26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of the further Commonwealth Bridge fatality, will the Minister review his previous rejection of my plea for a strengthening of the bridge railings? Furthermore, since State road authorities determine standards, will he endeavour to have the State authorities meet annually instead of every 4 years as at present?
– The further accident occurring on Commonwealth Bridge in similar circumstances to the Stojic incident has led to a reappraisal of bridge standards. I cannot say at this stage whether the appropriate action is to strengthen the balustrading or whether some other provision can be made which will not impair the otherwise safe operation of the bridge.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a Washington report that the United States Senate Finance Committee has supported a plan to limit total lamb imports to the average for the 3 years prior to 1968, which would result in a decrease in imports from last year’s record figure of 23 million lb to 18 million lb? Can the Minister say what effect this reduction may have on our exports of lamb to the United States?
– My attention has been drawn to the report to which the honourable senator refers. I have sought to obtain some information. As yet, it has not come to hand. If I get it during question time I shall intervene to give the honourable senator what facts I can.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply relating to the Minister’s recent announcement that there will be two or three firings of the Black Arrow satellite launcher in June. Will the existing programme commitment of two or three firings a year of the Black Arrow satellite launching vehicle be affected in any way by the proposed AmericanAustralian space communication station at Woomera? Will the arrangement with the European Launcher Development Organisation group of countries or any other country seeking the use of the Woomera rocket range be disturbed in any way during the construction of the proposed AustraliaUnited States station, or at any other time in the future?
– It was anticipated originally that there would be a firing of the Black Arrow on 17th June. There may well be some slight delay in that firing. There is also a firing by ELDO due in July. No other development at Woomera would have any bearing whatever on those firings. As the honourable senator knows, the Woomera complex covers a very big area and the firing pads for both ELDO and the Black Arrow are in completely isolated areas.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry noted the statement published in the journal ‘Muster’ by a high official in the wool industry to the effect that it would take more than one container shipload of wool before wool buyers decided one way or the other about containers and that there were still buyers in the United Kingdom who did not like high density dumping? If this dislike continues and the buyers concerned look elsewhere for wool which is not high density dumped, is it not obvious that this could damage, perhaps seriously, the Australian wool industry? Has the Minister any information as to the veracity or otherwise of these statements concerning the reaction of United Kingdom buyers to high density dumped wool?
– The statement to which the honourable senator referred appears to be based on a misunderstanding that containerisation amounts to high density dumping. In fact wool can be containerised by conventional dumping, that is about 63 bales per container, by medium density dumping at 75 bales per container or by high density dumping at 90 bales per container. Similarly, with these methods of dumping wool can be freighted either by conventional unit load or by container shipping. The tariff schedules of the container operators make it clear that the number of bales per container, and therefore the density of the bales, are at the control of the shipper. Buyers who dislike high density dumped wool are quite free to have their wool shipped either conventionally dumped or medium density dumped.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware of a report in today’s issue of one of the country’s most reputable newspapers, the ‘Age’, that the United States Government has told the Australian Government it will facilitate cancellation of the Fill order if this becomes necessary? The report continues:
It has become clear that Australia has virtually lost faith in the existing wing structure of the controversial bomber.
Can the Minister state whether these two alarming statements are correct?
– I have not had the advantage of seeing the statement to which the honourable senator referred, and it would be inappropriate for me to base an answer on a statement to which I have not had the opportunity of giving considerable study. But I point out to the Senate that yesterday in another place in a debate on the Fill the Government’s policy in relation to acquisition of the Fill aircraft was made abundantly clear by the Minister for Defence.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science say what progress has been made in the investigation of the proposals put to the Federal Government by the Tasmanian Education Department to enable that Department to accept the offer made by commercial television stations to make available at favourable rates the times at present not being used so that those times may be used for the extension of school TV programmes?
– I remind the honourable senator that on 27th February this year I referred to this matter when replying to a question. I then advised the honourable senator that prior to 1967 a meeting of the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science, the State Ministers of Education and Commonwealth and State departmental officers was held to discuss this matter. That meeting was followed in 1967 by a meeting of State DirectorsGeneral of Education. I advise the honourable senator that, although Tasmania seems to be anxious to have some determination of the matter as far as that State is concerned, the Commonwealth holds the view that the matter must necessarily proceed upon a Commonwealth-wide basis. Consultations are continuing for the purpose of developing a view on a national basis.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Does the United States already have a newer and better supersonic aircraft on the drawing board to replace the Fill? Is this the reason why the United States has decided to buy less than a quarter of the originally estimated number of Fill aircraft?
– I would not and I do not think anybody in Australian would be capable of answering a question as to the type of projected aircraft that the United States Government has on the drawing board. I say with great respect that the period between the drawing board and the bringing into use of an aircraft - even a very modest, unsophisticated aircraft - is in terras of years. To suggest that some projected aircraft on the drawing board might be a replacement for an aircraft that is already flying is so unreal, I think, as not to need much further development.
– Is it already flying?
– The Fill is flying in the United States.
– The Government bought it when it was on the drawing board.
– You cannot have it both ways. Whose side are you on?
– I am on Senator Fitzgerald’s side.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the very considerable criticism being expressed by wheat growers in the traditional wheat growing areas of Victoria of the proposed wheat quotas for the 1969- 70 wheat crop? Is it true that many wheat farmers will go broke if the quotas are imposed? Do the quotas contemplated make any provision whatsoever for share farmers? Is legislation to impose these quotas to be introduced or will the quotas be imposed administratively?
– As I think has been explained, the question of imposing quotas on wheat growing was first of all brought forward by the wheat growers’ organisations themselves. My understanding is that this has received fairly general agreement. The States will have to take the necessary action to try to implement the quota system that will be arrived at. I am not aware of the other facts that the honourable senator mentioned as to some wheat growers going broke if quotas are imposed. I should not think that this would be so, because my understanding is that the quotas will be arrived at by taking the average amount of wheat grown during the past 4 years or so. While I have no doubt that it could impose hardship I remind the honourable senator that if the quota system is put into operation, as I anticipate it will be, this will not mean that the extra wheat grown cannot be sold at some future date. The quota will apply only to wheat to be delivered for this season. Therefore, if wheat is grown beyond the quota, this does not mean that that wheat cannot be subsequently sold.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government and I refer to the answer which he just gave to a question by Senator Fitzgerald that it was unreal to base a country’s defence on the purchase of an aircraft on the drawing board. Will the Minister tell us why this admission of the Government’s fundamental error in the purchase of the Fill aircraft has been so long delayed? Is the Government now prepared to tell the people of Australia that it realises that it was a foolish thing which it did in 1963 to purchase the Fill aircraft when it was only a concept, or a dream, or a possibility that might or might not come out? Is the Government now prepared to purchase an aircraft which is available, which can be seen at least in the prototype stage, and therefore to follow the practice which has long been followed in this and other countries, and in general followed in the United States except in regard to the ill-fated FI 1 1?
– The Leader of the Opposition is moving away from the basis of Senator Fitzgerald’s question. Senator Fitzgerald’s question, to which I responded, was on the basis that the Government should abandon the acquisition of the Fill and take in lieu thereof an aircraft which is on the drawing board. My response to him was that it would be ludicrous to suggest that Australia should abandon an aircraft which is flying and which Australia has made quite clear that it will accept.
– I said that the Americans are doing that.
– What the honour able senator said - it will be recorded in Hansard I am sure - was that the Government should abandon the acquisition of the Fill because of the prospect of taking for its Service requirements an aircraft that may be on the drawing board in the United States of America. In that context I answered the question. Senator Murphy must not try to manoeuvre to another situation. He is arguing about another matter, namely, the original acquisition of the Fill. The original acquisition of the Fill was based on Australian Service requirements at a certain estimated time. There have been difficulties but the Minister for Defence and the Government have never moved from that positron. The Minister for Defence stated with great clarity yesterday that the Fill was acquired on the best advice that Australia could have from its own RAAF personnel and advisers. Where else does one go to obtain advice on one’s Service requirements? Is it suggested that politicians or parliamentarians should have sat in conclave or in joint meeting and said: ‘We will have that one’?
– That is exactly what the Government did.
– No. The honourable senator should pull himself together. He knows, as I said a few moments ago - apparently he was not listening - that the Government bought the Fill on the advice of the best experts that Australia has, the experts of the RAAF.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact, as has been reported, that each further delay of a month in Australia’s accepting the Fill will cost this country’s taxpayers S9m? If so, will the Government try to salvage something from its disastrous deal by announcing now, before the general election, whether it has decided to scrap the FI 1 1?
– I do not understand the mathematics posed by the first part of the question. I will seek to learn the details. Therefore that part of the question should go on the notice paper. 1 repeat that the Government’s views on the acquisition of the Fill have already been expressed clearly. Australia will take the FI 1 1 when it is satisfied that the aircraft has done all the testing that is appropriate in terms of the original arrangements. When Australia is satisfied that the aircraft is ready for the role for which it is intended it will be accepted. The price of the aircraft remains as per the agreement.
– I ask the Leader of the Government a question. Is the Government still interested in taking delivery of the Fill in 1969?
– The answer to that is yes, on the conditions which I stated in reply to a previous question and to which I hope the honourable senator listened.
– Has the Leader of the Government seen a statement in Wednesday’s Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ attributed to the Minister for the Interior, Mr Nixon, in which he is reported to have said, after hearing of the clear decision of the Senate to have the new and permanent parliament house on Capital Hill, that he was prepared to override the decision of the Senate? Does the Minister for the Interior place himself above a decision of the Parliament? Is this not a form of dictatorship? Will the Leader of the Government remind the Minister for the Interior that the Senate has the power to refuse his Department the appropriation for the work? Will he advise the Senate whether the Minister for the Interior has become so swollen with importance that he intends to act like Charles I who caused a revolution by overriding Parliament?
– I deprecate this reference which is calculated to be rude and insulting to the Minister for the Interior.
– The statement is insulting to the Senate.
– The honourable senator is entitled to his own opinion. That is not my opinion and I know that it is not the opinion of the Senate. I know also that it is contrary to the Standing Orders to reflect upon a Minister or anybody else in another place. Having said that I add that I did not see the report and therefore cannot make any comment on it.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform the Parliament of the amounts that have been spent on ground installations in Australia in preparation for the acceptance by the Royal Australian Air Force of the Fill and of the total expenditure on crew training, etc.? How much of this expenditure will be a total loss in view of the Government’s decision not to proceed with the purchase of the FI 1 1?
– Lest the last few words of the honourable senator’s question are meant to imply that a decision has been taken not to proceed with the purchase of the Fill, I point out that his question could perhaps have been better worded so as not to cause misunderstanding of what he means. As to providing figures, I recall that I provided Senator Cohen with some figures in relation to the amounts spent on Amberley and other establishments. That was yesterday, I believe.
– That was up to February 28th - $20m odd.
– Yes. I suggest that the honourable senator should put his question on notice so that I may have the figures made available to him. If the information is not available by the time we rise 1 shall have it sent to him during the recess.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government. Is it not the duty of a government to provide its armed forces with the best equipment that those forces require to obtain parity with Communist supplied equipment in the South East Asian area? Is it not a consideration that Phantom aircraft have tactical disabilities in the North Vietnamese area which might not have been acceptable because of the Australian role in the South East Asian area?
– It is the clear duly of a government to get equipment in any field which to the best of its judgment and on what its advisers recommend is the most suitable equipment to do a job of work. That is axiomatic and that is exactly what happened in relation to the decision taken to acquire the Fill. As to the Phantom aircraft, that is a technical question that I am not competent to answer at question time. I shall get a reply to that aspect of the question and have it conveyed to the honourable senator.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is there any truth in a report that the designers of the ill-fated Fill are preparing to build a completely new wing structure for this unfortunate aircraft? If so, what further delay will this radical change mean in delivery of Australia’s twenty-four aircraft - if the Government is in fact still anxious to take delivery of them in 1969?
– The Government is most anxious to take delivery of the FI 11 aircraft at the first available opportunity, but it will take delivery only when the aircraft has passed all the tests arranged and is recognised and accepted as ready for transfer to the Royal Australian Air Force. I do not have any information available to me at this stage regarding what may be done with some other designs in the same family of aircraft.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. By way of preface I refer to the fact that in January of this year a representative of the Russian Embassy was reported in the Press as having indicated that the far eastern republics of Russia would benefit greatly from the importation of Tasmanian apples. Can the Minister indicate whether any further investigation of this possible market has been carried out?
– I thank the honourable senator for alerting me to the fact that he was going to ask this question. I sought some information from the Minister for Trade and Industry. It is true that the Third Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canberra was reported in the Press as saying early in 1968 that there were market prospects for Tasmanian apples in the Soviet far east. Investigations undertaken by the Australian Trade Commissioner for the area revealed an annual requirement of some 4.000 tons of fresh apples. Supplies are normally obtained from Japan. Following this report, a sample of our apples was sent to Nakhodka in Siberia in February 1968. The sample was favourably commented on as regards quality but the landed price was reported to be non-competitive with the Japanese price. A further problem is the insistence of the Soviet authorities on compensatory purchases - for example, timber - by Australia before they will buy Australian apples on a regular basis. The Department of Trade and Industry, working in association with trading interests, is continuing its efforts to overcome these problems. The Trade Commission in Vienna, who handles the promotion of Australian trade with Russia, plans to visit the area later this year with a view to further discussing trade, including that of apples, with trade authorities in the Soviet far east.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can he give the Australian public an assurance that if the Government announces a cancellation of the Fill contract when Parliament is in recess both Houses will be immediately recalled? Is the Government merely waiting until Parliament rises to make this announcement?
– The honourable senator has moved out of the area of reality into the area of fiction. I do not think that it is necessary for me to give a considered answer to his question. The Government has always accepted responsibility for those matters which, by virtue of its office, it has to accept responsibility for. The implication that the Fill contract will be cancelled is completely out of context with what was said in the other place yesterday by the Minister for Defence. In case I have not been able to penetrate the minds of honourable senators opposite, I repeat that the Government has said that it will take the Fill aircraft at the first opportunity in accordance with the contract when its advisers are satisfied that the aircraft meets all of the requirements of the Services and after it has passed all the tests agreed upon in the original arrangement entered into.
– In pursuit of my interest in defence matters I ask the Leader pf the Government in the Senate: Will he inform me what stage of development has been reached by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy working together to produce a swing wing aircraft? What stage have Sud Aviation and the United States Vought reached in the development of a swing wing aircraft in France? What is the stage of production and operational use of a swing wing aircraft by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?
– I do not know that I am completely competent to answer the series of questions, except to say in the generality that the swing wing concept in the European countries referred to by the honourable senator, as I understand the position, has not reached the production stage in the defensive complex. There is no doubt ip the world that the Fill aircraft in its design and concept leads the world in the production of this type of aircraft. In fact, a study shows that there is no significant difference between the accident rate of the Fill and the accident rates of other aircraft used in the defence complex that have been developed over the years. The fact is that the Fill has become a political football. If a demonstration of that was needed, we have had it this morning.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. When will the Government face up to the questions which concern the Australian public about the Fill aircraft, and in particular, the question of whether the Fill as a plane can fly? The difficulties it faces in flight are only part of the problem. The real problem is that Australia entered into a contract to purchase 24 Fills against a background that the United States Air Force was purchasing over 1,000 of them, as a start. We were to have our Air Force able to be integrated with the United States Air Force and to have spare parts and facilities available all over the world. When will the Government tell the Senate frankly that the whole concept has been frustrated and that the difficulties involved in flying the Fill are only part of the picture? Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us how the original concept can be carried out in view of the fact that the United States Government has so drastically cut down the number of planes it is to purchase and has so drastically cut down on the part which the FI 1 1 is to play in its defence programme?
– I spoke a moment ago about playing politics with Australia’s defence equipment. My brain had difficulty in following the series of questions just asked by the Leader of the Opposition. The truth of the matter is - and it is documented in the Prime Minister’s statement which was read in the Senate - that the United States Air Force is continuing to use the Fill aircraft and will continue to do so until the 1980s.
– How many of them?
– I will give the figure in response to a supplementary question. I can say now that it is some hundreds. What is more, the United States Air Force has made it abundantly clear that it will continue to use the Fill aircraft into the 1980s. So any suggestion of Australia’s having gone into a co-operative arrangement with the United States and having been left in isolation with the Fill aircraft is completely and utterly false.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: In view of his assurance to the Senate that the Fill aircraft would be accepted by Australia only when it was capable of fulfilling the role for which it was purchased, has anybody up to this stage spelt out the rok for which this aircraft is being purchased? Will the Minister tell us what that role is? Is it not a reasonable proposition that Australia can opt out on any of many considerations as to the adequacy of the aircraft to fulfil the role for which it is being purchased?
– I am not going into a dissertation at question time on the role of the Fill. The Service requirement was stated at the time by the Royal Australian Air Force. That is the starting point for the acquisition of any aircraft. It has been made abundantly clear, in a debate in the other place yesterday and in the statement made by the Prime Minister, which is on the record of the Senate, that the Fill will be accepted by Australia when Australia is satisfied that it conforms to our stated requirements. It also has been made clear that a period of 16,000 hours of testing is to be carried out. It is expected that this will mean that acquisition of the aircraft may take place at the end of the year. This attack by the Opposition is not original. I know that the Senate proceedings are being broadcast. I know it is good fun to blow all this up. Honourable senators opposite know this too. If they face up to it they will know that what they are doing is to blatantly play politics. The Australian public also knows that this is what they are doing.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government. In the period since the Government decided upon the FI 1 1 aircraft as the type of strike reconnaissance aircraft most suited to Australia’s defence needs, has the Government ever received any positive suggestion from the Opposition as to an alternative type of aircraft which it considers Australia should purchase? ls the lack of any such positive suggestion indicative of a party which is a good Opposition but a poor government? In the event of the eventualities which Opposition members have been posing this morning, will the Government give consideration to any suggestion made by the Opposition as to an alternative aircraft, if such suggestion should ever be made?
– The Opposition, as I recall this matter, never has made any constructive proposals in relation to the Service requirements. The Opposition has taken its traditional role of attacking the Government. Senator Devitt’s question indicated to me that at least he had taken on board what I have been trying to say all the morning. I will have to repeat it again: The Australian Service requirements are based on advice that the Government receives from its own technical, military and aircraft advisers. One would gather from listening to questions asked this morning that there are twenty-seven authorities on the Opposition side of the chamber who think they would know what to purchase but strangely enough they have never made one constructive suggestion.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to his suggestion that the attitude taken by the Opposition is a political one. I ask the Minister: Does he expect the Opposition to sit by and acquiesce in the dreadful mess that this Government has made over the Fill and which has caused concern throughout Australia?
– As for the suggestion that the Opposition is not playing politics in this matter, I am reminded of the famous words from ‘Pygmalion’.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air a question in order to extend the political basis of this matter. Has the Royal Australian Air Force been engaged for some months in flying spare parts for the Fill aircraft from the United States to Richmond Royal Australian Air Force base? Is the amount of spare parts at present in Australia so great that it makes the cancellation of the ill-fated aircraft impossible without holding the Government up to ridicule? Could we have some estimate of the value and quantity of the spare parts by an early reply to my question No. 1220 on this subject which was placed on the notice paper on 14th May?
– I am not aware of the information. If information is available I will obtain it for the honourable senator and the Senate.
– Could the Minister representing the Attorney-General inform the Senate as soon as possible of the full details of the Government’s attitude on company law reform?
– Some aspects of company law reform have been under examination recently. On behalf of the Attorney-General, I made a statement in the Senate last week, particularly in relation to takeovers. Company law reform is a continuing subject for the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General. I remind the Senate that recently it was the subject of a most thoughtful report by Mr Justice Eggleston and his committee. That report also referred to the subject of takeovers and allied matters. When any decision of material import has been made, it will be announced to the Senate.
– A few minutes ago, by way of an interjection by Senator Georges, a question came as to what is the Australian requirement for the Fill aircraft and what is the American requirement. Because I always believe that the thing to do when you are being attacked is to go back into the attack, with your leave, Mr President, I now read, in answer to that question, something that I read in this place the other day. It is taken from the statement by the Prime Minister on the Fill. He said:
I also took the opportunity, at the request of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) to seek from the Secretary of Defence . . .
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. I have been sitting here very quietly, enjoying question time; but I want to know what right the Minister - with great personal respect to him - has to make a statement in this chamber during question time in reply to an interjection, unless he obtains leave. An interjection is not a question. I am quite prepared even to vote to give him leave; but, with great respect to him, I say that I do not think he should stand up and treat an interjection as a question.
– Speaking to the point of order, let me say that not only did Senator Georges interject but I believe that the query was part of the basis of Senator Murphy’s question.
– Again I rise to order. With great respect to the Minister, I do not think he can tell the Senate that he merely believes something. The fact is that this is question time. He has a perfect right to answer a question in any way he .thinks fit. I have never denied him that right. But I do not think he has the right to treat an interjection as a question. You, Mr President, are the custodian of this chamber. You call upon a senator to ask a question. This morning I have yet to hear you call upon Senator Georges to ask a question. Therefore, I say with the greatest respect to the Minister that, within the procedures and Standing Orders of the Senate, he cannot treat an interjection as a question. If he wants to make a statement in reply to an interjection because he thinks it is worthy of a reply, he should honour the procedures of the Senate and ask for leave to do so.
THE PRESIDENT - Senator Georges is a most prolific interjector. If the Minister wishes to make a statement, I am sure leave will be granted to him.
– It is most obvious that the Opposition does not want the answer. Nevertheless, I should like to put it into the record because, whilst, as Senator Kennelly has pointed out, it is in response to an interjection-
– Are you asking for leave?
– No. I will not ask for leave.
– Has the Leader of the Government any information regarding the numbers of Fill aircraft ordered by the United States, or any other information on this subject which he could possibly give to the Senate this day?
– 1 want to repeat what I said in relation to the FI 1 1 aircraft the other day, when I quoted from the Prime Minister’s statement, in which he said:
I also took the opportunity, at the request of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), to seek from the Secretary of Defence, the Hon. Melvin Laird, and from the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Mcconnell, further information as to intentions of the United States Air Force regarding the Fill aircraft, and general information regarding the aircraft itself. The original intention to purchase some 1,500 aircraft for the United States Air Force and the United States Navy has, as the House well knows, been very considerably reduced and I understand that the existing order is for 493 aircraft of which 141 are FI 11 As which are comparable with our own F111Cs. The Chief of Staff was emphatic that the United States Air Force regarded the Fill as an exceptionally good aircraft and that it would be in service at least until 1980 and probably much longer. The United States Air Force expects the wing carry-through box to be tested to 8,000 hours, or two aircraft lifetimes, by July and intends then to remove current restrictions on the operation of the aircraft. However, the original contractual arrangements called for testing for 16,000 hours and 1 made it clear that we would not wish to take delivery of our aircraft ourselves until that period of testing had been satisfactorily completed. It was again confirmed that the arrangements for the ceiling price for our planes remained in effect.
These general matters were the subject of our discussion, but I understand there are many technical details and matters still under study by the Defence and Air Departments of Australia and that these will still need clarification and study by the Minister for Defence and the appropriate specialist officers at a later stage.
That is all I have been saying in a variety of ways all the morning in response to questions.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Do 1 take it from the Minister’s replies this morning that the Government is in no way concerned about the delays and the increased costs that have been involved to date in the purchase by and delivery to Australia of the Fill aircraft?
