting a man named Ruxton moved, and spoke to, a motion of censure of Senator McKellar on the basis that the Minister had interfered with tribunals. 1 want honourable senators to note carefully the words I use - interference with tribunals. Very properly the Minister for Repatriation put Mr Ruxton to the test and asked him to produce his evidence. What did Mr Ruxton do? He did nol produce any evidence but shifted his ground. As soon as his weights were put up he shifted his ground. It became an accusation not that the Minister had interfered wilh tribunals, which was not true - and (he Minister categorically denied it - but that the Minister had sought to influence the Chairman of a tribunal. What kind of a drumhead trial is it when a man can rise and say that somebody told him that the Minister had tried to interfere with a tribunal? For a Minister to be tried and convicted on that kind of proposition reminds me of the conduct of some political organisations. That is not the end of the matter. A statement was made that Mr Mooney had told Mr Ruxton that Mr Mooney had an impression that the Minister for Repatriation had tried to influence him and his Tribunal.
The Minister was about to reappoint the Tribunal. Obviously Mr Mooney was under consideration for reappointment by the Minister. This afternoon we had the extraordinary spectacle of Senator Murphy suggesting that the Minister had no right to interview Mr Mooney. It would be a rather odd situation if every Minister who had to make an appointment or reappointment was not allowed to interview a man and discuss the matter. 1 do not make any secret of the fact that in my capacity as Minister when making certain appointments I very properly have discussions with the candidates who are being considered by me so that I can make a recommendation to my Government as to whom I should appoint. By way of interjection Senator Murphy was put to the test. He would not concede that the Minister had any right to interview the man at all. I suggest that this is sheer nonsense.
– He suggested that the man should be suspended forthwith.
– I am coming to thai. Then Senator Gair put a hypothetical case to Senator Murphy. Senator Murphy was driven along a little further and stated that if somebody made a complaint to the Minister, the Minister, even though he was considering appointing the man the following week, was not allowed to interview him. The Minister had to suspend him, that was all he could do.
How silly and how stupid can a proposition be?
– Who said thai?
- Senator Murphy certainly said that. His response to an interjection by Senator Byrne, who asked the question: ‘Before or after?’, showed the folly of the argument with which he found himself left. The situation is that the Minister did have a conference with Mr Mooney and after the conference he did reappoint Mr Mooney, thereby showing his confidence, in the ultimate, in Mr Mooney. But did Mr Mooney, after he got an impression that he was being stood over by the Minister and that the Minister was trying to influence him in his decisions, do anything about it? No, he did not. He had correspondence with the Minister, but in his correspondence he did not say to the Minister: ‘I have a clear impression that you attempted to influence me’. I am waiting to hear the evidence that he did say that, but it is not there.
What has happened? Mr Mooney having fed to a member of the Returned Services League this impression or alleged impression, we find that 2 years afterwards it is allowed to trickle through, as a vehicle for a very cruel and wicked attack on the Minister for Repatriation, to a conference attended by people who are not experienced in handling a situation when a man’s reputation is at stake. I will come back to that later. The situation is that 2 years previously Mr Mooney got an impression or an alleged impression and conveyed that to a member of the RSL. It was not evidence; it was only an impression.
How would Senator O’Byrne or Senator McClelland, who have just been interjecting, like to be condemned on an impression - a second hand, 2-year old impression? How would any lawyer, such as Senator Murphy, like to go into a court and take a case on the basis of an impression - and not a first hand impression, but a once removed impression? What sort of procedure is this? Mr Mooney had his chance. He was reappointed and he said nothing for 2 years.
– Are you saying that Mr Mooney is a liar?
– I am saying that he has a complete misunderstanding of the situation. The Minister for Repatriation is not a liar. I am taking the positive side. He has said that he did not give that impression. I think every honourable senator should accept the Minister’s statement when he says that he did not give that impression and that he had no intention of giving that impression. On the other hand, honourable senators may accept a second hand, once removed, 2-year-old impression.
We have some lawyers in this place. Senator Murphy is a lawyer. We know how he is putting his case. I hope that some of the other lawyers in this place will stand up and tell us how to evaluate evidence. Will they tell us how to evaluate an impression that a man thinks he gets and passes on to somebody else who feeds it into an RSL congress?
– What does the question mean?
– It simply means that what was said should never have been said; it should never have been said at an RSL congress; and it should never have been said by Mooney to anybody, unless he said it at the time when he was offered reappointment. Would any of us here who have any spirit or any stomach at all take such an appointment - I think it is a 5-year appointment - if we had the impression that we did not have the confidence of the person who was recommending us and that he was trying to stand over us? I would like honourable senators opposite to say whether they would be prepared to take an appointment under those conditions. Would any honourable senator take an appointment when the person who had the power to recommend him to the Government for appointment had allegedly stood him up and had allegedly tried to stand over him? I am sure that I would not, and I know that nobody else on my side would. I am also pretty certain that when the chips were down no honourable senator opposite would take an appointment under those conditions either. Therefore, I honestly believe)-
– Watch your blood pressure.
– My blood pressure is good for a person of my age. I have just been told that by my doctor. In my view it is terrible that this open-ended censure motion on a Minister of State should be based on such irresponsible, flimsy and unsubstantiated grounds.
I want to say only this in conclusion: I have known Senator McKellar ever since he came into this place. In fact, I knew him before he came into this place. He is a man of honour and integrity. As a senator and as a Minister of State he has always been forthright. If he has something to tell you, he will tell it to you, and having told it to you he will not walk away from it.
– He told it to Mooney. He had something to tell him and he told it to him.
– Senator McKellar has made it clear that he did not give the impression that is the basis for Senator Murphy saying that he acted improperly. During the time he has been Minister for Repatriation he has worked hard in his Department and he has put the case for ex-service personnel. During the 3 years that he has been the Minister he has had the experience of introducing, recommending and getting the Government to agree to introduce some very important and dramatic reforms in repatriation benefits.
I simply state the one that comes quickly to mind, namely, the intermediate rate pension. Over a series of years many honourable senators had pointed out in Budget debates that there was a total and permanent incapacity pension rate and a 100% pension rate and that there was nothing in between. It was Senator McKellar’s driving force, advice and recommendation to the Government that enabled that very worthwhile piece of legislation to be introduced and to become part of our present statute book. The Budget statement that I had the honour to read last night on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) gave evidence of the recognition of the need for additional benefits for ex-service personnel.
During the time Senator McKellar has been Minister for Repatriation he has travelled thousands and thousands of miles. I was appalled to hear read out today an extract which stated that somebody was discontented with Senator McKellar because he had not turned up at a function. For the last two Christmases, when we were all at home enjoying the companionship, love and affection of our families-
– He was fighting in Vietnam.
– It ill becomes Senator Keeffe to talk like that. Senator McKellar took time out to go to Vietnam and have Christmas with the troops there. It is all right for Senator Keeffe to sneer at that, but he has not got it in his character to do that sort of thing. Senator McKellar has been all over the Commonwealth. He has visited repatriation hospitals. Wherever he goes he visits the RSL people, although he knows that on occasions they have not received what they want and that they will give him some of their views. Actually, on one occasion he went to an RSL meeting the day after the Budget was presented, when a proposition was being put forward that exservicemen would like to have received more. But that is the nature of the man. He is a man of courage, a man of convictions and a very loyal, efficient and capable Minister. As Leader of the Government in the Senate I would be remiss in my responsibility and would not be acting in accordance with my desires if I did not stand at the very first moment to defend him as he is worthy of being defended. For those reasons I believe that the motion of censure proposed by Senator Murphy was illfounded and that it was improper to be put in the form in which it was moved. I therefore move formally:
Leave out all words after That’, insert: the Senate affirms its confidence in the integrity and propriety of the Minister for Repatriation in the discharge of his ministerial duties.
The Senate rejects the charge made against him of interference in decisions of a repatriation tribunal.
Presentation of so serious a charge unsupported by acceptable evidence is a misuse of the forms of the Senate.’
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to order. I ask that the amendment be ruled out of order on the basis that in substance it is a direct negative of the motion.
– Speaking to the point of Order I would simply say that the amendment adds to the motion a positive vote of confidence in the Minister and an expres sion of opinion by the Senate that the submission by Senator Murphy, in the way that he has put it, and a vote of no confidence in a House of Parliament against a Minister of the Crown without acceptable evidence, is a misuse of the forms of the House. How that can be said to be merely a rejection of the original motion is in line with the irrational reasoning upon which the motion was brought.
– Speaking strictly to the point of order, how can an amendment be ruled out of order as being a direct negative of the motion when in fact it introduces new matter relating to the presentation of a serious charge which is unsupported by acceptable evidence. I remind you, Mr Acting Deputy President, of certain precedents in this place. If you have any doubts about this question I invite you to consider a situation in1955, a matter which I recall well, when a motion of no confidence in the Presiding Officer was moved. Sir Neil O’Sullivan moved an amendment which in fact did not go so far as this one does and it was ruled to be an acceptable amendment to the motion. I suggest that the point of order raised by Senator Murphy has no validity. The amendment might be unpalatable to him - I have no doubt that it is - but it is not out of order and it is not a direct negative in the sense that has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I submit that this amendment is clearly a direct negative of the resolution. If it is not a direct negative of the resolution moved by Senator Murphy, I find it very difficult to comprehend what could be construed as a direct negative of any resolution. The resolution says in substance that the Senate has no confidence in the Minister. The amendment says in substance that the Senate does have confidence in the Minister. This is clearly a direct negative. The fact that something has been tagged on the resolution, as referred to by Senator Wright, seems to be an extraordinarily inept example of logic chopping but does not alter the fact that the basic substance of the amendment is a direct negative. What Senator Wright appears to be saying is that an amendment ceases to be a true negative if, even though it is in itself a direct negative, something else is added to it. This is clearly an absurd proposition to put forward. I do not think Senator Wright would have the audacity to put it forward in the Hobart Police Court.
– This is logic chopping if ever there was.
– I suggest that the honourable senator might refer to the meaning of logic chopping. My remark might have been chopping, but it was not logic chopping. The proposition is that the Senate has no confidence in the Minister. The amendment is that the Senate does have confidence in the Minister. It cannot be construed as anything other than a direct negative of the resolution.
– I support the point of order taken by Senator Murphy and I do so very briefly. I suggest that there is no way of looking at this proposed amendment other than that it is a direct negative of the motion. The motion asserts that the Senate lacks confidence in the Minister. If one does not accept that view one votes against it. The opposite of that is that the Senate either has confidence in the Minister or is not satisfied that it does not have confidence in the Minister. If the amendment is allowed it will strike out the words that the Senate has no confidence and will insert the words, in substance, that the Senate has confidence and, furthermore, that it is very naughty of anybody to suggest that the Senate has lost confidence. All that the addendum does is to substitute a negative and then add an observation. For the life of me I cannot see how the matter cannot be dealt with on the basis that anybody who believes in what the motion asserts and finds it established votes for it and anybody who does not accept it votes against it.
– I wish to raise one point. I am surprised that so many have risen to express an opinion on whether the amendment is or is not in order without looking at the authorities for the purpose of seeing whether or not it is in order. Whether it is in order in this chamber depends on what the Standing Orders permit us to move as an amendment. We know that we can move an amendment to delete or add certain words, but if we look at the section of the Standing Orders relating to amendments we find that from standing order 137 onwards a certain code is laid down as to the acceptability of amendments. Standing order 139 states:
Every Amendment must be relevant to the Question to which it is proposed to be made.
Whether this amendment is in order or is out of order depends on whether it is relevant to the resolution which it seeks to amend. The resolution which it seeks to amend is a motion of no confidence in the Minister. It cannot be said that the amendment is relevant if its adoption achieves the same result as would be achieved by the defeat of the resolution. In that case it must be a direct negative. If a resolution which seeks to express a lack of confidence in a Minister is defeated, the Senate obviously has confidence. Someone seeks to introduce an amendment for the purpose of expressing the very thing that could be expressed by defeating the motion. It is so obviously a direct negative that it could not be classified as being relevant to the motion. I would suggest that under Standing Order 139 the amendment is entirely out of order.
– I submit that the amendment is in order. I hope that we will get on and vote on it and then get on with the business of the country. I am disgusted to think that after a recess of 2£ months, at a time when the country’s problems are serious-
– I rise to order. I submit that the question that the honourable senator should be discussing is whether the proposed amendment is in order. Discussion of anything else is not relevant.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! There is no substance in the point raised, but I ask Senator McManus to confine his remarks to the proposed amendment.
– I will, but I express my disgust that we are wasting time on pettifogging tactics which is all that the attack on the amendment appears t.o be, when we have already wasted a considerable amount of time on what is nothing less than a back-biting campaign against a Minister, on the flimsiest of evidence. I point out that the amendment expresses something new. It does not merely deal with the question of confidence. It goes on to say that the Senate affirms that this kind of thing ought not to be done under the forms of the Seriate. I think it would be entirely wrong if the Senate were to be deprived of the opportunity of expressing its opinion of a motion which, in my view, should never have been presented.
– The submission by Senator Cavanagh warrants some consideration. Incidentally, the Standing Orders do not explicitly provide in respect of amendments contrary to the substance of the motion. This is not provided for by express delineation in the Standing Orders.
The question here is whether the proposed amendment would achieve what otherwise would have been achieved by the defeat of the motion. I can imagine a proposition being presented to this Chamber which might be validly presented, supported by adequacy of evidence, sufficient to justify this Chamber in supporting it. But that is not such an occasion as we have now.
The allegation here is that there is an insufficiency of evidence. In other words, the proposed amendment goes not merely to a resolution of confidence but to a resolution of the degree of confidence that the Senate has in the Minister, which would not be expressed merely by the defeat of the motion. Therefore I say that there is in this amendment an additional element which is extraordinarily relevant and extraordinarily significant and which therefore takes the amendment completely into a new sphere. I submit it is a valid amendment to the motion and not a direct negative of it.
– The motion before the Senate is that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has lost the confidence of the Senate. The proposed amendment is a direct negative of that. It asks the Senate to express confidence in the Minister. In the part of the Standing Orders relating to amendments it is clearly stated that an amendment must be relevant to the question which it proposes to amend.
If the proposed amendment is allowed, the whole of the customary procedures and usages of the Senate are abused. Of course, we know that today it is a question of the science of numbers. We know that Rafferty can rule when you have got the numbers.
But at least the general public of Australia are very interested in this matter. They are very interested to know the whole story about the matter which is being aired here tonight. To move an amendment such as the one proposed and carry it by sheer weight of numbers is to abuse the Standing Orders of the Senate, which state clearly that an amendment must be relevant to the question which it proposes to amend. I submit the proposed amendment is out of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I have listened to all the arguments raised on the point of order that has been taken. On looking at the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) I note that it says three things. The first is that the Senate affirms its confidence in the integrity and propriety of the Minister in the discharge of his Ministerial duties. That, to my way of thinking, is the kernel of the proposal to which opposition has been raised. The second thing it says is that the Senate rejects the charge made against him of interference in decisions of a repatriation tribunal. The third statement is that the presentation of a very serious charge, unsupported by acceptable evidence, is a misuse of the forms of the Senate.
The motion before the Senate expresses lack of confidence in the Minister. This matter has been the cause of controversy outside this Chamber. It has been brought into the open here in the form of a motion seeking to record lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation. I hold that the Senate has the right to affirm in a positive way that it has confidence in the Minister. I do not look upon the first section of the proposed amendment as a direct negative to the motion.
The other parts of the amendment to which I have referred relate to matters additional to the first point mentioned, and this in itself, under the Standing Orders of the Senate, is sufficient to warrant rejection of the point of order that has been raised.
– I desire to oppose the amendment which you, Mr Acting Deputy President, have ruled to be in order, and to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) expressing want of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). I would remind the Senate that a strong case was made in support of this motion by the Leader of the Opposition before the suspension of the sitting.
I want to say two things immediately. Firstly, I am very surprised that the person who rose in answer to Senator Murphy’s indictment was not the Minister who, we might have supposed, would want to take the earliest opportunity to put his side of the case, but the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson), who has told us what somebody else has told him. He has not put himself in any stronger position than any other member of the Senate. I had expected that, with the strength of the indictment against him, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) would have said: ‘I want you to know the facts so that any discussion that takes place in the Senate will be upon the basis of what I can tell you about it*.
We have been deprived of that opportunity at this stage of the debate. I have no doubt we will hear from the Minister in due course, but I first of all express my surprise that he has chosen to let the Leader of the Government speak first and i to wait until we have all proceeded to I discuss the matter without the benefit of his own observations.
– You are making the move.
– We are making the move, and I suggest that what Senator Murphy had to say before the suspension of the sitting, and immediately after it, was very persuasive. I am sorry that the Leader of the Government has left the Chamber. He went into a great song and dance and worked himself up into a state of indigna- tion over the fact that this motion by Senator Murphy stating that the Senate lacks confidence in the Minister was general in character and did not give particulars.
I want to say on behalf of Senator Murphy - I have not the slightest doubt that Senator Anderson would acknowledge this - that round about noon on Monday, which was the first opportunity Senator Murphy had to give any indication to the Government that this motion of want of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation was to be moved, the Leader of the Opposition informed the Leader of the Govern ment that the motion would be moved and that it was based upon RSL lack of confidence in him and alleged improper conduct by him in relation to an assessment appeal tribunal.
What more than that would the Leader of the Government want? We reject completely any suggestion that we have been guilty of any sort of abuse of the procedures of this Senate. We are faced with a situation wherein the two largest bodies of the Returned Services League - the Conference in Victoria and the State Executive in New South Wales - have unanimously expressed their want of confidence in this Minister arising out of the very incident that we are discussing, and it is utter humbug on behalf of the Government to attempt to suggest that we are in some way doing the wrong thing. There is plenty - there is more than enough - in what the Minister has admitted himself in public statements to indict him of the conduct with which our motion charges him.
Before the suspension, in opening this debate, Senator Murphy calmly and unhysterically documented in chronological manner the events which had led up to this confrontation between the Minister and the RSL in two States, and which was not resolved, because it could not really be resolved, by the National Executive of the RSL a week or so later. I want to retrace some of the history of the matter and deal with it very briefly because honourable senators should have it fairly and squarely in their minds, unless we are to hear from the Minister some version of the facts that is more complete than any that he has volunteered to date in the public Press, or unless he is going to assert that what he did was perfectly proper, or unless he is going to express some degree of regret if what he did was interpreted as going beyond the bounds of propriety.
I am going to concentrate on the allegation here and not spread the debate around the other matters on which the RSL and other sections of the community have lacked confidence in the repatriation policy of the Government and specifically in the Minister, because those have been discussed on other occasions in relation generally to repatriation matters and repatriation policy. I am going to concentrate on the specific indictment that is made in this motion of lack of confidence. The allegation is this: that the Minister sent for the Chairman of a War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal prior to his reappointment, when the question of his reappointment was in the air, and, in substance, left him with the clear impression that he had been too lenient towards applicants appearing before that Tribunal, that is to say, too lenient towards repatriated ex-servicemen applicants appearing before that Tribunal. The Minister has conceded in the public Press and has conceded to the RSL that he did interview Mr Mooney. He has said, in his own language, that he wanted to give him an opportunity to deal with some complaints about his conduct that had been made by medical members who had sat with him on the Tribunal. The matter was disclosed a piece at a time.
– Is it a ‘Peyton Place’ serial?
– No, it is not entirely a ‘Peyton Place’ serial; it is a question of the chronology of the matter. There was first of all a call by the Victorian Annual Conference of the RSL on 24th July of this year for the Minister’s resignation, unanimously expressing a lack of confidence in him because it was said by a Mr Ruxton who, as events transpired, said he had got it from Mr Mooney, the Chairman of the Tribunal - the man in question - that the Minister had interviewed members of independent tribunals as to their generosity regarding repatriation benefits. Later it was conceded that the only case that was specified by Mr Ruxton and was intended was the case of Mr Mooney and, as they put it at the RSL, it was not that it had happened more than once, but that once was too much.
– Would you as a lawyer condemn a man on hearsay based on hearsay?
– I am not talking about hearsay. I am coming to what the Minister says, if the honourable senator will wait for it. This is a very simple matter. It is a motion of want of confidence. The matter has been looked into in places other than here and the Minister has made public what his own attitude about the matter is. He saw nothing improper, apparently, in calling this man. I am using his own words as reported: ‘That is why I called him to my Sydney office’. Mr Mooney is living in Melbourne and he is called to the Minister’s Sydney office. As far as we can piece it together, what he is told is that there have been complaints by fellow members of the Tribunal, by the .medical men, that he was displaying a lack of courtesy to people making appeals, that he dominated the Tribunal, that he impeded the work of the Tribunal by discussing personal business on the telephone and failed to consider the position as a fulltime position. I hope that it will not be suggested that I have not disclosed all that the Minister himself said in dealing with this allegation.
What we say is that it was quite improper of the Minister to take to Mr Mooney, to give him the substance of those complaints, to complain about his dominating the Tribunal. If he is appointed to the Tribunal, all that that can mean is that he has one vote out of three and he does what every member of a Tribunal does, that is, discusses matters with his fellow members and perhaps attempts to persuade them to his own point of view. Is this to be regarded as some fault in the Chairman of the Tribunal for which he is answerable to the Minister and on which his reappointment may depend? It does not matter what the Minister said. I hope that when he does speak in this debate he will give us the benefit not of a potted version of what happened, not of three or four short phrases, but of an indication of what the substance of the complaints was, bow he approached Mr Mooney on the matter, what Mr Mooney said in reply to him, and how on earth Mr Mooney could have dreamed up this case, how on earth Mr Mooney could have got what everybody - including the National Executive of the RSL - has described as a clear impression that the Minister felt that Mr Mooney had exercised an unduly lenient attitude towards appellants. This is a statement made by Sir Arthur Lee, National President of the RSL on 7th August:
This was obviously a matter of individual impressions arising from a meeting held between the Minister and a Tribunal Chairman, Mr Mooney. Mooney had come away from that meeting with a clear impression that the Minister felt that he had exercised an unduly lenient attitude towards appellants. As this meeting was held-
– Did Mr Mooney tell Sir Arthur Lee this?