– That question is calculated to put into my mouth words ‘ which I have never uttered. What sort of a government would it be that did not have concern? Of course the Government has concern in relation to the matter. Its concern is to get the aircraft in the best possible condition within the terms of the contractual arrangements as soon as it can. I submit that to suggest anything other than that is completely inappropriate.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs. Is the Minister aware that allegations have been made that residents of Raleigh Street, Coffs Harbour, have resisted an attempt to house an Aboriginal family in that street? If so, can the Minister state whether these allegations are well founded?
– I have seen this rather lengthy comment in the Press. I contacted my colleague, the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, and obtained information from him. He informed me that he had contacted the New South Wales authorities and was informed that the house is a standard Housing Commission brick veneer home. The only slight modification is that a slow combustion stove, incorporating a hot water system, will be installed instead of an electric stove, for economic reasons. The house in question and another one are among those being financed from the Commonwealth’s grant of $525,000 which has been made available for housing Aboriginals in New South Wales in 1968-69. The total cost of these two houses is estimated at $18,000. The house in Raleigh Street, of which I have given details, will cost more than $10,000. 1 think this answers the points raised in the honourable senator’s questions concerning the house.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence a question: In an answer to a previous question he said that the Government is concerned about the Fill. I refer him to an answer given by the Minister for Defence in another place which mentioned a Press report by a pressman who thought he had a rather juicy leak. 1 also refer to a report in today’s ‘Financial Review’ that the Minister for Defence, in talking about a leak, was referring to a member of the Ministry. Did the Minister siphon out this information with the intention of softening up the public for a later announcement that the Fill contract is to be cancelled?
– I did not understand the question, and 1 wonder whether Senator O’Byrne understands it. In any case it is completely inappropriate to basie a question on what is alleged in Press reports, or to give an answer to a question so based.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In respect of decisions concerning the Fill aircraft, will the Government give an assurance that it will continue to take notice of our own Air Force leaders and experts and not be influenced by foreign speculators whose interest in Australia’s defence is extremely doubtful?
– Yes. The question posed by the honourable senator is a valid one. As I have pointed out in a number of replies this morning, in any government department the proper thing to do before making a decision is to get the best possible advice from the departmental advisers. I do not know how else a department could operate. Frequently it would co-opt advisers from other agencies.
– General Dynamics.
– General Dynamics is not a firm of advisers; it is the firm carrying out the contract. When a government or a company is about to make a decision, whether it is at the board of directors level or at the individual business man’s level, very properly the best possible advice is sought. In fact, governments get the advice of their technical experts. They are not influenced, and very properly they can never be influenced, by some persons outside their country who, for a variety of reasons, may want to influence decisions in terms of placing orders in particular directions.
Senate WRIEDT - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Does the Minister recall a question I asked in November last year as to whether the Government was considering an alternative to the Fill, and does he recall saying that he was unaware of any such moves by the Government? Therefore, will he withdraw his statement made a few moments ago that the Opposition has made no constructive proposals regarding the Fill?
– With great respect to the honourable senator, I would not regard the question asked by him last year as a constructive proposal. It was couched, I would think, in the same destructive vein as the questions that have been asked this morning.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it not a fact that the decision to purchase the Fill was in no way criticised or opposed by the Opposition at the time the decision was made? Were not statements made by leaders of the Opposition at that time indicative of complete acceptance of the Government’s decision, to the degree of indicating that the purchase of the aircraft would have been the decision of the Australian Labor Party had it been in power at that time?
– It is my understanding that at the time there was not in fact criticism of the decision by the Opposition but I would say to the honourable senator and to the Senate generally that there is no difficulty in ascertaining what the attitude was. It will be in the record.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to his reply to Senator Maunsell to the effect that the Government would take notice of the Service technical committee in respect of its examination of the Fill. Does the Minister discount the possibility that the existing Service investigating committee might pronounce against acceptance of the
Fill? In that circumstance will the Government accept the recommendation and cancel the order? Does the Minister not agree that this is a practical possibility and might develop from the present examination of the aircraft?
– I would not want to look into the future in relation to the matter at all. Quite clearly, it follows from what I have already said that if one gets advice from his best experts he has to have regard to that advice. What the future would hold on any advice that may be given would depend on the time, the circumstances and, indeed, the advice that was given. I do not think that we can start anticipating or even hoping - as I suggest might be the case in some circles - that such a report would emerge.
– In view of the answer of the Leader of the Government to an earlier question to the effect that the Prime Minister has insisted that we have 8,000 hours testing of the FI 11-
– Sixteen thousand hours.
– Yes- an extra 8,000 hours. I ask the Minister whether arithmetically 1 6,000 hours is not 666 days, which takes us up to June 1970 before we will know whether this aircraft will be available, even if it is flown night and day every day of the year?
– There is a technical explanation of this position. The original requirement was for 16,000 hours.
– That is 666 days.
– In spite of the honourable senator’s simple arithmetic, it does not work out in that way. There is a technical explanation of the testing hour rate. I shall furnish it later in the day. It is not in accordance with the mathematics of the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government. Is it not a fact that the decision to purchase the FI 1 1 in t963 was taken by the Government during a period when the Parliament was in recess? Is it not also a fact that the Government came under severe criticism from the United Kingdom Government and from British aeroplane manufacturers and as compensation it was decided to buy two of the BACIII aircraft for the VIP fleet in order to keep on side with Britain?
– I am not competent to answer the factual part of the question and I do not intend to answer the fantasy part.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Approximately how much will it cost annually to service the Cadillac of the air, the Fill, if and when delivery is taken by the Australian Government?
– I will obtain the information for the honourable senator and make it available.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Was the juicy leak referred to by the Minister for Defence in another place last Tuesday in fact the Minister for Air, Mr Erwin, who obviously was making the statement in question to soften the eventual announcement of the discontinuation of the order for the Fill?
– I do not deal in juicy leaks. I would not know anything about the matter.
(Question No. 1135)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1138)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1190)
SenatorMULVIHILL asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Has the Prime Minister seen a statement by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Holyoake, in the Albury ‘Border Mail’ of 26th April 1969, dealing with that country’s security service, in which the New Zealand Prime Minister is alleged to have stated that the counter-subversive role of the service was concerned with the activities of individuals and organisations on both extremes of the left and right?
Did the Prime Minister also notice in the same article the statement that the New Zealand Government intended to draft legislation to give the New Zealand security service statutory authority?
Does the Prime Minister consider that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation follows the path of its New Zealand counterpart in following a bi-partisan policy against extremism emanating from divergent sources?
Does the Prime Minister contemplate emulating the New Zealand Nationalist Government by making the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation a statutory authority?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 15th April 1969 Senator Marriott asked me a question concerning the fitting of seat belts to Commonwealth vehicles. The following information has been compiled by the Department of Supply after consultation with the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Postmaster-General’s Department:
Firstly, it is necessary to be clear that the figure of 42,000 vehicles mentioned by Senator Marriott does not include vehicles operated by the three defence Services. Secondly, it should be noted that the 42,000 vehicles include at least 11,000 trailers which would need to be excluded for the purpose of the question. Thirdly, there are at least 2,000 vehicles which are in small fleets throughout the Commonwealth and in respect of which the information sought is not readily available. Thus the information I am able to give relates to about 28,000 vehicles operated in the larger fleets of the following departments:
Postmaster-General’s Department: It is policy to fit front seat belts to all passenger vehicles. Non-passenger vehicles of 15 cwt load capacity and over are not at present fitted but drivers can have seat belts fitted to their vehicles on request, and as from January 1970 all new PMG non-passenger vehicles up to 30 cwt load capacity will be fitted with front seat belts.
Department of Civil Aviation: It is policy to fit front seat belts to all vehicles.
Department of Works: It is policy to fit seat belts throughout.
Department of the Interior: It is policy to fit front seat belts to all vehicles.
Department of Supply: At least half the fleet is already fitted with front seat belts. The policy of fitting seat belts will continue.
Thus it will be seen that the majority of the vehicles in the major fleets would be fitted with seat belts. I am sure the answer I have given adequately examples the considerable degree of concern for road safety shown by the Commonwealth.
– On 23rd April Senator Cohen asked me whether I could obtain some information on the effects and use of the gas DM. The Minister for Defence has provided the following information:
The agent DM, sometimes known as Adamsite is correctly classified as a vomiting agent, producing vomiting and nausea in addition to irritation of the eyes, upper respiratory tract and skin, as do the tear gas agents. This agent has not been used by Australian forces and my information is that it is not currently used in Vietnam by United States forces.
– On 17th April Senator Cohen asked me whether I would make a statement on the effects of the chemical CS. He also asked whether the Government considered this gas as being harmless or simply that it was not used as an offensive weapon. I said that I would refer the matter to the appropriate department and provide him with an answer. The Minister for Defence has now obtained the following information for the honourable senator:
The agents known as CS and CN are classified as tear agents whose effect is to cause a flow of tears and irritation of the skin. In addition to this, CN is an irritant to the upper respiratory passages and in higher concentrations will irritate the skin causing a burning and aching sensation, especially on the moist parts of the body. High concentrations can cause blisters similar to those of sunburn which are entirely harmless and disappear within a few hours. The affects of CS are burning of the eyes accompanied by a copious flow of tears, coughing, difficulties in breathing and chest tightness, a stinging sensation of moist skin, a running nose and dizziness. The duration of affects of CS is from 5-10 minutes after the affected individual is removed to fresh air. These agents are used as tear gases for civilian purposes and are harmless in that the personnel affected recover quickly and suffer no subsequent ill effects.
– On 22nd May Senator Poyser asked me the following question:
My colleague the Minister for Works has supplied me with the following information:
The reason for inviting prices from six selected furniture firms was to achieve the quality control and workmanship which the Department of Works considered necessary for the furnishings for this prestige project. Before the issue of tender documents, the factory of the furniture manufacturer to the Barassi company was inspected by the Furniture Officer of the Victorian branch of the Department of Works, who reported that the facilities were satisfactory and that there would be no worries regarding the standard of work or factory capacity. Quotations were invited on 27th March 1969, closed on the 15th April 1969, and the departmental order placed on Ron Barassi Office Furniture and Equipment on 29th April 1969.
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral what factors are taken into account by the Postmaster-General in determining whether to grant a request by a telephone subscriber that his number be not inserted in the telephone book.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
It is in subscribers’ own interest to be listed in a directory so that they can be called by others for normal business or social purposes. Nevertheless, it is recognised that some subscribers have a genuine reason, by virtue of their profession or position in public life, for not desiring their telephone numbers to be listed in the telephone directory. Therefore, on request by the subscriber, listings for services in residences are withheld for people holding positions of prominence in government, public or professional life, including members of Parliament, State dignitaries and judges. Apart from these cases, applications for services not to be listed in a directory are approved in special circumstances where individual subscribers may otherwise be personally inconvenienced. As an example, approval is given if an entry in a directory has led, or would be likely to lead, to the subscriber receiving annoying or abusive calls.
I should mention that telephonists at ‘Directory Information’ cannot provide inquiries with the numbers of ‘silent lines’, even in an emergency, because these details are not made available to them.
– On 20th March Senator Cohen asked me if the attention of the Minister for Education and Science had been drawn to a statement by Mr K. Vogt, President of the high schools branch of the Victorian Teachers Union, that fewer than 2% of Victoria’s high schools have enough science and mathematics teachers and that in many high schools science is not being taught to Forms I and II students. The honourable senator continued: Mr Vogt is also reported to have said that because of the shortage of science and mathematics teachers thousands of students will be left behind in the race for the honours necessary to ensure entrance to a university’. The honourable senator did not say when or where this statement was reported. In response to his question, the Minister for Education and Science asked his Department to make further enquiries. The Department, I understand, was not able to trace any public record of the statement alleged by the honourable senator to have been made by Mr Vogt. Mr Vogt was then approached himself through the Victorian Teachers Union for some guidance. I have to report that Mr Vogt has no knowledge of a public statement or report having been made on these specific matters in the terms used in the honourable senator’s question.
I replied to a number of points raised by the honourable senator but there are two matters calling for further comment. The honourable senator asked if the Minister would seek a report on the shortage of science teachers generally and make that report available to the Senate. I did indicate then that the honourable senator was referring to departments of State within the responsibility of the State Government. Further to this I would direct the honourable senator’s attention to a decision of the Australian Education Council, held in Adelaide in March this year which was released to the press and given some coverage. Its opening paragraph reads: ‘Each State will take appropriate action to set out the needs of that State for the education of children up to the completion of secondary schooling and for the education of teachers’. I think it reasonable to assume that the needs of science teaching will not be overlooked in this survey. The honourable senator also asked the Government to review its approach to the teacher training recommendations in the Martin report. Many of the recommendations regarding teacher training contained in the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia were purely matters for the State Government rather than for the Commonwealth Government. However, since that time the Commonwealth Government has provided assistance to the States for teacher training under a scheme which was originated at the request of the States themselves and under which $24m is being provided by the Commonwealth in unmatched capital grants over a 3-year period. The purpose of the grants is to enable the States to provide additional teachers college places, which may involve the building of new colleges and the alteration and extension of existing ones. Some assistance is given under this scheme to the independent schools, because a condition of it is that 10% of places provided with Commonwealth funds must be reserved for teacher trainees who are not bonded to a State education department. No doubt many such places will be filled by students who intend to teach within the independent school system. Unbonded teachers are eligible for Commonwealth advanced education scholarships to assist them to take advantage of places in government teachers colleges.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Is it the will of the Senate that the remaining questions which have not been answered orally be incorporated in Hansard? There being no objection, this course will be followed and the answers will be published at the end of the report of today’s proceedings.
– by leave - I propose to make a statement in relation to the establishment of a national institute of criminology on behalf of the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen).
The problem of crime in the community and particularly the rising incidence of crime in Australia in recent years has been a matter of concern to the Government. There has been a considerable amount of discussion about the problems involved in crime, the methods to be used to prevent -the incidence from becoming higher and the best means to rehabilitate those who are dealt with by the law.
While the matter of crime and crime prevention is primarily a matter for the States, the Commonwealth Government believes it can make a real contribution in a co-ordinating role directing research into the problem. Crime does not respect State boundaries and many of the problems faced by the different States are common. As a result, the Commonwealth and States have now reached agreement upon a joint scheme which involves the establishment of a national Institute of Criminology. This proposal will be the first national effort to inquire into the extent of crime in Australia and the best methods to deal with all aspects of it. In addition, the States and the Commonwealth will join in the formation of a Criminology Research Council and the establishment of a Criminology Research Fund. We have hopes that New Zealand will also join in the scheme.
The Government feels the establishment of a co-ordinating body will be of great benefit to the nation as a whole. Little work has been done to discover the true extent of crime in Australia today. There is a need for us to re-examine some of the assumptions we have always made when discussing the problem of crime. Overseas evidence suggests that, whereas it was once thought that poverty was the father of crime, the thinking now is that this is not a necessary contribution at all. The evidence suggested that the growth of big cities and an affluent society were equally big contributors to serious crime. The mere raising of material standards itself is not a cure for crime.
One recent estimate put the cost of crime to the Australian community at S350m annually. This makes crime a very large problem and if that is even an approximate figure, it would justify the spending of money in an effort to keep crime down and reduce its proportions. But this is only one of the problems. Noone has made a detailed examination of the dark area of crime that is unreported crime in Australia. Some estimates suggest it could be almost twice the reported rate in some offences. It is hoped that by the establishment of an organisation such as the Institute of Criminology we will assess the size of the problem before we set out to deal with it.
The first move towards some coordinating effort to deal with the problem on a national basis was a seminar held in Canberra early last year under the sponsorship of the Commonwealth. This was attended by senior police, magistrates, probation and parole officers, child welfare officers and psychiatrists. There were two results of this seminar. First, all those attending found a greater appreciation of the work being done by each other in the whole field of crime prevention and rehabilitation. The second result was a recommendation made by the seminar. This was that there should be increased research into crime. The seminar saw this as being achieved by a central body, such as a joint governmental venture, with the active participation of the States and possibly New Zealand. With this in mind, the Commonwealth raised the matter with the States and it is following upon exchanges with the States that the Commonwealth is now able to announce the project.
Arrangements about the financing of the project and details of the allocation of functions are still being considered, but the Commonwealth has agreed to finance the setting up of the Institute. The Criminology Research Council would be comprised of members from the States and from the Commonwealth and, we hope, New Zealand, and would evaluate the research needs in this field. This Council would then allocate amounts from the Criminology Research Fund to specific research projects. The proposal is that once a project has been approved for study, the Council would select the most appropriate and best equipped body in Australia to undertake the work and then make a grant from the research fund for that purpose. It is proposed that the Institute of Criminology would provide advice and recommendations to the Criminology Research Council in relation to research needs and act as a secretariat to the Council. The Institute would also undertake research on a national basis and provide training courses for officers. The Institute would, in addition, act as a clearing house for research, collate and analyse research and disseminate research results and recommendations to the governments joining the scheme.
So far as the Criminology Research Fund is concerned, the Commonwealth’s proposal is for a partnership arrangement with the States under which part of the fund would be contributed by the Commonwealth and part by the States. As I have mentioned, the establishment of the fund would give effect to the view that has been taken that existing resources in Australia should be utilised both in universities and in Government departments where there are experts in many fields whose services might be made available for specific projects. The arrangements proposed will not interfere with particular State planning in the same field such as the proposal for a State Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in New South Wales. The bodies in question would be able to act in consultation to ensure there is maximum use of resources and no duplication of effort. Statistics were another matter mentioned at the seminar, and again it is hoped that the Institute will be able to provide advice on the development of crime statistics, including the standardising of such things as court figures throughout Australia. New South Wales has made a considerable contribution already in this field and there have been discussions between Commonwealth and State Ministers and officials on the establishment of uniform crime statistics in Australia.
In summary, the cost of crime to the community in terms of governmental expenditure, individual loss and waste of human resources is, of course, considerable. Concern is reft at the increase in the incidence of crime that has occurred in Australia during recent years, and it is felt that, if overseas experience in this regard is to be avoided in Australia, it will be necessary for action to be taken now. There is a need for systematic research to be conducted and sponsored on an Australia-wide basis to help determine the policies that should be adopted to combat the problem of crime. An examination needs to be made on a national basis of the effectiveness of methods of treatment and many other matters. There is also a need for specialist national’ training programmes for police, prison and parole officers and others working in this field, especially courses in which members of different professions are represented. It is proposed that these courses would keep officers informed of modern methods and techniques and enable them to share their experiences and consider their work within a larger frame of reference. It is pleasing to see co-operative federalism operating in a field which is of such importance to the welfare of the community.
– by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - lt has become apparent that the prospects of the Senate’s concluding its business for this sessional period on this day, or even by running into the next day, are not very good. 1 propose at 6 o’clock this evening when the sitting is suspended for dinner to confer with Senator Murphy and Senator Gair and with the Whips. We will have a look at the work load and if it becomes apparent, as I fear it may, that there is no reasonable prospect of getting through the work that we need to do, even sitting on until a reasonably respectable hour in the morning, at 8 o’clock I will move that the Senate sit again tomorrow at 10 a.m.
I think it is a little premature to make a judgment, but we are getting very near to the point where a judgment will have to be made. At this point in time, for the convenience of honourable senators, I alert them to the probability that we will be sitting tomorrow if we cannot today get through the work listed on the business paper. I understand that in addition a number of messages are to come from the other place, although they are all related to the one item. I appeal to honourable senators, wherever practicable, to confine their speeches to the points at issue. It is a matter of individual judgment, but if we can get some self-discipline into speeches from both sides of the chamber we may still have a prospect of finishing at a reasonable time tomorrow morning.
– by leave - As Senator Cavanagh observed a few minutes ago, we take the view that there is no reasonable hour early in the morning. Honourable senators have been sitting for long hours. The hours are not to be counted only by the time we spend in the chamber. Bills must be considered and attendance is required at committee and Party meetings of various kinds. This takes a great toll of people. For example, I was here at 8.30 yesterday morning to attend a Party executive meeting. Most members of my Party attended another meeting which started at 9 a.m. yesterday. We were here until after midnight and it is obvious that that practice cannot go on day after day. We are ready to co-operate and we have co-operated, but no doubt senators will find themselves in a situation with which we ought not to be faced. A stack of Bills from the Treasury is listed on the notice paper. I do not know why they were all held up and have come in at the last minute. We are prepared to co-operate, but I will not ask any senator not to speak if he wants to speak.
– I am not suggesting that.
– The Leader of the Government interpolates that he is not suggesting that. Senators are entitled to speak. We are entitled to have the business dealt with properly. If the Government cannot so arrange its affairs as to bring the Bills on at an early stage, it may be that the only sensible solution is to put some of them over to the next sessional period. A decision could be made as to their urgency, as to which must be dealt with and which can be put over to the next sessional period. We get the feeling - and I am not blaming the Leader of the Government in the Senate for it - that there are some vested interests in holding up legislation from the Parliament on one pretext or another and then trying to force it through when there is not adequate debate. We have been cooperative in agreeing to short cuts. Some honourable senators on both sides of the chamber do not agree with the short cuts. For example, they might resent the fact that matters are incorporated in Hansard instead of being read out. That feeling might even extend to the Ministerial bench.
– We are not to become tape recorders.
– That is a wise observation. We of the Opposition have shown that we are prepared to agree to many short cuts, but we are not prepared to do anything which will detract from the right of senators who want a proper chance to debate matters. Furthermore, questions arise at which somebody wants to have a better look and we are entitled to do that. If we are trying to push through twenty or thirty Bills and an honourable senator wants to have a look at some aspects of one, I think it is only fair and reasonable that he should get a chance to do so. We will co-operate but we suggest that we ought not to have any late nights. They are not conducive to the good health of members or the efficiency of the Parliament. We will co-operate in an endeavour to get through the business today. If we cannot, we must sit tomorrow or next week. If that is not convenient, let us put some of the business over until the next sessional period and look at it then. That seems to be the proper approach.
I wish to refer now to the notice of motion given by two senators of the Opposition. It concerns the Canberra abattoir. I am told that there is a suggestion that the abattoir may be closed down at the end of June, at a time when Parliament is in recess. This concerns the people of Canberra very greatly. I understand that opposition to the closure extends to representatives of all political parties. We would like an assurance that the abattoir will not be closed down before the Senate has a chance to debate the matter. We might have to take some action to bring that matter on for debate unless we get an assurance that the abattoir will not be closed down before the Senate has a chance to debate the matter. I ask the Leader of the Government in the
Senate to give some consideration to ascertaining whether that assurance can be given so that there would be no need to bring the motion on for debate.
– The legislation relating to the judges’ salaries could wait without inflicting any loss. The rises could be made retrospective.
– I suppose that is a reasonable view.
– There has to be a reassessment of the Supreme Court or the Superior Court. There are matters to be discussed.
– Perhaps a number of these Bills could be dealt with in that way. Even if at the moment it seems that somebody might suffer if assent to the legislation were delayed, it is simple to ensure that the provisions will operate as from a certain date, if the Bill is passed.
– The pensioners have to wait for increases if they get them.
– Yes. These effects always can be cured by inserting in a Bill a date as to when its provisions will operate. Then it does not matter how long the House of Representatives or the Senate takes to consider legislation because no one is affected by the delay. I take the view that we should insist upon this principle when payments and benefits for the people are involved. The legislation ought to include a date of operation so that no-one can hold the gun at the head of the Senate or the House of Representatives and say that the legislation is being delayed, thereby causing someone to lose some benefit. If there is a fixed date included in the legislation it allows for proper auditing, budgeting and so forth. Also, it mean.? that we can deal with matters without undue haste or pressure. I suggest that this course should be followed. The Government should look at the matters before us and decide which can be postponed.
– There are sections of workers now waiting for their claims to be heard. They are more disadvantaged than are the judges.
– They are indeed. There is one further matter I want to mention. I refer to the proposed joint sitting of both houses of Parliament to determine the site for the new and permanent parliament house. If the Senate sees fit,I think this matter should be dealt with at an early stage. There is a motion but I notice that Senator Byrne is not present at the moment.
– They have sent for him.
– If I move along the lines I have in mind we can deal with it when he is here. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to general business.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of General Business, order of the day No. 34.
This matter concerns the site of the new and permanent parliament house. I understand that the Government will state its attitude and then perhaps we can delay the matter until Senator Byrne is present.
– I want to speak to this motion and to voice my protest about the continuation of the practice that is to be adopted on this occasion. The heads of departments know very well what the programme of the Parliament is to be in relation to its sittings. After all, we know already that the Parliament is to meet again in August and sit until October.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The motion before the Chair concerns the postponement of genera] business until the matter of the site of the new and permanent parliament house is dealt with. I suggest that the honourable senator continue his remarks at a later stage.
– Very well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 May (vide page 1 682), on motion by Senator Murphy:
CONSIDERING the difference in point of view expressed by resolutions of the Senate and of the House of Representatives between Capital Hill and the Camp Hill area as the site of the new and permanent parliament house;
BELIEVING that the decision as to the site is and remains the responsibility of those senators and members of the House of Representatives who constitute the Parliament of the Commonwealth;
RECOMMENDS that a joint sitting of the two Houses or other form of general conference be convened to express, by resolution, the point of view of the assembled members of the Parliament as between Capital Hill and the Camp Hill area;
RECOMMENDS FURTHER for the consideration of the House of Representatives -
that the proposed joint meeting be held on a day and time to be fixed by Mr President and Mr Speaker and that the joint meeting consist of senators and members of the House of Representatives;
that Mr President and Mr Speaker be joint chairmen of the joint meeting and be empowered, if they think it necessary, to draw up regulations for the conduct of such joint meeting; and
that at such a joint meeting there be no debate on the subject matter of the alternative sites and that the question be decided by a majority of votes;
INVITES members of the House of Representatives to join with senators in the Senate chamber or such other place as may be determined by Mr President and Mr Speaker for the purpose of the joint meeting;
AND FURTHER INVITES the House of Representatives to suggest any alternative to or modification of the Senate’s proposal, with a view to the conveying of a joint meeting of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to determine finally the question whether the new and permanent parliament house be situated on Capital Hill or the Camp Hill area.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives, by message, requesting the consideration by that House of the resolution.
– Senator Murphy did not speak in support of this motion when he moved it. By discussing it now I find myself in the position of being asked to speak to it before the case has been made out. If, as 1 understand it, Senator Murphy does not intend speaking to the motion I will be suitably brief.
– The case is in the motion itself.
– The case virtually is contained in the motion but I suspect that Senator Byrne wishes to speak to it. I hope that we can confine this discussion to very narrow limits because we have covered the area pretty thoroughly. I am not going to touch on the substantive matter at all. The argument as to the alternative sites of Camp Hill and Capital Hill does not come into my consideration. I am sure that those who wish to speak will confine themselves to the motion itself. This motion was moved by Senator Murphy and it was supported by Senator Byrne. It is that we recommend that there be a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, or someother form of general conference in order to express by resolution the view of the assembled members of Parliament on the two alternative sites. The motion also recommends that the House of Representatives agree to the proposed joint meeting being held on a day and at a time to be fixed by the two Presiding Officers.
– We have the motion before us.
– Yes, but if my remarks are to be intelligent I have to build them round the motion. Whilst my remarks may not ultimately be intelligent to the honourable senator, I would like to include in them the substance of the motion for the benefit of those thousands of people who read Hansard. In substance the motion refers to a meeting of both Houses of Parliament at which there would be no debate on the alternative sites, the question being decided by a majority of votes. I oppose the motion for a variety of reasons. Firstly I think it is unprecedented. Never in the history of the Parliament have we had a joint meeting of the two Houses.
– A dangerous precedent, too.
- Senator Branson says that it would be a dangerous precedent and he pre-empts the point I am about to make. There is provision in the Standing Orders for a meeting of the two Houses after dissolution. There are records of a conference being held. However, if we refer to the history we find that away back in 1903 there was a proposal for a joint meeting of the two Houses and the Senate would not have a bar of it. The Senate was not prepared to create a situation which might set a precedent for any future meetings at which it would be asked to line itself up with the House of Representatives, because there are twice as many members of the House of Representatives as there are senators. I think that the decision in 1903 was a very valid one. Having had a quick look at the mathematics involved in this question honourable senators may say ‘It will be all right on this occasion’. They may win in the short run, but we have to consider history. There is a constitutional provision that the number of members in the other House should be twice the number of senators. It must follow that there are very grave risks in supporting this proposition on the basis of asserting the rights of the Senate. I think nothing could be more calculated to put the Senate, in the ultimate, into the position of having an accepted precedent for joint meetings to decide a dispute other than when there is a situation which is provided for, such as the dissolution of the Parliament. For that reason I oppose the motion.
I am trying to be very brief. In the motion put by Senator Murphy there is reference to senators going to the other place or members of the House of Representatives coming here, whichever is most convenient. The idea is that then there will be merely a vote. If the purpose of the motion merely is to have a vote taken, then this could be done by means of a postal arrangement. We could have a postal vote; in fact we could have any sort of voting arrangement.
– The Minister knows that the vote already has been taken.
– Why will not the Government do that?
- -Senator Byrne has stated that he supports this motion for a joint assembly. The suggestion is that the supporters of each site sit on either side of the chamber, that the vote be taken and that members and senators return to their normal places. To me this is a little unreal. This is one of the apparent weaknesses in the motion. My main and overall objection is that I do not believe that the solution to this problem is to be found in a joint meeting of the two Houses. The fact is that each House in its own right has expressed a different view. The Government is confronted with that situation. It will have to have a look at the matter, make a judgment and decide what is to be done. The fact is that under Senator Murphy’s proposition the Senate would put itself in the hands of an other place, which has twice the number of members this place has. As long as I am Leader of the Government in the Senate, I will never support that proposition.
– It woul’d set a dangerous precedent.
– Yes, it would set a dangerous precedent, except where a joint sitting is provided for in the Constitution in relation to a dissolution of the Parliament and a disputation between the Houses on a Bill.
– Then follows immediately an election for both Houses.
– As Senator Wright very properly points out, the joint sitting follows an election for the two Houses after there has been a double dissolution. The founding fathers in 1901 would not have a bar of this proposition, and neither will I in the responsible position of Leader of the Government in the Senate. For those reasons I resist the motion.
– We are dealing with a situation which is without precedent and with a matter which in many ways is unique among the matters that come before the Parliament. This is not an ordinary, normal matter; nor has it been presented to the Parliament in the normal way or for the usual purpose. This matter has been presented less to the Parliament than to the parliamentarians. The very fact that when this matter was entrusted by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) - my attention has been drawn to the remarks he made at that time - he indicated that it would be the subject of a free vote of individual parliamentarians - shows that he really divorced the whole matter from consideration by the Houses of the Parliament individually. Although as a matter of practical politics the votes were taken in the Houses individually and the matter was considered from House to House, the overall proposition was that this matter should be considered and determined by the Parliamentarians voting individually and divorced from any party affiliations.
The debate proceeded on that basis in each place. Votes were taken in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. They were not party votes; they were votes in pursuance of the charter that was given, namely, that they should be the individual expressions of the members of the Parliament. If that charter is to be pursued to its logical conclusion, one vote having been taken in another place and one having been taken here as a matter of physical practicality, the aggregation of votes should be considered as a mere matter of mathematics. The decision of the House of Representatives should have been added to the decision in this place. Then the overall conclusion would have been a decision of the parliamentarians.
But obviously there is no intention of pursuing this charter to its logical conclusion because the conclusion is not the one that is wanted in certain quarters. That has been made fairly obvious, if we look at the statement attributed to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and mentioned by Senator Wood this morning, although perhaps he gave it a connotation that I would not be prepared to give it. But obviously the decision of the aggregation of the parliamentarians has not been accepted.
So there is only one alternative. If the matter is to be decided by the parliamentarians and if the separate votes are not to be added together as a matter of mathematics, the only alternative is for the parliamentarians to meet together in toto, for the vote to be taken at that meeting and for that to be the outcome and the decision. 1 believe that this is no longer a matter merely of the prestige of the Senate or the prestige of the House of Representatives. This is now a matter of the parliamentarians discharging their duty and responsibility in the only way now available to them. Every other method has been employed. This is the only one now available to them if the determination of this matter is to be left finally in the hands of the elected members of the Federal Parliament. I believe that this is our duty, our responsibility and the trust that was reposed in us when the charter on this matter was given to us. We must pursue it to the end. We would be recreant to the responsibility entrusted to us if we failed to take the last available course to register the opinion of the Parliament as represented by the parliamentarians. Therefore, this becomes a matter not so much of responsibility as of firm and persistent duty.
I can see no great danger in this procedure. The Leader of the Government ^Senator Anderson) suggested that this would operate as a dangerous precedent. 1 cannot see that. This is a unique matter. It is a matter in which individual votes have been canvassed. There have not been votes on party lines or predetermined decisions. If this were a precedent, it would be a precedent for another similarly unique occasion. As an occasion such as this has arisen only once in 70 years, perhaps we can afford to wait another 70 years for the occurrence of a similar situation.
– The building of the next parliament house.
– Exactly. We should not be concerned with the possibility of this procedure being a dangerous precedent which at some future time might result in demands from the House of Representatives for it to join wilh the Senate iti reaching common determinations. After all, at that stage any matter would be decided ad hoc and on the merits - not merely to preserve the integrity, strength and independence of the Senate, but according to the circumstances of the case. Just as 1 believe that the circumstances of this case warrant and demand a joint sitting, the circumstances of another case might equally tell against a joint sitting.
For those reasons, and without unduly prolonging the attention of the Senate to this matter, I submit that this is a matter that we should pursue. I hope that the concurrence of the House of Representatives in this motion will be obtained and finally that the whole question will be resolved, the aggregated opinion of the parliamentarians will be discovered and the project will be enabled to go ahead. Therefore, I commend the motion to honourable senators and trust that we will have at least as big a vote for it as we had on the question going to the merits of the matter.
– Despite the need to conserve time, I believe that this matter is so important that I should make no apology for speaking in opposition to the motion. Unlike Senator Byrne, I believe that if the Senate adopted this motion it would be giving away its responsibilities as a law making House. 1 feel some nervousness in speaking to this motion in that, although we have a free vote, it necessitates consideration of legal aspects which I admit my inability to canvass. I only hope that I can put forward sufficient legal suggestions to bring legal men into the debate in order to determine whether there is any legal foundation for this motion. I also feel some nervousness, although we have a free vote, because 1 am in conflict with my leader on this question and must go to some pains to show where he is wrong in his thinking on it.
On the constitutional aspects of the question, as Senator Anderson has said, section 57 of the Constitution makes provision for joint sittings of the Houses and for the method of voting on a Bill after it has been rejected by the Senate three times and after there has been a referendum. Some reliance is placed on section 50 of the Constitution, which states:
Each House of the Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to -
. . .
The order and conduct of its business and proceedings either separately or jointly with the other House.
Obviously, that implies that there can be joint sittings. If both Houses of the Parliament decided that rather than have a repetition of debate on a question they should debate it together, perhaps there could be a joint sitting. But honourable senators will notice that section 50 makes provision only for the drawing up of rules for the conduct of business and proceedings either separately or jointly.
– Where does it say that the Houses can do no more than that?
– It gives each House the power to make rules.
– I suggest that the honourable senator read it again.
– It gives each House the power to make rules and orders.
– Yes, orders.
– Rules and orders with respect to the order and conduct of its business and proceedings either separately or jointly with the other House. Section 53 of the Constitution limits the Senate’s powers in connection with financial questions, and concludes with this paragraph:
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
Now it is suggested that we give away this equal power and vote with a House which has superior numerical strength.
– It is not a proposed law that we are considering.
– The honourable senator may have a valid point there. My point is that it was intended by the Constitution that the two Houses should vote separately.
– And there should be equal powers with respect to matters preliminary to proposed laws.
– I have achieved my objective of bringing the legal men into a consideration of this aspect of the matter. For weeks now we have been arguing about the Senate’s right to arrive at a decision on a simple majority. If we now combine with the other House in voting on this matter, what happens to the decision by the simply majority? I should like the Senate to consider another point. When we get before us a Bill that has been passed by the other place and reject it, the other House is faced with two alternatives. I repeat that we are in the masterful position of having equal power with the other House. Therefore, if we reject a Bill that has been passed by the other place that other place must either send the Bill back to us with further arguments to persuade us to reverse our decision or it must drop the Bill altogether.
On this occasion the Senate has arrived at a decision. Although the decision arrived at was contrary to the one I advised, the Senate has expressed its opinion. I submit that the Government is now faced with two alternatives. If it is anxious to proceed with the building of the new and permanent parliament house, it must erect it where we have said that it shall go. If it is anxious that the new building be erected on a site other than the one we have chosen, then it must either persuade us to change our minds or not proceed with the proposal. The Senate has decided that the new and permanent parliament house shall be erected on Capital Hill. We have exercised our right to make that decision.
Section 57 of the Constitution, which provides for a double dissolution in the event of an impasse between the Houses, has been mentioned by some speakers. I submit that this section does not apply to the present situation. I submit that it applies only in those cases where we have rejected a Bill agreed to by the other House and where that other House has been unable to persuade us to reverse our decision and where we are not prepared to meet jointly with the other House which has superior numerical strength.
Let me explain my own position to illustrate my point. I have always abided by the decision of the majority of my Party in this place. I feel that I have an obligation to do that even though my personal opinion might differ from that of the majority. In this case, I did not agree with the majority opinion of the Senate. On this occasion we had the right to exercise a personal vote, and I utilised that right. But if we have a joint vote with the other House, I shall feel obliged to support the majority decision of the Senate. In this way the Senate majority would gain one more supporter for its decision. On the other hand, if, in the other place, there are sufficient members who are equally jealous of the prestige of that place, then no doubt they will support the majority decision of that place. This would mean that when the matter is finally put to a vote of the two Houses jointly the decision of the majority of the Senate would be overruled. By merging ourselves with a House of superior numbers we would be establishing a dangerous principle in that we would be sacrificing the equal right which we now enjoy with the other House. This principle could be used as a precedent to our disadvantage on future occasions. I do not think that it will improve the conditions of pensioners, waterside workers or members of the seamen’s union wherever the new parliament house is situated. But that is not the point involved here. We are now concerned with a very important principle. We should be very careful about a joint meeting with the other House. We must not sacrifice any of our rights.
I am not advancing this argument as a means of opposing the Senate’s decision that the new and permanent parliament house should be erected on Capital Hill. I am simply arguing that the Senate has decided, as it has every right to do, that it should be on this site. Under those circumstances, if the Government wants to put it somewhere else then it must submit further arguments in an effort to persuade us to reverse our decision.
Here I should mention that I am indebted to Mr Roy Bullock for having sent out a circular some time ago relating to conferences of the two Houses apart from the joint sittings provided for in section 57 of the Constitution. In that circular he pointed out that at such conferences each House has always had equal representation. There was a request for a joint sitting in, I think, 1903. This was rejected by the Senate for the very reasons that I am advancing today - it would establish a dangerous precedent. Provision for a conference of the two Houses is contained in our Standing Orders. Standing order 345 reads:
The Managers to represent the Senate in a Conference requested by the House of Representatives shall consist of the same number of Members as those of the House of Representatives.
Standing Order 350 reads:
There shall be only one Conference on any Bill or other matter.
The framers of the Standing Orders, and the members of the Senate which adopted them were meticulous in ensuring that we should not give away any of our powers to legislate by allowing ourselves to be swamped by the greater numerical strength of the other House. I am not trying to force my opinion upon those who support the Capital Hill site. Senator Little seeks to interject again but I have answered all the intelligent interjections now. I hate this fox terrier snapping at my heels all the time. It is most important that we do not surrender any of our rights to a House of superior numbers and I repeat that to agree to the proposal before us would be to establish a precedent by which a House of superior numbers would be enabled to swamp us on this or any other occasion.
– I object to the suggestion that there should be a joint sitting of the two Houses and I support the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) in his opposition to the proposal before us. It is regrettable, that, after the matter has been debated fully in both Houses, a conclusive answer to the problem has not yet been arrived at. I have little doubt as to the original intention of the instruction of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) that members should have a free vote on this matter. I believe that, if the vote of both Houses of Parliament had been for a particular site, that would have been the chosen site. I think it was perhaps incumbent upon some executive of the Government at least to forecast what would be the outcome if the votes of the Houses went a certain way. This was not done. Indeed a great deal of discussion may have been saved if it had been done. As it was supposedly the wish of members of Parliament, expressed by their votes, that would be taken as the criteria as to where the house would be situated, I think an answer has been given already. Adding the votes of members in the other place and in the Senate, those for Camp Hill total 65 and those for Capital Hill total 83. I have no doubt that this decision of members of Parliament cannot be reversed by any executive decision that the site should be elsewhere. I have confidence that the will of Parliament, as expressed by that majority of votes, will be upheld. The overwhelming decision was that the site be on Capital Hill.
– I desire to indicate briefly why I do not support the proposal for a joint sitting, as proposed by Senator Murphy’s motion. The case sought to be made for a joint sitting does not show what benefits are likely to arise if the two Houses sit together and members of Parliament vote but do not speak. Even if there were to be some discussion it is difficult to see what benefit, beyond any benefits which exist at the moment as a result of the Senate’s vote, would be achieved by such a joint sitting. One might put the proposition that at the moment a matter of obvious concern is that the House of Representatives has expressed a view one way and the Senate has expressed a view in a different way. Naturally there is a query as to how that position is to be resolved by the Government. I fail to see how, when the Government is faced with the necessity of resolving that situation, it will find its position any easier if there is a joint sitting of members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate and if a decision is arrived at. The decision would have no greater force than the position which exists now where members of the Houses, meeting separately, have arrived at the two different results.
– The honourable senator does not think that if both Houses determined this matter the Government would regard that as more significant?
– I would like to explain why I do not think that is so. As I see the position what must follow the indication of an opinion by the Senate and by the House of Representatives, or by a joint sitting, is that the Government will bring forward a proposal to set aside the Capital Hill site, or the Camp Hill site if that be the choice, as the place where the parliament house is to be built, then take the necessary steps to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee and then seek the necessary revenue. At the moment the Government is faced with the dilemma that the vote in the House of Representatives indicates that Camp Hill would have the support of the majority of its members, while the vote in the Senate is to the contrary. The Government must make up its mind whether or not it will accept the vote of the House of Representatives and risk having its legislation rejected by the Senate.
– Is not the logical answer to obtain the opinion of the assembled Parliament, irrespective of Houses?
– I do not think so because the vote of the assembled Houses would be no indication to the Government that the legislation would pass through the House of Representatives or through the Senate. The position might well be the same as it was before. That vote would not show the separate opinions of the House of Representatives and of the Senate. For that reason I fail to see how a general sitting woul’d resolve the matter in any way which an examination of the votes cast on the motions indicate at present. I think the only arguments in support of Senator Murphy’s motion were advanced by Senator Byrne who suggested, as I understood him, that because votes in both chambers were not on party lines and because the situation was a unique one some case for the two Houses sitting together emerged. With all respect to him, I fail to see that that is an argument. It is nothing more than a statement of what has occurred. While undoubtedly there would be some colour and some historical significance in a joint sitting of members of
Parliament on an issue about which the members feel strongly, for the reasons 1 have mentioned already I fail to see that the joint sitting would advance the position. I sense that the problems referred to by Senator Cavanagh are problems which would affect all honourable senators, but in a variety of ways. Undoubtedly some would be concerned to assert the view of their House as against the view which they personally may have as to the site.
– They would not want to assert the view of their House any more than they would want to assert their party’s policy.
– I think it is reasonable to assume - and I think Senator Cavanagh stressed this - that in an issue between the House of Representatives and the Senate some honourable senators would be inclined to put the Senate’s view. If it appeared that a certain course of conduct were being followed by the Government after a joint sitting some honourable senators would say that they were not bound by what was determined at a joint sitting They would be concerned to assert the rights of the Senate. This situation could arise. The matter would not be resolved at the joint sitting. Serious consideration has to be given to the matter before the Senate decides to abrogate certain rights and constitutional functions which have been bestowed on it in favour of a joint sitting in which it may be expected to yield some of those powers and functions to the decision of the joint meeting.
As Senator Cavanagh indicated, the Constitution makes two references to joint sittings. One sets out the traditional and constitutional way of resolving deadlocks and the other is the implication to be derived from section 50 of the Constitution.
– Does the honourable senator suggest we could not have a joint meeting?
– No- subject only to one matter which I think could be overcome. Undoubtedly the Senate could agree to a joint sitting. As I see it, the Constitution does not envisage a joint sitting, except in the one constitutional case. The power of the Senate and the House of Representatives to hold a joint sitting is derived merely by way of implication from section 50. The fact is that there have been no joint sittings. There could have been joint sittings on a number of issues, just as there could be a joint sitting on this issue. One might suppose that the wisdom acquired over the years has persuaded previous Houses of Parliament to assert their rights in their own chambers. I suggest that the Senate should be concerned that the Government recognise the position within the Parliament. The Government may be guided, in reaching such conclusion as it will, by the fact that the votes of honourable members and honourable senators, taken in the respective chambers, show a very clear majority in favour of Capital Hill. I for my part hope that that is the view which the Government will take but if it should not take that view and if it decides to proceed with a building on Camp Hill and to seek the necessary funds to establish that building, the Senate will have previously made its decision and I would think that that decision was one which the Senate would be entitled to adhere to and, for my part, I would wish to adhere to it.
– You will not adhere to it if the Government proposes an appropriation for a parliament house on Camp Hill, although you voted for iri establishment on Capital Hill.
– We can only wait and hope that that sort of eventuality does not arise. Let us leave our decision as to what people will do till that situation does arise. It is evident, quite clearly, that the opinion of this Senate twice affirmed is in favour of Capital Hill, and I would think that in those circumstances it is the clearest possible indication as to what the Senate’s views are. The Senate has a power under . the Constitution in these matters which is as absolute as any other power that the chamber has and can exercise with regard to asserting what it considers to be the proper position.
– I will bet you any amount you like that what Government senators vote for will be in accordance with the proposed appropriation.
– I feel that there is no point in dealing with hypotheses. This is a matter, as I understand it, which the Public Works Committee will also in due course have occasion to refer to. Arising from its report there will be a further opportunity, if opportunity is required for the Senate to demonstrate what its opinion is, when that opinion can be demonstrated.
– What operative effect would that have, especially in the light of the proposed amendments of the Bill?