– Have you any evidence that Mr Mooney ever said he did do that?
– We will not have the advantage of having Mr Mooney present here.
– No, but has he told you that?
– He has not told me that, because I have not gone looking and scraping for evidence. I am prepared to accept this on the basis of what the Minister himself has admitted. We are not dealing with people who wandered in off the street. We are dealing with Mr Mooney, a solicitor of the court of Victoria, a lecturer in commercial law, legal adviser to the Royal Australian Air Force. We are not dealing with a fellow who is a bit slow on the uptake and who cannot get the message who is called all the way to Sydney to have a discussion with the Minister about complaints of his conduct and who comes away with that clear impression. Sir William Hall, President of the Victorian Branch of the RSL, after seeing Senator McKellar, the Minister, who had made a trip to Melbourne to try to clear it up, said: ‘1 have heard the Minister and I have heard Mr Mooney and we accept Mr Mooney’s version’. You cannot tell me that Sir William Hall is a man who has just wandered in off the street. He is a man who has been knighted on the recommendation of this Government within the past few months. He certainly is not a political opponent of the Government as far as I know, although it appears that in recent times the returned servicemen’s organisations all over the country have become so fed up with the Government that they have lost confidence in the Government and in the Minister. This was perhaps the last straw for them.
For many years, year after year, the RSL has been conducting campaigns for increased benefits, and in this chamber the Opposition has raised in Budget debates reasonable amendments of the Repatriation Act that have been proposed by the organisation. The League has supported pleas to the Minister, and has itself made pleas to the Minister, for the alleviation of the plight of returned servicemen in all kinds of ways. Ex-servicemen now regard this Government as having let them down abjectly, and for the first time in Australia’s history the organisation has commenced a national campaign against the Government because of its repatriation policy.
These are not people who can be accused of having political axes to grind against the Government. Mr Mooney himself was appointed and reappointed by the Government. Sir William Hall and Sir Arthur Lee have been honoured by the Government by the grant of knighthoods within recent years. It cannot be suggested that the Government has no confidence in them. The Victorian conference passed this motion unanimously. When an attempt was made to get the parties together Sir William Hall said in effect: ‘I have heard them both and we stick to Mr Mooney’.
– He has never said that he has heard Mr Mooney, has he?
– I do not know that he has said that he has met Mr Mooney but he certainly has had the opportunity.
– Why did you say that he had heard Mr Mooney?
– He has heard of Mr Mooney’s allegations and he has heard Mr Ruxton. Mr Mooney also has made public statements on this matter just as the Minister has made public statements. Mr Mooney is reported in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 27th July as having said: ‘Bruce Ruxton has been a friend of mine for many years’.
– This is Mr Mooney speaking?
– Dry up, will you? We are not in a court of law now.
– Well, we should be.
– I was saying that Mr Mooney said:
Bruce Ruxton has been a friend of mine for many years. He is a stable person. Some time ago 1 discussed with him-
That is the Minister - my reappointment as Chairman of the Tribunal. As far as I am concerned I am quite prepared to stand behind what I told Mr Ruxton.
To suggest that he is drawing a long bow is beside the point. He goes on to add:
The Minister and I have never had a fight over a decision by my Tribunal but I have not been happy with the Minister’s approach to the Tribunal since he took over.
What I am saying is that, having had the opportunity to discuss the matter with the
Minister, Sir William Hall said in effect on behalf of the Victorian Branch of the RSL: We accept Mr Mooney’s version’. The New South Wales executive of the RSL supported that view.
– Oh no, they did not.
– As I understand it, they unanimously supported a vote of no confidence in Minister and the matter went from there-
– They did not do that at all.
– The Minister has had an opportunity to clear this up. I do not look with any favour on the way in which the Government has conducted its case tonight. It was subjected to a very blistering indictment by the Leader of the Opposition, a carefully documented chronological account of what had been said by all the relevant parties in this matter. The Minister could have cleared this up by saying: ‘Never mind about who said what. I will tell you what the facts are’. We have been debating this since 10 to 5 this afternoon or thereabouts and we are still waiting for the Minister, who no doubt will come along and tell us something that Senator Murphy-
– You are admitting that you do not know the facts.
– What about-
– You are all very noisy and very argumentative but I will have my say now and you can have your say later.
SenatorO’Byrne- The Chair should be seeing to that.
– I am not asking for protection. I do not feel in need of it. It will not be of much use if the Minister rises at whatever time he rises tonight-
– He cannot get up until you sit down.
– He might have been a bit smarter. We all would have been indebted to him if he had come forward and said: ‘This is my side of the case so that you can decide’.
– If you want to hear him you should sit down.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) is just as talkative as some of his argumentative colleagues. The plain fact is that we have put a strong case. We have not put a weak case by any means. Our case is strong because if it gets abroad that the Minister for Repatriation or any other Minister can whistle up the chairman of a tribunal who is up for reappointment and read him some kind of a lecture sufficient for him to come back to Melbourne from Sydney with a clear impression that he was-
– Two years later.
– He did not immediately make a public complaint about it.
– That is right.
– Ordinarily he would not do it that way, and no doubt Mr Mooney was riot the one to give publicity to this case. As far as can be seen from the Press reports of the matter, he did not volunteer anything to the Press; but when his friend Mr Ruxton used this case and what Mr Mooney had told him as an example, and the Minister came in and wanted to contradict the allegation, Mr Mooney said:’I am prepared to stand up to what I told Bruce Ruxton’. This is not Mr Mooney chasing notoriety. It is not Mr Mooney making any public complaints. It is Mr Mooney, an honourable citizen, Chairman of the No. 6 Assessment Appeal Tribunal, whom the Minister himself had reappointed, coming forward when he was put into an extremely embarrassing position and saying:I agree with what Ruxton has said. I got the very clear impression that I was being told I influenced the Tribunal to treat applicants too leniently.’ I do not regard the Opposition move as in any way an abuse of any process. This motion is not frivolous in any way. We are asking the Senate-
– The motion should not
– Dry up, will you? The Minister for Works has tried persistently to interrupt me during my address. No doubt he will come into the debate at a later stage and talk about the law of evidence.
I am interested in the weight of the indictment that is here levelled against the Minister. I hope that he will be able to clear it up for us. I hope that he will be quite specific about what was said on this occasion and how he came to do this. No doubt he has talked about it, and if there is any correspondence we would like to see it. We want to know what he said to what Mr Mooney said. Can he explain to us how, if it was harmless, Mr Mooney could have gained the impression which seems to be accepted by all - even after the Minister put his case - that he was somehow being leaned on? He did not use that expression, but that seems to be the impression that he gained - that he was being a bit too generous.
That is all 1 want to say. I support the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe it was fairly put. I believe that proper notice of it was given. It is nothing to the point for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to wave his hands in the air and suggest all sorts of dishonourable motives in bringing this motion forward. It is a matter of great public interest. No doubt many people have been interested in the fact that at the end of a long history of overwhelming dissatisfaction with the Government’s repatriation policies, it should come to pass that in two States the RSL has expressed a lack of confidence in the Minister, no doubt arising out of this incident. The motion is a proper matter for the Senate to discuss. I invite the Senate to reject the amendment moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and to support the motion proposed by Senator Murphy.
– I propose to be very brief. I shall try to remove the disappointment that is evidently in Senator Cohen’s mind. At the conference of the Victorian Branch of the Returned Services League in July there were two matters of substance on which a motion of no confidence was carried. The first criticised the Government and myself in regard to pension rates. This is a matter on which the RSL is entitled to express its own opinions and I do not object to its criticism, although I do not agree with what it has said. The second matter was an allegation that I had attacked members of independent appeal tribunals for making too generous decisions. This I regard as a very serious matter, because it reflects on my own personal integrity and my fitness as a Minister. This is the only matter which has remained in issue between myself and the Victorian State President of the RSL.
For what I have to say I have to do the same as Senator Murphy did; I must rely on published reports of what occurred at the Victorian State Branch conference of the RSL in Melbourne on 24th July and on published statements attributed to the Victorian President of the RSL, Sir William Hall, none of which has been denied or withdrawn, and on my subsequent conversation with the President. I make the point that this occurred on 24th or 25th July. I think it occurred on the Wednesday. On the Tuesday repatriation matters were decided by a meeting of the full Ministry in Canberra. I would not like honourable senators to think for one moment that the strictures placed on me and the Government had any bearing at all on the repatriation measures that were decided the day previously.
At the conference on 24th July a Mr Ruxton, in proposing the motion, said it was strongly rumoured that I had taken members of the independent tribunals to Canberra and had waved a stick at them over decisions they were giving. He said that his sub-branch could produce evidence that I had called tribunal members before me and dressed them down for making too generous decisions. These are the words he is quoted as having used. On the following day, after I read the reports, I sent the following telegram to Sir William Hall:
In view of the gravity of the allegations in today’s Press that Mr Ruxton, a member of your Executive, claimed that his Branch could produce evidence that Tribunal members had been called before me and dressed down for making too generous decisions on pension claims, I now ask von, at your meeting today, to invite him, on my behalf, to produce to me the evidence he claims is in the possession of his Branch.
If he is not prepared to do this, I demand an unqualified apology at your meeting today. I categorically deny that I have ever attempted in any way to influence the decisions of appeal tribunals, and it would be most improper for me, as Minister, to do so.
I think it was the following day - it might have been that day - I received the following telegram from the State President:
Victorian Branch, RSL will produce evidence supporting its allegation regarding complaint that a member of a tribunal was, prior to his reappointment, reprimanded by you in relation to over generous decisions on pensions claims. I would prefer to discuss this serious statement with the Prime Minister and you personally at your convenience. Failing reply name will be given to Press. 1 replied as follows:
In reply to your telegram of this morning I personally am prepared to discuss with you the allegations made at your Branch Congress as varied in subsequent Press statements attributed to yourself or Mr Ruxton. I repeat my denial that I have ever attempted to interfere in the independent functions of the tribunals in deciding claims, and in particular I have never suggested to any tribunal that it has been over generous in its decisions. I repeat my challenge to your Branch to produce the evidence it claims to have.
On 26th July Mr Ruxton said:
So far as 1 know there has been one instance of intimidation - but once is too much.
He has changed his tune. On the same day Sir William Hall was reported as saying that he could name a tribunal member who would support his statement that the Minister indicated to him that he considered some of the decisions of his tribunal were too generous to the returned serviceman.
That evening on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programme ‘This Day Tonight’ Sir William Hall repeated the claim that he had proof. This was the first intimation I had of this gentleman’s name. He said he had known of this last April - that would be April 1968; not April 1967, as Senator Murphy implied - and he named as the source of his information Mr Kevin Mooney, a chairman of one of the six assessment appeal tribunals. These tribunals comprise a permanent chairman and two medical members selected by the chairman for each appeal. Of course, they vary according to the appellant’s complaint. They deal only with appeals against assessment of pension, not with claims for entitlement to pension. I quote what Brigadier Hall is reported as saying:
Apparently the Minister called him-
That is Mooney - to Sydney and prior to his last engagement told him that his tribunal was being unduly influenced by the chairman and that too many cases were receiving good treatment.
On 27th July Mr Mooney was reported as having said:
Some time ago I discussed with him-
That is the Minister - my re-appointment as Chairman of the Tribunal. As far as I am concerned I am quite prepared to stand behind what I told Mr Ruxton.
The report continues:
He also said he ‘had not been summoned to
As Mr Ruxton had alleged earlier - to discuss tribunal decisions with the Minister but had discussed them with the Minister in Sydney. ‘The Minister and I have never had a light over a decision by my tribunal.’
When I saw Sir William Hall in Melbourne on 29th July he admitted that Mooney did not accuse me of making a definite statement that he was too lenient in deciding appeals. He has been too wary to do this. He has not made this statement anywhere. Instead he sought to rely on an impression which he said Mooney had got from his interview with me that I had implied that Mooney had used undue influence on his own tribunal resulting in over generous treatment of appellants. He had no other evidence to offer.
The facts of the matter are that 2 years ago, on 19th September 1966, I asked Mr Mooney to see me in Sydney in order to discuss with him some criticism that had been reported to me of the manner in which he conducted his tribunal but which had nothing at all to do with the actual decisions of the tribunal.^ Never at any time did we discuss whether his decisions were too lenient or too harsh - never at any time. In fairness to him, and more particularly because his term of appointment was ending and he was eligible for reappointment - and I want to remind the Senate that this criticism had only just been forwarded to me and I acted immediately - I thought I should tell him personally the substance of what I was told. And here is his account. Is this not the logical thing to do? These complaints - and as a matter of fact they were put in a letter that Mr Mooney wrote to me the following day - were as follows: Firstly, that he displayed a lack of courtesy to the appellants. Now, how does this tie in with being too generous in his decisions? This was one of the complaints - a Jack of courtesy to those appearing before him. The second complaint was that he dominated the tribunal. How are honourable senators to read into this the fact that he was too lenient because he dominated the tribunal? I just would not know how this could be done. The third complaint was that he impeded the work of the tribunal while discussing his own personal business on the telephone.
The fourth complaint was that he intended not to look upon the position as a full time occupation. These were ‘the complaints. They were not my complaints. They were made to me and I placed them before him to give him an opportunity of making an explanation before I decided whether or not I should reappoint him.
– They were not made in writing. They were made in a letter that Mr Mooney sent to me the following day. As I pointed out, these were the points that we had discussed. There was no mention at all in the letter he wrote of decisions made by tribunals. There was no discussion at all about the proportion of appeals his tribunal had allowed or about whether I considered that his tribunal was too generous in its decisions. On the following day he wrote at considerable length to me from Melbourne. He dealt categorically with each of the matters I have just mentioned. There was no mention at all of the decisions of his tribunal or about whether I thought they were too generous. He had the opportunity when he wrote this letter to bring this matter up, had it ever been discussed. I assure the Senate that it was never discussed at any time. As far as I was concerned, the matters discussed were satisfactorily resolved.
Indeed, before I received his letter, and on the day after I had spoken to him, I had decided that I would reappoint him. I did so for this reason: I determined to give him the benefit of the doubt, as we do in repatriation. I felt also that there was probably good ground for some of these complaints but I felt that, due to the fact that he had been called before me and had been asked for an explanation of these complaints, this would be sufficient and that if they had occurred in the past they would not recur in the future. That was the reason I reappointed him - in fairness to the man. As far as I was concerned, as I mentioned, the matters discussed were satisfactorily resolved and on 23rd September 1966-4 days after he and I had spoken together - I wrote to tell him that I would be reappointing him and I extended him my best wishes. In due course I extended his term for the maximum of five years. This is a copy of the letter I wrote to him. It is dated 23rd September, and it reads as follows:
After consideration of the matters raised in our discussion on Monday of this week and your letter of the 20th September, I wish to advise of your re-appointment as Chairman of the No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. In doing so 1 extend to you my best wishes.
In the following month, October, I was invited to attend the conference of assessment appeal tribunal chairmen in Melbourne. This is the usual procedure. We usually have one conference once a year and as Minister 1 am invited along. After my address to them, Mr Mooney raised the question of my interview with him. I am referring to this interview that we had in Sydney the month before. I cannot remember whether Mr Mooney actually raised the question or whether he had the chairman of that meeting, a Mr Barry, raise it for him. However, he raised the matter with me at this meeting. I explained to the meeting what had happened, exactly as I have explained to the Senate. I said that complaints had been made and that I had felt it my duty to acquaint Mr Mooney with them and give him the opportunity of replying before I made a decision concerning his reappointment. I added that in similar circumstances 1 would act in exactly the same manner. There was no support for Mr Mooney, and no comment was made by any other chairman. Here again was an opportunity for him to bring up this allegation had he wanted to and had he felt it had been made.
– He did not complain at all. He made no attempt to suggest that I had attempted at any time to influence his decisions. I also want to say this: Even at this point of time I do not know whether Mr Mooney’s decisions are too lenient or whether they are too harsh. The entitlement appeal tribunals are required by law to table a report annually. This report is tabled in this place. In this report is given the number of appeals that have been decided and those that have been decided against. It is quite easy to see which appeal tribunal gives the greatest percentage. This does not occur with the assessment appeal tribunals because they are tabulated by States. Honourable senators will see, if they care to look it up in the last annual report, the number of appeals heard in Victoria and the decisions made in favour and against. They are recorded. But they are recorded for the whole State, not for the two tribunals that normally are based in that area. So I do not know at this point of time whether Mr Mooney’s decisions were too lenient or too harsh. Quite frankly, I do not care. It is not my business. It is an independent tribunal. At this meeting, as I say, he had the opportunity of accusing me of stating that I had said he was too lenient. He did not do so.
I say, therefore, that there is not the slightest bit of evidence, not the slightest, to suggest that the rumour - and it was later alleged that this was fact - that I had been standing over the appeal tribunals to influence their decisions against appeals was true. Further, it would seem that Mr Ruxton and the State president, Sir William Hall, shifted ground under pressure. They did this. I have just told the Senate how they did this. They have not been able to produce any evidence to substantiate what has been said by them. Mr Mooney himself has said: I have never had a fight over a decision by my Tribunal’. In these circumstances I can only describe the criticism that was made of me at the RSL conference, and the way it has been persisted with since, as baseless and irresponsible, just as baseless and irresponsible as the attack made tonight by the Leader of the Opposition. I repeat what I have said before: I categorically deny that I have ever in any way endeavoured to interfere with the semi-judicial functions of the independent tribunals.
– What did Mr Mooney complain of at the meeting of chairmen?
– At that meeting all he complained about was the fact that I had called him to a meeting in Sydney and had placed before him the complaints that had been made - not my complaints. He said then that this had caused him some distress and that it had got out. I told him quite frankly - and after all, honourable senators can check up on the facts of this with the other chairmen who were present -that if this had got out it must have got out from him because it did not get out from me. Nor did it get out from me. In the last few days I received this letter. It was written on 31st July and it states:
Dear Senator McKellar,
I have written to you once before to express my concern about matters which interest and concern me as a returned servicewoman. Now with this stir over Mr Mooney, I would like you to know that there is something definitely wrong with the set-up of his Tribunal. I know, because I have been sent to perhaps 5 or 6 other Tribunals by the Repatriation Department, and treated with civility and courtesy - not so at Mr Mooney’s Tribunal. Having recently been accepted for a heart condition as due to war service, I am faced with another Tribunal, and when I appeal, if sent to No. 6 Tribunal I shall refuse to attend and pass my reasons on to anyone interested via my local Federal Member, the Hon. P. Nixon. I remain,
Yours faithfully, (Mrs) Beryl Steedman.
Those are the facts. I leave it to those who follow me to rebut the irresponsible statements that have been made in the Senate tonight. I do not propose to waste any further time on them.
– The motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has been moved so that the Senate might have the opportunity to discuss a very important question. This question has become important because the Returned Services League, which is the organisation primarily concerned with the administration of the Department of Repatriation, has found it necessary in two States - Victoria, through its State Conference, and New South Wales, through its State Executive - to carry a resolution expressing a lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). Certain allegations were made at the Victorian State Conference of the RSL concerning the conduct of the Minister in regard to Mr Mooney, the Chairman of a War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. These allegations, at least in part, have been denied by the Minister in the Senate this evening and elsewhere. I certainly have no intention of reflecting in any way on the honesty of the Minister or endeavouring in any respect to deny the truth of what he has said here or elsewhere. When and if we accept, as I do, the truth of what has been said by the Minister here tonight and elsewhere, the fact still remains that there are grounds for the resolution which was carried by the Victorian State Conference and the New South Wales State Executive of the RSL and for the motion moved this evening by the Opposition. The Minister has denied certain of the allegations which were made by” persons who apparently had spoken to Mr Mooney, the Chairman of the Tribunal. The Minister has admitted that he1 did say several things to Mr Mooney. I do not intend to deal with those matters which the Minister has admitted speaking to Mr Mooney about - the matters concerning Mr. Mooney’s apparent reluctance to make the position a full time one and Mr Mooney’s not giving adequate attention to ‘ his business. If these allegations were made to the Minister I cannot see why he should not be entitled to raise them with the Chairman in question.
The Minister has admitted raising one other very important matter with the Chairman of the Tribunal. The Minister says that he raised it - and I believe him - as a result of some complaints which were made to him by a person or persons. One of the allegations was that the Chairman had dominated the Tribunal of which’ he was a member. It has been submitted already by the Leader of the Opposition that this is a very serious allegation. From the interjections of honourable senators opposite they did not appear to understand fully what he was saying and I do not know whether I will fare any better in trying to make clear the point that he was trying to make. The allegation that the Chairman had dominated the Tribunal is not an allegation about his personal conduct, his lack of attention to his duties or his doing something which does not come within the ambit of being the Chairman of the Assessment Appeal Tribunal. It does not deal with his lack of responsibility or his lack of attention to his duty, but it is a reflection on the way in which he exercises his judicial office. If it is alleged that the chairman of a tribunal or the Chief Justice of a court acts in such a way - and I know the allegation has been made of various Chief Justices - that he exercises a greater influence on the other members of the bench than he should, this is an allegation about the judicial approach of the chairman of the tribunal or the Chief Justice. This is a reflection upon him in his judicial capacity. In view of the fact that the matters dealt with by the assessment appeal tribunals are matters concerning the payment of various repatriation benefits to the appellants who come before the tribunals I think that, although it does not necessarily follow, it could fairly be assumed that the allegation is that the chairman of the tribunal is influencing the members of the tribunal in a certain direction. This may not be the case, but it is fair assumption to make from the admission which has been made by the Minister. I am not trying to attribute to the Minister anything which he has denied saying. I am merely trying to deal with matters that he had admitted
The Minister said also that the matter was raised by Mr Mooney at the meeting of chairmen, which took place some time after the original approach was made by the Minister. It still is not clear to me, although the Minister did make an effort to answer the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, what specifically Mr Mooney was complaining about at the time when he raised this matter at the meeting of chairmen. If he was complaining that the Minister had attempted to exercise some influence on him it seems to me that the Minister was forewarned of the matter before the motion, which was moved today by the Leader of the Opposition, came before the Senate.