– I am assuming that the proposed amendments to the Bill will be carried through. In that case the Senate would have the right thrice, if it chose, to affirm its previous decision.
– And then be overridden by the House of Representatives.
– That may be the case and it may not be the case. Nevertheless, it would be an indication of a three times expressed view of the Senate.
– And we would be overridden. A decision could be made there that it was expedient to go ahead with the Camp Hill proposal and that would be the end of it.
– Still the moneys would not have been appropriated. That is always the Senate’s sanction. I fail to see why in this case, as in any other case, the powers which the Senate has are not sufficiently effective to enable the purposes which the Senate wants to be achieved. For those reasons, I fail to see that there is merit in the proposal for a joint sitting. It would not resolve problems which we all know exist and which have to be resolved in some way. I prefer the traditional way of resolving them to something which is untried and experimental.
– I am not one who was in favour of a joint sitting of the Houses because I felt that the parliamentarians of both Houses having made a decision the clearest and easiest way for the Government to treat the matter was to combine the number of parliamentarians on each side and find out whether the majority was for Capital Hill or Camp Hill. To me that was a simple way. If the Government wanted to be open and clean about the situation there should not be any difficulty. I was disturbed to hear Senator Greenwood say that the Government could probably say that the House of Representatives chose Camp Hill and the Senate chose Capital Hill, and then it could come down on the side of the House of
Representatives. To my way of thinking, this was a request to get the opinion of parliamentarians, not to get the opinion of just two Houses. I do not agree with that point of view. It is a matter of the number of parliamentarians who are in favour of the two proposals. Supposing this House had given a big majority in favour of Camp Hill and the House of Representatives had given a majority of one for Capital Hill, what would we have done in that case? Would the Government have said that the House of Representatives outweighs the Senate?
– Would we be justified in using our powers to hold up an appropriation under those conditions?
– Order! We do not want to waste time on this, if I may say so.
– What is the clearest indication that the Government could have? In my opinion it is the fact that the great majority of the total number of parliamentarians - they are the people who are to sit in the new and permanent parliament house - have voted very strongly for Capital Hill. That to me is a clear answer given to the Government. What does disturb me are the things that are being said and published, quotations from Ministers and so on, and certain rumblings that are going on, to the effect that the House of Representatives could have sway. As I said, I am not in favour of joint meetings of the Houses because in norma] circumstances we have our constitutional rights and powers. When it comes to legislation we can reject or amend, depending upon whether a Bill is a money Bill or otherwise. Therefore I do not see a necessity for a joint meeting. When this motion was proposed I was not in favour of a joint meeting but one hears disturbing things about dealing with the matter under the cush, as it were, in a way that is a bit snide. If these things are true the safest way would be to have a joint meeting. Therefore I support the proposal.
– I rise to make my position clear to the Senate. I will not be able to cast a vote on this matter because I am paired with Senator Willesee but I want to register my vehement opposition to this proposal. I am paired with Senator Willesee and I have to honour the pair.
– You are not paired on this issue.
– I have been advised by my Whip that that is the fair way to do it. I would want to be voting against the motion because I vehemently oppose it. The only aspect on which I disagree with Senator Cavanagh is in relation to his modesty when he said that he did not think he was qualified to take up this debate on the legal side. I think that he proved himself eminently qualified because he made an excellent speech. I am opposed to this motion not on the issue of the siting of the new and permanent parliament house. I dismiss that from my mind. I am opposed to it bitterly on the ground that it would be a dangerous precedent and giving away what I believe to be the powers of this Senate.
– I want to be brief in supporting the motion. I believe that we have broken new ground and 1 take a directly opposite view to that expressed by Senator Branson, who fears that the powers of the Senate are being whittled away. I do not fear that they are being whittled away; I am delighted that they are being whittled away. The Senate will remember that one of the recommendations in the report of the Constitutional Review Committee which was presented in 1959 was that where questions were deadlocked and decisions could not be taken there be a meeting of both Houses. My Party adopted this as part of its policy shortly after that report was presented. The motion reads:
That the Senate-
Considering the difference in point of view expressed by resolutions of the Senate and of the House of Representatives between Capital Hill and the Camp Hill area as the site of the new and permanent Parliament House;
Believing that the decision as to the site is and remains the responsibility of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives who constitute the Parliament of the Commonwealth;
Recommends that a joint sitting of the two Houses or other form of general conference be convened to express, by resolution, the point of view of the assembled Members of the Parliament as between Capital Hill and the Camp Hill area; . . .
Those three paragraphs clearly set out what could be one of the problems envisaged by the Constitutional Review Committee in 1959. This is the first occasion on which the teeth of the Senate have been drawn. This could be the first nail in the coffin of the Upper House and I think that every free thinking Australian will be delighted to see this happen. I hope that this meeting takes place. I hope that we will be able to reach a decision, thereby proving to the people of Australia that there is no need for the continued existence of the Senate. I believe it would be excellent propaganda for all those who desire the abolition of the Senate. I hope the Government will see fit to agree to this recommendation. I hope that the motion will be carried. May I add that when a decision is taken a lot of Australians will be cheering because they will see this section of the Parliament going out of existence as it should have 30 or 40 years ago.
– in reply - On this, as on all matters relating to the new and permanent parliament house, we in the Senate and I understand members in the other place are approaching the matter on the basis of a free vote. We are adopting a non-party approach by which every individual is entitled to act in accordance with his own views or’ his own conscience, if you like to call it that. We are acting as individuals. I think that the important point which has emerged here is the basis upon which the determination is to be made. Let me remind the Senate how the matter came before the Parliament. On 15th August 1968 the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said:
The Government has taken the view that a decision on a matter of this kind is one which should be made by individual members of the Parliament in theircapacity as private members.
The Australian Labor Party accepted that and acted on it and the Government parties accepted and acted upon it, as did the other persons in both Houses. We accepted that this was a matter for determination by us as individuals.
– Not as Houses.
– Not as Houses, not as parties. Since we are located in two Houses the convenient way of ascertaining the numbers was to have a vote in each House. That is how we operated. Had the numbers fallen the same way in each House there would have been no problem. As it is, the numbers have fallen in an opposite way. One would think, as was mentioned by Senator Wood and others who have spoken in the debate, that the proper approach, consistent with what was put by the Prime Minister and accepted by the members of this Parliament in their individual capacities, and consistent with the abdication of a party approach to this matter, would be to total1 the number of members voting for each site. I have no doubt that that is the right way to do it.
There should not have been any necessity for the motion I am putting forward. The announcement should have been made promptly that the Government would act in accordance with the expressed wishes of individual parliamentarians. That is what should have happened. We all know that the Government has not made that announcement. We know, too, that statements have been made which have given rise to great concern. There has been a suggestion that the Government will not act in accordance with the wishes expressed by members in their individual capacities, and there has been talk about what the House of Representatives resolved as though the members of the House of Representatives in their individual capacities were the only members of the Parliament. That cannot be so. The way to resolve this and to put it beyond any question, unless of course the Government decides to look upon this as a House/Senate matter, which it should not be, is to get members together so that the House/Senate aspect disappears.
– How will that help the Government in what-it has to do? Would it be in any better position?
– Yes, it would because the notion of an issue between the Houses would disappear. This is not, and should not be, an issue between the Houses. As I have pointed out already to the Senate, the Prime Minister stated the matter in this way:
The Government has taken the view that a decision on a matter of this kind is one which should be made by individual members of the Parliament in their capacity as private members.
That is why the fear about a joint sitting or a joint conference - it is expressed in the resolution as a joint meeting - should disappear. This is a matter for individuals.
This is not an issue between the Houses. It has never been put to us, and it has never been accepted, as an issue between the Houses. We know that under section 50 of Constitution we can meet together. There is no problem of the Senate abandoning any rights because we are saying: ‘Let us meet together and have a vote of the members of both places in their individual capacities’. I think that that is the sensible and intelligent way to resolve this matter. There should be no talk, as has been put forward by Senator Cavanagh, about our taking the attitude that the new building should be on Capital Hill or nowhere.
– If that were done thirtyone members here could frustrate the will of everyone else.
– Of course. That would be putting it into the sphere of a Senate/House matter. If we had a majority in favour of Capital Hill which was less than the majority in the other House favouring the other site, I do not think it would be right to start insisting upon our rights and saying: ‘Because we have decided on Capital Hill we insist that it be Capital Hill’. That would be quite wrong because of the way in which the matter was put to us and the way in which we accepted it. It follows logically that approaches of that kind and statements about what the Senate will do and will not do should not be accepted by this Senate.
– Would that be the only reason why it was wrong - that it was put to us on a different basis?
– The basis upon which we accepted it was that there was to be an ascertainment of the views of members of the Houses in their individual capacities. As Senator Wood has stated, the matter should be clear. AH that is required is a little simple arithmetic and you have the answer. However, if someone now is trying to introduce the element that one House voted one way and the other House voted the other way and we have to choose between the Houses, the easiest way to get over that and to bring the issue back firmly to what it was, as put by the Government and accepted by us, is to get the members together. I do not care whether it is formal or informal. It would be left to Mr
President and Mr Speaker to get us together and to take a vote. In that way there would be no suggestions and no problems. If it were stated openly that this was to be decided by members in their individual capacities there would be no difficulties. In these special circumstances involving a nonparty matter, a matter which is not an issue between Houses and is not taken by us to be an issue between the Houses, I do not think we should be at all fearful of meeting together with members of the other House and of taking a vote on the issue in circumstances which have been decided upon by Mr President and Mr Speaker.
We do not want any collision between the Houses. That would be the very thing which would go against the way in which we accepted this matter. It is not a House/ Senate issue. There is no such issue. This is a matter for individuals. Let us make that clear. Let this be done on that basis alone. This will create a precedent. I do not think it is a bad one. If ever a matter of domestic concern to the Parliament arises which concerns us in our individual capacities - not as members of one House or the other and not as members of a party - following this precedent we should come together. That is consistent with what was envisaged by the Constitution. I would assume that the Senate has the courage to face up to the situation. We want to preserve what was put to us, as well as to other members of Parliament, in their individual capacities. Let us deal with it by a procedure which leaves no room for argument and so that no-one can start rationalising in order to get away from what has been the clearly expressed wish of the members of the Houses acting in their individual capacities.
– Mr President, I refer to standing order 410 and ask that I be permitted to explain some words that may have led to a misunderstanding. I said that I had been paired with Senator Willesee and the Government Whip had advised me that because I was paired -I should not vote. The position now is that the Opposition Whip and the Government Whip have agreed that pairs do not count when there is a free vote, so I announce that I shall be exercising my vote.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[2.1] - I move:
Honourable senators will be aware of the Government’s resolute intention to implement its programme of assistance to the aged, particularly the frail aged and the needy aged. Incidentally, as my colleage the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) commented when moving the second reading of this Bill in another place, terms such as ‘the aged’, ‘older people’ and senior citizens’ mean much the same thing in the context of this legislation. I propose to follow his example by interchanging them quite freely, although the benefits of the present legislation will not be confined only to the aged.
This Bill represents another step towards the Government objective, and an important step. In my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Health l shall shortly introduce two complementary pieces of legislation for the provision of paramedical services in the home and for more State nursing home beds. These measures, together with this Bill, reflect discussions between the Commonwealth and the States towards the development of an effective programme of help for the elderly and the needy.
The States Grants (Home Care) Bill 1969 provides in Part II for the provision of housekeeper and home help services and in Part III for the establishment and development of senior citizens’ centres and the provision of trained welfare officers operating from these centres. It is not my intention to enlarge upon the Government’s achievements in the care and welfare of our elderly citizens. As all honourable senators will agree, the outstanding success of the Aged Persons Homes Act is eloquent testimony, if any is needed. From a small beginning - expenditure under the Act only slightly exceeded $0.75m in its first complete year of operation - the benefits of this legislation have been extended to more and more members of the community. In the current year expenditure under the Aged Persons Homes Act is expected to exceed £10m.
In common with the Aged Persons Homes Act the present Bill recognises that many of the aged and infirm in our community need some measure of assistance to cope with the demands of day to day living. The Aged Persons Homes Act enables accommodation to be provided for some of these people in home settlements. The present Bill gives effective recognition to the fact that some others would prefer to remain in familiar surroundings in continued direct association with lifelong bonds of family and friendship. Part II of the Bill provides for Commonwealth grants to the States on a $1 for $1 basis to assist the States in the development of housekeeper and home help services; services designed to lighten the burdens which the various domestic tasks can become for so many older people. Again, in common with the Aged Persons Homes Act, the services encouraged by this legislation may be provided either individually or in concert. The Commonwealth is anxious to see cooperation developed further, and I feel that there is ample scope here for the utilisation of untapped community resources. I am a firm believer in the value of community effort, and am sure that much would be accomplished by a partnership between governments at all levels and community groups in this programme of assistance to the aged.
This Bill will enable the Commonwealth’s offer to the States of grants of up to $500,000 in the aggregate, apportioned roughly on the basis of population, to be put into effect. Clause 6 of the Bill provides that the Commonwealth will match State expenditure for the provision of housekeeper and home aid services up to the amount allocated to a particular State. The Bill provides for the automatic appropriation of sums up to the amount of $500,000, but a further provision is made for sums in addition to this amount to be appropriated by the Parliament. The Government hopes that all States - including some which have perhaps been less advanced than others in developing such domiciliary services - will take advantage of the Commonwealth’s offer to participate in a partnership aimed at providing help for those older members of our community who are in need of it. The States may enter into this partnership by notifying the Commonwealth of their wish to do so and of their intention to expend money - or to continue to do so - on the provision of these welfare services, as well as their intention to join in the programmes of financial assistance covered in Part III of the Bill, to which I shall turn in a moment. I should mention that it is proposed that the nature of the housekeeper and home help services that will attract a $1 for $1 subsidy from the Commonwealth should be approved by the Minister for Social Services.
At an earlier point I remarked that the benefits of the Bill before the chamber were not designed to assist the aged only. I should like to quote from a letter the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) wrote to the State Premiers, in which he said: The Commonwealth contemplates that the services developed will be primarily, but not exclusively, for the aged’. It is expected that assistance provided for households other than the aged will be, in general, on an emergency basis only - for example, where a household is afflicted by a sudden illness or an accident. We propose, however, to administer the scheme with considerable flexibility. It is envisaged that there may be situations where to extend the provision of housekeeper and home help services on a permanent basis would be justified even though the occupants of the household were not aged persons. An example which comes to mind is a household occupied by permanent invalids. Primarily, however, it is intended to identify the service mainly with the provision of domestic help in the homes or premises occupied as the dwelling places of aged persons.
A few minutes ago I mentioned that some States had not developed their programmes of housekeeper and home aid services as far as some others. This, of course, is only to be expected - not everybody can lead the field. However, it gives me no small amount of pleasure to inform the Senate that, provided they become participating States, the level of expenditure on the services and facilities covered in Parts II and III of the Bill is already sufficient in New South Wales and Victoria to enable those States to receive substantial annual grants.
I now turn to Part III of the Bill, wherein provision is made for Commonwealth assistance towards the establishment and development of senior citizens’ centres and for a subsidy towards the salaries of welfare officers working at, or from, those centres. Once again I think it is appropriate to quote from the letter sent in February by the Prime Minister to the Premiers. It reads:
Another element which the Commonwealth regards as an integral part of the programme is the development of senior citizens’ centres. It sees senior citizens’ centres as central points in the community to which an aged person could turn, not only for activities to relieve his loneliness and for services such as meals, laundry and chiropody, but also as a centre for the co-ordination and, in some cases, the provision of a variety of domiciliary and other supportive services. The Commonwealth considers it essential that a welfare officer be employed at such a centre to ensure the development, co-ordination and continuing provision of the most appropriate welfare services to meet the needs of the aged in the area. This does not imply that the centre would directly provide all services. On the contrary, these could be provided by a variety of organisations, the stimulation and co-ordination of which would be a major part of the welfare officer’s activities.
While the Commonwealth views the mealsonwheels service as important in the home care programme for the aged, it is not offering a separate subsidy. Senior citizens’ centres would, however, be expected to aid the development, operation and use of these services and, to that end, expenditure on such facilities as insulated meal containers and kitchen equipment would be regarded as eligible for the subsidy.
In the provision of the types of services mentioned in the Prime Minister’s letter the Commonwealth’s aim is a partnership between State governments, local governing bodies and community organisations working for the welfare of the elderly. Grants will be available towards approved capital expenditure on senior citizens’ centres with the cost in the ideal situation apportioned on the basis of one-third Commonwealth, one-third State and one-third local authority and/ or community effort. As the grants are provided under Section 96 of the Constitution they must be limited to grants to the State governments. However, the nature of the financial and administrative arrangements as between the State government, the local governing body and the organisations operating senior citizens’ centres is to a large degree a matter for their own decision. It is to be hoped that a degree of co-operation can be achieved which will facilitate the efficient, and in turn rewarding, operation of senior citizens’ centres.
It would perhaps have been thought that grants in respect of these senior citizens* centres would be hedged about with qualifications. Mr President, this is not so although I should refer to one specific stipulation which has to do with the employment of welfare officers. Writing on this subject the Prime Minister said in his letter:
Information received from the States indicates that Commonwealth expenditure in the initial years towards senior citizens’ centres and the salaries of welfare officers is likely to be of the order of $500,000. We regard this, of course, as the first step in a programme and look forward to further developments in coming years.
Mr President, I have already mentioned that the measures I have spoken of today relate to only one facet of the Government’s comprehensive programme of assistance for the frail aged and the needy aged. I have mentioned, also, that this chamber will shortly be considering other measures which the Government proposes on the subjects of paramedical services and the provision of State nursing home beds. These are all measures which have been, or are about to be, introduced. For the information of the Senate I mention that Commonwealth expenditure under the present Bill is estimated currently at $lm a year. Additionally, it is estimated that expenditure under the Health Bills to which I have referred will be of the order of $ 1.25m a year, making a total expenditure of $2. 25m a year in this field.
This Bill shares with the Aged Persons Homes Act the quality that its benefits are not confined to any one section of the aged, such as the pension group. In fact the benefits of this Bill! need not even be confined to aged persons, but will be available in any circumstances in which the Commonwealth is satisfied that this is appropriate. Mr President, this Bill represents a great advance towards the Government’s aim of ensuring that no-one need fear advancing years lest he be left to fend for himself in an indifferent community. It is a humanitarian measure which will be welcomed by all honourable senators regardless of their political views, and as suchI commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by SenatorDittmer) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[2.12] - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to implement part of the home care programme for the aged which was forecast in the Budget
Speech last year. The programme has been developed in consultation with the States as representing the best way in which a relatively unified home care programme could be developed throughout Australia. This concept of the programme stemmed from considerations by State Health Ministers in 1968. it was at the instigation of the States that the programme as originally envisaged was expanded to include the development of paramedical services for aged people and the provision of a special grant by the Commonwealth Government for this purpose. The Bill provides for a subsidy by the Commonwealth on a dollar for dollar basis in respect of expenditure incurred by the States in the provision of paramedical services to aged persons in their homes.
The grant to be provided by the Bill totals $250,000 a year and is to be made available to the States in proportions broadly equated to their populations. However, Parliament may appropriate in a year amounts greater than those appropriated by the Bill for each State should the need to do so arise. The grant is available to participating States, which are States that have indicated that they intend to seek assistance provided by the Bill. The paramedical services which it is expected will be covered by the scheme are physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, chiropody and such other similar services as are approved by the Minister.
The Bill contains the normal provisions relating to advance approval of expenditure and provides that the expenditure under the Bill is to be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The services covered by the Bill are a part of the overall programme designed to provide better facilities in the home for aged people. The programme will assist in caring for these people in their own homes thus reducing the need to admit them to nursing homes and hospitals. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dittmer) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[2.16] - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide financial assistance to the States towards additional State run nursing homes. The scheme whilst not forming part of the home care programme for the aged which is the subject of other Bills currently before the Parliament, is nevertheless closely associated with it. One of the aims of the home care programme is to provide services to elderly people so that they may continue to live in a reasonable degree of comfort and well-being in their own homes. Without these services, some at least would need to be admitted to a hospital or nursing home. Notwithstanding this it is recognised by the Government that there will always be a need for nursing home accommodation for those people who, because of their condition cannot be given appropriate nursing and medical treatment in their own homes.
The Government recognises too that there is a shortage oflow cost nursing home accommodation of acceptable standard throughout Australia. The financial assistance that will be available under this Bill will assist the States in the alleviation of this shortage. It is intended that nursing home beds made available as a result of the Commonwealth assistance will be used mainly for the sick aged of little means. Such old people are unable to afford the charges made by more expensive privately run nursing homes. The scheme provides that, subject to prior approval of the Commonwealth Minister for Health, expenditure by a State for new nursing home accommodation will attract subsidy from the Commonwealth on a dollar for dollar basis.
The grant totalling $5m is to be made available to the States broadly on a population basis in respect of expenditure incurred by the States over the 5 years commencing 1st July 1969. The conditions necessary to attract the grant are prior approval of the expenditure by the Minister and the production of statements of expenditure audited by the State Auditor-General. It will be noted that the Bill does not provide an annual ceiling and thus States can plan construction of nursing homes as they wish within the 5 year period. The Bill has been drafted in such a way that there is a close relationship between its provisions and those of the National Health Act so far as the payment of nursing home benefit is concerned. Therefore, subject to the provisions of that Act nursing home benefits will be payable in the normal way. This will, of course, materially aid the States in being able to provide accommodation for these beds at a relatively low charge. If the States take full advantage of the measures provided by this Bill, more than 1,000 new public nursing home beds could become available over the next 5 years. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by SenatorDittmer) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia-
Minister for Customs and Excise) [2.42] - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is one of four concerned with grants which have recently been announced under the national water resources development programme. The Government has offered a grant of up to $6m under the programme to the State of South Australia to accelerate the completion of the Tailem Bend to Keith pipeline scheme. The national water resources development programme was announced by the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, in his policy speech in November 1966. Under the programme the Government proposed to make available about $50m for selected water conservation projects in the States, over and above the States’ own rural water conservation programmes. Honourable senators will recall that the Parliament has already legislated to provide up to $20m to Queensland to build the Fairbairn Dam on the Nogoa River, and up to $3.6m to Victoria for salinity reduction works on the Murray River. The form of this Bill is similar to that legislation.
Under the Federal Constitution responsibility for the assessment, development and control of water resources rests primarily with the State governments. The programmes of water conservation being undertaken by the States bear ample testimony to their recognition of the need to develop and make available as much water as possible for use in rural areas and in towns and cities. However, following on the successful Commonwealth-State cooperation in the accelerated programmes of water resources measurement, to which the Commonwealth is making a significant financial contribution, the Commonwealth Government decided that an acceleration of the national effort in water conservation works was called for. The Government therefore established this programme, which will result in a substantial increase in capital expenditure on rural water development works.
The State Premiers were invited to submit proposals for consideration under the programme, and in due course we received submissions from all States of the Commonwealth, involving altogether thirty-two projects with an estimated total cost approaching $300m. As a number of questions have been asked from time to time, and various inferences have been made regarding the selection of projects for detailed study by the Commonwealth, I think I should outline briefly what was done in this connection.