There are other matters with which I would like to deal. One of the statements made by Senator Anderson, in a rather unusually emotional speech, referred to Mr Mooney - whose name I must confess was completely unknown to me until a couple of days ago - as being a strange kind of person because he was the kind of person who would continue in a job after statements like this had been made to him by his Minister. Senator Anderson looked at members of the Opposition and asked whether we would be prepared to carry on if such things were said to us. Apparently such things were said to Mr Mooney. Something must have been said to him because he complained at the meeting of chairmen about whatever it was the Minister for Repatriation did say. I believe that the answer given by Senator Anderson does not improve the position of the Govern-‘ ment. If Senator McKellar were justified in saying these things to Mr Mooney and if they were as bad as Senator Anderson apparently thinks they were, then clearly Mr Mooney should not have been reappointed to the position.
The argument put forward by Senator Anderson was that no reasonable person could have been expected to carry on in this situation after what had been said to Mr Mooney. Clearly in these circumstances what was said was either justified or not justified. If it was justified Mr Mooney should not have been re-appointed. If it was not justified then the Minister was not entitled to make the suggestions.
I do not wish to speak a great deal longer but I do wish to refer to the issue which I think is the important one that arises in the matter. I refer to the relationship between the Government and the RSL. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has accused Sir William Hall and other people of shifting their ground under pressure. That is not a very heroic action, one would imagine, for a distinguished leader of an ex-servicemen’s organisation, but that is the allegation that has been made. Indeed what has been said repeatedly by honourable senators opposite is that the RSL in some way has acted irresponsibly on this question. The Opposition does not wish to make any comment in relation to the RSL. But the fact remains, as I said earlier, that the League is the body that consists of people who are primarily concerned with the administration of the Repatriation Department, and they are the people who carried this resolution of no confidence in the Minister.
I find it rather remarkable that such a cavalier attitude is being adopted this evening by members of the Government parties to what the RSL has said concerning this matter. That attitude represents a remarkable departure from statements that were made shortly after I entered the Senate, when another debate was taking place in this chamber. On that occasion it was alleged that a member of the Australian Labour Party in another place had made some allegations against the integrity of the RSL, and various statements were then made by members of the Government parties about the nature of the League. Senator Gorton, as he then was, said: The RSL is one of the most democratic organisations in the world’. None other than the present Prime Minister said that the RSL was, not one of the most democratic organisations in Victoria, not one of the most democratic organisations in New South Wales and not one of the most democratic organisations in Australia, but one of the most democratic organisations in the world. Yet the Government is giving this cavalier treatment to one of the most democratic organisations in the world.
On that occasion Senator Wright had a great deal to say about the RSL. He waxed most indignant and huffed and puffed on the other side of the chamber in a state of indignation at anybody reflecting in any way whatsoever on the RSL. I submit that if there is a complete rejection of the motion that we are discussing tonight it is at the same time a complete rejection of the resolutions that have been carried by one of the most democratic organisations in the world, namely, the RSL. For that reason I believe that the Government is indeed deserving of censure. Let me refer to the Hansard report for the evening of 18th and 19th November 1965. It was a long night. We went into the early hours of 19th November. At page 1683 Senator Wright is reported as referring to various heroic deeds that were performed in the First World War and then saying:
Those men who survived that sacrifice came back to their country and organised the RSL. They carried on two traditions. The first was to take such interest in the public defence of this country as to criticise and compliment governments according to their deficiencies or their achievements in defence.
He referred to deficiencies, not alleged deficiencies. So he was prepared to accept what the RSL said as being perfectly correct. The second tradition to which he referred has no great relevance to the matter now before us. So there is this organisation with this tradition. But what is Senator Wright saying tonight about this organisation which he was so happy to praise such a little time ago. At page 1684 he became even more eloquent. He referred to what happened in Flanders and, referring to members of the RSL, said:
They are eternally vigilant on the public affairs of this country in the interests of its defence. Who would be so cowardly when an attack of that sort was made on the Returned Servicemen’s League as not to reply to it? Not the Minister for Repatriation whose proud privilege it is in the Senate to associate himself with the purposes of the RSL in the administration of his Department and see that proper benefits are provided through the agency of this Parliament for the purposes of exservicemen.
There Senator Wright was commending the RSL, praising it and fully identifying himself with its laudible objects. But when the RSL carries a resolution of no confidence in the Minister for Repatriation, do we find Senator Wright expressing any confidence in the RSL this evening? Apparently all of that confidence has evaporated and he now has no confidence whatsoever in the RSL. All the confidence that he has now reposes in Senator McKellar and not in the RSL at all. But he did not even stop there. He went a little farther and said:
Now I am applying the principles for true purposes, not in this instance defending the public interest but the nation’s security, of which the integrity of the RSL is an essential pillar.
Does that not mean that Senator Wright is saying that if we are to maintain the nation’s security the RSL must be above reproach? Yet Sir William Hall, the President of the RSL in Victoria, was accused by his colleague Senator Anderson of shifting his ground under pressure. What integrity does the RSL have in the public eye? What happens to our national security when a Minister accuses none other than Sir William Hall of being the sort of man who shifts his ground under pressure? Where is our integrity? Where is our national security? If Senator Wright is really interested in national security, what he will be doing tonight is saying that the RSL is completely exonerated in this matter; that resolutions carried by the Victorian State Congress and the New South Wales State Executive of the RSL are not looked upon lightly; and that they are taken seriously because if they are not we have destroyed faith in the integrity of the RSL and that is one of the essential pillars of our national security, lt is our national security that is being damaged tonight by the Government, according to Senator Wright.
Senator McKellar also joined in that debate. On that occasion he was constrained to prove the subversive motives of anybody who impugned the integrity of the RSL. He said:
I was rather tickled to hear Senator Cavanagh say that I took this means of getting out of the disfavour that I am in with the Returned Servicemen’s League. That is what he inferred. It is news to me that I am in disfavour with the RSL.
Of course, that was 3 years ago. He continued:
That organisation fully recognises - and perhaps 1 have a better understanding of the RSL in respect of these matters than Senator Cavanagh has - that although we did not give that organisation all it asked for it still got a very good deal. What I am here for is to try to get a good deal for the ex-servicemen and I am going to try to get them an even better deal. So I just throw that allegation back in the teeth of the honourable senator.
So Senator McKellar said, on either 18th or 19th November 1965, that his duty as Minister for Repatriation, as he saw it, was to see that the interests of the RSL were safeguarded. He felt it important to throw back into the teeth of Senator Cavanagh an allegation that he did not have the confidence of the RSL. He regarded that as a most serious allegation.
– Do not forget that I did the same with regard to Senator Keeffe and Dr Cairns, too.
– I do not forget that, but it is a matter I will not go into at the moment. What Senator McKellar said was that it was of the utmost importance that he have the confidence of the RSL. He said that himself. Yet we now find that the Victorian State Congress and the New South Wales State Executive of the RSL have declared that they have no confidence in him. For that reason, if for no other, we believe that the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition should be supported by the Senate.
– I must say, first of all, that the next time I read in a newspaper that there has been a riot by students in Perth I will make the assumption that Senator Wheeldon has been addressing them. Some years ago, in another context, I looked up the works of the great parliamentary historian May, who describes Parliament as the highest court in the land. What we have heard both before and since the dinner suspension is an attempt in this highest court of the land to destroy the character and quality of a man by a series of allegations that have not been supported by a single shred of evidence since the motion was launched.
I find myself on my feet because I have served in the Senate for many years with Senator McKellar and I know him personally. He is a man of the highest integrity, as far as I have ever been able to discover. His word has always been his bond. If he makes a statement in the terms in which he has made successive statements on this matter, then I have not the slightest doubt that everything that he has said is absolutely true.
When he recounts his interview with Mooney, I believe that that is a true account of what took place. We must contrast this with the moving of the motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) in which he made a series of allegations for at least half an hour before the suspension for dinner. Every honourable senator in this place would have acknowledged and realised that his allegations were made up of a series of newspaper extracts which had been pasted together to form what he believed was a coherent piece of evidence against the Minister on the grounds of the Minister’s misdemeanor. Then, fortunately for him, the bell rang.
I have not the slightest doubt that during the suspension of the sitting he was back in his corner and that his seconds got to work on him because, after dinner, he came back here and shifted his ground. This time, instead of making a series of allegations against the Minister for Repatriation, he began to attack the Government on its attitude to the Returned Services League. This shifting of ground by one Opposition speaker after another has been going on ever since the sitting resumed. I should think that the Opposition is hard put at this stage to find an argument to sustain the motion that was originally put and we become more and more reinforced in our determination to see that our amendment to the motion is forced upon the Opposition when it comes to a division. But I do not think this debate should be allowed to peter out. I think that when a Minister of State has been put in the position in which Senator McKellar has been put it is the duty of the Senate to protect the integrity of the Senate because the serious attack that has been launched upon the Minister is a serious attack upon every honourable senator in this place. It is going to be a poor sort of show if men who have to sit here and conduct the nation’s affairs as best they can are attacked on a formal motion in the Senate based on a series of allegations in support of which no evidence has been adduced. Yet this has been going on all night.
In making these comments about Senator Murphy I do not intend to let Senator Cohen off the hook because he was just as recreant in his attitude to the motion as Senator Murphy was. These are both Queen’s Counsel, men who took oaths when admitted to the Bar that they would obey the rules and discretions by which lawyers are supposed to sustain themselves. Yet both these eminent Queen’s Counsel in the Senate tonight have, it seems to me, manufactured a case against the Minister and produced no evidence.
– Manufactured? Madam Acting Deputy President, I take exception to the use of the word ‘manufactured’. I do not mind how hard the honourable senator wants to play it, but that word is offensive to me and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the expression ‘manufactured evidence’ and say that both these eminent Queen’s Counsel have made a series of allegations against the Minister in the Senate tonight without producing any shred of evidence which would be supported or accepted by any honourable senator. As the evening went on and the inability to produce evidence finally seeped out from underneath the door the attack shifted, as it has been constantly shifting from one facet to another, to the sins of omission and commission of the Government in relation to the Returned Services League. Senator Wheeldon spent most of his speech in doing this.
Honourable senators will recall that before the suspension of the sitting Senator Murphy had rested his case on the claim that this man Mooney, the Chairman of the Assessment Appeal Tribunal, occupied a quasi-judicial position and I think his phrase was that Senator McKellar had leaned on him. In other words, the pressure which Senator McKellar was alleged to have put on Mooney was a misuse of executive power in .trying to over-awe a man involved in a juridical or judicial capacity. This was the substance of the first part of Senator Murphy’s attack, that in the person of Senator McKellar the Government was attempting to intimidate a man who occupied a quasi-judicial position. But did Mooney occupy a quasijudicial position?
– Of course he did.
– Senator Cavanagh says that he did. He either occupied a quasi-judicial appointment or was simply an administrative decision maker. But let me take Senator Cavanagh’s interjection and assume that he occupied a judicial capacity. If Mooney was being leaned upon by. .Senator McKellar, as was alleged, and he occupied a judicial position - Senator Cohen has assured us that he is a man of eminent legal standing, and therefore, I assume, he has been admitted to practice in the courts of Victoria - he would have known perfectly well what to do. If he occupied a judicial position and the Executive was putting the finger on him he would have known perfectly well what to do. It seems to me that he would have many options open to him in this situation. Tor example, ‘ he could have complained to the Law Institute of Victoria .that he had been intimidated. In these circumstances I suppose he could have asked to see the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia to say that he had been intimidated by a Minister. It seems to me that he could also at that time have consulted his fellow chairmen of these appeal tribunals.
– But he did not have to do that.
– He waited 2 years to do so.
– He did not.
– I shall deal with the honourable senator’s interjection in a moment. He waited 2 years, but at the time he implied in a letter to Senator McKellar, the Minister for Repatriation, that he had the feeling that the Minister was putting pressure on him he took no action. However, more than 2 years later, he took some action. The action that he took indicates that Mooney is less than the man that the Opposition has tried to make him out to be.
– He did not take the action; someone else took action.
– It seems to me to be quite clear as to what happened. I admit that it is circumstantial evidence, but as the drama has been unfolded it has become clear that what happened was that Mooney went to Ruxton and told him that at some period, which is not discernible in terms of time, he had felt that the Minister for Repatriation had made it a condition of his reappointment that he should do this, that and the other. At what time Mooney did this I do not know, but it is quite clear that he did do this because he admitted that he spoke to Ruxton. Who is this man Ruxton? In the course of this debate we have learned who he is. He is a member of the Executive of the Returned Services League of Victoria. It has become clear also in the course of this debate that he moved in the congress of the RSL a motion that had been sponsored by the Executive of the RSL.
It is quite clear that the President of the RSL in Victoria was privy to the fact that Ruxton was going to make an allegation. In other words, it seems to me from trying to reassemble this as the debate has rolled on tonight that the Minister was made the victim of a conspiracy. This did not come out just out of the blue in the RSL congress in Victoria. It is manifest that this allegation against the Minister was planned and it could only have been on the basis that Hall was privy, that Ruxton agreed to move this resolution, that he was aware of the arguments that were to be used, that he was aware that the allegation was going to be made against the Minister and that the allegation came from Mooney, a man whom Senator Murphy says should be protected on the basis that he occupies a quasi-judicial position. In this matter we have seen a people’s court in operation. A man of high integrity has suffered the indignity of being besmirched and besmeared by scribblers of newspapers and smart young alecs on television and, finally, insulted and condemned in the Senate tonight without a tittle of evidence being presented. It is worse than this. When the innocent Minister - and he was an innocent Minister - went to Hall and asked for some support against this allegation, the support was not coming from Hall. I think it is clear why the support did not come from Hall. The Minister said two or three times during the course of this debate that there was a constant shifting of ground when he asked for the evidence. And the evidence has not come out here at all, yet.
– There is not any.
– There is not any. I just want to say that Parliament has not been ennobled by the allegations that have been made against the Minister tonight or by the claims that have been made by Senator Murphy as to the integrity of tribunals.
Because my memory is fairly good, 1 had the curiosity to look at the reports of the Budget debate this time last year. I do not propose to quote them, but if any honourable senator cares to look at pages 527 and 528 of Hansard of 5th September and at pages 594 and 595 for that same week, and at the pages for the week beginning 1 1th June and ending 13th June 1968 he will find a whole series of allegations made against the integrity of industrial commissioners by honourable senators sitting opposite. Never on those occasions was any word said by Senator Cohen or Senator Murphy about the integrity of chairmen of tribunals.
But tonight we have had an onslaught upon the integrity of a Minister which is not tolerable in the Senate, and it is not going to be tolerable as long as I have the capacity to defend against it. This debate should be a lesson as to the misuse of forms of the Senate in an attempt to destroy an innocent man, for this is what we have been witnessing tonight. I hope, therefore, that when the time comes for them to stand in their places and cast their votes, all honourable senators will vote in favour of the amendment which I endorse.
– I rise to support the motion and to oppose the amendment. Before proceeding with the text of my contribution let me say that I was surprised to hear Senator Cormack accuse Senator Wheeldon of speaking in a manner which reminded him of student protestors in Perth. Let it be clearly understood that there is no suggestion, that Senator Cormack will be invited to speak to student protestors at Monash University after his contribution in this place tonight.
Senator Cormack then proceeded to condemn the Press. In a derogatory manner, he referred to the journalists as scribblers. He also condemned the television commentators. Finally he condemned those members of the Senate who have brought this no confidence motion before this chamber. That is a shocking state of affairs but, of course, it is in keeping with Senator Cormack’s general attitude of engaging in rhetoric without very much substance in what he says about the various subjects about which he speaks.
A motion expressing no confidence in a Government is a fairly common procedure for Opposition parties, but a motion expressing no confidence in a Minister is not submitted very often. Quite frankly, I think it is a tragedy that such a motion has to be moved. But it is obvious on this occasion that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has brought our action upon his own head not only because of this action but because of many other actions during the time he has occupied this portfolio and because of his general neglect of ex-servicemen.
Another significant point is that he spent a fair amount of time outside the chamber while this debate has been proceeding. He did that because he is not very interested in what is going on. For most of the lime while he was in the chamber, he lounged back in his place with a grin on his face like a giggling hyena.
– What about you?
– Senator Sim is not capable of grinning because his face is too hard. This is typical of the Minister’s attitude towards the problems of exservicemen. This instance has reached the light of day but I believe that there have undoubtedly been many other instances not only in the State of Victoria but also in other States of Australia. There have been many occasions when -returned exservicemen in Queensland have made representations to me to see what can be done either to get pensions for the people concerned, or to have pensions increased. These representations were made by people whose applications were rejected despite the fact that they are in bad physical shape and incapable of earning a full living. Despite their condition, they continue to be neglected.
Let me examine the figures relating to appeals that have been allowed and those which have been disallowed in the State of Victoria. In 1963-64, 919 appeals were allowed while 1,468 were disallowed. The next year - 1964-65 - would appear to be the year which gave rise to the dispute. In that year, 1,080 appeals were allowed and 906 were disallowed. Probably this was the straw that broke the Minister’s back and this is where he had to exercise unfair pressure to see that not too many ex-servicemen were granted pensions.
– What is the source of your information?
– I am quoting figures published in official documents. The documents are provided by the honourable senator’s own Government. If the honourable senator has not the intelligence to see the inference in the figures published, I have, and so has every honourable senator on this side of the chamber. In 1965-66 there was a significant downturn in the figures. In that year there were 981 appeals allowed and 621 disallowed. In 1966-67 there were 1,132 appeals allowed and 818 disallowed. Now, no doubt, pressure will be required again.
Some considerable time ago - in April 1967 - the Minister addressed a veterans’ conference in Australia. Obviously he meant to convey what he considered was the spirit of the Act. On several occasions the words that he uttered then have been quoted as the Minister’s interpretation of the spirit of the Act. This is what he said:
The Australian system of repatriation is based generally on the thought that those who are disabled in war or those who suffer because their family providers are disabled or killed must be compensated and looked after by the community on whose behalf the war service was undertaken. Specifically we set out to give a fighting man the security of knowing in advance that his commitment to its service is appreciated by his country, and that he himself or his dependants, if it becomes necessary will have financial help and medical care from the Government.
Last night in this chamber we saw introduced a budget in which it was clearly demonstrated that nobody in the Government, least of all the Minister, has any thought for the ex-servicemen. But that is a matter to be debated at some other time in this chamber. T have quoted the Minister’s words because I believe that they clearly define the manner in which the Act should be administered. But that is not the guiding principle adopted by the Minister or the Government.
Let me quote now from a journal distributed to incapacitated ex-servicemen giving them advice as to their right of appeal. That journal states:
Claims for war pension are decided in the first instance by Repatriation Boards, one of which is situated in the capital city of each State. Repatriation Boards comprise three members, one of whom is appointed from nominations submitted by organisations representing ex-servicemen.
If a claimant is dissatisfied with the decision of a Repatriation Board he may appeal (except as (o rate of his pension) to the Repatriation Commission, aDd ultimately to a War Pensions Assess- ment Appeal Tribunal. He may appeal to a War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal if dissatisned with the rate of pension assessed by a Repatriation Board.
I repeat that this advice is published in a journal issued by an organisation comprised solely of incapacitated ex-servicemen. Those words convey a message of hope, and every disabled ex-serviceman who approaches the Repatriation Department seeking assistance does so believing in all honesty that he is going to get a fair go. But if the Minister is fiddling around with a tribunal, ex-servicemen are not getting a fair go, and the evidence in this instance indicates that the Minister is fiddling in an attempt to keep down the expenditure of the Repatriation Department. The Minister, and those who have spoken up very feebly on his behalf, have endeavoured to exonerate and clear him but if several hundred delegates to an RSL conference carry by overwhelming numbers a motion of no confidence in him because of his activities in this regard, I will believe them before I believe anything that the Minister wants to tell this House or this country. The evidence is there, and let me say that there has been a continuing lack of confidence so far as the Minister is concerned and, for that matter, so far as the Government is concerned. The following statement was published in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 4th December 1967:
Publication of half a million pamphlets by the RSL attacking the Government on inadequate war pensions has been described as ‘just a beginning’ by the League’s national secretary, Mr A. G. W. Keys.
So it is, because not only in the field we have under discussion in this debate but also in every other field administered by this incompetent Minister is there a lack of confidence both in himself and in his Department, and ultimately in the Government.
One would have thought that as Leader of the Government Senator Anderson would have made a very dignified approach to this question when he spoke earlier this evening. He described the Minister as a man of integrity and a man of very great honesty and said that if the Minister had something to say he would say it. There is a previous example of the incompetence of this Minister in a debate that took place in this chamber some months ago. We had this Minister coming in day after day and saying that there was nothing in the VIP aircraft controversy. All of us recall the publicity associated with the secrecy surrounding the use of VIP planes. This was a matter of very great contention at the time, yet this Minister continually came into this chamber and said: ‘Everything is all right. She’s OK.’ We had the then Leader of the Government in the Senate throw down in front of him one night all of the documents that we had been seeking for months. He virtually publicly made this man a liar. If the Minister was proved wrong on that occasion, is it not equally likely that he is wrong on this occasion, in other words that there has been a dishonest approach on this particular matter as there was on that occasion.