In view of the large number of projects submitted it was decided that detailed examination should be limited to the projects which, on the basis of preliminary study, appeared most likely to be found suitable for inclusion in the programme. We were dealing with projects which, although differing in nature and scope, had the common objective of expanding primary production, and we were concerned with the relative merits of these projects from a national point of view. On this basis it was considered reasonable to make our initial selection on the basis of determination of what might be. called a crude rate of return, which is simply the estimated net increment in value of annual production, at full development, expressed as a percentage of the total capital cost. The time factor of course has an important influence on the results of economic studies, but based on the information supplied, it appeared that omission of the consideration of the effects of time was not likely to have any serious effect on the ranking of the projects under consideration.
The so-called short list of projects selected for closer examination, which was announced on 16th May 1968, by my colleague the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) was compiled on the above basis with two minor variations. The King and Mitchell River projects in Victoria, which were very similar in nature and scope, were grouped for comparative studies. The Cressy-Longford scheme in Tasmania, which was not quite next in rank, was selected for farther study in the belief that unless such studies showed up an unexpected anomaly, a small contribution by the Commonwealth would be worth considering in the light of the importance placed by the State on what will represent the first community irrigation scheme in Tasmania. I do not propose to make any further reference to other projects at this stage as they will be dealt with in subsequent legislation Two projects, the Booroorban domestic and stock water supply scheme in New South- Wales and the Mitchell River Dam in Victoria, which were included in the short list, have not been included in the programme. I will make further reference to these when dealing with legislation in connection with the Gwydir River and King River projects respectively.
I have referred above to the crude rate of return. I do not propose to quote the actual figures as their validity as an absolute measure of economic worth is modified by the simplifying assumptions made. As mentioned above, however, my colleague the Minister for National Development believes that the process adopted was a reasonable and satisfactory one in the circumstances. The South Australian Government initially submitted two projects for consideration under the programme and at a later stage submitted a further eight projects but without supporting details. No order of priority was indicated by the State Government. The Tailem Bend to Keith pipeline scheme was selected on the basis outlined above and detailed studies confirmed the general validity of the State submission.
The entire scheme involves the construction of a trunk main from Tailem Bend to Keith over a distance of 86 miles, roughly parallelling that section of the Adelaide to Melbourne railway line, together with branch mains and storage tanks. The scheme is designed to provide a reticulated stock and domestic water supply to an area of approximately 2,800 square miles of farming and grazing country as well as serving thirteen townships en route. The scheme is estimated to cost$14m.
The scheme was commenced in 1963-64 and by June 1968 over$4.2m had been spent on about 50 miles of the trunk main and associated works. At the date of acceptance by the State of the Commonwealth’s offer some $9m remained to be spent. Under the State’s original programme, completion of the works associated with rural reticulation would take many years. However the Commonwealth’s contribution of $6m is expected to be sufficient to accelerate the completion of the rural branch mains and reticulation to property boundaries. Reticulation within boundaries will be the responsibility of individual land holders. It is now anticipated that the entire scheme will be completed by 1973. The main economic activity in the project area is merino wool growing. Some cropping is also undertaken. Further development and even existing production are hampered by inadequate water supplies. There are no surface resources, and underground resources, where available, are often very inferior in quality. A more detailed description of the project is given in the notes that have been compiled for distribution to honourable senators.
I turn now to the Bill itself, which generally follows the pattern of measures granting financial assistance to the States, and which as I have already indicated is substantially similar to the Acts making grants to Queensland and Victoria under the national water programme. The works themselves, in respect of which a Commonwealth grant is payable, are described in the Schedule to the Bill, and provision is made in clause 5 for the Schedule to be varied if this appears desirable in terms of the objectives of the legislation. It will be noted that the Schedule includes all the works involved in the scheme. However, as I have already indicated, the purpose of the Commonwealth grant is to enable early construction of the reticulation through the branch mains to the rural areas. The inclusion of the entire project in the Schedule avoids the necessity for special costing procedures which would be necessary if the grants were applied to a particular phase of the work.
Provision for non-repayable grants is made in clause 4 of the Bill. Clause 6 sets out requirements in connection with the implementation of the project and covers the provision of information requested by the Minister, ministerial approval of the works, and approval by the Minister of contracts in excess of $500,000. Requirements for information in respect of expenditure are set out in clause 7, and the usual provision for the Treasurer to make advance payments and for repayment of overpayments is made in clauses 8 and 9. I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Drury) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is one of four concerned with grants which have recently been announced under the national water resources development programme. The Government has offered a grant of up to $20m under the programme to the State of New South Wales to accelerate the completion of the Copeton Dam on the Gwydir River. The form of this Bill is similar to other legislation related to projects which have been approved for inclusion in the programme.
The New South Wales Government submitted five projects for consideration under the programme. Of these, two were selected for closer examination and were included in the short list of projects announced in May last year. These were the Copeton Dam on the Gwydir River, which is the subject of this Bill, and the Booroorban domestic and stock water supply scheme. The Booroorban scheme involves the diversion from the Coleambally Creek of some of the surface water drainage from the Coleambally Irrigation Area, and reticulation to properties in the district. Further details of this scheme are contained in the explanatory memorandum distributed to honourable senators with the Bill. A detailed examination of the State proposal suggested that the benefits were likely to be significantly lower than had been foreshadowed.
The Copeton Dam is to be an earth and rock fill embankment approximately 370 feet high. It will be constructed in three stages and ultimately will have a capacity of 1.1 million acre feet. The total estimated cost of the dam is about $45m. Further details of this scheme are also contained in the explanatory memorandum distributed with the Bill. The State Government has begun preliminary work on the project. It is expected that the originally proposed timetable for construction of about 10 years will be reduced to 6 years by the Commonwealth grant. The dam will provide an assured water supply in the Gwydir River and a number of effluent streams, from which water will be diverted by private pumping plants. Expanded production under irrigation of a wide range of crops is expected when the scheme commences operation. The crops that could be grown include grain sorghum, maize, hard wheats, soya beans, cotton and fodder sorghum.
I turn now to the Bill itself, which generally follows the pattern of measures granting financial assistance to the States, and which as I have already indicated is substantially similar to previous legislation relating to grants under the national water programme. The works themselves, in respect of which a Commonwealth grant is payable, are described in the Schedule to the Bill, and provision is made in clause 5 for the Schedule to be varied if this appears desirable in terms of the objectives of the legislation. It will be noted that the Schedule includes all the works involved in the project, since the purpose of the Commonwealth grant is to enable accelerated construction of the entire project.
Provision for non-repayable grants is made in clause 4 of the Bill. The pattern of Commonwealth payments is not specified precisely in this clause. The purpose of the whole programme is to assist the States in accelerating the construction of rural water conservation works, and the detailed financial programme for this project is at present under discussion with State authorities. Clause 6 sets out requirements in connection with the implementation of the project and covers the provision of information requested by the Minister, ministerial approval of the works, and approval by the Minister of contracts in excess of $500,000. Requirements for information in respect of expenditure are set out in clause 7, and the usual provision for the Treasurer to make advance payments and for repayment of over-payments is made in clauses 8 and 9. I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is one of four concerned with grants which have recently been announced under the national water resources development programme. The Government has offered a grant of up to $4m under the programme to the State of Victoria to enable the earlier construction of the King River Dam. The form of this Bill is similar to other legislation related to projects which have been approved for inclusion in the programme.
The Victorian Government submitted eight projects for consideration under the programme. Two of these, involving works to reduce salinity in the River Murray, were approved late in 1967 with a total allocation of up to $3.6m and are now in operation. Two other projects, the King River Dam and the Mitchell River Dam, were included in the short list of projects announced last year for closer examination.
The Mitchell River proposal involves construction of a dam to regulate the river flow to stabilise and expand irrigated production of vegetables and dairying by private diversion downstream. Further details of this scheme are contained in the explanatory memorandum distributed to honourable senators with the Bill. The proposals on the Mitchell and King Rivers were similar in many respects and as the Victorian Government had assigned first priority to the latter, and the funds available under the programme were limited, it was considered appropriate to select the King River Dam for inclusion in the programme The King River Dam is located at a point known as ‘Horseshoe Bend’ south of the village of Cheshunt. It will be a rockfill embankment approximately 1.25 ft high and will store 10,000 acre ft of water. The estimated cost of the dam is S4.2m. lt is expected that work will begin in the current financial year and that it will be completed in 4 years. Further details of this scheme are also contained in the explanatory memorandum distributed with the Bill. The dam will1 provide an assured water supply in the King River valley with the subsequent stabilisation and expansion of irrigated tobacco production. Irrigation of pastures for dairying is also expected to expand. Water will be diverted from the river by landholders operating private pump ing plants. The works themselves, in respect of which a Commonwealth grant is payable, are described in the Schedule to the Bill, and provision is made in clause 5 for the Schedule to be varied if this appears desirable in terms of the objectives of the legislation. Provision for non-repayable grants is made in clause 4 of the Bill. Clause 6 sets out requirements in connection with the implementation of the project, and covers the provision of information requested by the Minister, ministerial approval of the works, and approval by the Minister of contracts in excess of $500,000. Requirements for information in respect of expenditure are set out in clause 7, and the usual provision for the Treasurer to make advance payments, and for repayment of over-payments is made in clauses 8 and 9. 1 have pleasure in commending the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Drury) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 28 May (vide page 1718).
– The Committee has agreed to lake the Bill as a whole and an amendment has been moved by the Minister for Works, Senator Wright, seeking to leave out clause 18 and to insert a new clause.
– I ask that clauses 1 to 16 be dealt with first.
Committee has already agreed to take the Bill as a whole.
– I move:
– The Bill has been before the Senate for some 2 or 3 weeks. It has been preceded by 2 or 3 months of earnest consultations with the Public Works Committee and various sections of the Parliament including the Senate. Last night we afforded an opportunity for the Opposition and Senator Byrne to submit proposals for variations of what I had submitted as an amendment to section 18. I have not heard anything from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) or Senator Byrne. I do not think that to ask that the Committee report progress is a responsible attitude to adopt for it would mean that this Bill would have to be held over until the Budget session.
– It could be dealt with tomorrow.
– I do not think that is a practicable proposal. I submit that the only way to get through parliamentary business is to give some thought to the position before a debate comes on and be prepared to arrive at a deliberative decision at that time. I have indicated that I have expended every effort of which I am capable to get this matter resolved and I fear that, unless the opportunity is taken to pass the Bill in the form in which I have submitted it this week the passage of the
Bill may be imperilled. After the experience we had just before 1 o’clock I would ask those extremists who speak about the ultimate rights, so called, of the Senate to become realists and to get working so that we may enact this Bill this week.
– I wonder whether we could overcome this situation. Perhaps if Senator Dittmer-
Order! Under Standing Orders, the question must be put immediately. The question is:
That the Committee report progress and ask leave to sit again.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– 1 am only trying to help in this matter. I think that if Senator Dittmer would explain to the Minister and the Senate the reason why he asks that we report progress-
– He is not allowed to under the Standing Orders.
– Perhaps I may be able to help the Opposition. It is my understanding that the amendments which were distributed about a fortnight ago, through some misfortune, did not get to the boxes of Opposition senators. They have not had a chance to look at them. All that Senator Dittmer is suggesting is that if honourable senators are given an opportunity to look at them they could be prepared to go on with the Bill as soon as they have studied them. Could he seek leave to make a statement to clear the matter up?
– I shall not resist reporting progress, in deference to what you say. If Senator Dittmer had only mentioned this before, we could have avoided all this discussion.
– I rise to order. The honourable senator has sought to express the view of Senator Dittmer.
– I can express my own view.
Senate Murphy - The honourable senator certainly can, in his own inimitable way. The Senate should not be left under any misapprehension as a result of what Senator Branson has said. He has suggested that the Opposition was asking to have this matter stood down only for some short time to enable us to consider it. Amendments of a major character are involved which might affect the situation. Although honourable senators might be advantaged by having the amendments circulated now, they are entitled not only to have time to consider them but to consult together in their various ways, and to consult as a Party. There does not seem to be any great urgency which would require that this procedure be not followed on this occasion. We see no real reason why the Bill should not be stood over until August so that we may have a good look at it, consider it and see just what is involved. We have no real opportunity to do this when Bills are pouring through the place at the rate at which they are.
– What about all the other Bills?
– There are a lot of other Bills. Various people are seeking to prepare amendments and there are certain machinery processes which have to be followed. We are trying to co-operate to expedite the passage of the Bill. Bills are being rushed through so that it is not possible to give serious consideration to all matters. That is the problem that faces the Opposition. I do not think it is fair.
– The Government will not let us be co-operative.
– That is so. To suggest that Senator Dittmer is asking for a few minutes in which to consider the Bill is not correct. That is not sufficient to consider a major matter. We do not know how the Bill will be resolved ultimately. Surely the Senate ought to be given an opportunity to consider how these amendments should be dealt with. The Senate might ultimately welcome them, but why should not the parties be given a chance to consider them and their implications properly? The Bill could be discussed through the normal procedures and the parties would come to a conclusion, which they have not done. I think this is a fair request. I cannot see any tremendous or overwhelming urgency. I do not think the position is clear, enough for the Bill to be passed by the Senate today.
– by leave - As I was identified earlier than any other honourable senator with the proposal which emerges from the proposed legislation, I think I should pass a few comments. As I said last night, many years ago I raised this matter of endowing the Senate with greater power in relation to the operation of the Public Works Committee and in relation to the consideration of its reports. I am gratified to see that this legislation has been introduced. But it has taken very many years since I first raised the matter for it to be introduced, which rather denies the suggestion that now there is a great element of urgency in the consideration of the Bill. Perhaps the delay which has accompanied the presentation of the legislation is a reflection of its importance. If that is so it is of such significance and importance that it should not be determined finally, as Senator Murphy said, in this context and at this very late hour of the sitting of the Parliament. The legislation is an attempt to endow the Senate with greater powers. I am afraid that by being so endowed, the Senate may ultimately be stripped of powers which it now enjoys or that powers may be defined with a circumscription which we may prefer not to have. Nevertheless, it may be possible to endow the Senate with these powers.
I plead for the postponement of this matter because it may still be possible to discover, on reflection and examination, a formula which may enable both purposes to be achieved - that is, to endow the Senate with greater powers of participation and to reconcile the relevant duties and responsibilities of the two chambers. This is not a Government measure in the strict sense of the word. It was presented by the Minister. I do not know whether it emanated from the Government, from the members of the Committee or from the Senate members of the Committee. Certainly it is not part of an urgent legislative programme of the Government which requires speedy passage in order to implement certain lines of policy. Nobody could attribute that characteristic to it.
– It came from the Committee.
– It came from the ^Committee. Thank you, senator. In those ^circumstances obviously the Government cannot regard the Bill as one that commands very great and urgent attention. For all the considerations I have mentioned I think it would be warranted, and it would be extremely wise and prudent of the Senate - if, after all these years, this difficulty is found - at least to postpone consideration of the Bill for another 2 or 3 months to see whether some effective formula can be worked out to resolve all the differences. Surely there would be no great objection to that. There is no element of urgency which is being impeded by this proposal.
Obviously it has taken many years to bring this legislation forward. Surely the suggested postponement would be for the good of the Senate. As Senator Murphy said, on further reflection it might not be impossible to discover an alternate formula and the Senate might decide that this measure is the best available and should be seized upon and given effect to. That might be the outcome. Why deny the opportunity of doing something which time may permit us to accomplish? For these reasons I support the motion, lt is not a motion for the postponement of the matter until a later hour of the day. That would permit only a rather sketchy examination. The full implications of the rather complex amendments can be assessed only over a longer period of time. In the recess honourable senators on both sides of the House - and the Minister himself may consider the matter again and in the August session we may find a solution to this difficult problem which should be resolved in the interests of both Houses.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania- Minister for Works) - by leave - There is no urgency about this Bill. The Bill is not a matter of Government policy. It responds to the request, some 3 years old, of the Public Works Committee. The Committee is composed of members of both Houses and of the two major parties. Last night we agreed to report progress so that the Opposi-tion and the Democratic Labor Party could consider their positions and determine whether they wished to move any amenments. My amendment was distributed when the Bill was circulated on 15th May. There can be no mistake about honourable senators getting a copy of the Bm because a copy was distributed to each honourable senator. I shall not detain the Committee further because the question whether or not the
Committee shall report progress is a matter on which we have to make our own decision and carry our own responsibility. If progress is reported, thereby wrecking the Bill, it is the Opposition’s responsibility. I commit the matter to the vote. We will oppose it and record our opposition in the division.
That the motion (Senator Dittmer’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senators Byrne and Laucke to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
Debate resumed from 28 May (vide page 1725), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) [3.5] - When the Senate adjourned last night I was commenting on the slowness of promotion of female officers of the Public Service particularly to the Second and Third Divisions and I was relating my remarks to the need for a superannuation scheme based on equality of entitlement and benefits proportionate to contributions. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) have admitted freely that dramatic changes have been taking place in the work force, particularly in the female work force, over the past 2 decades, and that the most significant changes have been in the number and percentage of married women who are now in employment. In 1947, 100,000 married women were employed but the latest figures show that this number has increased to over 700,000. In 1947, only 6% of all married women were in employment but the latest figures show that this percentage has increased to over 30% . It is claimed that the rate of employment of married women is increasing by 5% per annum, contrasted with a 2% overall increase in the labour force. A perusal of the reports of the Commissioner of Taxation and the Commonwealth Statistician shows an increasing number of women lodging income tax returns.
I know that there are some people who have an old fashioned prejudice against women. They do not approve of women in the work force at all and they are perfectly entitled to their view, but one finds that facts are against a universal acceptance of this idea. The inescapable fact is that social, economic and technological changes have led and are still leading to a very rapid increase in the number of working wives, not only in Australia but also in other countries. Here in Australia policies of full employment and huge developmental programmes are helping to bring about an alteration of the whole social structure. I have said before in this Senate that better educational opportunities for girls, and longer time at school, colleges of advanced education and universities, are resulting in more girls training for careers into which they return after marriage and again after their families are independent of constant care. The average age of marriage has lowered very perceptably over the last few years. At the same time the marriage rate for girls has increased considerably.
These trends indicate that the percentage of single women in the workforce is declining and will decline, and the percentage of married women will increase correspondingly. Expert studies in relation to this matter go to show that the time may well come when the female work force will be comprised predominantly of married women. I mentioned earlier that there is an economic partnership in marriage, and 1 believe this to be true. The joint income of a husband and wife where both are working is in many cases a necessary income and from the family income benefits flow to the children. Indeed, many children freely acknowledge that they owe a better educational opportunity for later careers to the sacrifice and the work outside the home of a very devoted mother. On the other hand, farmers, professional men and businessmen are able, through family partnership arrangements, to obtain legitimately substantial benefits in taxation and succession duties. This is just another example of economic partnership in marriage.
I have placed my views in relation to the superannuation of married women in the Public Service before the Treasurer and I have his assurance that the dependency qualification will be looked at in conjunction with an investigation of the contribution rates applicable to female contributors to the Fund. It has been stated that the contributions presently being paid by females are a little lower than those paid by males, but from my own study of the situation I believe that any difference in proportion to salary is only fractional. However, I am prepared to accept the proposition that even a fractional difference is a difference and that it warrants attention.
The Treasurer has informed me that one reason for the difference in rates is that the female rates were not adjusted in 1966 to provide for the children’s and widowers’ benefits then added to the female contri butor’s scale of benefits. He went on to say:
You may recall the Parliament being informed at that time of the advice to the Government by the Commonwealth Actuary that it would not be possible to determine the adequacy or otherwise of the existing female contribution rates until he -
That is the Actuary - had some knowledge of the numbers of married women who would become contributors and of the experience of this group as regards invalidity, mortality, etc. The Government accepted the Actuary’s recommendation that the existing rates should continue to apply for the time being and be reviewed by him in conjunction with the next quinquennial investigation of the Superannuation Fund as at 30th June 1967. 1 ask Senator Wright, who is in charge of the Bill in the Senate, when the previous quinquennial investigation was made. I should be pleased to know also why the Government which had been aware of the situation for years and was forecasting announcements for over 12 months, as I said last night, did not seek to have the information at hand when the legislation was introduced into the House. I see that Senator Wright is smiting. He has a recollection of the episode.
Yes. 1 would have thought that before introducing the legislation the Government, having regard to the agitation which preceded the legislation, at least would have endeavoured to ascertain the contingent liability of all additions to the scale of benefits and have directed its attention to the dependency qualifications. However, the Treasurer has announced that the quinquennial investigation of the Fund as at 30th June 1967 should be completed during the first half of next year. Although that is a long time away, he has at least given the undertaking. In his letter to me he went on to say:
In the light of your approach to me, I will arrange for the Commonwealth Actuary to report at that time on the female contribution rates in the event of there not being a dependency qualification attached to the payment of widowers’ pensions.
He raised the question that by reason of the higher life expectancy of women there was a possibility that the contribution rates for female contributors would need to be higher than those applying to male contributors if all benefits were equalised. In my opinion the proposition as to equalisation is slightly contradictory. If women live longer than do men they may draw retirement pensions for themselves for a longer period but the pensions of widowers and children consequent upon the death of the female contributor would be lower. So I do not think that is altogether a valid argument. However, I accept the Treasurer’s word that the matter will be investigated and I hope that he will see that the changes are made.
The Bill is technically a money Bill and any delay in its passage would defer benefits conferred under it. It is unfortunate that wherever anomalies and inconsistencies exist someone will suffer before the wrongs or injustices are righted. I would have liked to be able to push this matter harder at this time, but I shall be watching it and I shall be relying on the Treasurer’s word to give it the examination that I think it deserves. I am sure that I speak for all who contribute to a superannuation fund when I say that no-one wishes to have favoured treatment. However, all contributors resent the existence of senseless and irritating exclusions and anomalies, and I hope that a further examination of the Superannuation Act and the provisions that were added in 1966 to provide superannuation for married women will be investigated closely. I look forward to some change in the not too distant future. I hope that every married women in the Public Service will add her voice to mine. I support the Bill.
– This Bill makes a number of amendments to the supernnuation arrangements of Commonwealth public servants who contribute to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. Quite a number of the proposed amendments are fairly complex. Firstly, let me say that the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund is the largest superannuation scheme in Australia. It commenced in 1923 with about 27,000 contributors, and by June last year the number of contributors to and beneficiaries of the Fund had increased to about 176,000. I understand that the assets of the Fund are now of the order of $3 50m.
The Bill deals with a substantial and significant section of Australian workers and with a fairly substantial sum of money. Although the proposed amendments relate directly at this stage to officers receiving a salary above $6,630 a year, I suppose it is fair to say that sooner or later all public servants who are contributors to the Fund and are at present receiving a salary below that incremental salary range hope at some time in the future during their careers at least to reach this salary range or to go above it. So, indirectly, all contributors to the Fund are affected by the terms of the legislation. This Bill will amend the Superannuation Act by providing for noncontributory units in the Superannuation Fund is what is called a benefit purchase fund. These units are based on a contributor’s age on entering the Service and the contributions are based on the officer’s salary range which may vary from time to time during the course of his career. The basic value of a unit of superannuation in the Fund when it becomes payable is $91 a year, that is, each unit is worth $1.75 a week of which the employer contributes five-sevenths which is $65 a year, and the employee contributes two-sevenths, which is $26 a year.