This is not the only thing. We have had a number of other cases in which there was justification for bringing down on the Minister’s head a motion of no confidence. Not the least of these concerned a statement on 6th June 1967 at an RSL congress at Mackay, in north Queensland, that the Repatriation Department was investigating an insurance scheme for conscripts who were forced to serve in Vietnam. We did not hear anything more of this and ultimately, of course, these people were covered by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, but it took a period of 2 years. In fact, it was more than this if one wants to go back to the time when these kids were first committed to Vietnam. It was nearer to 4 years before anything was done to provide some sort of security for them and for the dependants of those who do not come back. I have referred before to interpretation of the spirit of the Repatriation Act. When I referred to this matter in the Senate on 26th March 1968 I got a sneering reply from the Minister. In the last paragraph of his answer he stated:
There has been some misconception about this matter. Before the Parliament rose at the end of the spring session the Treasurer quite clearly announced that it would not be possible to bring down legislation in that session to put this scheme into effect. But he also made it quite clear that the scheme would cover all national servicemen who had suffered injuries after being called up. This is the position at the present time.
It took months and months. The Minister apologised in the final sentence of his answer for this lengthy delay. There is no similar delay when increased troop commitments to Vietnam have to be made.
It is done in a hurry. The Government Sends them over there as soon as it can to have them run the gauntlet. Let me refer now to the remarks passed by the Leader of the Government that if the Minister had something to tell he would do so - this man of integrity, honesty, etc. On 27th March 1968 a question was asked in relation to the Services Canteens Trust Fund. In ignorance, I directed my question to the Minister for Repatriation. In his usual nasty manner he said:
The Services Canteens Trust Fund does not come under my portfolio.
Other words were used at the time and I do not blame Hansard for not publishing them because they prefaced the Minister’s reply.
There was a time under other Ministers, and particularly under governments of another colour, where the benefit of the onus of proof provision was always granted to ex-servicemen. That is not done today. The onus of proof is now always on the ex-serviceman. He is never given the benefit of the doubt. This is part of the cheeseparing policy of the Repatriation Department administered by this incompetent, hopeless Minister. I was most disappointed - or maybe it is about what I expected - that when Senator McKellar decided to speak tonight he read from a long prepared statement, which no doubt had been suitably vetted by lawyers so that he would not get himself too deeply involved. He read from several sheets of foolscap and he did not sound convincing even to me. How he sounded to people listening to the broadcast of the debate I would not know but I do not think that they were convinced either.
While we are on this particular point, let me say that it is significant that when the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) speaks with a cannon in his mouth, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) immediately comes to his defence but when the Minister for Repatriation speaks with an appeal tribunal in his mouth nobody comes to his defence, not even the Prime Minister, not even senior Ministers in this chamber, not even any member of his party. In fact when we were to propose an urgency motion on repatriation in this chamber a few months ago a member of a coalition party from another place, referring to the
Minister, said to me: ‘Get stuck into him. He does not even know what the Act is and does not know what he is doing’. I will not mention the name of the member concerned, because there may be some person who is slightly sympathetic to the Minister, who may railroad this person out of his party. Perhaps the Government can do something about this and produce the letter written by Mr Mooney, which was referred to by the Minister in part of his defence. If such documents are available, why are they not tabled, if there is a real defence for the action of the Minister? If there are accusations, as the Minister implied during his long, windy, prepared speech this evening, that can be used as counter charges and if they have any substance the Prime Minister or the Minister acting on his behalf should table the documents in this chamber so that they may become public and this aspect of the matter may be cleared up for all of those people who are concerned.
I do not propose to say a great deal more. It is obvious that the Government has the numbers in this matter. We had an interjection from Senator Little, one of the new members of the corner party. There is a story circulating that little by little he is out to remove his Leader, and tonight little by little he made his maiden speech in this place, indicating support for the Government when he said that we have heard only one side of the case. I commend the motion to all honourable senators. This censure is richly deserved by the Minister concerned because of his lack of honesty in debates in this chamber and because of his inefficient handling of his portfolio. In spite of the ruling given by the Acting Deputy President, with which I will not disagree publicly, may I say that if the Government were not worried about the activities of the Minister it would not have thought of introducing an amendment of this nature. All the Government needed to do was to defeat the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. There was no need to produce an apology of an amendment. In all sincerity I say that if the Minister himself is not worried, then members of the Government Parties opposite are worried because of his actions or lack of action in many respects in relation to the portfolio he administers.
– If I were asked to sum up this debate I would say that never has so much mud been slung for so long on so little evidence. I think Senator Keeffe’s speech is an example of that. We all know that Senator Keeffe is never behind the door when supplies of mud for slinging are being handed out. In regard to Senator Keeffe’s attack upon Senator Little, a new member of this Senate, I only say that I do not defend Senator Little myself, because I know that he wants to deal himself with Senator Keeffe. I make this prediction: After he has dealt with Senator Keeffe, I am sure, the next time Senator Keeffe wants to attack anyone in this Party he will look in another direction.
We have been told of allegations on one side and we have heard replies on the other. If members of the Australian Labor Party had said: ‘We have conflicting statements; let us have an inquiry to determine the truth’, they would have been acting just as members of the Labor Party that we used to know would have acted. Instead, they accepted the evidence of one side because politically it suited them to do so, and they tried to trail in the mud the reputation of a man in public life without regard to the ordinary decencies and the usual practice of at least having the evidence sifted before declaring a man guilty. Everyone knows that for years there has been dissatisfaction among returned servicemen with repatriation policies. That dissatisfaction has not been confined to dissatisfaction with Liberal governments. I can remember when even more, or just as much, dissatisfaction was expressed with Labor governments.
– Not under the same conditions.
– I can remember the days, and Senator Hendrickson can too, when in the Labor Government the post of Minister for Repatriation was known as the death seat, because almost invariably the Labor Minister for Repatriation was defeated at the next election.
– But you supported us then.
– If you were the same Party as you were then, I would be supporting you still. Do not go into what happened during the split, because I could make some interesting revelations of your attitudes at the time, but in your interests I will not do so. In those days, returned men were dissatisfied with repatriation benefits. It was natural for them to believe that the Minister for Repatriation should be blamed and it is natural that there should be an overflow of that feeling today. I can understand that attitude in men who are not acquainted intimately with the processes of government. When the Government will not meet certain claims they tend to blame the Minister. But I would expect a better approach from members of the Senate, who are acquainted with the true position and with what is known as the collective responsibility of Cabinet. No Minister can fairly be attacked personally for anything that the Government refuses to do in reply to a claim, because the decisions of Cabinet are the decisions of 20 or 30 men, and the decision that is attacked and in relation to which a certain Minister is attacked may very well be a decision to which he himself was opposed. But he has to bear it in silence because, as a member of the Cabinet, he must support the decision even though it may be against his own views and be the whipping post of those who disagree with it.
If the members of the Australian Labor Party had submitted a motion of no confidence in the Government in relation to repatriation, that would have been a different matter. But you erred. Your tactics have been deplorable. You attacked an individual and missed the main issue. Even Senator Murphy in his opening remarks quoted an authority of the Returned Services League who held the opinion that Senator McKellar had tried and had failed. I believe that to be true. When you are a Minister do you not want those with whom you have to deal applauding you and saying what a good fellow you are because you are getting this and that for them? I know Senator McKellar and the type of man he is. I know that nothing would give him more pleasure than to be able to offer returned men all the things that they deserve, but he is in the situation of having to fight other Ministers for a share of the available funds. He has to overcome the hurdles posed by the Treasury, the defence departments, the Department of Education and Science and so on. He has to get what he can. I believe, therefore, that it is not only wrong but also indecent to try to pin on one man the whole responsibility for any mistakes the Labor Party says the Government has made, particularly as that man is merely carrying out a task and possibly could have had the rest of the Cabinet against him.
If the members of the Labor Party had observed ordinary decencies they would not have made this motion of no confidence a personal matter. They should have attempted to attack the Minister on, say, his failure as an administrator, or perhaps if they had evidence of his lack of integrity as a Minister and as a man they should have brought that forward. On the matter of the Minister’s administration Senator Murphy said that everyone in the RSL admitted that the administration inside the Department was good and running well. So they are not attacking him so far as ordinary administration is concerned, they are attacking him in relation to benefits that flow from the repatriation system.
Now we come to the real point of the whole matter - the alleged charges. They are most peculiar charges. They arose in this way: A responsible head of a tribunal is said to have stated that attempts were made to influence him in a way that he should not have been influenced. I would have expected that there would be an official procedure for a head of a tribunal to follow in such a case. If anyone says to me: ‘It is very difficult for him to face up to the Minister because there might be repercussions’, let me point out that Mr Mooney has faced up to the Minister on this occasion, so there could not be any question of lack of courage. The whole thing boils down to the method by which you deal with the matter if you believe the Minister to be acting wrongly. I would have expected an officer who had been dealt with improperly to have taken proper action through the avenues open to him. Instead, we are told that the method he followed was to tell someone else who went to a conference and said that he knew of a number of cases - which later boiled down to one case, this case. That is how the matter now comes before the country.
We have been told by the Minister that the only occasion on which he interviewed Mr Mooney was in connection with charges that had been made to him against Mr Mooney.
They were very serious charges. Everybody who sees many of the returned men who go before the tribunals knows that it is a very serious physical and nervous ordeal for them. They are brave men; they have shown it in war. But they are not used to facing a tribunal of this character and to do so is really a tremendous effort. Some returned men will not go before a tribunal. Even when they think they have a case they will not appeal because they are afraid that they cannot face up to the physical and nervous reaction.
The first charge in regard to Mr Mooney was that in some cases he was not courteous to returned servicemen. What could be a more serious charge?
– I have appeared before, him on several occasions and he has always been most courteous.
– I will come to that. The second charge was that during the hearing of a case he would go to the telephone and conduct a telephone conversation while the case on which he was adjudicating was being heard. Obviously the Minister would certainly be deserving of a vote of no confidence if he did not ask Mr Mooney to see him regarding this allegation, particularly when his reappointment was coming up. The Minister has said - I repeat this in justice to Mr Mooney - that he accepted Mr Mooney’s statement that these allegations were not correct. Therefore Mr Mooney’s character has been cleared.
– What did he do with the other two?
– Just a moment. Originally one person made an allegation against Mr Mooney. The other case, of course, is that the Minister has stated categorically that during the interview with Mr Mooney there was no mention of the allegation that he was making his awards too lenient. I have not seen a statement by Mr Mooney that the Minister is wrong. Mr Mooney has not denied the Minister’s allegation. In those circumstances the Minister has cleared Mr Mooney. In the case of Mr Mooney the Minister has put up a statement and said: ‘Will you deny it’, but there has been no denial. How can you declare the Minister guilty when the man who made the allegation is now not prepared to say that the Minister’s statement of innocence was wrong.
I shall point to another matter, which appeals to my sense of humour. I have sat here and heard members of the Australian Labor Party say that the Victorian and New South Wales branches of the RSL have said that they have no confidence in the Minister. But the Federal body of the RSL would not back them. It said: ‘No, we do not join in the allegation.’ lt said, very properly: ‘We are fighting the Government, not the Minister.’ But the members of the Australian Labor Party say that if the Victorian and New South Wales branches of the RSL say that the Minister is no good, that is what goes, not what the Federal body says. Thirteen years ago the Victorian and New South Wales branches of the Australian Labor Party said that Dr Evatt lacked the confidence of his Party. The Federal body took the opposite point of view. What did members of the Australian Labor Party do about it? They said that the Victorian and New South Wales branches were wrong and that the decision of the Federal body must always be observed. So when it suits the Australian Labor Party the decision of the Federal body is right, but when it suit it the decision of the State branches is right. There is no consistency.
– You would not know because you never came into New South Wales.
– I know what you were doing at that particular time. You were an industrial grouper and you changed your mind like a number of other members of your Party.
– I stood by my principles. I did not crawl into the Senate as you did.
– There were some who stood by their principles whether they got a seat in Parliament or not, and there were others who found that the seat in Parliament was more conducive to their principles. Now we come to the next question. The charge against the Minister is that he interfered with decisions of a tribunal. He denied that charge. He has gone right through the facts of the meeting. There is now no denial that his story was true. But I remind honourable senators that hundreds and hundreds of- returned men come to see us. We do all we can for them because they deserve everything that can be got for them. Their big complaint is that the Minister will not interfere with decisions of the tribunals, is it not a fact that they want the Minister to interfere? Not one honourable senator will deny that fact. I have been to the Minister and I have put good and strong cases to him. He has been sympathetic. He has suggested to me ways in which these men may obtain more evidence. He has suggested to me ways in which they can present their case in a better manner. He has told me that I may go and see officers of his Department and get information which may help these men to put the evidence before the tribunal which will win their case for them. But the Minister has said to me, in conclusion: ‘1. cannot put any pressure on the independent tribunal. The moment I did .that chaos would result.’ I ask honourable senators to deny that the Minister’s attitude is the same as they would have to adopt if they ever got into the position which he occupies.
I think it is a pity that this motion has been moved for political reasons. People throughout the whole country are listening to the first broadcast of the Senate after the newly elected senators took their places. They have read in the Press that this is a new Senate and that it will be a true House of review. They are listening to find out what goes on. What have they heard tonight? They have heard a mud-slinging contest. I myself believe there is every justification for people to attack the Government and its repatriation policies with which they disagree. But in future let us attack the Government. Let us not attack the individual who happens to have been chosen for a particular portfolio and who has to do his best in it. I, in common with every other honourable senator, have the greatest sympathy for the men who fought for their country. I believe that the Government ought to do a lot for them, particularly in regard to hospitalisation.
– Sympathy does not get them anything.
– I know, but slinging mud at the Minister does not get them anything, either. The Australian Labor Party might get somewhere if it makes a constructive attack on Government policy. If the members of the Australian Labor Party felt that there should have been an inquiry into this matter, why did they not move for one? That is the appropriate way to do it. It is not appropriate to find the Minister guilty without any inquiry at all.
Finally, much has been made of the point that the decisions of the two State conferences were unanimous. Delegates to both State conferences press generally in a legitimate way, as they are entitled to do, for greater benefits for ex-servicemen. They are disgusted with the Government. They want to show the Government that they ‘mean business. If I were a returned serviceman and I was discussing these matters I would ask: ‘How will we show the Government that we mean business?’ You can understand that people who seek publicity would say: ‘The way to show the Government that we mean business is to say that you have no confidence in the Minister. That will really start things moving.’ This is not an uncommon thing. In 1920 the people of Ireland, when they were fighting for their freedom, adopted a similar method. Some people were ‘killed. When the coroner’s jury was called together, what was the verdict? A verdict that he was guilty of wilful murder was returned against David Lloyd George, who was the Prime Minister of Great Britain. That is an understandable method of concentrating publicity upon your grievance. You select an individual and you do that kind of thing. Even though it is said that the decisions by the two conferences about there being no confidence in the Minister was unanimous, I point out that the decisions were taken at a time when no doubt many of the people attending believed the story that had been flaunted in the Press and not answered. I think honourable senators will find that there was a considerable number of people present at those meetings who did not agree with the decisions but who thought that if they went through they would have a good Press and this might have an effect on the Government when preparing the Budget.
I conclude by saying that when we have a new Senate, when the country faces tremendous problems, when the people come here to listen, and when they listen in their homes, to find out what the Senate - this great house of review - is going to do for the future of Australia, it is disappointing that they have been compelled to listen in disgust to what has been only a demonstration of the art of mud slinging.
– I suggest that what Senator McManus has done is simply to make an apology for the Government. In criticising the Labor Party for so-called mud slinging, he has taken the opportunity to try to make an analogy about something that happened in the Labor Parly concerning Stale and Federal organisations which had nothing al all to do with this issue. The main issue in this debate is to be found in the resolution proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) which slates that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) lacks the confidence of the Senate. This is the Parliament of Australia and surely it has the right lo examine these matters closely and criticise the Government or a Minister regarding some public motion that has received very wide publicity.
Nobody can say that over the years repatriation has not received the greatest publicity in the Senate and, in fact, the support of most members of the Opposition and some members of the Government. On many occasions wc have come into the Senate and debated the issue of repatriation benefits. On many occasions Opposition senators have pointed out, either independently or by way of a motion, the need for the Senate to sei up a select committee to examine repatriation and the anomalies which we know to exist. We know from the comments of most of the speakers, including some who have supported the Government and the Minister, that there is a wide criticism of the Repatriation Act and the way that it is administered by the Government.
The Minister is the responsible person representing the Government, lt is no good saying that the Opposition, in canvassing the sort of resolution that we are dealing with tonight, is personally attacking Senator McKellar. I can honestly say that in debates on repatriation since 1 have been in this chamber - and I have taken part in most of them - I have never criticised Senator McKellar in a personal sense. But I have always assumed that he is the responsible
Minister. He is responsible whether or not he is the main unit in determining the Government’s policy on repatriation. He is the agent of the Government and therefore he is there to be criticised. He receives the criticism. He is the focal point of all the attacks made by the Returned Services League and the ex-servicemen’s organisations, as is the case in this particular instance. So this is the background to this move by the Opposition.
Some sixteen ex-servicemen’s organisations met last year and complained about the policies of the Government and about the Minister who operates those policies. They have expressed themselves in recent years. The RSL has a special place in regard to representations made to the Government. Now, two important branches of the RSL have decided to censure the Minister for Repatriation about a particular incident. This is the particular incident we are now debating and surely it must be competent for the Parliament to canvass the matter and to determine whether there has been an area of failure on the part of the Minister or whether the propositions advanced by the Opposition should fall. I do not think they fall. The fact is that the RSL does have this special place, as Senator Wheeldon said tonight. On the Government side, the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), was the first to stand, as I would, and say that the RSL does have this special place in exservice matters and matters which concern the young people who are fighting in our services at the present lime and those who have fought on other occasions. On every occasion we have debated repatriation matters the Opposition has, I think, put forward the sorts of objectives proposed by the RSL.
That is the background in this situation. There is no question of personally attacking an individual senator. I know, and 1 have occasion to remember, that on some occasions the Minister for Repatriation has intervened personally to get some benefit for ex-servicemen. Bui this does not alter the charge which the Opposition is making tonight. The RSL has special prestige in regard to making representations to the Government. It is the only body which is allowed to meet the Government’s exservice committee. The RSL makes its annual representations to that committee, lt has an open door to the Government for consideration of its case. Yet. the RSL has said to the Minister and to the public of Australia that it has no confidence in the Minister. lt has no confidence in the Minister not only because of the long list of defaults by the Government with respect to awarding pension entitlements and pension justice but also because the Minister did certain things or implied certain things in regard to the Mooney case which in fact ought not to have been done.
I echo the statement made by Senator Keeffe: If there are any puzzles in this debate then they can be answered only by the Government offering to table all the papers in connection with this incident. The Minister reported that the complaints which he had received came from two medical practitioners. The complaints related to the fact that the chairman, so-called, was dominating a tribunal. The first thing I want to know, as an ex-serviceman and as a member of (he Senate, is whether these two medical practitioners-
– You want a witch hunt.
– No. 1 want to know all the facts about this matter before I make a judgment. I am prepared to support the protest by the RSL to which the Opposition is giving vent tonight. If there is any question of whether the Minister is personally responsible, I want to know what records the Minister has referred to. I think reference was made to two statements written to the Minister by two medical men. I would like to know whether these two men are young men. I want to know whether they have seen war conditions. I want to know whether they are aware of the spirit of the Repatriation Act. I want to know whether they know of the great debates in the Australian Parliament about the question of benefit of doubt for exservicemen. .1 want to know whether they are carrying out their duties in accordance with the spirit of the Act or whether they are simply inexperienced young doctors who have no case to make out before the Minister. Let the Minister give the evidence about this sort of statement. Let him indicate to the Senate what sort of dominating influence the chairman had. In what respect is this influence dominating? Is it dominating in the way that we are trying to dominate the debate tonight or is it an influence which suggests that the doctors ought to be precise, responsible and mindful of the sort of war caused disabilities and the war experiences of the appellants to the tribunal. I do not know these things and I would like to know. Also, in another place tonight, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) introduced a letter into the debate. It was a reply from Mr Mooney. It was not fully quoted and it was supposed to be tabled. 1 have since made inquiries and have been told that it has not been tabled.
– But it is going to be tabled.
– I am saying that this is the position according to what I have been told. A document was read which was said to be a reply by Mr Mooney. Let us have the entire document read. Let us also find out the exact terms of these letters from the two medical people. I am surprised at Senator Wright’s attitude because, over the years, he has been one of the speakers in these debates who have evaluated the disabilities of ex-servicemen. He supported the Opposition on every occasion when we spoke about the need to revise the Repatriation Act and about the need to determine once and for all whether exservicemen were getting a fair deal, whether they were getting just benefits for war caused disabilities and whether those disabilities were being evaluated properly. As we all know, the Minister is on record as having spoken, at least during one debate in which a number of us took part, about the absence of medical records. Most members of this Parliament who have had occasion to try to help exservicemen know that most cases fall down because of lack of evidence. In this chamber the Minister repeated a warning to the young servicemen of today to make sure that everything that happened to them is put on their medical record because if not probably later on they will not get something to which they are entitled.
– I did not say that. Be. fair. 1 said it might happen.
– I understood the spirit of your contribution. I appreciated what you said. You intended to warn young people that they should put the record straight. You know as well as I do that this is where the applications fail. You know as well as I do that in such circumstances injustice is done to ex-servicemen.