It has been found among officers in the higher grades of the Commonwealth Public Service that the inflationary spiral that has taken place over the years since this Government has been in office has been such that when these officers have reached a certain salary level by way of promotion and have had to take out additional superannuation units in the Fund, quite often because of their age the cost of purchasing an additional unit has been found to be more than, or as much as, the increase that has been received in salary. A large number of officers have forgone their right to take out additional units because of the cost involved. For some time Public Service associations have been urging the Government to introduce non-contributory units so that when an officer retires he will receive the $65 a year, which is the Government’s contribution to the unit, without his contributing the two-sevenths or $26 a year.
The proposed amendments to the Act provide for non-contributory benefits. In the Superannuation Act as it now stands pension units of $1.75 a week are composed of two parts, 50c from the Fund representing the contribution made by the employee and §1.25 which has been contributed by the employer. The Act provides that unless an employee contributes for each unit of 50c he shall forfeit the associated $1.25 which is payable by the employer. During the course of his second reading speech on this Bill the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) admitted that in a number of cases this led to some hardship where units had been rejected by officers because of the high cost of contributions to the Fund to attract the 50c. The amendments contained in the Bill set out to correct that position. They provide that as an employee becomes entitled to take up fresh units he will have the right to elect to adopt one of two alternatives. He can either contribute to the Fund to attract the 50c benefit, in which case he automatically qualifies for the $1 .25, or, as I see it, he can elect not to contribute for the 50c portion of the Fund and accept only the $1.25 portion.
Should he later retire after attaining the age of 60 years but before he reaches 65 years, his entitlement to the $1.25 contributed by the employer is reduced in approximate proportion to his length of service from the date on which he became entitled to contribute, that is, the period from the date on which he became entitled to take up the additional units until the time that he retired, over the period from the time at which he became entitled to contribute until he would have reached the age of 65 years. In other words, if the officer takes up the non-contributory units at the age of 50 years and retires at age 62, instead of at age 65, he becomes entitled to twelvefifteenths of the non-contributory value, that is, $1.25, of each unit. But there have been and there are a great number of cases where older employees have rejected units in past years. The amendment provides that they can now elect to take up the $1.25 portion of those rejected units. The election will have effect, according to the Bill, only from the date of assent to the amendment. I suggest that it is obvious, therefore, that an employee who is now aged 61 years and takes up the $1.25 portion of a unit to which he might have become entitled under these new conditions at age 50 and who subsequently retires at age 62 rather than at age 65 will receive only one-fourth of the $1.25 and not the twelve-fifteenths of the $1.25. I suggest that this is an anomalous situation, that it is inadequate and unneces sary, especially when the value of assets of the Fund is of the order of $350m. It would appear that this amendment will create a transition period in regard to those who have been subjected to the restrictions which the Bill aims to remove and will leave them without the benefit which it is now proposed to give to some.
– The non-contributory pension is in no sense paid out of the Fund.
– I appreciate that, but there are great investments from the Fund. Not long ago, as a result of a quinquennial investigation, surpluses from the Fund were distributed. I suggest that the Government should look at the anomalous situation that 1 have instanced in which an officer who could have taken out benefits at age 50, but was unable to do so because of the high cost of the units, and then decides to buy his way out of the Fund at age 62 instead of age 65, receives a lower proportion of the unit than he would have received if he had been able to buy into the contributory portion of the Fund at age 50. 1 ask the Government to consider this situation and to provide that elections which are made now to take up previously rejected units shall be effective from the date when the original rejection was made by the officer who could not afford the units at that time. Such a proposal would have the effect of putting employees who are in this transition period on an equal basis with the large majority of employees who are not in this situation.
– How would we ascertain whether he could afford the units at the time?
– Having regard to the amount that it would have cost to buy into the Fund on a contributory basis, comparing that with the amount that he received at the time as an increase in salary and taking into account his contributions to the Fund and his taxation, I think it would become quite obvious whether he would have been able to afford to contribute when he was eligible to do so. Let me cite two examples. Consider the case of an officer with 45 years service who becomes entitled to take additional units immediately before the Bill receives royal assent. If he elects to take the additional units as noncontributory units, reaches 65 years of age a few days later and then retires, apparently he would become entitled to the full $1.25 unit without making any contribution. But consider then the situation of an officer with 40 years service who becomes entitled to take additional units immediately after the Bill receives royal assent. If he elects to take the additional units as noncontributory units, turns 60 years of age a few days later and retires he is apparently not entitled to anything in respect of the non-contributory units. But by paying up five-sevenths of the amount he would have to pay for a contributory pension at age 65 he may receive a pension of $1.25 a week for each unit. I am told that such a person could have achieved the same result by taking the unit at age 65 and then upon retirement at age 60 paying up in accordance with paragraph 94e of the superannuation handbook. It would appear in those circumstances that while an officer retiring at 65 receives the full benefit of the non-contributory units, an officer retiring at 60 with 40 years service may receive no benefit at all.
The Bill also provides for concessions to employees who are contributing at present but makes no mention of similar or corresponding concessions being extended to already retired officers. Rhetorically I ask: What is proposed for and what will be the position of presently retired officers in relation to the concessions being granted under the Bill? In a great number of instances these officers now find that because of the superannuation benefits they are receiving from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund they are just slightly above and out of the grouping arrangements of the means test and are thereby deprived of a part pension and the fringe benefits that go with a part pension. These people are in a somewhat invidious position, particularly those who have retired within, say, the last 5 years. I ask: What would have been their position had they been able to take up the additional superannuation units that those whom this legislation proposes to help will be able to take up?
Those are basically the comments I want to make on this Bill. But I take advantage of the debate to say that Australians as a whole are now making much better provision for their years of retirement than previously. However, there is still a long way to go so far as the future retirement of workers is concerned. There has been a great growth in the number of superannuation and pension funds in industry throughout Australia. Quite apart from the public services, about one-quarter of the males employed in private industry today are covered by these funds. According to the Commonwealth ‘Year Book’, the number has risen from 267,000 in 1951 to about 650,000 today. In addition, some 650,000 public servants - Commonwealth, State and local government officers - are also covered by pension funds. About 40,000 companies and firms have retirement plans, of which 60% are managed by life companies, 20% by trustees and 20% are combined investment and life assurance schemes. The total contribution to life assurance and superannuation funds by government bodies and private industry now exceeds $800m a year. I am sure that everyone will agree that that is quite a substantial amount.
Life assurance societies and superannuation funds earn $3 50m a year in interest and dividends on investments made with the moneys of policy holders and members of pension funds. After meeting administrative costs, claims on policies and retirement benefits and pensions the assurance societies and pension funds are left with about $600m a year to invest on behalf of their members in government securities, company shares, debentures, real estate and so on. One-third of all the government bonds and company shares and debentures sold each year are bought by the pension funds and life companies. The life companies and pension funds are also among the biggest shareholders in most large Australian public companies. So it will be seen from these figures that the investments are lucrative, the funds are very solvent and a great number of employees are making provision for their retirement by way of superannuation.
Surely, as the Commonwealth and State public service associations have been suggesting, the stage has been reached whereby the Government has to give detailed consideration to a further easing of the means test. Surely this must be tied in with the establishment of a national superannuation fund. A Western Australian organisation has stated that the fringe benefits attached to the age pension could amount to as much as $7 a week. This takes into account medical, dental and hospital attention, pharmaceutical benefits, transport concessions and a reduction in municipal rates, television licences and so on. I point these things out to indicate that to some degree those who contribute to a superannuation fund, whilst providing for their retirement during the period of their working life and whilst contributing by way of taxation to others who are not so fortunate and who will have to receive an age pension in their later life, are in some way denying themselves a great deal of the fringe benefits available to those in receipt of the age pension.
T suggest that these are matters that the Government must look at in any consideration of superannuation schemes generally. I make these comments in the hope that something will be done in the near future to alleviate the problems of a large number of retirees who, because of their superannuation income, are denied the opportunity of receiving the normal pension or a part thereof and are thereby deprived of obtaining the fringe benefits that normally accrue to people who are in receipt of a pension regardless of whether it is a full or part pension. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill, but I would point out that there appear to be certain anomalies which we on this side of the chamber and the officers of the public service associations generally hope will be corrected in any future amendments to the legislation.
– in reply- Senator McClelland has travelled somewhat outside of the scope of the Bill, but I found his observations to be interesting. However, I want to return to the Bill itself. The first thing to which I wish to refer is Senator Bishop’s remark regarding retrospectivity. In that respect I point out that the normal practice is for legislation extending benefits not to operate retrospectively. Because of the nature of the non-contributory arrangement and in particular the tests the contributor has to pass to be eligible for the new benefits, it would be very difficult indeed to establish a sound and equitable basis for retrospective application of this legislation.
Senator Bishop’s contribution to the debate is recorded at page 1720 of Hansard. I refer to the figures he gave for contributions to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund during 1967-68. He said that the Commonwealth’s contribution to the Fund during that period was $27. 6m and the amount paid by the contributors was $2 8. 4m. From that a casual reader would gain the impression that the Commonwealth was rather niggardly and the contributors were really paying more than the Commonwealth. It should be understood that contributors paid S28.4m, not toward their present current pensions, but as a contribution to a fund that provides for their future benefits. The payment by the Commonwealth stated by Senator Bishop to be $27.6m was a payment of current accrued and accruing benefits payable that year. That figure should be compared with the total payment of $34.7m as pensions for that year. An illustration of how unfair is any implication that the contributions of the Commonwealth were niggardly is that out of the sum of $34.7m paid in 1967-68 for current pensions, the Fund paid $7.2m or approximately 20% and the Commonwealth paid S27.5m, or about 80%.
I turn now to examine more closely the provisions of the Bill itself. As I understand the Bill, it introduces a completely new principle. In a scheme for superannuation based upon matched contributions, one from the employer and one from the employee, by this Bill for the first time we step into the field of non-contributory pensions. Of course, I am speaking only of the Commonwealth Public Service and not of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. The load of complications in referring even to the Commonwealth Public Service defies my understanding, so I will not take on board any load from the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. In having regard to the non-contributory pensions being initiated in this Bill, we should remind ourselves that the Commonwealth, seeing that difficulty was experienced on the part of contributors in taking up units of superannuation to which they were entitled, took the view that notwithstanding a failure of a contributor to make his two-sevenths contribution to the unit, it should provide for the payment of the five-sevenths contribution to the unit. The difficulty had been experienced, not in high ranges of salary alone but in all ranges of salaries, but particularly, as I said in my second reading speech, in the lower range of salaries.
I remind honourable senators that three tests are to be applied before a contributor becomes eligible for the non-contributory unit. I will refer to them briefly. The first test is that the number of units for which he is contributing must be not less than one half of his full unit entitlement as defined in the Bill; that is to say he should be making a current contribution of not less than half of his entitlement. The second test is that if he were to contribute for a unit at the time when he seeks to take it up as a non-contributory unit, his total fortnightly contribution rate should be in excess of 7i% of his salary for superannuation purposes. The third test is that at the time the officer makes the election to take up a unit on a non-contributory basis the number of units for which he is contributing must be not less than what would be his full entitlement when he first became a contributor to the Fund. I thought it wise to remind honourable senators that a noncontributory pension is to be afforded only when those three tests are satisfied.
To illustrate the extent to which difficulty was experienced by officers I have had prepared a statement showing the degrees of difficulty experienced. I explain it to the Senate in this way: Because each level of unit entitlement applies on the basis of intervals of salary of $130 below the taper point of $6,630, and on the basis of intervals’ of $228 above the taper point a question is involved, which is not capable of precise answer, as to when contributions for an additional unit are likely to exceed the salary increase that attracted the additional unit. Depending on where the present salary falls within an interval, so a salary increase smaller or greater than the intervals of $130 and $228 can attract an additional unit. For instance, in one case an increase of $1 a year may attract an additional unit and in another case an increase of $259 a year or an increase of $455 a year may also attract only one additional unit. In those examples I am using the interval of $130 in one case and the interval of $228 in the other. Assuming that in each case the salary increase necessary to attract another unit is the normal salary interval of $130, the rates of contribution for one unit set out in the table I have had prepared exceed $130 per annum. With the concurrence of honourable senator^ I incorporate the table in Hansard.
Senator Bishop took up the argument advanced by the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations objecting to the fact that all the non-contributory units are age 65 units. As explained in the second reading speech, the Government took the view that they must all be age 65 units to prevent inequity or unfairness accruing to contributors who had taken up contributory units and would become entitled to them at age 60. For the sake of accuracy I put it to the Committee in this way: As explained in the second reading speech, all non-contributory units will be age 65 units. The standard value of a $65 a year unit will be payable on retirement at age 65. This will be so even though all the officers’ contributory units have been taken up on the basis of retirement at age 60. To allow the age 60 contributor the right to take up non-contributory units at age 60 would give rise to anomalies and unfair situations. Perhaps the most serious of them would be that the non-contributory age 60 unit would have a much higher value at age 60 than a contributory age 65 unit would have at retirement at age 60. The Government does not consider that such a situation could be justified.
The value of an age 65 contributory unit at age 60 varies according to the age at which the contributions commenced. The earlier the contributions commence the greater the value at age 60. For example, an age 65 contributory unit taken up at age 40 is worth $56 per annum approximately in pension on retirement at age 60. If taken up at age 49 the value is approximately $48 per annum and if taken up on a person’s 59th birthday it is approximately $10 per annum. In each case the value of these contributory units would be considerably less than the value of an age 60 noncontributory unit if the full Commonwealth supplement of $65 per annum were paid. The value proposed by the High Council of $46 per annum approximately would exceed the value at age 60 of all age 65 contributory units taken up at age 51 or upwards.
With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a table explaining the effect of the reduction of tapering. I do so because this is dealt with in the second part of the Bill.
The Bill introduces non-contributory units in its first part, as I explained, and then provides for a reduction of the tapering, as the current language expresses it. Really, this means that it provides for an increased payment to higher salaried officers; those officers whose annual salary exceeds $6,630 per annum. It will enable them to receive not approximately 50% of the pension, as is the case at present, but various percentages rising from 50% to approximately 60% of their salary as their superannuation payment. To show that more clearly I wil! refer to the highest grade of salaried officer receiving $22,750 per annum. Under the present arrangements, if he took out all his entitlement he would have a pension of $11,011 per annum. If he takes up all his entitlement under the new system he will have a pension of $13,559.
The only other thing I wish to say relates to the contribution by Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood. It is now clear, I hope, that the provisions of the Bill dealing with noncontributory units apply to all ranges of salary. The provision for the reduction of tapering of entitlements applies to all salaries over $6,630 per annum. Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood referred to an announcement made just before the last election. Government members had the. risky experience of making an announcement about bringing married women into the Public Service. The honourable senator thought that it was an adventure akin to a strip tease or one of veiled innuendo. She said that the heralding of the announcement was more appropriate to a performer discarding veils at a Kings Cross strip tease. Well, that is a very interesting spectacle to contemplate when we are in the midst of a superannuation debate on the closing day of a Senate session. It is good to have the spirit revived by Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood’s reference. The fact is, for what reason I do not know - whether because of the kicks or kisses of their husbands, or nature - that the expectancy of life that statisticians attribute to women in Australia gives them a greater life span than you or I, Mr Deputy President.
If these married women are to bring in, as potential beneficiaries of the Fund, not only their children but their widowers, the potential contribution of those dependants is a matter which will make an impact upon the fund contributed to by contributors to date. As in all things of this nature, contributions have an actuarial relationship with the benefits to be paid out of the Fund. So, as Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood reminded us, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has told us that next year, when the next actuarial assessment of the Fund is to be made, contributions and benefits appropriate to these new members of the Public Service will be taken into account. I have no doubt that proper consideration will be given to the arguments she has advanced to us. With those comments I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 22nd May (vide page 1488), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate has before it the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Bill. [Quorum formed.] The Parliament is being asked to approve legislation to give guarantees on behalf of the Commonwealth in respect of certain loans made to independent schools in the Territories in connection with Commonwealth assistance in meeting the capital and part of the interest costs of constructing independent primary and secondary school’s. An ‘independent school’ is defined as:
. a school at which students are given education at a primary or secondary level or both, not being a school -
So, it is plain that the Bill refers to both primary and secondary schools. The Bill is not opposed by the Opposition. We regard it and recognise it as a buttressing of the system, which has been in operation for some time, firstly reimbursing part of the interest on loans raised by these school authorities. That is known as the interest subsidy scheme. Secondly since November 1965 there has been in operation a scheme of assistance under which schools falling within the definition of ‘independent school’ in this Bill receive from the Commonwealth repayments of the amount of loans for approved projects by equal annual instalments over periods of up to 20 years.
What is sought by this Bill is a further measure of assistance under which loans approved by the Minister for Education and Science may be guaranteed by the Commonwealth, so facilitating the raising of funds by these institutions. Some substantial amounts of money have been involved and will continue to be involved under the programme that is contemplated for the future. The attitude of the Opposition, as I have said, is that this is the reinforcement of a system that has been in operation for some time. We do not intend to oppose the legislation. I propose to make some remarks on some of its implications in the course of this speech.
There is one matter that troubles me. I think it is worth noting. In the speech made in another place by the Minister of Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 22nd April1 this year he said:
I emphasise that this legislation is expected to assist the independent school authorities to obtain additional loan funds and that the Government is not seeking to expand its financial commitments under the capital aid scheme.
I draw attention particularly to the words:
For some curious reason, when the Bill comes to the Senate and is introduced by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Minister for Education and Science, his speech omits that sentence. I am not suggesting that there is anything sinister about that; but I would like some explanation cf whether this curious omission of a relevant and important sentence in the speech made by the Minister for Education and Science in introducing the Bill in another place has some significance. Does it mean that that statement in the speech of the Minister for Education and Science is not accurate?
– I will explain that.
– I am looking for an explanation. I think Senator Wright would acknowledge that the sentence in his colleague’s speech was an important one and that one might be pardoned for acting on the assumption that it was something that his colleague wanted to emphasise. Indeed, he used the words T emphasise’. Then, when the Bill comes to the Senate, the Minister for Works, who is in charge of it here, uses different language. Maybe it adds up to the same thing, but I wonder whether it does.
As I said, the Opposition does not oppose the Bill. But I suggest that the institution and extension of this scheme of assistance leave a number of problems in the education field unsolved and give rise to a number of questions to which both the Australian Parliament and the Australian people will have to address themselves at some stage. The Bill does not enunciate the principles upon which the Commonwealth pays either the principal over periods up to 20 years or the interest or part of it, and now offers to make these guarantees. No principle of need is spelt out. There are no priorities as between schools that cater for the children of parents who cannot afford the cost of education and those that cater for the children of parents who can afford the cost of private education. There is nothing by way of compensatory measures for the children of the poorer private schools.
I have said on other occasions - I say it again now - that it has always seemed to me that, when we are dealing with the need to expand educational opportunity, some special attention has to be given to people in special need. It is important that public funds are spent wisely and not on institutions or people who, in any event, would have been able to afford what is offered. I am not alleging that in this case; I am simply saying that the Bill does not distinguish between schools on any principle of need; that is to say, it does not distinguish between different kinds of private schools.
The second observation I make is that the commitment involved in the Bill is openended in that no fixed or maximum sum is budgeted for or, at any rate, referred to in the legislation itself. So, one can assume that as projects are put up for the
Minister’s approval he will adopt his own yardstick for deciding whether he is prepared to give the approval. Subject to the necessary appropriation at some stage, there is no limit beyond which he cannot go. No limit of $3m, $5m or any other sum is envisaged in the Bill. It is important that we recognise that.
Then, I believe that it is relevant to know the Government’s thinking on the extent to which this assistance should or should not be made available to non-government schools in the States. I am seeking to extract some kind of principle on which the Government believes itself to be acting in this legislation. What is the Government’s intention? Is it intended that some such scheme as this should be operating in nongovernment schools in all the States as well as in the Territories eventually? How is the Government proceeding philosophically in these matters?
That still leaves the question of the Government schools both in the Territories and in the States. As far as one can observe, there is good reason to believe that schools in the Australian Capital Territory, whether government or private, are very much better off than schools in the States. From what I have seen of them, they are models and, as a citizen and parent, one could only wish that this kind of opportunity were open to children all over Australia in all sorts of schools. I think that at some stage we have to face up to the question of what the community as a whole is prepared to do about education. On the many occasions when I and my colleagues have stood in the Senate and in another place and pleaded for the Government to think big about education, to expand dramatically the proportion of the national income that is being spent on education, to think in terms of providing opportunities and providing the best for a system that is constantly in need of renewal, and of providing for teachers who are constantly in need of having their store of knowledge and inspiration refreshed, we have been criticised for going too fast and for wanting to do it on a grand scale. The Government has always protested that it is doing a magnificent job for education. I doubt that because I believe - I have always believed it - that when we think in terms of education we have to keep thinking of an age of plenty and not an age of scarcity of funds for education.
I think the Government could run into trouble when it tries to do things piecemeal. On previous occasions, both in this Senate and in another place, the Opposition has argued for a national inquiry so that attention might be given to the overall position and to where we are going, and so that the needs in both government and nongovernment schools can be assessed. This has been part of the Labor Party’s policy over the years. It is no good just getting interested in education when the problem of assistance to non-government schools - or independent schools, as they are called in this Bill - arises. The important thing is to be interested in education for all sectors.
These are the challenges to which the community has to find answers. It seems to me that the important questions are: How much are we to spend on education overall in the long run in each sector? On what principle should that money be spent? It is of no good merely treating this kind of problem as an attempt to get votes, as an election gimmick, or anything of that sort. When Commonwealth assistance to nongovernment schools was first expanded to schools other than those in the Australian Capital Territory in 1963 which was an election year, it was a political, gimmick. For my part, I think that is a wrong approach, and the Labor Party thinks it is a wrong approach to education. What we do we have to do on sound educational and social principles, not just in order to try to win a few votes at election time. That is the main principle that I think we have to work by.
If we are going to spend substantial sums in the private sector, is it to be at the expense of the three-quarters of the population who go to State schools? If we are going to attempt to meet the needs of all students in all schools, then obviously very large sums of money are going to be involved. If assistance is to be given to nongovernment schools in the States on the same generous basis as it is given to these schools in Canberra, and if government schools in the States are to receive equally open handed treatment, then obviously the sums involved might be astronomical. That is why we have been at pains to press for a national inquiry which will enable the whole position to be looked at.
Everybody knows what the attitude of the Government and the Democratic Labor Party has been to that. They have rejected the proposal for an inquiry again and again and again. When recently I moved in the Senate for the appointment of a select committee of the Senate, in default of the Government appointing its own national committee of inquiry, not only did the Government, joined by members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, reject the proposal, but they had the effrontary to tack on to the rejection a statement about aid to independent schools. Ever since then they have been running around the country complaining that the Labor Party voted against a motion which was a direct negative of the motion that we put forward in the Senate. Do not ever tell me that this approach to educational problems is sound in principle. The chickens are now coming home to roost. Sooner or later, someone is going to ask: ‘Are we going to spend an extra S200m or $300m a year? What are we going to spend it on? Are we going to spend it on the students or the schools? Are we going to spend it on the private sector or the public sector, or, more probably, on both?’ Can anybody on the Government side, or can any member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party honestly say that he knows the answers to those questions? If senators on the Government side of the chamber and Democratic Labor Party senators had been prepared to support us in asking for an inquiry we could all be sailing along together now. We could all now be saying: ‘Let us look at the needs of Australian education’. For my part, I do not want to live in any age of scarcity in the educational world. I want to see Australian expenditure on education stepped up so that we are on a par with comparable advanced countries, so that we do not fall behind Venezuela and Morocco, so that we may keep ahead of countries like Turkey in the proportion of the gross national product we spend on education. As an Australian, I resent knowing that we fall short of the efforts of countries which are much less fortunately circumstanced than we are.