Ex-servicemen - and each of us knows such cases - with decorations or military awards, who develop heart trouble are denied some kind of pension entitlement or increase in pension because their records do not show ali the particulars. They are told by the tribunals, the Department and the Minister, although he knows the history, that they have to obtain evidence from someone with whom they served nearly 30 years ago, who probably is now dead, to support their application. That is why the RSL and the ex-service organisations are strongly criticising the Government. The Minister is in the box seat because all Ministers charged with the responsibility of administering a department are in the box seat. Repatriation benefits are not good. The Repatriation Act has to be improved. On one occasion in the Senate we came very close to having a select committee established to review the Act. H I remember rightly, we almost had the support of Senator Wright. He put a strong case in support of the principle of the establishment of a committee along the lines of those set up by previous governments, including a Labor government. Reg Pollard, who was then Minister for Repatriation, strongly supported a review of the Act. This is absolutely necessary. We know where the Act falls down. We know why the RSL and other ex-service organisations are complaining. They want the Act reviewed. That is why the Minister for Repatriation is the butt of all the censure. There is no other reason. The Opposition is not making a personal attack on Senator McKellar. If Senator Wright or any other honourable senator were the one in question, we would adopt the same attack. The attack is against the Minister because he is the person, whether he likes it or not, who is responsible for all the failures in repatriation. The Minister is responsible in the same way as the Minister for Labour and National’ Service would be responsible in the case of a general strike. That is the situation and nobody can deny that it is so. The cause of ex-servicemen would be harmed even more if the proposed amendment were carried, lt is the kind of nonsense which the Government wants to support. Honourable senators opposite have said that the Minster is free from all criticism and that his administration is all right.
Senator McManus made one valid point. He said that we should ascertain what really happened and that papers should be tabled. If Senator McManus wanted to pursue that line he should have moved for an inquiry. We want the Government to table all the documents. If it does not propose to table all the documents, in my opinion, the case made out by the Opposition is so much stronger. The Senate should be mindful of the contributions to repatriation debates which have been made over the years. Many people, including members of the Government, have come out and said that there is a great need for a review of: the Repatriation Act and all the things which go to make up the Act. I suggest that the jibes about personal attacks by the Opposition and attempts to take advantage of the political atmosphere is the kind of hogwash that the Government has used before. Every time the Opposition has talked about the need to improve the welfare of ex-servicemen the Government has suggested that we are pulling a political stunt. Nobody could say that those of us who have taken part in these debates over the years have been unmindful of the welfare of ex-servicemen. Each one of us has special experience in repatriation matters. Most of us who. have taken part in the debate tonight are exservicemen who were engaged on active service. We are very sympathetic to the needs of ex-servicemen. The suggestion that has been put tonight, that the National Executive of the RSL has not supported the two State branches, is quite wrong. 1 would be more influenced in assessing the position if I could read the documents, the letters from the doctors and the letter that Mr Mooney wrote to the Minister.
– We all want to see them.
– Of course we do. We want to see the earlier reports. We would like to know the figures and the evaluations made by this Tribunal. If the Tribunal had a record of being liberal in its decisions our point of view could be made even stronger. I would like to refer to certain statements made by Sir Arthur Lee, the National President of the RSL. These were made after the consultations which followed Senator McKellar’s visit to Victoria to consider the matter and the
National Executive’s consideration of the position. A press report states:
Mr Mooney came away from that meeting wilh a clear impression the Minister felt that he had exercised an unduly lenient attitude towards appellants.
As this meeting was held just prior lo his reappointment as chairman, he was of the opinion that it constituted a warning by the Minister against what he (the Minister) felt to be an over generous attitude.
The Minister for his part denied that he intended to convey this altitude or that his discussion with Mr Mooney could bc construed in any way as warning.
Sir Arthur said that while the executive had no way of determining the merits of each viewpoint, concern had been growing in League circles at the tendency of some medical advisers to be rigid and uncompromising in their attitude to disabilities.
That gives the lie to what Senator McManus said, lt is support - it certainly is not precise substantiation - for what took place. What Sir Arthur Lee is saying is that the Opposition is on the side of the RSL and Mr Mooney. The Press statement continues:
Evidence of this trend was shown by the fact that the Repatriation Department itself had produced documentary films to show the extent of hardship under which men served in war.
They were to be used to give the younger medicoes who had not had war service an idea of the conditions in which men served, and which could contribute in a general way to a breakdown in health, Sir Arthur said.
I suggest that this has to be looked at coldly. In the heat of the debate people are defending their Government and their Minister, and the Opposition is making out a case, which it feels to be a strong one. A strong case has been made out in the Senate and in another place today. As the Minister said, the matter is a very serious one. I quote what he said, as reported in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 30th July. The article reads:
Senator McKellar said the RSL stand was a great, disappointment.
This is a very serious thing as far as I’m concerned and I feel it’s serious for the Government.
So it is. If the Government has a clear conscience and if the Minister is clearly satisfied that, what he has done is correct in every detail and he had no intention of influencing the Chairman against giving fairly good decisions to appellants, all the correspondence and paper work involved in these reports ought to be tabled. The Senate should nol support the proposed Government amendment because if it is carried nothing further will be clone, lt ought to be done. It ought to be revealed to the public gaze. To prove we are wrong in some of our statements the Government should produce the documents, lt should produce the statements from the medical people. I would like to know who these medical people are and whether ex-service appellants to tribunals can have full confidence that the doctors have the necessary experience, apart from specialist experience, and know enough about war conditions to justify their opinions on disabilities which might have been caused during the war. That is why the Senate ought to canvass the matter properly.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! In conformity wilh the sessional order, relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Like Senator McKellar, I believe that this is a very serious matter for the Parliament and the country. It is all the more serious because the RSL has a special place in the workings of the Government in that the Government admits it to the Government’s most prized committee. The RSL has an open door to the Government and to that committee. The Government listens to what the RSL says, but apparently it very seldom takes any notice of recommendations made by the RSL. We know that the RSL has said that on many occasions the Minister and other Government spokesmen have distorted what has been proposed by the League in its representations to the Government.
I conclude by quoting another part of Senator McKellar’s statement as reported in the ‘Canberra Times’. It reads:
Senator McKellar said Sir William had agreed with him in their meeting that Mr Mooney did not accuse him of making a definite statement that he (Mooney) was loo lenient in deciding appeals.
– I thank the honourable senator for quoting that part of the statement. His Leader quoted only part of it.
– Let me quote another part of the Minister’s statement. If it is not true he can disown it. It reads:
However, Mr Mooney still insists that he has the firm impression I inferred that he used undue influence on his own tribunal, he said.
– There is another paragraph, too.
– There are some others, but I think those are the important ones.
– Why not read it all?
-If honourable senators opposite want me to read the other paragraphs I will do so.
– Good old Australian Labor Party tactics.
– Does the honourable senator want this matter examined, or does he not? Unless the matter is examined properly the Australian people will not be satisfied. Government senators have not produced any facts at all tonight; they have simply tried to rebut our arguments. Let us see what sort of correspondence has been exchanged between the Government and the people about whom it is complaining. As honourable senators want me to read the rest of the report of Senator McKellar’s statement, I will do so. It reads:
Senator McKellar said that Mr Mooney’s inference was not warranted.
Sir William Hall said after the meeting he was satisfied Mr Mooney was correct in assuming the inference.
We support Mr Mooney who we believe was accused by the Minister of dominating the tribunal’, he said.
Sir William Hall said the Minister’s action could only give the impression that he was concerned by the number of successful applications for pensions cutting into the Governments budget.
He said the meeting today lasted 1 hour and 10 minutes and was ‘occasionally cordial’.
Whether that was right I do not know. I make the point that nobody could feet satisfied about the discussion here tonight or the discussion in another place-
– Particularly your Party.
– Senator Marriott is an active member of the RSL. I am surprised that he does not come out and support it. SinceI entered the Senate I have never heard him speak in support of the matters that we have raised. On no occasion on which we have criticised the Government for not increasing repatriation pensions has he ever been like Senator Wright and other honourable senators opposite who on many occasions have said that something should be done about repatriation pensions. Senator Marriott has always sat tight and supported the Government.
I suggest that there is a strong case for giving support to the Opposition’s motion. I cannot see any sense at all in the amendment. If the Senate carries the amendment tonight a lot of ex-service people throughout Australia - not just members of the RSL but members of all the eighteen organisations that met recently and condemned the Government for not improving repatriation benefits - will ask: ‘What is missing in this matter? Is it like the VIP aircraft question? What are all the issues in it?’
– It is a case of honoured in war; forgotten in peace.
– That is so.
– What about the RSL pamphlet?
– That is another point that we should remember. After all the years during which the RSL had been patronised by this Government, before the last Senate election the League conducted a strong campaign of criticism of the Government.It has in its favour the fact that it happens to be the widest ex-service organisation and the one that represents most of the diggers from the world wars. Notice should be taken of it if it has somethingto say. It has carried a motion of censure against the Minister for Repatriation. It is the organisation that the Government accepts as the voice of ex-servicemen. If it can carry a motion of censure, what is wrong with the Opposition in this Parliament ventilating the matter in a way that will enable us to find out what the Government’s case is?
– Senator Bishop, out of his innate sense of fairness, obviously floundered and spoilt the Opposition’s case by trying to say that the Opposition had not levelled charges of want of integrity against the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) and by trying to make this debate turn upon issues of repatriation policy. But then, when stung into a defence of the Opposition, he unfortunately allied himself with the allegations and imputations against the Minister.
Now that we have settled on determining this matter seriously tonight, let us take our minds back quietly and remind ourselves of the way the debate opened. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) had the temerity to allege impropriety on the part of the Minister in having an interview with Mr Mooney on the eve of his reappointment. The Minister was in charge of the responsibilities entrusted to him by the Parliament under the Repatriation Act. His responsibility was at no less a level than the reappointment of a professional chairman of an administrative tribunal, whose duty was to hear appeals in relation to the assessment of injuries for repatriation purposes.
The Minister having received a complaint, the nature of which I will state with precision in a moment, Senator Murphy suggests that an interview was an impropriety. Senator Murphy poses as an exponent of the rule of law and fairness and as an upholder of human rights, lt is suggested in his thesis that the Minister should have made a decision one way or the other on the reappointment of this officer without communicating this complaint to him. Had the Minister relied upon the complaint, in this unfair, sinister and secret way that is suggested as the proper way by the Leader of the Opposition and without confronting Mr Mooney, and had he deprived Mr Mooney of reappointment to his office, the Minister would have deserved an indication that he no longer had the confidence of the Senate.
But the Minister followed the fair and rightful course of telling the chairman that he wanted to interview him. The Minister did not whistle him up from Melbourne. There was no complaint by Mr Mooney that there was an interview. The Minister had an interview with him. Senator Murphy was then pushed to the stage where he had to suggest that the Minister’s rightful course was to suspend this man on the uncorroborated complaint that he had received and without communicating it to Mr Mooney and giving him an opportunity to make an explanation.
– When did 1 suggest that?
– -If Senator Murphy looks at the record of his speech, which was in line with the illogical and sheepish attitude in which this debate was initiated, he will see that he committed himself to (hat arbitrary course of action. Having established the complete propriety of the interview, let me now consider what the interview consisted of. We had this first brought to our mind by the Opposition suggestion that the Minister acted improperly in his dealing with Mooney. Another way in which it was put was that he interfered with the Chairman’s decision. Another expression was that when chairmen were being discussed, he dressed them down for making decisions which were too generous. Senator Cohen, deputising and leading for the Opposition, said that the charge against the Minister was that he approached the Chairman prior to his reappointment and, in substance, left him with the clear impression that he had been too lenient to appellants. That is the calculated, precise way in which, after a good deal of debate, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition couched the accusation as to what this interview consisted of.
Then it was stated that the Minister had used undue influence to affect decisions. However, we are in the fortunate position in this chamber that we do not have to depend upon the statement of the Minister to be aware of what took place at this interview. We do not depend upon the oral recollection of either party. We have a fourpage letter written by Mr Mooney, not written 2 years after the interview but written the next day. The important thing to understand about this interview is what Mr Mooney understood to be the Minister’s attitude and the substance of what the Minister was saying. Here we have it stated by Mr Mooney in his own written language on 20th September. As we have been reminded by his advocates tonight, we must recognise that Mr Mooney is not a greenhorn but is a seasoned lawyer with a competence that fits him to be a chairman of the tribunal.
– Was that September 1966?
– It was 20th September 1966. He wrote to Senator McKellar:
Having had time to ponder on our discussion at your Sydney office on Monday, 19th inst., I have come to the conclusion from what you said that if 1 were not reappointed to this position I would leave under the stigma of being unsuitable for the appointment because 1 had during my term of office -
Displayed a lack of courtesy to the appellants. lt was not that he had been over generous to them. The complaint against his character was that he had displayed a lack of courtesy to the appellants - not that he had given them comfort and been over generous, lt continued:
Dominated the Tribunal-
That is, the other two members who sat with him as members of the Tribunal.
– What does that mean?
– If the honourable senator will wait a moment I shall give him the text and then the explanation. I will then be ready to engage in such comment as he wishes. The third matter conveyed by the Minister to this apprehensive gentleman was that he impeded the work of the Tribunal whilst discussing his own personal business on the telephone and the fourth point was that he intended - I think he means tended - not to look upon the position as a full time occupation. In the whole 4 pages of what follows is an explanation of each one of these matters. As to the complaints seriatim there is not one word expressly alleging that the Minister ever said a word of complaint about his decisions or saying that they were too generous, nor is there any suggestion that he wielded the stick over him or interfered with his decisions. He went on to deal with each of these four complaints. He disclaimed discourtesy. He claimed courtesy to appellants and said that he had been habitually courteous. As to the suggestion of a domination of the tribunal he said: Never’ He said that there was a minority of medical men who needed strong advice - that is not his expression but is a true representation of what he said - and that they were the ones who removed themselves from the immediate presence of the
Chairman and returned to him to announce their assessment. He said:
If 1 have put any of this minority out of step by dominating them I am pleased, and if I have dominated them to the extent of a fair hearing and a fair assessment in favour of the ex-member, then 1 am doubly pleased.
I read that simply to convey that he understood quite well what the Minister said, that the complaint was not that he was dominating the Tribunal, or that his attitude in relation to his two colleagues on the Tribunal was such that they dominated him. When it is put in that context and we consider three persons of the independent status and knowledge of members of a tribunal - we are not dealing with children; we are not dealing with weak-minded people; we are not dealing with inexperienced people; we are not dealing with ignorant people but with grown men - we realise that Mr Mooney understood what the complaint was, that he dominated the Tribunal.
– In favour of the appellant.
– Let us take notice of the interjection by the Leader of the Opposition that Mr Mooney dominated the Tribunal in favour of the appellant. That is in line with what he said in the course of his speech when he rose and made the gratuitous assumption that the suggestion of domination was an improper generosity to appellants. I shall come to that suggestion at the conclusion of my remarks because it represents the mind of Senator Murphy on this matter so transparently that it can be brought into focus by the third paragraph of the amendment which says that the presentation of so serious a charge, unsupported by acceptable evidence - I would have added ‘any evidence’ - is a misuse of the forms of the Senate. Senator Murphy will, I hope, receive his judgment from this chamber specifically addressed to that sentence in the amendment.
I go on in my examination of the letter and just mention that the writer used the remainder of the four pages to deal specifically with the allegation that he had impeded the Tribunal’s business by dealing with his own business. He said that that was a gross exaggeration. Then he said in relation to the fourth charge that he tended not to look upon his position as a full time occupation. He went on to explain some involvement in family business and finished up by saying:
I have not adverted to the question of my future and inasmuch as 1 have a wife and eight children to consider I will be grateful if you will let mc have your decision on this matter as expeditiously as possible.
That letter which was dated 20th September was acknowledged by the Minister on 23rd September.
The letter reads:
Dear Mr Mooney,
After consideration of the matters raised in our discussion on Monday of this week, and your letter of 20th September, 1 wish lo advise of your reappointment as Chairman of No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. In doing so, I extend to you my good wishes.
And there is where the record lay until this unfortunate person occupying a position of quasi-judicial responsibility allows himself to come into the forum of public debate in the meeting of the Victorian Branch of the RSL.
– Did he not complain a month later?
– As the Minister has dealt so adequately with that, I omit any reference to it. The point is that this gentleman. Mr Mooney, a lawyer experienced in the. hearing and weighing of evidence, a day after an interview with his Minister writes a letter of such a specific character and never makes, either by implication or expressed phrase, any allegation that the Minister stood over him or interfered in any way with his decisions.
– Are you going to table that correspondence?
– Yes. I indicated over an hour ago that I intended to table the documents. Having dealt so forcibly - I hope - with the refutation of any foundation whatever for the allegation that the Minister interfered because of his generosity in his decisions, we note that the Opposition joins in the echo and says: ‘Ah, there has been a resolution by an outside body’. This is a body which, I suggest, if a proper vole were taken amongst its members, would still retain the respect that all of us desire to accord it. but which, unfortunately, is adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, an exponent of the rule of law, because it has come to a decision condemning the Minister without hearing him and without giving him one word of notice that the matter was to come under discussion. We are invited to adopt Senator Murphy’s proposal despite the fact that, as is well known to Senator Murphy, Brigadier Eastick of South Australia said he would not support Sir William Hall’s allegation that the Minister had waved a stick, despite the fact thai Mr Elliman, the President of the Australian Capital Territory Branch said: ‘My relations with the Minister have always been most cordial” and despite the fact that Mr Pigott the Tasmanian President, was even more emphatic and is quoted as having said he believed the Minister had always done his best for the RSL ‘and will continue to fight for us in Cabinet’. So there is neither a tittle of evidence on the facts nor anything about the manner or degree of persuasion that was stated in the RSL meet: ing that should influence us in the slightest degree, even if the proposition before us was only to singe the tail of the cat.
The Leader of the Opposition has put before us a motion which, in parliamentary language and from the point of view of traditional parliamentary responsibility, is the highest form of condemnation that can be offered in a parliament He asks the chamber to vote that a Minister has forfeited confidence on the basis of impropriety, and he puts forward the proposal without having made any inquiry from Mr Mooney, without verifying his allegations by written documents or without having put himself in the position of saying that he has had a purposeful interview with any person of responsibility in the matter. Instead of moving for a form of inquiry, as he might have, the Leader of the Opposition comes in here and moves that this chamber has withdrawn ils confidence in Senator McKellar.
That misuse of parliamentary procedures deserves unqualified contempt in parliamentary circles by anybody sensible of the need for a chamber of parliament to exercise a responsible approach as to the degree of support that it has for a motion of this importance. It is in that regard that I conclude by focusing specifically upon the Leader of the Opposition the third sentence of the amendment that is proposed, lt is that the presentation of so serious a charge unsupported by acceptable evidence is a misuse of the forms of the Senate. I table the documents to which T have referred.
Silting suspended from 11.26 p.m. to 12 midnight.
Thursday, IS August 1968
– The motion proposed by the Opposition is one of lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). As the Minister himself will admit, and indeed as he is reported as having stated, this is a very serious matter not only for him but also for the Government. For some time we of the Opposition have been most dissatisfied with the Minister’s handling of his portfolio and his responsibilities. We have said so in this chamber session after session, not only at question time and not only during debates on repatriation matters, but also after moving urgency motions. Just as we of the Opposition have expressed our dissatisfaction because of the inefficiency of the Minister for Repatriation, so too have thousands of ex-servicemen expressed dissatisfaction because they have felt they are being discriminated against by this Government and harshly treated by the Ministers maladministration. Indeed before he became Minister for Works Senator Wright at times supported the Opposition in condemnation of the Government with respect to repatriation matters. Now, however, having been promoted to the position of Minister for Works, he comes in about fifth wicket down to bat for the Government.
During the course of his remarks the Minister gave his assessment of a letter which has only now been placed in my hands, lt is dated 20th September 1966 and was written by Mr Mooney. If my memory serves me correctly the Minister described Mr Mooney as an apprehensive gentleman, but he never in fact tabled the letter. Nor did the Government, or the Minister for Repatriation who had originally received the letter, table it during the course of this debate which commenced at about a quarter to five this afternoon and continued until twenty-five past: eleven this evening. Surely it is reasonable for members of the Opposition to ask why the letter has not been tabled until this late hour. What in fact is in the letter that has prevented us until now from having the opportunity to read it? What is the real truth of the situation, and where is all the other correspondence that might be involved in this affair? For instance, did the Minister in the first instance write to Mr Mooney saying he had received complaints from medical practitioners about the manner in which Mr Mooney was conducting the affairs of the Tribunal? If so, why has that letter not been produced? Did the Federal President of the Returned Services League, after a consideration of this matter by the Federal Executive and the Council, forward a letter to the Minister containing expressions of lack of confidence? If so, why has that letter not been tabled?
It is nol only the niggardly way in which ex-servicemen have been treated that is now subject to criticism, it is also the irresponsibility and the incompetence of the present Minister for Repatriation. Despite the attempted oratory of the Minister for Works we have not yet seen all the correspondence involved in this matter. The only letter which has been tabled was handed to us some three minutes ago and we certainly have not had time to peruse it. But surely an allegation made by a responsible executive member of the Victorian Branch of the RSL should not be taken lightly. After all, the allegation was made at an annual conference of the RSL. lt was not a statement that was made under privilege.
– Is that not your client’s letter - the one you referred to as alot having been tabled?
– I have no client in this case.
– Is that not Mr Mooney’s letter? Would not that be part of your case?
– The letter was given to me at 2 minutes past 12, even though the debate had been continuing since a quarter past 5 this afternoon.
– lt was tabled here at half past I I .
– We did not receive it until 2 minutes past midnight, despite attempts on the part of Senator Murphy, Senator Cohen, Senator O’Byrne and myself to obtain it beforehand, lt was not until I had risen to my feet after the resumption of the sitting that the document first came to me.
– I asked the Leader of the Government for it immediately after Senator McKellar sal down and he refused to let me have the document.
– Surely the allegation by a responsible member of the Victorian Branch of the RSL should not be taken lightly, lt was made at an annual conference of the Victorian Branch of the RSL and therefore could not be considered to be of a privileged nature. The statement was made after Mr Ruxton had obviously been told something by the Chairman of No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. Mr Ruxton in moving a vote of no confidence in the Minister claimed that the Minister had waved a big stick at the chairman of an independent tribunal1. The motion of no confidence in the Minister was carried unanimously. Sir William Hall, the President of the Victorian Branch of the Returned Services League said that if Mr Ruxton’s claims could be substantiated he would take up the matter with Senator McKellar. He said:
We’ll come out and say it - don’t worry about thai. If not the RSL would issue an unqualified apology to the Minister.
He said that if the evidence were not forthcoming the Minister would certainly be entitled to an unqualified apology. Does the Minister or the Government acknowledge that Sir William Hall, the President of the Victorian Branch, is a fair-minded man? He is about the only man who has had an opportunity to hear what might be said to be both sides of the case, and according to the ‘Canberra Times’ of 30th July, he refused to apologise to the Minister for Repatriation, Senator McKellar, over an allegation that the Minister waved a stick at pension tribunal members. This was after the Minister had flown from Canberra to Melbourne for a meeting with the State President. Among other things Sir William Hall said after the meeting, which lasted for about 1 hour and 10 minutes and during which for portion of the time, according to the report, the meeting was of a cordial nature, that he was satisfied Mr Mooney was correct in assuming the inference.
– In assuming.
- Sir William Hall said he was satisfied that Mr Mooney was correct in assuming the inference lying behind what was said to him by the Minister for Repatriation. He said:
We support Mr Mooney, who we believe was accused by the Minister’ of dominating the tribunal. lt is also interesting to note in the same report that the Minister offered to lay all the documents on the matter, including Mr Mooney’s letter, before the Press. I do not know whether, in fact, they were made available to the Press. I have not seen any publication of them anywhere. It would be an interesting question to ask whether, when the Minister went to Melbourne to see Sir William Hall, he bothered to show to the President of the RSL in Victoria the contents of this letter before Sir William Hall came to the conclusion that Mr Mooney was correct in assuming the inference that he did. lt is very interesting also, notwithstanding the letter that has just been produced at this late hour by the Government, that after Mr Ruxton had made the allegations in public, not under privilege, at a meeting of the Victorian RSL, the next day we find in the ‘Canberra Times’ the heading: Ruxton’s Source Names Himself. Mr Ruxton did not say that Mr Mooney was the person. No. Apparently Mr Mooney volunteered to come forward and to say himself that he was the person who was involved in the allegation made by Mr Ruxton at the RSL meeting.
– And has Mr Mooney ever stated that the Minister for Repatriation waved a stick over him?
– I have not seen this letter as yet. But let me read what Mr Mooney is reported at that time as having said:
Bruce Ruxton has been a friend of mine for many years. He is a stable person - and some time ago I discussed with him my re-appointment as chairman of the tribunal.
He went on to say:
As far as I am concerned, I am quite prepared to stand behind what I told Mr Ruxton.
– An oath helper.
– I beg the
– 1 said that he was an oath helper. He does not vouch for the fact. He stands by a friend.
– If the Minister is prepared, as a so-called responsible Minister of this Government, to talk about the chairman of a war service assessment appeal tribunal in that fashion, it is a matter for him. We will see what the exservicemen of this country think about remarks of that nature and whether they have confidence in the manner in which the Repatriation portfolio is administered by this Government. Mr Mooney went on to say:
The Minister and I have never had a fight over a decision made by my tribunal.
I quote that paragraph in fairness to the Minister. Mr Mooney added:
But I have not been happy with the Minister’s approach to the tribunal since he look over.
The RSL has listened to the Minister. The Minister has been to Melbourne and has had discussions with a very responsible member of the RSL, the Victorian President of that League. As I have said, no speaker on behalf of the Government, especially the Minister for Repatriation, has yet told us whether this letter which was tabled here at a late hour was produced to the Victorian President of the RSI-
– Well, I can tell the honourable senator now. He had it and he produced it to me.
– That is very interesting to know, even at this late hour. When I commenced my speech in this debate 1 had not had the opportunity to see this letter. The RSL listened to the Minister and it did not accept his side of the story because it is not prepared to apologise.
– The RSL did not listen to Sir William Hall.
– The Minister was not in the Senate when I read to the Senate what the Victorian President of the RSL said. If the Minister would like to hear it. again, I will repeat it. Sir William Hall, after the meeting, said that he was satisfied that Mr Mooney was correct in assuming the inference.
We support Mr Mooney who we believe was accused by the Minister of dominating the tribunal’, he said.
I personally have not been happy for some time with the Minister’s handling of his portfolio. The Opposition has not been happy for some time with the Minister’s handling of his portfolio. The RSL has not been happy for some time with the Minister’s handling of his portfolio and thousands of members of the RSL, particularly in New South Wales, which the Minister represents in the Senate just as I do, certainly have not been happy with the Minister’s administration of the repatriation portfolio.
Nol only we of the Opposition but hundreds of. thousands of Australians regard the Minister as being completely incompetent in the discharge of his duties. This is a case in which justice must not only be done but must also appear to be done. Hundreds of thousands of ex-servicemen today are living on the breadline and below the breadline because of the niggardly policies pursued by this Government. But when a suggestion is made that a Minister is interferring or has interferred with an assessment appeals tribunal, the Government is satisfied to brush it aside and say that if the Minister’s word is challenged by the word of another person without proper inquiry the Minister’s word must be accepted. Until the Minister has been cleared better than he has been by the case put by the Government in this debate, we of the Opposition certainly will not be satisfied nor will the RSL or the Australian people. We therefore call upon the Senate to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition expressing lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation.
– The motion before the Senate is that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) lacks the confidence of the Senate. When the motion was proposed it was based on the single simple proposition that recent events in which certain allegations were made by Mr Ruxton and Sir William Hall had created a situation in which the Senate should express its lack of confidence in the Minister. That was apparent at the commencement of the debate and throughout the debate it has been the single charge with which the Opposition has sought to justify the resolution. When the vote is. taken, that will still be the one and only issue. There have been efforts - one belated effort by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) in the last 10 minutes of his address and a valiant effort by Senator Bishop in his support - to suggest that the basis of the attack on the Minister is his performance in his portfolio. But that has merely been a last despairing attempt of the Opposition to give some semblance of justice to its proposition. This gamble has failed for the simple reason evidenced by Senator McManus. Clearly if the substance of the charge against the Minister is the Government’s alleged neglect, collective responsibility requires that the attack be directed against the Government and not against the Minister, i think ali honourable senators recognise that that is so.
We have just heard from Senator McClelland a repetitious catalogue of the assertion that the Returned Services League has not been satisfied with the Government’s administration of repatriation, that the honourable senators on his side of the chamber have not been satisfied and that this group of people and that group of people have not been satisfied. When was any specific instance given? None was given, because there was no possibility of any semblance of justice being given to the sort of case that was being put. So we come back to the point that .1 made when I commenced to speak and that is that the whole purport of this motion is that the Minister’s conduct in the recent episode warrants the Senate expressing its lack of confidence in him. I suggest that on the evidence that point of view cannot possibly be sustained, lt is deplorable that my colleagues in the legal profession have used the material that they have used on the basis that it justifies as serious an attack on a Minister as this motion implies. It is an extraordinary motion and it must have a substantial basis if it is to be carried. Certainly it requires evidence, and the only evidence that Senator Murphy suggested was available was that the RSL in Victoria had unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the Minister. Senator Murphy, true at that stage to his legal background, said: ‘Let us look at the nature of the evidence which was before the RSL’. It is proper that one should look at what was the nature of the evidence before the League. The mere fact that a League conference passes a motion is no criterion for any House of Parliament assuming that just because it has been passed the Minister is deserving of censure.
If this RSL conference has such appeal to members of the Opposition it may interest, them to know that the same conference passed a motion that any students convicted of demonstrations should be deprived of their scholarships at universities. 1 wonder whether the Opposition would say that that sort of motion had the same merit attaching to it as the motion on which it is placing so much weight tonight. The point is that an RSL conference has no more weight or validity as far as the deliberations of this Senate are concerned than would deliberations of the Australian Bankers Association expressing no confidence in the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) or some other Minister. Honourable senators just would not rely upon any such motion as giving any weight or credence to a proposition such as they are espousing in the Senate. Secondly the Victorian Branch of the RSL is just one segment of an Australia wide body. The mere fact that one segment of a national body passes a motion without regard to what might be the points of view of the other segments of that national body does not give that motion the credence which it must have if it is to be recognised in the Senate.
I think it is more important lo look at the material upon which the RSL relied when it passed its motion. 1 suggest that if honourable senators look at it they will realise that the League itself should be ashamed of what it did. because never should any organisation be prepared to condemn any person on the basis of accusations made against him, particularly when founded on hearsay upon hearsay, without giving the accused person the right to be heard. I think it is deplorable that Senator Murphy and Senator Cohen who in others places have been regarded, 1 think deservedly, as custodians of civil rights and men who espouse the necessity for people to be tried in accordance with law, should come before the Senate and say that this is sufficient material upon which to condemn the Minister.
Let me refer to what was said by the gentleman who moved the motion at the Victorian RSL conference and see precisely what that was. Of course, we must recognise that the only materia] that we have as to what he said, and the only material upon which Senator Murphy and Senator Cohen relied, was that not altogether reliable basis, the newspaper report. Let us rely upon the material upon which they relied. In the
Melbourne ‘Sun News-Pictorial’ of. 25th July 1968 it was reported that Mr Ruxton had said: lt is strongly rumoured that the Minister has been interviewing members of independent tribunals as to their generosity.
He said: 1 suggest that there have been members of independent tribunals taken to Canberra and had i slick waved al them over what has been given by them.
If honourable senators look at what the Melbourne ‘Age’ stated on the same day they will see that it reported Mr Ruxton as having said:
The Minister had attempted to influence members of independent tribunals which review war pension claims.
He also said:
He should resign his portfolio.
According to the ‘Age’ Mr Ruxton also said that his Branch could produce evidence that tribunal members had been called before Senator McKellar and dressed down for making loo generous decisions on pension claims. On that material the RSL conference voted to censure the Minister. As I have already indicated, in the light of statements of that character one might wonder at the temerity of the RSL when it had not even heard the Minister.
What happened thereafter? Of course the Press was interested in these reports and on 26th July 1968 the Melbourne ‘Age’ reported that Mr Ruxton had said:
Senator McKellar had sought to influence a Melbourne lawyer at the time of his reappointment as chairman of a tribunal.
At that point we see the retraction from the initial position. No longer is it members of tribunals; it is one individual. Of course, on 26th July Sir William Hall, State President of the RSL, had something to say. His information does not come from Mr Mooney; it comes from Mr Ruxton. So it is hearsay upon hearsay upon hearsay. Sir William Hall said:
The man had told Mr Ruxton that Senator McKellar indicated to him that some of the tribunal decisions were too generous lo ex-servicemen.
On Saturday, 27th July, Sir William Hall had something further to say. He said:
Of course, he had revealed Mr Mooney’s name on television on the Friday night - has restated that the Minister accused him of influencing the tribunal in its decisions.
He said also:
The Minister obviously meant the influence was resulting in too many appeals being allowed.
There we see a further qualification. Sir William Hall said that Mr Mooney had restated that the Minister accused him of influencing the tribunal. Because that statement appears inconsistent with such a direct charge of accusation, Sir William went on to say:
The Minister obviously meant the influence was resulting in too many appeals being allowed.
The Melbourne ‘Sun’, being diligent, sought out Mr Mooney. As far as 1 can see in all the newspaper accounts, it was only to the ‘Sun’ that Mr Mooney made any statement. To other newspaper reporters he apparently said: ‘No further comment’. T think it is fair to say that he was wise in saying: ‘No further comment’. As reported in the ‘Sun’, Mr Mooney said: 1 back Bruce Ruxton to the hilt. Me has been a friend of mine for many years. 1 suggest that that would be the sort of comment a friend would make. Mr Mooney continued:
Some time ago I discussed with him my reappointment as a chairman of the tribunal. As far as I am concerned I am quite prepared to stand by what I told Mr Ruxton.
We have not yet been told precisely - we have not been told even in general terms - what it was thai Mr Mooney told Mr Ruxton. Then Mr Mooney said, and this is highly significant in the light of what has been alleged:
The Minister and 1 have never had a fight over a decision by my tribunal.
If there was any threat whatever in the suggestion that the Minister had accused Mr Mooney of influencing tribunals so that they were too generous - an accusation which Mr Mooney had denied - it would be fair to describe the controversy as a fight. Yet Mr Mooney states that he has never had a fight with the Minister over any decision by his tribunal.
When one considers that this is the material upon which this motion now before us has been built it is useful to think about the matter and to draw from the fads the obvious conclusions. The first conclusion is that when the RSL made its decision it had before it an accusation that not one but numerous tribunal members had had a stick waved over them; that they had been called before the Minister; that they had been told that their decisions were too generous and, presumably, that the situation had better stop. If that was established as a fact, I should have thought that it was not only the RSL but also a host of other bodies, including this Parliament, which would have been concerned. But, of course, that is not the fact when one comes to analyse what subsequently appears. Whatever Mr Ruxton, in his enthusiasm for RSL pursuits, might have told the conference, he certainly did not relate accurately what Mr Mooney afterwards was prepared to swear to. Later Mr Mooney denied the very basis upon which Mr Ruxton’s statements had been made.
When we come to the resolution which is before the Senate and we see that the charge of lack of confidence in the Minister is based upon the allegations as to what Mr Ruxton said to the conference and the fact that the conference acted upon them, we see that that basis has absolutely no foundation whatever. I say that it has no foundation whatever because one can observe this clearly and without difficulty when one reads the newspaper reports. When the Opposition comes before this Senate and poses this resolution in the terms it has used and has as its supporters two eminent Queen’s Counsel, I suggest that it is imposing upon the Australian people to suggest that there are bona fides in the approach which is being made. This evidence, as Senators Murphy and Cohen would readily appreciate, would not have a person committed in a court of law, let alone have him face a jury, because the evidence just is not there. But of course there are other elements of this which ought to be brought to the minds of honourable senators.
Involved in this sort of approach to the Minister is an attack upon a Minister and a condemnation of him without him ever being given an opportunity to be heard in his own defence. No question was asked of the Minister as to whether or not he had any statement to make. As soon as the Senate resumed yesterday notice of motion was given. In short, in the eyes of the Opposition, the Minister was condemned unheard and it was preconceived that he must be guilty. I should have thought that that is entirely contrary to those basic human rights, those basic civil liberties, that proper approach to law, the recognition of liberty under the law which has been the espoused of certain members of the Labor Party for a few years. I should think in the light of the performance on this motion that one hereafter must be suspicious of the protests they make that a person is being denied that justice to which he is entitled.
There is one other aspect to which I think some attention should be given. It has been suggested that the Minister had influenced the Chairman of a Tribunal. The Minister has denied this and, indeed, when one looks at the facts, the person concerned has not stated that the Minister ever did say to him that his decisions were too generous or that he had tried to influence him. That aspect, which would be one element in proof of the charge, is entirely missing. But if one goes also to such records as are available and looks at the report of the Repatriation Commission for the relevant year 1965-66, one sees the number of cases which were heard by the war pensions assessment appeal tribunals and the number of cases which were allowed and the number of appeals which were disallowed. The figures for that year indicate that in Queensland - it is not suggested that Mr Mooney was the Chairman of that tribunal - of the cases heard 33% were granted. In New South Wales 59% were granted. In Victoria 60% were granted. In Western Australia more than 61 % were granted. In the States of New South South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia we see the same sort of percentage being granted - 59%, 60% and 61%. If there is any basis to the charge then I think that there should be a much higher figure for Victoria. That element of proof slight though it must be - we do not have the figures for all tribunals but only the figures for the State tribunals - lends some weight in discounting the charge made against the Minister.
The final point that I think it is fair to make is that the Opposition launched this motion and therefore carried the obligation to establish its point. To that extent the onus was upon it. Yet we have heard this constant refrain throughout the debate: Why does not the Minister get up and condemn himself out of his own mouth?’ This was the point of view that Senator Cohen expressed. How that squares with traditional principles I do not know, ft appears to me that the appropriate course for the
Opposition, if it has a case to assert, is to stand by it. In judging a man it is not proper to raise some sort of case, to concede its inadequacies and then to expect the person whom you are accusing to rise and, by something that he says, indicate that he is guilty.
Mr President,I am happy to support the amendment to the motion. I think that it ought to be carried because it fairly expresses the view of the Senate. The Government has confidence in the integrity and the propriety of the Minister for Repatriation in the discharge of his ministerial duties. We reject the charge made against him of interference with the decisions of a repatriation tribunal. If those points have validity then those Opposition senators who have been saying that this is not a personal attack but that what they are really concerned about is the administration of the Repatriation Department ought to be prepared to vote for that amendment, because in that amendment there is only the element of integrity and propriety.If Opposition senators are sincere in their protestations there can be no objection to supporting that aspect of the amendment. I trust that the Senate will carry that confirmation, that it will recognise and emphasise the amendment, and that it will defeat the motion.
– When Senator Greenwood reads in the Press or in Hansard tomorrow what he has said tonight, he will regret a lot of what he said. Not only is this motion directed against the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) personally; it is also directed against the Repatriation Department. AsI see the position, a scandal has arisen as a result of a letter which, with great reluctance, has been brought to the notice of the Senate. So that there will be no doubt about the contents of that letter, I propose to inform honourable senators and members of the Press of its contents. It is a letter dated 20th September 1966, from Mr Mooney to Senator McKellar. There was a reply from the Minister on 23rd September . 1966. A period of 3 days elapsed between the Minister’s action in reappointing Mr Mooney and the time that this letter was posted.I will interpolate throughout the letter of 20th September. It slates:
Dear Senator McKellar,
Re Chairmanship No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal.
Having had lime to ponder on our discussion -
I repeat, to ponder on their discussion - at your Sydney office on Monday, 19th inst.. -
– The day before.
– Yes, the day before. The letter continues:
I have come to the conclusion from what you have said that if I were not reappointed to this position I would leave under the stigma -
I repeat, the stigma - of being unsuitable for the appointment because I had, during my term of office:
They are the chargesthat were made by the Minister.
– That is wrong. I did not make those charges.
– TheMinister will have to produce the letters from the doctors and the file. The Minister will have to produce the file to show where he got these charges from. It is a scandal that the Department should have framed these charges. When the reply came theMinister found the Mr Mooney was an honest man and he had to run for shelter and reappoint him because he knew that the Returned Services League would protect him.I will develop this line of argument further.
The letter continues:
As this conclusion reflects on my integrity -
That is why he had to write this letter - and the judgment of the organisation which nominated me for the position,I would like, by your leave, to deal with the complaints under the above headings, conceding that I may not be able to answer the alleged complaints because I don’t knowthe precise details of them.
What sort of Minister is this who charges this man-
– Anonymous charges.
– They were anonymous charges without any evidence. Here are these great bush lawyers from
Tasmania and Victoria trying to put it to us that there is no evidence. This man has been charged and the Minister has not been decent enough to give the source of the charges. The Minister has made unfounded charges against this man, as I shall prove. Let me go on with the letter. The first charge is discourtesy to applicants. 1 might mention here that I know Kevin Mooney. I have appeared on behalf of ex-servicemen before this tribunal and I can say with ail sincerity that Kevin Mooney is a first class man in every respect. He is sympathetic. He is a man with a great understanding of the ex-servicemen’s needs, having been legal adviser to the Royal Australian Air Force, having been a lecturer in commercial law and having been a practising solicitor in Melbourne. In addition to that, he is a gentleman through and through. He is a wonderful family man with eight children. If he had not been reappointed it would have been the greatest scandal that had ever happened in Australia. We are going to show that this Minister has aided and abetted the offence to the point of a scandal and then ran to water and reappointed him. I shall go on to prove this. The letter continues:
During the past 4 years ami 10 months I received numerous letters from appellants thanking me for the courteous manner in which their hearing have been conducted.
Here is a man who is put on the defensive by the Minister on the complaint of an unknown accuser - a pimp. In fact, it was probably a couple of pimps if the truth were known.
– Whom he would not name
– He would not name them, and he has not named them yet.
The people of Australia are going to ask the Minister to name them and to lay the papers on the table of the Senate. 1 am going to demand - and I hope the Senate will assist mc in this matter - that the documents be made public, so that we may find out who made these charges because I believe this man was framed in an effort to get rid of him from the tribunal. Let me tell the Senate why an effort was made to get rid of him from the tribunal. I shall get back to the letter in a moment, because I want the whole of the letter to be recorded.
Let me refer to some other documents which I have. In 1963-64 there were 4,868 appeals by returned servicemen from the 1939-45 war allowed and 5,029 disallowed. There were well over 200 more disallowances than allowances. In the next year, Kevin Mooney was associated with judgments that changed the old order. In 1964- 65, 5,154 appeals by ex-servicemen from the 1939-45 war were allowed and 4,971 disallowed. There were more appeals allowed that year than were disallowed.
The Treasury Department, the people who frame the Budget, the people who allocate the slice of the cake, had a look at this and said: ‘What is going on al these assessment tribunals? The old order is changed. They are starting to allow these assessment appeals’.
– Can you prove that?
– The honourable senator will have an opportunity later. He is like an old cockatoo sitting on the back fence. He is almost choking himself. However, that does nol get away from the point that in 1964-65 5,154 appeals were allowed and 4,971 were disallowed. In 1965- 66 we find that this generous and kindly gentleman gave similar treatment to just and deserving cases as he had done to diggers in the past. Again his tribunal allowed 4,877 appeals and disallowed 3,924 appeals. This is the year that the Minister gets on to the Chairman. He says: ‘What is going on here? You are too generous*. The position was that the tribunals were spending more money than the Repatriation Department or the Treasury had allocated to them. This is why this man was going lo get the sack.