Supporters of the Government and Democratic Labor Party senators should be prepared to say: ‘We want to look at the overall needs of Australia’s education and try to assess where the citizens’ money can best be spent and how it can best help the students and the parents of students who are worse off financially - who come from an economically or socially deprived background and who live in depressed areas.’ They should be prepared to say that the Commonwealth has a role to play in lubricating the system, in providing the finance for it and that the finance ought to be provided upon principles that everybody in the community can agree upon. Then we shall get somewhere with the education system in Australia. This business of trying to push proper discussion of education into the background in favour of gimmicky appeals and because of pressures which are generated in the community which have some unfortunate tendencies about them-
– What are the unfortunate tendencies?
– I think that what you did on the last occasion here was pretty close to being disgraceful.
– In what way are you suggesting that I acted disgracefully.
– This is not a personal attack, but you must bear your full share of responsibility for it. What you did on the first occasion was simply to reject my motion for the appointment of a select committee. Senator Prowse then moved an amendment. He dribbled it out at the end of a lengthy speech in which he made very little mention of independent schools. He read the amendment and I had to ask him whether he was moving it on behalf of the Government. It was collusion between the Government and the Democratic Labor Party to try to push the Labor Party into voting against a motion which was expressed in very wide terms, which would not stand too much examination and which was tacked on to a motion rejecting the very select committee which we had sought. We refused to be a party to turning that debate into a farce, and we never will turn a debate on matters of education into a farce. The welfare of our children is much too important.
– Tell the truth; the honourable senator is opposed to any aid for independent schools.
– I have never said that. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill.
Senator Gair would like to be able to say that we did oppose this Bill. I am asking relevant questions; I am not attacking this Bill. I thought I made that perfectly clear. I think the community has a responsibility to ask these questions.
– The Government has not provided any answers.
– The Government has not provided money; it has provided guarantees.
– How does the honourable senator vote on the Victorian executive?
– Senator Gair will not tell me how he votes on his executive. I think he has a secret executive, too. There is plenty of secrecy about his operations. I do not intend to insult individuals.
– They are insulting the honourable senator.
– I do not mind being insulted, even by experts. We do not oppose the legislation. That ought to be clear and ought to be put out of the way. Surely no honourable senator would doubt that my questions are important and should be considered by everybody, both Parliament and the people, in the future. Somebody ought to be prepared to say: T am willing to pay an extra 10c in the $1 for an education tax’ or: ‘We ought to lift our national income over a period of years so that the amount spent on education is comparable to the amount spent in other countries’. I do not advocate a rise of 10c in the $1; I make that clear. I simply say that thinking big involves the expenditure of large sums of money sooner or later. The community would be healthier if it could develop a consensus as to the priorities in relation to institutions and children upon which that money could be spent. Surely anything I have said should not arouse the ire of anybody, whether he agrees or does not agree with me. It is simply a statement on far reaching questions to which the community, in the end, has to find the answers. I indicate, as I did at the beginning of my speech, that the Opposition does not oppose this legislation.
– This Bill remedies a situation of crisis and I take some credit for having been the first member of Parliament to draw attention to it more than 12 months ago. On that occasion in the Senate I drew attention to the fact that those associated with independent schools, particularly in Canberra, were finding it impossible to proceed with the programme of development which was necessary for them. We all know that when it was first decided to establish a national capital certain citizens of the Commonwealth were told that it was their duty to come here. They were assured that the same standard of education would be available for their children as was available in the States from which they came. Therefore the Government pledged itself to the dual system of education - government schools and independent schools. But that dual system of education could not develop in circumstances in which the independent schools found any form of development had become impossible. That was (he case more than 12 months ago.
A few years ago the Government thought it might remedy the situation by paying the interest on loans obtained by independent schools, but that proved insufficient. The result was that during the last 2 years the independent school authorities found it impossible to obtain loan money. The banking and similar institutions in this country did not necessarily think the churches were poor risks. I do not think any bank has had to foreclose on a loan raised by a Catholic school or by an independent school. The position was that at that stage of development in this country the banking and similar institutions found they were able to lend money more profitably in other directions. More than 12 months ago I drew attention to the fact that the whole programme of development for the Catholic independent schools in Canberra had to be almost suspended and that, if the Government intended to continue with the dual system, it would have to do something about the situation.
This Bill reveals what the Government has done. I say straight out that the Bill is a palliative; it is in no way a remedy for a situation which I regard as most unjust. What does it mean? It means that the Government says to a number of citizens: We will guarantee loan money for you to build schools in which your children will be educated but. as a government, we will allow you to pay the costs. We will allow you to pay for the schools for your children. We will pay for the schools for the children of others’. I repeat that this Bill is a palliative; it is not a remedy for a serious injustice.
– Does the honourable senator think that is what the Commonwealth must do eventually?
– I see nothing wrong in the Commonwealth treating all children the same. In my view - and this is the view of the members of my party - ultimately the stage will be reached where the Government will pay for each child in an independent school in the same way that it pays for each child in a government school. There is much talk at present - and Senator Cohen has referred to it - of one political party bidding against another for the support of parents whose children attend independent schools. There are suggestions that governments are being pressured to do this and to do that. Politics should be removed from education. A child in an independent school should be allotted the same sum that is allowed for the child in a State school. In that way politics are removed from education. There is no need for bidding, there is no suggestion of blackmail and education is put upon a basis that ought to be acceptable to every fairminded Australian. I am glad that the Government has taken the action that it has, but it is taking advantage - even though it is doing something for these people whose children attend independent schools - of the fact that many citizens in the community, for reasons of conscience, think they should establish their own schools where their children can receive the form of education desired. As I said before, the Government is taking advantage of them because if those parents were not prepared, for reasons of conscience, to do this the Government would have to meet the full cost of education.
I can never understand the people who go to the Press and try to suggest that, if assistance is given to independent schools, in some way the children attending State schools are deprived of something. If the parents whose children attend independent schools decided to close down those schools then the children attending State schools would be deprived of something because the Government would have to pay for the cost of the schooling of all children in the community. The cost would be so tremendous and the lack of teachers would become so serious that the education system in this country would break down. I therefore think that governments and citizens generally should be very grateful to the parents of children in independent schools because if they were not prepared to make the sacrifices that they do make the whole of the State education system in this country would break clown as a result of the tremendous need for money and the lack of teachers and other deficiencies that would ensue. I do not want to labour this point, lt has been talked over often before and I suppose it will be talked over again, I have set out the principles in which T believe and I want only to refer to the final remarks of Senator Cohen.
Senator Cohen is labouring under a sense of grievance. He said that he had moved for an inquiry into education and that this was the proper way to deal with this question. He rebuked the Australian Democratic Labor Party because we voted against his motion. Of course, we voted against his motion. Moving for an inquiry, particularly into a subject which is very vast in its implications, is the favourite method of postponing action. While Senator Cohen may not have meant to postpone action, let me inform him that an inquiry into something so vast as our whole system of education would take years. I certainly would not regard that as any form of remedy for the situation of independent schools, which is one of crisis. My attitude is that if anything was to be done it needed to be done now and we should not bc in the situation of holding everything up for a couple of years while we waited on the completion of an inquiry. As we informed Senator Cohen and as Senator Cohen knew, a decision had been made only a week or so before by the State Ministers of Education and the Commonwealth Minister in collaboration that they were to have an extensive inquiry into the education systems of this country. The people who would be called before that inquiry to answer questions would be the same ones as would be called before a parliamentary inquiry. We would have merely duplicated the inquiry and we would have held up action, and in my belief it is time now to do things.
I was at a meeting the other night in Melbourne at the Moorabbin Town Hall at which there were about 4,500 people representing a number of denominations which conduct independent schools. There were representatives from Catholic schools, from Anglican and other religious bodies, and from Mount Scopus College which is particularly interested in this question. 1 do not think they left any doubt that the situation of their schools at the moment is one of crisis. It is not a question of whether they can carry on with a little bit of assistance. The question that they have to face in the very near future is whether they can continue to exist at all. Therefore the Government is in the position that it either gives them substantial assistance to carry on or that they will, in many cases, be forced to vacate the field and the Government will be involved in infinitely greater expense. I think that what the Government is doing here is a pretty good economic proposition. While I suppose it is a good thing that this is being done, it is only a palliative. What the Government is really doing is relying on the fact that there arc citizens who for conscientious reasons believe that these schools should exist for their children and the Government is allowing them to bear a burden which in my view ought to be borne by the community in general. Every parent pays taxes and it has always been my view that the children of every parent are entitled to an equal deal from the money that is made available from taxes for education.
– We expect that as a result of this legislation greater loan moneys will be available to independent school, authorities in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory. I congratulate the Government on bringing this Bill forward and I congratulate also those senators who have prompted the Government on this line of assistance. I sec it as having great value. In fact the Government will act purely as a guarantor to enable extra funds to be gained for building and rebuilding purposes.
– The Government gets a lot of credit and provides no money.
– It is very appreciable assistance. Senator Dittmer may have some reservations about the matter but it is a most important matter.
– No money is provided by the Government under this arrangement.
– The honourable senator’s business experience wouldteach him that if he could get a guarantee similar to this he could do a lot of building in Queensland. One or two comments that have been made regarding this matter prompt me to refer to a leading article in The Catholic Weekly’, which was sent to me. I imagine that one or two other senators may have quoted from it. The article is headed ‘State Aid: Let’s Get it Out of Politics’ and it is very appropriate. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the article in Hansard. It reads:
It is essential to retain the independent school system. Parents have the democratic right, if they are prepared to make some sacrifices, to choose the type of school to which they send their children.’
The Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, at Geelong Grammar, February 24th.
Commonwealth financial help should be extended to both Government and nonGovernment schools in the same way as it had been to universities. A Labor Government, if elected’ this year, will make an emergency grant of $50m for schools-at least half for non-Government schools.’
The Opposition Leader, Mr E. G. Whitlam, at Miranda, February 23rd.
The Government wants the independent school systems to be able to continue to expand and to absorb that part of the population which has traditionally been educated in the independent schools.’
The needs of independent schools are immediate and urgent. Many of them, particularly the church schools, are unable to accept all children who apply for admission, They cannot embark on the building programs that they require. They cannot pay their lay teaching staffs the salaries they deserve or pay the salaries that will attract lay teachers into the independent schools systems. They are extracting the maximum possible contribution from the parents of children already attending such schools. In short, they urgently need Government assistance.’
Now these are all fine sentiments and are well expressed. So, too, have been those in the State field of Premier Askin, his deputy, Mr Cutler, the Opposition Leader, Mr Hills, and Mr Kane, the general secretary of the D.L.P.
But fine words won’t feed teachers or cover the staggering debt burden that our parishes now face.
And, as long as the vote-catching talk goes on, we are faced with the prospect of the issue becoming a political football.
Herein, experience warns us, lies the real danger: that a Party having gained office with an attractive-sounding plank in its platform of assistance to independent schools could become content to let the matter lie and to provide grants and concessions that barely managed to keep the Catholic parochial school system alive, let alone enable it to expand with the nation’s growth.
Let us make no bones about it: ‘barely alive’ is the right phrase to use to describe much of the Catholic parochial school system in Australia, and certainly it is true of the parochial and diocesan schools of the Sydney Archdiocese.
This position exists NOW, despite the measure of Government assistance now given, and despite the sacrifices of working parents in meeting fees (which rose 24% last year) and the other costs of educating their children, and despite the devotion of the teachers and the work of the Parents and Friends’ Associations, and primarily, of the, efforts of the parishes in meeting school operating costs (to the tune of over $1m this year) as well as paying other school charges and maintaining their own parish responsibilities.
The situation is, in fact, one of crisis: unless revenue can be increased and economies enforced this year it is hard to see the Sydney diocesan school system carrying on in future years at its present level.
We are not referring here to private schools conducted by the Religious Orders, which have higher fee scales, but to the parish and regional schools, which cater for the majority of Catholics.
All of which brings us back to the point: what can we ask the political parties to do about it?
We can begin by asking them to get together and form a common policy on this issue, guaranteeing to the non-State schools the financial support they need to exist, thus maintaining the dual education system that the various Party spokesmen are so found of encouraging.
It might seem a lot to ask, given the Australian Party tradition on such matters. Yet it works elsewhere: in England, for example, and in an even better fashion in Scotland.
But the parties will have to get together to do something - and quickly - otherwise there won’t be an alternative school system to praise and encourage. The position is as grim as that.
I refer in particular to the first comment included in the article, which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) at Geelong Grammar on 24th February. I endorse the sentiment expressed by him and his statement of the attitude that must apply to assistance to independent schools. His words reflect my view. I have been fortunate in that my family has had the benefit of attending an independent school over a period of years. Undoubtedly we have made substantial contributions to the benefit of that school but there is great pride in the fact of one’s forebears and children attending and gaining the benefits that an independent school can give. I sincerely hope that if, as this leading article indicates, some political benefit is gained from the proposal of aid by leaders of various Parties this does not wreck the independent school system in the future.
I should like to refer to one or two points which I hope the Minister will make clear to me. Will the Minister advise the Senate what areas of financial difficulty are left for independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory? I understand from the second reading speech that most of the areas of requirement of finance are already covered by Commonwealth assistance, at least in respect of building - in the capital contribution, the interest commitment, and the guarantee of the excess interest commitment which may have been necessary over and above the long term bond rate. I should like the Minister to say what is left for independent schools to provide for construction and extension purposes. This Bill must be of immense benefit to independent schools. Clause 4 sets out clearly that the guarantees will be not only for moneys raised in the future. They will relate to moneys which may have been borrowed in the past. I should like the Minister to indicate what the ambit is. Perhaps it would have been wise to give the Senate the calculations showing what amount is expected to be guaranteed in relation to what has been borrowed already. I should like to make a further point in relation to the delegation by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in this matter. I believe that no Bill could have been drafted more loosely than this one has been. Clause 6 uses the following words: The Treasurer may, by instrument in writing, delegate to a person, either generally or otherwise as provided in the instrument of delegation, his powers and functions under section 4 of this Act, so that the delgated powers and functions may be exercised and performed by the delegate in accordance with the instrument of delegation.
Without explanation I understand the point.
I should like the Minister to explain to the Senate the meaning of the words ‘the val idity of a guarantee’ which appears in clause
I again express my great satisfaction that this kind of legislation can be brought forward. I give credit to the Government, as I do to those honourable senators who have promoted this debate, for the thought they have given this matter over a period of time, and I congratulate them that it now will be in legislative form.
– in reply - I have listened with attention to the speeches that have been delivered on this Bill. The first observation I am bound to make is that at least three of them proceeded upon a somewhat important misconception. Senator Dittmer’s reference to the Bill, Senator McManus’ main theme and a good deal of what Senator Cohen said are all based upon a misunderstanding of the position. I refute the claim made by Senator McManus that the Bill is a mere palliative. Senator Cohen sought clarification of the expression at the end of the second reading speech to the effect that the Bill provides authority only for guarantees and that appropriations as required will come before the Parliament in the usual way. Senator Cohen thinks that the language may be ambiguous, so I shall endeavour to clarify it.
– Where was I wrong?
– I shall proceed to explain the position simply and most courteously, and then I think it will appear that the honourable senator’s comment was ill founded. To speak in briefest terms, the Commonwealth Government has developed its aid to the building of independent schools in the Territories in three stages. The first stage was in July 1956 when it introduced what became known as the interest reimbursement scheme. Under that scheme the Government agreed to reimburse up to the long term bond rate interest on loans raised by school authorities to meet capital expenditure on secondary schools. The school authorities were expected to establish a sinking fund from which they would pay off the capital at the conclusion of the period of the loan, and they were required to meet interest payments annually from the Commonwealth’s contribution and from their own funds to the extent necessary to cover the difference between the rate of interest reimbursed by the Commonwealth and the actual rate of interest on the loan. The scheme was announced in July 1956 in the form of a Press statement by the then Prime Minister. Similarly when the assistance under this scheme was extended in 1961 from secondary schools to primary schools the announcement of the decision was made through the Press.
The second stage of the Government’s programme of assistance for independent school buildings occurred in November 1965 when the Government introduced what became known as the capital aid scheme. Under that scheme the Commonwealth Government agreed to meet approved capital costs, together with interest up to the long term bond rate, of approved building projects. The procedure is that independent school authorities receive from the Commonwealth in twenty annual instalments - I ask Senator McManus particularly to notice this - the capital borrowed together with interest payments up to the long term bond rate on the capital still outstanding each year. This scheme was announced in a statement to the Parliament in November 1965. It is entirely contrary to fact to suggest that all the Government is giving is, as Senator Dittmer said, a guarantee or, as Senator McManus implied, paying interest. Under this scheme the Commonwealth has permitted itself to repay the capital as well as the interest. The Government will be repaying the principal of the capital loans that are guaranteed under this Bill.
The third stage in the Government’s programme of assistance was its decision in December 1968 to extend the conditions of the 1965 capital aid scheme to programmes previously approved under the interest subsidy scheme; that is, it was extended from new projects to projects which had been beneficiaries under the interest subsidy scheme. This decision was announced in a Press statement. At the same time, the Government told the independent school authorities that it recognised their particular difficulties in raising loans, and to that end it would be prepared to issue formal guarantees to lenders. The current Bill is giving effect to that undertaking. When the expression to the effect that the Government was not seeking to expand its financial commitments under the capital aid scheme was used, the intention was to indicate that we were not seeking additional appropriations or expanding the substance of the scheme. But when you give a guarantee - this has been the unhappy experience of many a guarantor - you find that you have to expand your financial commitments pursuant to the guarantee. So I thought that our situation would be expressed more clearly in the terms I used; that is to say, that the Bill provides authority only for guarantees.
The Government will seek authority from the Parliament separately in the relevant Appropriation Bills for funds it requires to meet its financial commitments under the programme of capital aid to independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory. I hope that that position now has been made clear and that it will be understood that the legislation is concerned only with authority for guarantees although it is intended that the principal and interest, up to the long term bond rate, on the sums guaranteed will be paid to the independent schools over 20 years and that as the funds are required they will be sought from the Parliament in the Appropriation Bills.
I suggest, therefore, that in large measure that supplies an answer to the request made by my colleague Senator Webster who asked me to indicate what areas still remained within the private responsibility of the independent schools. To answer that I need to inform him that in relation to the assistance I have referred to for capital projects, we pay also a per capita payment for each student. In primary schools the payment is $20 per annum and in secondary schools it is $30 per annum for students in forms I and II, $40 for students in forms III and IV and $45 for students
In forms V and VI. So it would appear to me as I give this answer to assist the honourable senator that what remains as the responsibility of the independent school is current costs, except insofar as they are met by those payments, and the running expenses of the school. In capital matters we have made it clear in the second reading speech that the reasonable cost of a school project is never meant to include church buildings or buildings separate from the school of instruction. It would not include residences for staff.
That leaves it necessary for me to refer only to the remaining two matters which Senator Webster raised. The first matter was in relation to clause 6 which deals with the delegation. We have discussed the powers of delegation in legislation before in this chamber on a number of occasions in recent times. All I wish to suggest is that there is very little importance in a matter of this sort. It is for the Treasurer to take responsibility for his delegate in any case and he is fully answerable to Parliament for whatever his delegate does. The appointment of a delegate is merely a convenience in this widespread Commonwealth, in this case in relation to the Australian Capital Territory and one-sixth of Australia in the Northern Territory, and it is necessary from the point of view of administrative expedience to have a delegate of this character. Honourable senators will find this provision quite frequently in legislation of this sort. Clause 7 attracts a different comment. This clause states:
The validity of a guarantee by the Treasurer, or by the delegate of the Treasurer, purporting to have been given in pursuance of this Act shall not be called in question in any legal proceedings on the ground that the guarantee was not given in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
The area against which the court could hold that a guarantee was invalid is the whole area of whether or not the guarantee was given in accordance with the previsions of this measure. That would include the character of the independent school, the reasonableness of the cost, the fact, that it was a school cost, the formal validity of the guarantee and the sufficiency of the instrument of delegation. Those who are interested in a little current gossip and who have read Mr Newton’s special edition of Incentive’ will have seen that he has been attracted, for the purpose of exploiting the situation, to suggest that delegation powers under the Trade Practices Act have in some way been exceeded. That is a mere technical matter of interest only to the very tedious lawyer.
I indicate that clause 7 of the Bill does preclude the Commonwealth from availing itself of any ground of invalidity where the guarantee might be said to be given other than in accordance with this Bill. There are instances of this, such as in the case of Government guarantees to facilitate the confidence that a lender will have, that a Government guarantee is not formally defective. I think it would be fair to say that the commercial community would not approach a loan by a government as being free from technical formalities with as much readiness as it would accept such a guarantee from a commercial institution. All sorts of questions arise in the commercial mind as to the forms that must be gone through to facilitate a Government guarantee. Consequently, I have a little disquiet with regard to the clause, but I hope that the Senate will consider it as of relative immateriality and take it on the basis upon which I have explained it. The guarantee which is signed by the Treasurer ordinarily should be accepted by the outside community as one that has been given in accordance with the provisions of this Bill. Therefore, we should stand by his signature and not have any question raised as to the validity of the instrument on which his signature or his delegate’s signature is put.
To indicate the same sort of thing, a reference might be made to section 41 of the Housing Loans Insurance Act which incorporates certain provisions to prevent a policy of insurance issued by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation from being invalidated on certain grounds. It is an expression put in the Bill to make the proposed lender have full confidence in the government instrument. In those terms, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I want merely to express my gratitude to Senator Wright for correcting an error which I made in discussing one of the points and to ask one question. I take it that the capital cost assistance would apply only to building which has taken place since the 1965 legislation. Is that correct? I raise that point because it occurred to me that if the Commonwealth recognises the justice of paying for buildings erected since 1965, it might give consideration to the fact that the full capital cost of buildings erected before the legislation would apparently have been borne by the parents who would still be liable for interest payments. Is it the position that the payment of the capital cost of buildings applies only to building which has taken place since the legislation was passed in 1965?
– Actually it applies to building since the interest scheme of July 1956.
– From the financial year 1955-56?
– Am I right in understanding that the Commonwealth has made a contribution to the capital cost since 1965 only?
– Assistance has been provided in three stages. The first stage, which commenced in July 1956, was an interest reimbursement scheme; the second, which commenced in November 1965, was a capital aid scheme for new projects; and the third, which commenced in December 1968, was an extension of the 1965 capital aid scheme to include projects previously approved under the interest reimbursement scheme which was commenced in 1956.
– What is the limit on the loan?
– There is no limit.
– Can the Minister give the Senate information regarding the limit and the volume of the guarantee at present and what it may be in the next few years?