– How do you establish that?
– Of course, it is easy to establish. This man himself has claimed that it happened.
– ls there anything else apart from that?
– His word is as good as yours: in fact better than yours. He said: l reiterate my remarks to you that 1 have never betrayed any lack of courtesy to Appellants.
He was on the defensive because of this nebulous, unsubstantiated attack by the Minister on this anonymous set of doctors or whoever it was. This is something we will never find out unless the Minister has the decency and the honour to put their names on the table and let us know who pimped. Mr Mooney said:
During the past four years and ten months 1 have received numerous letters from Appellants thanking mc for the courteous manner in which hearings have been conducted. As a matter of course I forwarded these to the Repatriation Department for filing on the relevant Appellant’s file, lt would now appear that I should have requested the Department to keep a copy of such letters for my use when confronted with the present charge of discourtesy.
The man did not have the right to have a copy of the letters. The Minister charged him with discourtesy.
– He did not.
– Of course he did. 1 am not taking your word.
– Whose word are you taking?
– 1 am taking the man’s word. The onus of proof has been pui on him. Honourable senators have him tried and found guilty before giving him a chance to prove otherwise. The letter went on:
I might add that this is the first occasion I have ever heard a mention of this matter either from yourself or your two predecessors in office, despite the fact that until recently all letters of complaint concerning the conduct of a Tribunal were referred to the Chairman-
The Minister was sabotaging him. He would not even give him a copy of the letters that went back and forth. He wanted to put the skids under him. Senator Greenwood attacked Senator Murphy and Senator Cohen and said that they were custodians of civil rights. Of course they are when they lake up the case of a man who has been Stood over by the Minister, who has been pressurised and who has had the big slick waved over him.
– Who said that?
– I did and so did the Returned Services League. So did Ruxton and so did the people of Australia. However. I will continue with the letter. Mr Mooney said:
I suppose it is fair enough that the Minister should pass on the complaint. But Mr Mooney did not have available to him copies of his letters in the correspondence passing between him and the Minister. The letter continues:
It is also a matter of record that Branch Office has forwarded to me copies of letters which it has received from appellants commenting on the fair impartial hearing that they had received.
This man was on the mat before the Minister. His job was in the balance. He had no other certain income and nine dependants at home. He was standing in fear of losing his job. The Minister waved a big stick over him and said: ‘You had better cut down on this generosity. You had better reduce the parabola of generosity. You are making the graph go too high. These fellows are getting too much of their rights.’
– The honourable senator accuses the Minister of having said that, but Mr Mooney did not say that he did.
– Mr Mooney did not say that in that letter.
– Mr Mooney has implied that. 1 would go so far as to say that Mr Ruxton could have seen this letter.
– The honourable senator claims to know. He made a statement. Let him prove it.
– lt is as plain as can be, because the figures coincide with the charge that the Minister said that Mr Mooney should cut down on the generosity.
– Did he say it?
– How can one tell? I am putting the onus on the Minister. The onus of proof is on him. The letter continues:
During my term of office there have appeared before my Tribunal numerous representatives of ex-service organisations, medical practitioners appearing as advocates, clergymen and wives’ of appellants and no word of complaint has reached me. Neither have I ever permitted an appellant to be taken to the stage where he has been emotionally upset during the hearing. I have also had the pleasure of having some of your parliamentary colleagues seek permission to re-enter the tribunal rooms after a hearing to compliment the Tribunal on the manner of the hearing. In fact, if it were of any interest, I could lel you have a memo in which one of these members asked that his appreciation of the conduct of the hearing be recorded.
Mr Mooney was placed on the defensive. He tried to protect his job. Wicked charges were made against him by anonymous pimps, or by somebody else. I will come to that in a moment.
– lt is trumped up.
– Yes, they are trumped up charges. There is a lot more in this than meets the eye. This is a scandal. I praise Mr Ruxton and the Returned Services League for bringing this matter to public notice. This is one of the worst cases that has ever been before the Senate, concerning as it does the conduct of a Minister who took action against the chairman of a tribunal.
– I bet that Ruxton regrets it.
– No-one should regret doing what is honest. But the honourable senators should regret trying to defend this type of conduct in the Senate. He will have to answer for this to the RSL. The letter continues: it is cogent to note that awaiting me on my return to Melbourne this morning were two letters of appreciation from appellants in which the words sympathetic understanding’ and ‘courteous manner’ predominate-
I can vouch that that correctly describes two qualities and characteristics of this man. The letter continues:
Mr Mooney wrote to the Minister to plead that the charges against him were false. The Minister has not made clear where the charges originated. He has referred to doctors. You can hardly find out where he got the information from. He makes the four charges against this man. He says (hat he displayed a lack of courtesy-
– But he did not charge him with that; he asked him to comment on it. He said: ‘These charges have been levelled against you. Are they correct?’
– Mr Mooney said:
If 1 were noi reappointed to this position 1 would leave under the stigma of being unsuitable for the appointment because 1 had during my term of office-
– But the Minister is giving him the opportunity of saying something about it.
– You can say a few words afterwards.
– You will have to sit down first.
– J have a lot to say yet. The letter goes on:
In fairness to myself 1 feel that these sources of. information should be canvassed and 1 shall be pleased to furnish those letters, yet in my office, in which appellants have expressed their appreciation of the manner in which their appeals have been conducted, so that you may weigh them against the complaints of discourtesy made by you.
– ‘the complaints of discourtesy made by you’.
– ‘Made to you’.
– Yes, ‘made to you’. Well, who made the complaints? He went on: lt is needless to add that some appellants are satisfied even though their appeals are unsuccessful. I might finally add on this point that any complaint by the appellant, whether against the Minister, the Commission or a Tribunal, becomes part of the documentary evidence on file. In fact Mr Ryan today showed me an item on the proposed agenda whereby he seeks reason for the alteration to the long-standing system of forwarding these complaints to the Chairman for comment, in view of this I strongly feel that I should be advised of any details of any complaints of this nature.
Of course, I agree that that is a reasonable request; and any man who has certain basic rights in any organisation, whether in the Service or anywhere else, can get an idea of what is on the file about him.
– He had an idea. That is why he wrote the letter.
– He did not have the information. Now I come to the passage on domination of the Tribunal: The letter said:
I am still at a loss to know the basis of this accusation. It has never been substantiated.
– Not made by the Minister, made to the Minister.
– Why did the Minister call him to Sydney to tell him about it? The letter goes on:
The first thought is that I as a non-medical member have dominated the two medical members to reach decisions which they as a majority would not have reached but for such domination. I. surely feel that all the medical members I have met over the years would scott at such a proposition.
The Minister had things stacked against him before he called him to Sydney. There was domination of the Tribunal. But he was too good a man to railroad like that. The letter continues:
I will concede that the barest possible minimum number of medicos constituting the panel find it hard to accept the fact that the Tribunal is an Assessment Appeal Tribunal and not a purely Medical Tribunal. This group (insignificant in number but who might be quite vociferous) have always been recognised to exist. Their first complaint in the Tribunal rooms is that an appellant has no right to have a particular entitlement because the ailment is nothing to do with war service.
How often have I struck that attitude, just as every man has who has appealed on behalf of ex-servicemen. You find these young upstarts just coming out of medical school and rooking for the quick quid, and the first thing they say is: ‘He is a scrimshanker. He is trying to put it over you.’ They do not understand the people they are dealing with. They are simply looking for the quick quid so that they can then get away and become specialists and charge double the fees of the general practitioner.
– That’s lovely.
– Don’t worry, that is right. I have been about. As a matter of fact he goes on to say - and this is something that Senator Marriott might read, mark and inwardly digest:
It is the Chairman’s duty to remind such a Medico that we are not concerned with the origin of the complaint but only with its assessment and on occasions I have found that such a view comes hard to some Medicos, particularly some of the younger doctors.
So this fellow is having the battle we could expect him to have with young people who do not know anything about war. They have been out at Marrawah drinking rum. He goes on:
In this group, of course, are the ones who tend to regard all ex-servicemen as scrimshankers and who, I feel sure, would, if allowed by the Chairman, develop an atmosphere of a military inquiry; they are the ones who remove themselves from the immediate presense of the Chairman and return to him to announce their assessment.
If I have put any of this minority out of step by dominating them I am pleased.
That is a terrific admission by a good man. If he puts some of these ‘hoo-ha’s’ out of step by refusing to take their advice, so much the better. The letter continues:
If I have dominated them to the extent of a fair hearing and a fair assessment in favour of the ex-member then I am doubly pleased.
The true position is, of course, that I have been to the homes of the Medical Panel members throughout Australia. Medical members from interstate have looked me up when in Melbourne and Melbourne Medicos have visited my home, a dozen or so having been invited to my home to a function to be held shortly.
This man is still on the defensive, showing that he is respected by the medical men. I have yet to ascertain any information from the Minister and 1 will continue to demand it. He was a bit reticent about information on the VIP flight. We will get the information out of him. We will get Dr Turnbull back. Perhaps he will be able to get to it. The letter continues:
I feel that if you consider that there is any substance to the claim of domination that inquiry might well be made among the majority of members of the Victorian panel who have sat for years on the Tribunal with myself, my colleagues and my predecessor.
That is important too because he asked the Minister to go and get wider information. Among these anonymous documents is the Minister’s ‘Document J’, that he produced as charges against this Chairman of a tribunal. That is a scandalous situation. The letter continues:
I must now revert back to our conversation on Monday and I now note that although you stated that your information was confidential you did not specifically state that this particular complaint came from Medical Members. Although I lack information on this complaint I have now, I believe logically, arrived at the conclusion that this complaint came not from Medical Members but from the Commission.
Why did the Minister not tell that to the Senate when he was reading from the document? And why did not Senator Wright tell the Senate? They wanted to hide it. The Minister has a lot to hide.
– Did they tell it to the RSL?
– I do not know but I think Mr Ruxton possibly had possession of this document when he made his position clear to the RSL in Melbourne. That is why it was convinced of the justice of the case and that is why the Victorian and New South Wales branches unanimously decided to take up the cause of this man. The letter continues:
At our Melbourne conference Dr Langford of the Commission requested the Chairman where possible to influence the Medical Members into giving reasons for Tribunal decisions.
That is a nice situation - requesting the Chairman where possible to influence medical members into giving reasons for tribunal decisions. This tribunal is supposed to be a quasi-judicial body.
– They should give reasons for their decisions.
– No. they do nol give reasons for their decisions. They will not do so. The honourable senator probably has never had an ex-serviceman come to him.
His one letter a week probably does not concern ex-servicemen. If one writes to the Commission and asks for reasons it refrains from giving them to you.
Certain medical reports of my tribunal, 1 am aware, read more like a legal judgment than a medical report e.g. ‘We are unable to define a clear line of demarcation between the accepted and rejected disabilities. Therefore applying section 47 of the Act and resolving any doubt in favour of the ex-servicemen we find etc.’.
He says further: 1 have never dominated the members to reach a conclusion similar to the above one but 1 have Assisted them, as is my duty, in drafting the report.
Examples of this type of decision are fresh in my mind and 1 am readily able to give instances where the Medical Members have expressed appreciation of the fact that there is a person on the Tribunal with legal training and here again ] feel that I have only performed the function of the legal member of the Tribunal and I make no apology for it.
IMPEDED TRIBUNAL BUSINESS BY MY OWN BUSINESS’
From our discussion I gathered that I am alleged to have had phone calls that have kept the Tribunal waiting. That I have had phone calls is true - that such phone calls have impeded Tribunal business could only be a gross exaggeration.
An anonymous pimp has made these charges against this man. He continues:
The Tribunal phone has been put there for the convenience of the Medical Members. No caller can be pui through to me during a hearing but this does not apply to the Medical Members who may always make and receive calls at will depending on their urgency.
My personal business is conducted over the phone in the privacy of my office - the phone account is for a separate number and a scrutiny of this account would lead to the query as to whether the phone installation is warranted.
A stigma has been placed over the head of Mr Mooney and nothing in his defence has been stated in the Senate. An anonymous charge has been made and the Minister is doing everything to condemn this man here today. Yet the Minister had to reappoint him.
– He could nol get out of it.
– Yes, otherwise the RSL would have known a lot more about this.
– You do not prove that.
– The onus is on you. You get up and do so. Do not sit there and cackle.
– The onus is on you.
– Mr Mooney continues by referring to the fourth charge which is: ‘Intended not to look upon the position as a full time occupation’. He states:
I have already stated that this has no foundation in fact. On being appointed 1 was in private practice as a lawyer in Melbourne and had no other business. I disposed of my business and have retained no connection with it. In 1963 my mother died and I hold a 25% interest in a family company with two brothers and my sister which owns an hotel. 1 have not sought to conceal this fact as the property is one of Melbourne’s oldest historic landmarks.
Since my mother’s death the properly has been in the hands of brokers for sale. Due to the fact that extensive repairs had to be effected, no sale was immediately forthcoming.
As this touches on a personal matter I feel that I must touch on a more personal aspect.
Acting on the assurance given by the then Minister for Repatriation, your predecessor Mr Swartz, at the Melbourne conference at the A.A.T. Chairmen vis. that Chairmen would be given al least 6 months notice if they were not to be re-appointed and having had no inkling of the complaints with which 1 have not been confronted I have not adverted to the question of tuy future and inasmuch as I have a wife and eight children to consider I shall be grateful if you will let me have your decision in this matter as expeditiously as possible.
This is a scandalous situation. The position is that the Minister has tried to influence the Chairman of the Tribunal through trumped up charges in relation to which he will not produce evidence. The onus of proof is on the Minister. According to the words of this man, the Minister has waved (he big stick over his head because he was noi cutting the coat according to the Treasury cloth or the repatriation allocation. In fact, two people have said this-
– Mooney has not, though.
– Mooney has said it.
– No, he has not.
– Ruxton has said it.
– Mooney did not, because Sir William Hall-
– I am not going to argue. The honourable senator has all night. He can get up on his feet.
– The honourable senator denied-
– I will start reading this document again if the honourable senator did not hear it. I have made a number of notes during the course of this debate which I think show that the defence of the Minister for Repatriation by the Government has been a very poor attempt to cover up something that at a very late hour came into our hands. This man was placed in a most invidious position by the action of the Minister who called him up and insinuated, or whatever one calls the process of telling him, that charges had been laid against him. These were unsubstantiated and unknown to the man. Basic justice has been abused by the action of the Minister. I believe that the resolution that the Senate lacks confidence in the Minister is a mild one. In retrospect, J think it does not go nearly far enough. But the truth will come out. If the Minister is so slow in producing these documents, someone in the Repatriation Commission will write his memoirs and we will find out the truth. I submit that the resolution is quite justified. The Senate is entitled to know the truth, the RSL is entitled to know the truth and all the ex-servicemen’s organisations, the exservicemen and the people of Australia are entitled to know the truth. We yet have not had the truth from the Minister. I support the motion.
– Senator O’Byrne, who has just sat down, said that this is the worst case that has come before the Senate. He could have gone further and said that this is the worst effort made by the Opposition in the Senate for some time. The debate has been capped by the contribution made by Senator O’Byrne. If any honourable senator opposite was mixed up in presenting the case on behalf of the Opposition, he was. Noi only did he endorse the serious charge that has been made against the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), but he went on to say that the Department itself should be censured for its part. He then made the accusation that the Minister was only covering up and trying to get rid of this Chairman of a tribunal. Finally he made the accusation that the doctors who act on these tribunals only want to get away as quickly as they can to earn, some rich reward in their own private practices. These are scandalous accusations to make against mcn who give so much of their rime to these tribunals.
The motion moved by the Opposition is a very serious one indeed, lt makes allegations against a Minister who, during his time in the Senate and even before he came here, has had a wealth of experience wilh ex-servicemen. He himself is an exserviceman and I know that before he entered the Parliament he had a deep and intimate relationship with ex-service organisations. Since he has come into this place and become a Minister I know from my close association with him how deeply he feels for ex-servicemen and their dependants. Over the years he has done everything possible to ensure thai they get what they richly deserve. He has travelled the country backwards and forwards, up and down the States, visiting ex-servicemen’s organisations, repatriation offices, repatriation hospitals and other organisations and bodies interested in the welfare of exservicemen and their dependants. In addition he has spent the last two Christmases away from this country amongst the servicemen in Vietnam. Surely that record speaks for itself. Yet the Opposition says here that the Senate has no confidence in him.
The Opposition supports its case with a motion that was passed by one branch of the Returned Services League in Victoria. It was passed unanimously without any substantive information at all. I wonder just how many delegates at that conference really voted on the motion. I know from my own experience in attending RSL conferences in Perth how well the senior officers think of what this Government has done for ex-servicemen over the years, lt has been staled in this debate that the President of the RSL in South Australia, the President of the RSL in the. Australian Capital Territory and the President of the RSL in Tasmania have disassociated themselves from this motion. I am sure that the President of the RSL in Western Australia would not want to be associated with it.
One member of the Opposition said: ‘We are not aiming at the Minister; we are aiming at repatriation benefits provided by th 2 Government’, lt is amazing how honourable members opposite can change their tune so quickly. Senator O’Byrne said that the Department is deserving of censure for its part in this matter yet in every debate on repatriation in this chamber over many years we have heard members of the Opposition say: ‘We are not saying anything against officers of the Department. They have done a wonderful job. They have assisted us on every occasion in putting our case and in helping our electors get their just rewards’. Yet Senator O’Byrne suggests that these officers played a part in helping the Minister in the present situation.
Let us examine the position. An assessment appeal tribunal has a permanent chairman who is appointed by the Minister from a list of names supplied by ex-servicemen’s organisations. Surely if this man Mooney thought that the Minister was holding a whip over him he should have reported it to the Federal body that supplied his name to the Minister and let that Federal body approach the Minister or representatives in the Parliament so that the matter could be raised in the Parliament. But did Mooney do this? No; he never went near the Federal body. He did nothing about it for a year and a half or more and then last April he told his friend Ruxton. Ruxton raised the matter at the Victorian conference and said that the Minister was holding the whip hand over the chairman of the tribunal. This is a ridiculous situation and the motion should be defeated as soon as possible.
Since his appointment as Minister for Repatriation Senator McKellar has introduced a number of measures, and I want to remind honourable senators of them. On 28th October 1965 he introduced into the Senate the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill. After the Minister’s second reading speech consideration of the Bill was adjourned. The debate was resumed on 17th November when Senator Sandford spoke on behalf of the Opposition. The Minister replied that he was very glad to see that the Opposition supported the Bill and he hoped that it would have a speedy passage through the House. In the Committee stages Senator Sandford proposed a number of amendments on behalf of the Opposition. During the course of the debate some confusion arose in the minds of Opposition members and Government supporters alike as to the real purpose of some of the proposed amendments of the Act. In moving that progress be reported the Minister undertook to clear up some of the points in issue. I remember the instance vividly. The Minister consulted with Cabinet on a number of occasions in an endeavour to obtain clarification of points raised by Government supporters and Opposition members. When the debate was resumed the Minister moved an amendment to the Bill. Speaking in the debate on the amendment, as appears at page 2194 of Hansard of 9th December 1965, Senator McKenna, who was then Leader of the Opposition, said:
I think it proper that I should join in the paean of praise and proffer my congratulations to the Minister on his action in adjourning the debate so that he would have ample time to consider the matter and to let it mature in his own mind and in the mind of the Government. The outcome is wisdom and something that gives general satisfaction and justice to everyone.
So, only a few short years ago the then Leader of the Opposition was praising the Minister for Repatriation, in whom the Opposition now has no confidence. Later in the debate to which I have referred Senator Sandford paid a tribute to the Minister’s actions. Earlier in the debate Senator McKenna had pointed out that the Minister had not only obtained things which the Opposition had been seeking but had been instrumental in having the benefits applied retrospective to May 1963. Senator
McKenna said that this was more than the Opposition had been seeking at that time.
These words of praise were showered on the man who is largely responsible for placing our representations before the Government and who, in 1965, so ably carried the day. Yet today the Opposition says that it has no faith in him, that he is not competent to be a Minister and that ex-service organisations in this country have no confidence in him. He is the man who is responsible for the introduction of the intermediate rate of pension. He is the man who was responsible last night, through the Budget, for the introduction of the new special allowance for ex-servicemen with an assessed disability of between 75% and 100%.
– And the man who last year doubled pensions payable under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act.
– That is quite right. This is the man who, according to the Opposition’s claim, has not done anything for Australian ex-servicemen. Such a claim is rubbish. We should throw out this motion and, as Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood said,, accept the amendment with acclamation.
– I am not a person of excitable temperament and possibly cannot contribute anything as thrilling as some of the contributions that we have heard in the debate today. However, it has been said that I have some power to analyse a document or a debate. If I have any ability in that direction I propose to use it on this occasion to study the points at issue and to see where the Opposition and the Government agree and where they disagree. J* think it will be agreed by all honourable senators on both sides of the chamber that a most serious accusation has been made against the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). All speakers have mentioned the seriousness of the accusation. We admit that it is a serious accusation - so serious, we say, that the Senate should express a lack of confidence in him. He holds a ministerial position controlling a portfolio which is responsible for the administration of a peculiar act under which tribunals are required to assess the cause of an injury, the amount of disability, the ability of an individual to perform work and how he should be compensated. Because on many occasions there is doubt about some of these questions we find much dissatisfaction with tribunals operating under the Repatriation Act. Possibly these are the most maligned tribunals of any that operate under legislation of this Parliament.
There is also the peculiarity in this Act that any doubt must be resolved in favour of an applicant. As I have suggested in this place on many occasions, although the Act provides that the benefit of doubt must be given to the applicant, on many occasions applicants believe that they were not given the benefit of the doubt. These tribunals which were established for the purpose of assessing benefits to be given to those who served must operate in a situation in which at times there are doubts as to whether they are performing their function properly. If the Act is to succeed, and if people are to have confidence in the administration of the Act. a tribunal must at all times be above suspicion. If there is a rejection of a claim we must at all times be able to justify the rejection. At no time must there be any suspicion as to any part of the administration of the Act. I do not think any honourable senator from either side of the chamber would disagree with me when I suggest that we should raise this matter above Party levels and look at the Act for which we are responsible. But allegations have been made. They have been published throughout the Press of Australia and discussed in radio and television programmes. I forget the exact words, but it has been suggested that the Minister has held a stick over the head of the chairman of a tribunal.
– Waved the stick.
– Whether there is any validity in the suggestion, the accusation has been made and accepted by what Senator Greenwood described as a segment of a responsible organisation which we all accept as being a body which looks after the welfare of returned servicemen. Because of that suspicion, the proper thing to have done would have been to have had a thorough inquiry into the allegation, conducted by the Prime Minister’s Department, either for the purpose of changing the Minister or to exonerate him. The suspicion is there, and no tribunal has been appointed to study the whole of the evidence. The only tribunal that has heard both the accuser and the accused has come down with a decision against the accused. We in the Senate have not been in a position to hear both sides.
– What tribunal is that?
– The tribunal of the Returned Services League in Victoria. 1 acknowledge that possibly that body is not. competent to evaluate the evidence and 1 recognise that there should be a better form of inquiry, but is there not a responsibility on the Government to clear up this matter rather than allow honourable senators to debate it on emotional issues? Should there not be a full inquiry?
Honourable senators opposite have concentrated their remarks upon the poor case put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), who was submitting a case upon newspaper reports. As the debate has proceeded we have received more information on the subject, possibly to the degree that we can now get some sort of picture of what happened during this period. Honourable senators opposite probably have noticed that speeches from this side of the chamber have improved as each piece of information has become available. I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition’s reply will be on entirely different grounds from his introduction.
We now find that correspondence recently thrown into the ring is said to be the origin of this dispute. Of course, this correspondence is not the cause of the motion before the Senate. It appears that there was a discussion between Mr Mooney and the Minister in September 1966 in Sydney and out of that discussion, due to what the Minister said, Mr Mooney said that if he was not reappointed he would be accused of lack of courtesy to the appellants, domination of the tribunal and the other things that had been alleged. That was accepted by the Minister and he was reappointed to the position. But that is not the basis for the motion before the Senate. During that conversation something was said that Mr Mooney interpreted in a certain way and repeated to Mr Ruxton in friendship, who later reported it to his branch of the RSL. It appears that when it came to the light of day in a resolution of the RSL Mr
Mooney said: T stick by what I told Ruxton’. But that is not contained in this letter. What we are searching for is the attitude of the Minister during the course of that conversation.
– lt was never referred to in the letter.
– This is not a letter pertaining to the particular conversation that resulted in the RSL resolution. That came up during the course of the conversation. The Opposition wants to know what the conversation was. lt wants to know why we do not have details of the conversation. I think Senator Bishop put up a very strong argument that must create suspicion in the minds of everyone who reads it. He said: If there is nothing to hide why are not the whole of the documents tabled? Look at the attitude of the Minister tonight. From the correspondence we have in front of us we can see that Mr Mooney has received a lot of correspondence praising his method of procedure at the Tribunal, his attention and his courtesy.
– Do you think he would have emphasised that if the charge had been that he had been over generous to them?
– J cannot see the particular significance of the honourable senators statement. The point is that in the files of the Department there are many letters praising Mr Mooney’s chairmanship of the Tribunal. Apparently no account was taken of any of the letters which it is alleged the Minister received from two doctors in order to decide whether there was any justification for the accusations made or whether it was merely, a clash of interests or of power between the Chairman, who was a legal man charged with the responsibility of interpreting the Act, and the two medical practitioners who had to decide upon the medical condition of the appellant. The Minister failed tonight to produce even one of these letters of praise. Without even mentioning the letters of praise, he produced a letter that was sent to Mr Nixon, the Federal member for the area in which the applicant lived, condemning Mooney and complaining about the way in which his appeal was heard by the Tribunal. Does not this action alone show a clash of interest between the Minister and the Chairman of the Tribunal? How can the Chairman of the Tribunal be expected to dispense justice under those conditions?
What is the solution of this problem? Have we not shown some justification for some kind of inquiry into the matter? We cannot simply push the matter aside. A responsible body has expressed, by way of resolution, some doubts about the operations of this Tribunal.
– You have never moved for an inquiry. You are simply moving for condemnation of the Minister.
– That body will be supported by every disgruntled section of the community. One of our guiding principles is that justice must not only be done but must appear to be done. Therefore, when a responsible section of the community has some suspicions about this particular Tribunal surely we should attempt to clear the matter up in some way or other.
– You have chosen your way. You are not afraid of the judgment, arc you?
– We have chosen our way because there is a responsibility on the Prime Minister, as head of the Government, to see to it that this Tribunal is able to operate without suspicion being cast upon it. That responsibility remains with the Prime Minister until such time as the matter is cleared up. We have selected a way of doing this and we say that the present Minister cannot continue to administer this Department while these accusations stand. Therefore we endorse the motion expressing lack of confidence in this particular Minister. Of course, as the Government has the numbers, we shall not succeed in our efforts. But that does not relieve the Prime Minister of his obligation. We are being condemned by Government senators for choosing what they call the wrong method. But there is still an obligation on the Government to follow the right method, to see that there is a thorough inquiry by some person capable of evaluating evidence and examining both me accused and the accuser in this matter.
– Have you got the authority to say that Mr Mooney will assert this proposition before any inquiry?
– The Minister has asked me a question which I think is deserving of an answer. I will at least give my opinion of what can be done on this occasion. I think the Government has the power, if necessary, to establish a committee with powers of compulsion to obtain evidence. I do not think that compulsion will be essential because 1 believe that Mr Mooney and Mr Ruxton will give evidence freely. Let us first find out what can be done. If we cannot obtain evidence freely then the Government can use its power to subpoena and compel people to give evidence. It is not true to say that wc cannot gel evidence.
The stage has been reached where this matter will continue to be investigated. Members of the RSL who want to support the resolution that was carried are going ‘o seek further evidence for the purpose of discrediting the very Act of Parliament which it is essential for them to have confidence in. I have not entered this debate to contend that the Minister has said that certain things must be done. What I am saying - and 1 put this to honourable senators in all sincerity - especially to Senator Wright and Senator Greenwood who belong to the honourable profession of which Mr Mooney is a member - is that I do not think they accept that Mr Mooney would come out and deliberately tell a lie.
– He has not come out deliberately. He has refrained from doing so.
– No, he has not. Some conversation took place. We have agreed on this. Now, what was the conversation? The conversation did not relate only to the Minister’s complaint about discipline and lack of courtesy to appellants. Mr Mooney did not reply at the time. He set out his reply in a letter the next day. He gathered from the conversation that the Minister was dominating the tribunal. There would have been illustrations of that in the conversation. Mr Mooney, in all sincerity, has accepted an interpretation of this conversation which may not have been correct but. on the other hand, may have been correct.
The Minister is not free to select just anyone as chairman of this tribunal. He has first to select someone who has certain qualifications. Section 65 (3.) of the Repatriation Act 1920-1965 states:
The Chairman of an Assessment Appeal Tribunal shall be selected for appointment from a list of returned soldiers who have been admitted to practise as Barristers or Solicitors of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State, submitted in the manner provided by sub-section (4.) of section fifty-five of this Act.
A returned soldiers’ organisation submits a list of names of those qualified to hold the position of chairman of the tribunal. Mr Mooney has been nominated by a returned soldiers’ organisation to hold such a position. He is a member of the honourable legal profession. The stage has been reached where a suggestion has been made that we are trying to condemn a man who has given many years of service as a chairman of an assessment appeals tribunal. It is alleged that we are saying that he is no good. It is filth to dig a letter out of the gutter and bring it before the Senate tonight for the purpose of condemning a man whom the Minister has appointed to carry out impartial inquiries. It can only do harm. We should not be placed in the position of asking returned soldiers to appear before a tribunal, the Chairman of which we have done our utmost to blacken on this occasion. I submit in all sincerity that that is not right.
The proposed amendment contains three paragraphs, the first of which states:
Leave out all words after That”, insert ‘the Senate affirms its confidence in the integrity and propriety of the Minister for Repatriation in the discharge of his Ministerial duties.
The purpose of that paragraph is solely to bring us into conflict with a decision of the Returned Services League. Tonight we have expressed our confidence in the League. I want to emphasise that by seeking an inquiry by an organisation or authority that can hear all the evidence and evaluate it, we are not seeking to take on a responsible body such as the Victorian Branch of the RSL. The second paragraph of the proposed amendment states:
The Senate rejects the charge made against him of interference in decisions of a Repatriation Tribunal.
It seems that we are being asked to set ourselves up as judges without hearing ali the evidence, including the evidence that can be presented on behalf of the Minister. The third paragraph states:
Presentation of so serious a charge unsupported by acceptable evidence-
This is an admission that some evidence has been presented, but it seems that it is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to whom? This paragraph lays down the precedent that a charge should never be made in the Senate, although the Senate is a forum for discussion of such matters, unless it is termed - whatever this may mean - acceptable’ evidence. Acceptable to whom? Does evidence have to be acceptable to a majority of Government supporters before the Opposition may lay a charge? We are reaching a position where we are establishing a precedent for the future hearing of any charges the Opposition may make in this House.
I make a final appeal. Suspicion exists about the activities of the Repatriation Department. The proper administration of the Act does not permit the continuance of that suspicion. The Government, in its administration of the Act, owes it to the returned soldiers of this country, who place their reliance upon the impartiality of that administration, to dispel any suspicion that exists in the minds of Australians. In this instance there is suspicion in the minds of quite a number of responsible organisations.
– Senator Cavanagh said that he did not enter this debate in a spirit of rage, and I am pleased to join him in that attitude. Senator Cavanagh said that he spoke in a spirit of analysis. I do not do that. I speak in a spirit of sadness because it seems to me that we have taken a lot of time in diverting ourselves substantially over a very wide field of discussion, but we have forgotten certain essential things. We live in a world of ministerial responsibility, of responsibility exercised by governments and checked by electors at appropriate times. Responsibility is exercised through decisions of governments and of Ministers of governments. These are collective responsibilities. I have a great reservation as to whether the Senate has been justified in setting itself up as a sort of minor court to try one of its Ministers, without giving him a real chance to act in any sense in isolation. He is a responsible Minister of a responsible Government. If that situation is to be tested, it should be tested by the electors at an appropriate time.
What concerned me through all this exercise was that a Minister was being blamed for the actions of a government. Very strong pressure has been brought to bear by a pressure group - I am nol arguing whether its claims are valid or not - for improvement in the benefits that it believes its members are entitled to. This pressure group, finding that its members were not getting all these improved benefits that it wanted, has been accusing the Minister of all sorts of things and passing votes of lack of confidence in him. This is most unfair, and, rather than having attacked him tonight by a series of odd devices we as a body might well have supported the Minister in the general proposition that the Government and Ministers have certain responsibilities. After all, we are all involved in this.
I was also concerned at the general impression I had been gaining that because of the actions of newspapers and various people one of our colleagues has been caught up in a sort of trial by rumour. If this kind of thing persists in our society many of us may suffer, particularly if we have to stand up for decisions that we did not make entirely by ourselves, ls it fair that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) should be the sole target of the abuse of a group of people who believe they are suffering from the decisions of a government which will be tried in good time by the people, lt has been tried on previous occasions and has managed to survive, despite its bad points as enunciated from lime to time by people who are opposed to it.
The real test here is the responsibility of governments, Ministers and members of Parliament. When we speak of these things we can really speak only of what we know in the context of. our own proper functions, lt is not part of my function to participate in a trial system or a jury system. It is my function to be a senator in the Federal Senate and to look al the process of making decisions in an Australian parliamentary existence. What I am concerned with is the honesty of purpose of the Government that 1 support and of my colleagues.
I cannot speak of the other people involved in this exercise, but I can speak and want to speak about my colleague in this Senate, the Minister for Repatriation. 1 knew him long before I came here. I have had a lot to do with him and 1 want to say, above all, that he is a man of honour, a man of probity and a man to bc trusted. No-one will convince me otherwise, inside or outside this chamber, anywhere or at any time. He is an exserviceman himself. He was worked very hard Ibr ex-servicemen. He has worked hard for the improvement of repatriation benefits and he has worked hard for the Returned Services League. He is not due for the shabby treatment that he has received. I suppose it is part of the price that we all pay in this place. I do not think it is fair to say that he or his Department has treated Mr Mooney unfairly. People do nol have to write letters like the one before us, justifying their behaviour, unless some kind of complaint has originated, whether rightly or wrongly. This is nol the place to set up a trial court. Having heard the complaints and raised them with the man concerned - most properly - and having received a letter of explanation, the Minister reappointed him. Do not tell me that that was nol fair.
Perhaps all the other things one could say about this matter ought not to be said. It is late at night and we have spent a long time engaging ourselves In what is not, in my view, our proper function. But I can see that it is very clear that the Opposition does not ever contemplate forming a government, because ils members have so little idea of the responsibilities of ministerial office. I resent the activities that have caused the feeling I have had recently that the Senate was being turned into a kangaroo court. Therefore I support the amendment very firmly.
– Mr President, there have been a number of misconceptions about this motion. This afternoon 1 put the motion on two bases, and those bases were quite clear. One of those bases was the lack of confidence which had been expressed in the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) by the ex-servicemen’s organisations and the ex-servicemen in them. There is no doubt about that. Let anyone say there was no acceptable evidence of that. There has been abundant evidence of it. Is that not clear to everyone? The Senate is not a court of law. You do not come here with affidavits. Does anyone doubt that the Returned Soldiers League in Victoria unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in the Minister? Does anyone doubt that the New South Wales Branch of the R.S.L. passed a motion? Does anyone doubt that a few months before that some twelve ex-servicemen’s organisations passed a motion, details of which I gave, which amounted again to a vote of no confidence in this Minister? Does anyone deny that pamphlets have been issued and that a case has been commenced all over this country which demonstrates a lack of confidence in Senator McKellar as the Minister for Repatriation. Is there any doubt about that? Do honourable senators opposite want any more evidence that there is that lack of confidence existing? You have the motion sent on to the Prime Minister by the Federal Executive that not only the Minister but the whole Government ought to be blamed. That was one basis. How can you justify the suggestion that there is no evidence for that, when the evidence is overwhelming?
The next basis is that the Minister acted improperly in dealing with Mr Mooney, the Chairman of No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. What was the matter which was put before the Senate on that? 1 gave the background of the matter. 1 gave the statements which had been published throughout this country by those who were making the charges against the Minister. 1 gave what the Minister had given in reply in his telegrams and in his later statements. The Minister sat there in his place and went through most of that material himself. He did not say at any stage that I had misrepresented or distorted or left out any significant material. Is that not right?
– No, it is not right.
– 1 do not recall anything you said on that score. If you did deny it, it certainly escaped me and my colleagues. That material showed that Mr Mooney said that he was backing up Mr Ruxton to the hilt in Mr Ruxton’s statement about the Minister interfering with the independence of the tribunals. The material also included the admission by the Minister that he had spoken to Mr Mooney while he was still chairman of the tribunal about a complaint of his dominat ing the tribunal, and it included the information that Mr Mooney was still of the firm impression that the Minister had implied that Mr Mooney had used undue influence on his own tribunal and that this had resulted in over generous treatment to appellants. The Minister denied this, and he still denies it. His denial is based not only on what he says himself. He says that at no time during the interview with Mr Mooney did he mention appeals or the fact that he was too lenient with his decisions. He felt Mr Mooney’s inference was not warranted by the views exchanged and as confirmed in a letter from Mr Mooney to him a few days after the meeting. The Minister nods his head and adheres to that. This letter is available to the Senate. It has been read out in some detail to this meeting of the Senate. At the beginning of the letter of 20th September 1966, written the day after his interview with the Minister, Mr Mooney says:
Having had time to ponder on our discussion at your Sydney office on Monday, 19th inst., 1 have come to the conclusion from what you said that if I were not reappointed to this position I would leave under the stigma of being unsuitable for the appointment because, I had, during my term of office -
Mr Mooney then sets out the four matters one of which is ‘Dominated the Tribunal’.
– Never was it once suggested that the Minister accused him of interfering with the Tribunal and of being over generous to appellants.
– If one reads through this letter one sees that the main part of it is the item relating to domination of the Tribunal. The other items such as ‘Impeded the work of the Tribunal whilst discussing my own personal business on the phone’ and ‘Intended not to look upon the position as a full time occupation’ are trivial and are so dealt with.
– There is the matter of discourtesy, not being over generous to appellants.
– The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) raises the matter of discourtesy, but I invite honourable senators to look at how contemptibly this matter has been dealt with in the Senate.
Here the man says that there was an allegation of discourtesy concerning him. He writes as to the great numbers of letters that he has received and has passed on to the Commission. He says that he had been told again and again how courteous he was. Nothing was produced to contradict this except one letter which the Minister has brought forward. That letter did not contain details of any discourtesy at all. It was introduced for one purpose. Why was it brought forward on this occasion but to rubbish this man, Mr Mooney? If one raids the letter one sees that the major matters that Mr Mooney is discussing in detail in his letter are those matters which arose from what he says was said to him by the Minister for Repatriation the day before. The letter contains material which is suggestive of the fact that the Minister was saying: ‘You have been standing over the members of the Tribunal or have tried to stand over them to give decisions which they otherwise might not have made’.
– No. The Minister is saying: ‘You have been discourteous to appellants’.
– If one reads the first part of this letter one sees that Mr Mooney says: ‘From what you said . . 1 am still at a loss to know the basis of this accusation’ - that is, domination of the Tribunal. Mr Mooney continues:
Mr Mooney uses the words ‘from what you said’. That is his first thought. He thinks that the Minister is saying to him that he has dominated the other members of the Tribunal to reach a decision which they otherwise would not have made. Is that not an interference with the independence of this Tribunal?
– No, it is not. lt is what the Minister recites as having been said to him.
– Mr Mooney says: From what you said’. If as is put by Senator Byrne there was a complaint, by some unspecified persons, this is a matter that is adopted by the Minister and put to him.
– Senator, if that had not been put to him it would have been a .’-“. de cachet’ - a secret complaint never put to the accused.
– If that is what it was, it still remains so because one has here the element that the accuser is still missing. In any circumstances this should never have been put. lt is no excuse for an interference by a member of the Executive with a member in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity, that he has come to complain about his conduct or the internal conduct of his proceedings when the complaint comes from some anonymous persons. Even if it came from named persons, il is not the function of a member of the Executive to interfere in that kind of matter. Yet he has interfered.
– He has a right to interfere.
– He has no right to interfere and tell a chairman of a tribunal what to do or to discuss this kind of thing with him at all. Whether he is swaying a member of a tribunal in order to reach a decision that he might not otherwise have made-
– You said he should bc suspended.
– I did not ray that at all. In his letter he said:
If 1 have put any of this minority out of step by dominating them I am pleased and if 1 have dominated them to the extent of a fair hearing and a fair assessment in favour of the ex-member then I am doubly pleased.
Was that said to Mr Mooney? Was this the way the discussion went or was it nol?
– No, it was not.
– There, the Minister says it was not the way the discussion went.
– Exactly, he says. Then why, when the Minister sent back his reply on 23rd September 1966, did he not say: ‘Mr Mooney, what is all this about? Why are you writing to me?’ Instead he said:
After consideration of the matters raised in our discussion on Monday of this week and your letter of the 20th September, 1 wish to advise of your re-appointment . . .
I asked the Minister a few minutes ago and he confirmed this. Why did he say that Mr Mooney’s inference was not warranted by the views exchanged and as confirmed in a letter from Mr Mooney to him a few days after the meeting?
– Say that again.
– We have heard the Minister here. He said that this is not what was said at the discussion. We heard him.
– Neither did Mr Mooney.
– The Minister said that this is not the way the discussion went on matters such as this.
– Nor did Mr Mooney say so.
– The Minister does not deny that this was the way the discussion went. He said specifically through the Press and specifically here that he adhered to what he said, that they were the views exchanged as confirmed in the letter of Mr Mooney. Ample material has been brought before the Senate. It has been confirmed by the letter that has been produced and which shows that a chairman of an assessment appeal tribunal was brought to Sydney and engaged in a discussion by the Minister about matters that were pertinent to his conduct of the tribunal, including the very arriving at the decisions and the way he was influencing other members to arrive at decisions that they might not otherwise have reached. The man complained and raised the matter about a month later at a meeting of the chairmen. He said he did not say anything. Why did he raise this before the chairmen of the tribunals if he was not aggrieved about something? Why was he complaining about it a month later? What does it mean when this man writes this courageous letter in the situation he was in and says that if he has been dominating persons in order that fair hearings might be given and fair assessments made in favour of appellants, he is doubly pleased? Referring to what he has been doing about reports, he says:I have only performed the functions of the legal member of the tribunal and I make no apology for it.’
If the man were not telling the truth why did the Minister not write to him and ask: What is your letter all about?’ It is clear that what Mr Mooney said has ample corroboration in the admissions of the Minister and in the material in the letter of 20th September. In addition to that the other basis of this motion is that the exservicemen’s organisations obviously have lost faith in the Minister. They have publicly expressed this and I ask the Senate to endorse the motion.
Thai the words proposed to be left out (Senator Anderson’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposedto be inserted (Senator Anderson’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir A lister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority .. .. 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 2.25 a.m. (Thursday) till Tuesday, 20 August, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680814_senate_26_s38/>.