– Poor as I am as an exponent of fact, I am even less competent in the realm of prophecy. Anticipating the vigorous interest in this matter, spearheaded as I thought by Senator Webster and other honourable senators, I equipped myself with a table showing the approved capital expenditure and interest reimbursed during the period 1956-65 and a list of schools for which projects have been approved under the capital repayment and interest subsidy arrangements which have applied since November 1965. I think the best way of giving this information to the Senate is to have the table incorporated in Hansard. I should indicate that the approved capital expenditure under the interest reimbursement scheme amounts to $3.988m and that the interest reimbursed amounts to $ 1.225m. I am giving approximate figures only. The total approved capital expenditure on schools for which projects have been approved under the capital repayment and interest subsidy arrangements which have applied since November 1965 amounts to $9.89m, the capital payments amount to approximately $306,000 and the interest reimbursement amounts to $315,000. I ask leave to incorporate those tables in Hansard.
– Is there any objection?
– I wish to point out that the figures given are appendices to the second reading speech.
– Not quite. The second reading speech only gives the approved capital expenditure for the schools that are listed. It does not set out the capital payments by the Commonwealth or the interest reimbursed. The tables I have asked to be incorporated do. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate the following tables in Hansard:
Schools which received assistance for projects approved under the interest reimbursement arrangements which applied during the period 1956 to 1965.
Schools for which projects have been approved under the capital repayment and interest subsidy arrangements which have applied since November
– Clause 4(1.) (a) refers to:
An agreement for the lending by that person or institution to the school authority of moneys required, in whole or in part, for the purposes of approved capital expenditure, or for the purpose of repaying moneys borrowed (whether before or after the commencement of this Act). . . .
My imagination runs to the extent that independent schools could quite easily apply to have all moneys which have been borrowed for this purpose brought under the terms of this guarantee.I ask: What is the Minister’s calculation of the moneys that will be applied for under the guarantee? Is that shown in the figures he has given?
I imagine that those figures are only for a certain number of years.
-I have not attempted that calculation. I have only given the position up to date. I leave the Senate to make its own judgment on that. Senator Cohen pointed out that there is no fixed limit to the guarantees in the Bill. A fact which has to be borne in mind is that this will be governed by the growth of the school populations of the two Territories.
– What is the calculation of the guarantee to date? Surely the Government has made a calculation of how much itwill guarantee? 1 know that the future is in doubt.
– I shall try to obtain that information for the honourable senator.
– I was under the impression that the Minister said that the annual grant depended upon the grade of the children in the schools. Is that correct?
– When was this system introduced? Was legislation introduced to cover it or was such legislation unnecessary?
– The system was introduced in 1968. It is covered only by the Appropriation Bill; there is no special legislation. I. wish to inform Senator Webster that the anticipated guarantees amount to $3. 181m at the moment. The projects are indicated in the second table which was incorporated in Hansard. This sum is for projects which have been approved but have been delayed owing to the difficulty in obtaining satisfactory loans. In respect of those projects it is intended to provide immediately a guarantee of $3.1 81m.
– That is not quite the answer to my question, but I shall not pursue the matter because we are short of time.
– Thank you.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20th November 1968 (vide page 2132), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Patents Bill 1968, which gives effect to substantial amendments to the Patents Act, is an important one. This legislation has had a rather checkered career. As the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr Whitlam) said, it has had a protracted and unsatisfactory history in the Parliament. The first reading of the Bill in the other place occurred on 2nd November 1967. The second reading was not moved until 16th May 1968. The debate on the second reading began on 14th August 1968 and concluded in another place on 14th November. The Bill came before the Senate in November 1968. On 28th November it was deferred until the autumn sessional period on the basis that the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) was willing to give consideration to representations made by the Institute of Patent Attorneys for modifications to the scheme of deferred examination, which was one of the essential features of the Bill.
I feel it is proper to level some criticism against the way in which the Government has handled this Bill. The representations of the Institute of Patent Attorneys were before the House of Representatives at some time - I think from September 1968 - before the debate had concluded in the House of Representatives. As I pointed out in the short discussion in the Senate on 27th November 1968 when this matter was adjourned, the Attorney-General in another place had allowed the debate to conclude with his own winding up of the second reading debate on 14th November without adverting to the proposals of the Institute which had been before him since September 1968.
In any event, it was plain that there were important matters to be considered. The Bill now comes before the Senate, having passed through another place on 15th May, in the context that the representations made by the Institute of Patent Attorneys have been considered and modifications made to the system of deferred examination originally proposed in the Bill. I understand that since the passage of the Bill through the House of Representatives the Institute has expressed itself as withdrawing its opposition to the Bill. This was not the position specifically adverted to when the matter came before the House of Representatives on 15th May. I have been personally informed by the Institute of Patent Attorneys that certain amendments put before the Institute by the Attorney-General have softened considerably the harshness of the original Bill and there is no longer any opposition from the Institute to the passage of the Bill. Of course, it is welcome information that it has been possible to meet the objections of the Institute of Patent Attorneys who practice regularly in the jurisdiction and must deal with the practical aspects of the legislation and any system of examination of patents.
The Bill arose out of the fact that there was an enormous backlag of unexamined applications in the Patent Office. The Attorney-General in introducing the legislation back in 1967 said that at the time there were about 44,800 unexamined applications. In 1939 the backlag was about 3,330. In 1960 it had increased progressively to 12,456. In November 1967 it had increased to 41,500 and in 1968 to 44,800. That is an enormous increase. It meant that the backlag would take the existing staff of the Patent Office 4i years to clear if it did not receive a single additional application in that period. So it was very obvious that measures had to be taken to attempt to remedy a situation which had got out of hand. The particular method chosen by the Government and now modified to meet the objections of the Institute of Patent Attorneys was this scheme of deferred examination. I do not propose to deal at length with the ramifications of the system. It has not met with universal approval. It has not met with the approval of the officers of the Patent Office who, in representations made to me as recently as today, continue to have the gravest reservations about the system of deferred examination.
– Did they say why?
– They dealt with the matter at some length. They believe that the approach to the problems of the Patent Office should have been different, lt should have been to enlarge the establishment, and to pay salaries to the officers which would both retain the present staff and enable recruitment of sufficiently experienced officers from overseas.
– Not altogether an available solution.
– It all depends on when you start looking for the solution. It may be that the situation demanded something more drastic than that. My colleague Senator McClelland asked a question of the Attorney-General which was replied to on 16th April. It referred to the existing establishment of the Patent Examination Branch of the Patent Office and the actual number of officers employed. The answer was very instructive. It showed that although the establishment for supervising examiners of patents, class 1, was 24, only 19 were employed. There was a deficiency of 5. Although the establishment for class 2 supervising examiners was 4 only 3 occupied the positions, so that the establishment was down 1. Of the establishment of 67 for examiners of patents, class 2, only 36 officers were employed, a deficiency of almost 50%.
– Is it not a fact that government instrumentalities cannot altogether compete with private commerce in the supply of professional talent?
– That may be so. I have always held the view that the Commonwealth should be a leader in salary fixation. I have held that view consistently in relation to all sorts of problems that arise industrially and in relation to the Public Service, and their salaries and conditions compared with people in outside employment.
– They compare very well in the ranks of the top brass.
– Yes. They get right out in front at times among the top brass, but dealing with the average, including the very skilled men, often with professional qualifications, they tend to be dragged back to the field. They tend not to be pace setters in relation to outside employment. But I must not be distracted from my pursuit of a recital of the relevant statistics. I was dealing with the staff of the Patent Examination Branch of the Patent Office. An establishment of sixty-seven was provided for examiners of patents class 1 but only fifty were employed. Of the establishment of thirty-three for examiners of patents grade A, only sixteen were employed, and so on. So it is obvious that the Branch is badly understaffed. The establishment is not filled and it is reasonably plain that there is no attraction salary. It does not look as though there is much of a retention salary. I am drawing attention to this aspect in order to indicate that there are problems that will not be solved by this Bill.
However acceptable it may be to the practitioners in the field - and the Government has met the objections of the Institute of Patent Attorneys - there are still objections to the scheme of deferred examination on grounds of principle by officers of the Patent Office. More particularly, I want to emphasise that their conditions and, basically, their salaries are unsatisfactory. The Government could make a real assault on the backlog of applications if it did something about those matters.
– But what could the Government do? It would have to take these people out of the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board, would it not?
– As the honourable senator well knows, the Public Service Board is well able to hold up its end in litigation and in resisting claims made by employees. Sometimes it assents to them, but more rarely. I refuse to believe it is not possible, as a matter of policy, for remunerations in the Public Service to be such that it can retain and attract a fair share of the best brains and talent available in any of the various spheres of its operations. I am not suggesting that this will solve the problem overnight. There will still be a need for a policy on recruitment and retention of officers in the Patent Office.
I do not propose to debate the detail of this Bill. When the matter was last before us we were of the opinion that the Bill should be referred to a committee for inquiry into and report upon the alternative proposals submitted in September last year by the Institute of Patent Attorneys. Those proposals were repeated publicly shortly before the debate on that Bill was then adjourned. Indeed, when this Bill was before another place earlier this month, prior to any public information that the Institute of Patent Attorneys was satisfied, the debate proceeded on the assumption that it was not satisfied. However, it is now plain that the Institute’s position has been met and the Opposition does not oppose the measure.
I thought it proper to draw attention to these other questions primarily because I received direct representations about them and partly because the situation was obvious to a number of honourable senators, particularly my colleague Senator McClelland. He saw fit, by the usual form of interrogatory question on notice to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen), to get at the facts and establish the extent of the shortage. The position is pretty serious. With those observations I repeat that we do not oppose the Bill. Many features of it are welcome. When, as a result of lengthy inquiry, it is possible to put a measure of this kind on the statute book, it is proper also to extend appreciation of what has been done and I now do so.
– I share the view expressed by Senator Cohen about this measure having a long history. In some respects it is an unsatisfactory history. The original Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in November 1967. It was followed by a new Bill in May 1968. Now, as we were led to believe by a statement made about a fortnight ago, it has been substantially amended. Although that history suggests some unsatisfactory features, there is a great deal to be said for the fact that the measure, as it is now about to be approved, is one which reflects not only the views of the committee which, in 1966, originally recommended amendments but also the views submitted by a number of interested persons and by the Federal Institute of Patent Attorneys. I appreciate, from what Senator Cohen said, that the Institute did not make its submissions until September 1968, at which time the major proposals contained in it had been open for public scrutiny for at least 9 or 10 months beforehand. It may be said therefore that the Institute, if it held strong views about the matter, was somewhat dila tory in making the submissions which it felt ought to be made. Nevertheless, in the light of what is now envisaged and of what the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) said a fortnight ago, the Bill takes into account the suggestions of the Institute as well as the broad administrative changes proposed by him in the original Bill. If a legislative measure is left open for public scrutiny and is improved as a result, then the final form is far more satisfactory than something which was hurried through without consideration of the various representations having been made.
This Bill is an important one because it seeks to overcome the backlog in patent applications. If things had been left to remain as they were that backlog would have increased at an alarming rate. When one realises that in 1967 the Government introduced, and the Parliament approved, an Act entitled the Industrial1 Research and Development Grants Act, one can appreciate the emphasis placed on the need for development and research in the manufacturing and mining fields. The purpose of the Government iri introducing the Act to which I have just referred was to facilitate, by way of grants, the promotion of research and development. The then Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), in introducing that Bill in the House of Representatives on 9th May 1 967, said: the Government believe that it is necessary now to alter the attitude of Australian management towards industrial research and development. We are therefore proposing the introduction of a system of grants to Australian industry to encourage firms to undertake additional industrial research and development work. The Government considers that a number of significant benefits arising from a research and development grants scheme of the kind proposed will, when taken together, provide a substantial incentive to industrial expansion and economic growth.
If that policy is to have any effect at all and to achieve the objectives set, we must have a patent system which will enable the products of research and development of that kind to be utilised by the persons entitled to the benefit of them. Much of the value of a measure such as the Government introduced in 1967 will be lost if the patent system is conducted in such a way that people dependent upon knowledge of patents granted and pending, as well as patents in respect of which application is made, and the area covered by the claims and specifications, cannot obtain that knowledge. I think it fair to say that the situation existing prior to the introduction of this Patents Bill and, indeed, what part of the measure originally proposed, would have denied to the people who took advantage of those grants and benefits which it might be expected would flow from them.
I say that because a patent essentially is a grant of a privilege. The patent, as I understand it, is a document granted by the Government to a person giving him a monopoly in respect of an invention. When granted it conveys the exclusive privilege of making, using or selling the particular article, product or invention. If we have a situation whereby people do not know what is patented, do not know whether what they are proposing is an infringement of somebody’s patent or whether their own researches will be productive in the long run, then it seems to me that the patents system is not providing to the community the incentive it should provide. Mr T. A. Blanco’ White, who is well known to the people who have made a study of patents history and patents law, has said:
The basic theory of the patent system is simple and reasonable. It is desirable in the public interest that industrial techniques should be improved. In order to encourage improvement, and to encourage also the disclosure of improvements in preference to their use in secret, any person devising an improvement in a manufactured article, or in machinery or methods for making it, may upon disclosure of his improvement at the Patent Office demand to be given a monopoly in the use of it for a period of 16 years. After that period it passes into the public domain; and the temporary monopoly is not objectionable, for if it had not been for the inventor who devised and disclosed the improvement nobody would have known about it. Furthermore, the giving of the monopoly encourages the putting into practice of the invention, for the only way the inventor can make a profit from it (or even recover the fees for his patent) is by putting it into practice; either by using it himself, and deriving an advantage over his competitors by its use, or by allowing others to use it in return for royalties.
Therefore, patents should be granted, as our patents legislation has always indicated, on conditions laid down for their grant and after examination to ensure that there is an invention, that there is something new and that, above all else, there is opportunity for opposition. Citizens should be able to act with the knowledge of the patents that they may be infringing. If they lack that knowledge, action may be taken, businesses may be developed and expense may be incurred, and all of that can be nullified if subsequently the people concerned find that they would be acting in infringement of someone else’s rights.
As I understood the position that wa3 maintained by the Institute of Patent Attorneys in September 1968, it said that the provisions of the original Bill that had been introduced, in introducing a system of deferred examination, created a position in which it was tremendously difficult for persons interested in knowing what the situation with regard to patents was to ascertain the position precisely. It was for that reason that the Institute wanted a modification of the deferred examination system.
The Bill, as it is now before the Senate, contains provisions for modified examination, deferred examination, removal1 of restrictions on amendment before acceptance, the right of third parties to advise about relevant prior art, assignment before grant, the removal of priority dates and the right of an equitable owner to restore. I understand that much of what is contained in the Bill derives from the recommendations of the committee of which the present Attorney-General was chairman and which was appointed by his predecessor as Attorney-General in 1966.
It is the provisions relating to deferred examination and modified examination that constitute the particular matters about which concern has been expressed and inquiries have been made. The deferred examination system was suggested because the backlog of patent applications which had not been examined numbered approximately 41,500 in 1967. By the time the Attorney-General introduced this measure in 1968 that figure had risen to 44,800, as he stated. I understand that the figure has increased significantly since then. Those figures show a somewhat startling increase in the numbers since 1960, when the number of unexamined applications was approximately 12,000.
Statistics that have been revealed, in regard to the output of the Patent Office, suggest that the number of patents accepted and sealed in any particular year is 12,000 to 13,000. Such was the number of applications being made and lying in the files of the Patent Office, not being examined and not being accepted, that the increase in the backlog was causing alarm.
– What does the honourable senator suggest should be done to remedy the situation.
– F believe that what is being done at the present time will certainly be of assistance. I refer to the modification of the deferred examination system, as is now envisaged in the proposed amendments. Secondly, I believe that the moves, which have the support of patent institutes and patent offices throughout the world, for promoting an international searching office will greatly facilitate the position in Australia. When it is instituted it will assist greatly because there will be a uniform recognition of the searches that are made overseas and the patents that are granted overseas. The position that can arise now, when someone has been granted a patent overseas still has to undergo a form of examination in Australia, will be avoided.
A tremendous number of the applications received in Australia each year come from overseas. In 1967, 88% of all completed specifications came from overseas, and 60% of that number came from the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
– Do the applications from overseas rank pari passu with the local applications from the point of view of priority in examination?
-! am not sure what the position is. I think the relevant date is that on which the application is made here. But I am not sufficiently conversant with the procedure to be able to say exactly what the position is.
– At least, the local applications are given no priority in examination.
– I do not think they are. I think the relevant date for the purposes of examination is the date of application here in Australia. Continuing to comment on the question Senator Toohey asked me, I would think that a very important factor is the recruitment of examiners into the Patent Office. I appreciate what Senator Cohen had to say on this point. I believe that the problem there is basically remuneration. 1 do not share Senator Cohen’s optimism that the matter can be easily resolved, because the examiners in the Patent Office have made their applications to the Public Service Board for an increase - they were very well supported applications - but they did not receive an increase on the basis on which they were seeking it.
Therefore, it appears to me that it must be recognised that if the examiners are to be given what I believe they are entitled to - namely, a very substantial increase in salary to enable them to compete in a very competitive area with what is being offered outside - that can be done only by taking them out of the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board. I believe that the time is long overdue for the Government to give consideration to taking particular fields out of the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board. I. mention only in passing that the people concerned with the drafting of the measures that come before this Parliament and the drafting of regulations - those in the Parliamentary Draftsman’s Office - should also be taken out of the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board. That is another field in which such an investigation should be undertaken.
– Does not the honourable senator think that is a little extreme?
– I do not think it is extreme. When one contrasts the returns that people with technical qualifications - these people must have technical qualifications - receive as examiners in the Patent Office or as draftsmen in the Parliamentary Draftsman’s Office . with the returns people with similar qualifications are receiving in private industry, it is amazing that so many of them are prepared to remain in the Public Service.
– How would limits be put on what they would receive?
– I consider that it is a matter of ensuring that those people who have responsible jobs to perform and upon whom so much depends, where it is essentially a matter of being able to attract them from among the numbers offering in fields in which the enticements in private industry are so great, are offered something that is sufficiently attractive to be an inducement.
Before I digressed slightly, I was suggesting that the deferred examination system, as it was originally proposed, provided for applications to lie in the Patent Office for a period of 5 years. At the end of that 5 years, the applicant was asked did he wish to proceed with his patent or did he not. If he did not wish to proceed with it, then it lapsed and was not examined. The vice of that system, as I would have seen it, was that for a period of 5 years an application was in abeyance, as it were. In those circumstances a person could rest on his application and not be put to the obligation of endeavouring to see whether it was worth while proceeding with it. In those circumstances, those who were concerned to know whether there was any application pending which would affect such research, development and prospective inventitiveness as they were considering were unable to determine the position. That, as I understood it, was the main complaint of the patent attorneys. As I understand the position, the amendment which is proposed will enable the applications to be examined in the order in which they have been lodged, which is, of course, the traditional method. Although it may be some time before an application is reached, nevertheless, in the ordinary course, the applications will be dealt with and there will be no altering of the order in which they are dealt with. In stressing that, I indicate that the original Bill provided a procedure whereby a person could have requested the Commissioner to call upon an applicant to request that his patent application be examined. Of course, if that had been carried through, there could have been an alteration in the order in which the applications were dealt with.
The deferred examination system would have also involved some classification of applications and possibly also the printing of specifications when they were originally filed in order to permit more publicity to be given. The deferred examination system would have also required some increase in costs to the applicant because of the fees which would have had to be paid on examination. But I do not think that is so unreasonable because the payment is one fact which a person has to bear in mind in determining whether he wants to go on with his application if he considers there will not be the utility in it which he originally had conceived. As I have said, they were basically the problems which those who wanted to search had to overcome. They were defects of the deferred examination system.
The result of the amendments which have now been introduced following upon the representations which were made is such as to make the proposed measure one which I think is more likely to have acceptance and more likely to achieve the objectives which the Attorney-General originally had in mind. In itself, it is merely of some assistance. I do not say it is of great assistance, but, when taken with the proposed international searching office arrangement and, I would hope, some positive steps to increase recruitment by offering greater salaries, it may achieve what I consider to be a tremendously important objective in government planning. It is to be linked with the general approach of the Government which is evidenced by the Industrial Research and Development Grants Bill, and I think it is proper that it should be so linked. That is why I join with other honourable senators in supporting the measure as it is proposed to be amended.
– in reply - I am obliged to those honourable senators who have spoken to the Bill at this stage, particularly as Senator Greenwood’s speech has made it unnecessary for me to refer again to the modifications of the Bill that were referred to when I made a statement in the Senate on 15th May. As this is a technical subject, I do not propose to traverse the matter again. I wish to refer only to the comments that were directed to the delay of the measure. I submit that, when dealing with a technical subject like this, so far from being a disadvantage the delay is sometimes of great advantage. This is revealed in this instance by the fact that we have been able to accept, even if in modified form, submissions made by the Institute of Patent Attorneys. I think we should get a great deal of satisfaction out of the consultations that have taken place between the Parliament and the professional body chiefly concerned with regard to any objection it might have had.
The only other comment I wish to make relates to staffing. Having listened to what Senator Greenwood has had to say with regard to salary scales, and looking at some of the salary scales for professional people in comparative positions not only outside the Public Service but in some other stratas of the Public Service. I confess that I feel some dismay at seeing some of the salary scales which are offered.
– I think the salary is about $7,000 a year.
– In Class IV, the salaries range from $3,000 to $4,800. In Class V, they range from $7,600 to $8,100. If my recollection is correct, some rather subordinate clerical officers are getting more than that in similar grades. With regard to the comments that were made as to the number of vacancies in the office, I should like Senator Cohen to know that the reasons for these, to some extent, are firstly, that the establishment in the lower grade was increased substantially earlier this year to permit an increased number of officers to be employed. The vacancies in the higher grades mainly concern supervisors, and this Department takes the practical outlook that it should not appoint supervisors before it has people to be supervised. With those happy thoughts, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I ask leave to move together the amendments which I have circulated and ask that they be taken together.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In respect of my third amendment, the relevant part of clause ] 0 reads: “47c. Where an applicant does not request the making of an examination of the application and complete specification -
My sixth amendment relates to clause 37 which reads:
Section .1.60 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following subsection: “(8.) This section does not apply in relation to the doing of an act or the taking of a step under section forty-seven, section forty-seven a, section forty-seven b or section forty-seven c of this Act”.
My seventh amendment relates to clause 41, the relevant portion of which reads: (1.) The amendments of the Principal Act made by sections 4, 5 and 8 to 10 (inclusive), subsection (2.) of section 11, sections 12, 14 and IS, paragraph (a) of section 16 and sections 17 to 21 (inclusive), 23, 24, 26 to 28 (inclusive), 30, 32, 34, 36 and 37 of this Act apply in relation to applications for patents other than an application in respect of which a copy of the first report of an Examiner on the complete specification was sent to the applicant before the date fixed under subsection (2.) of section 2 of this Act.
In clause 10, leave out proposed section 47a, insert the following section: “ ‘47a. - (1.) Where a complete specification has been lodged in respect of an application and the Commissioner considers it desirable to give a direction under this section on all or any of the grounds specified in the next succeeding subsection, he may, at any time before the expiration of 5 years after the date of lodgment of the complete specification or the expiration of 2 years after the date fixed under sub-section (2.) of section two of the Patents Act 1968, whichever is the later, by notice in writing given to the applicant, direct the applicant to request the making of an examination of the application and complete specification. “ ‘(2.) The grounds referred to in the last preceding sub-section are -
In clause 14 after proposed section 52a, insert the following section: “ ‘S2,aa- (1.) Where-
claims a priority in that country based on an application made in another country that constitutes the basic application or one of the basic applications for the purposes of that Part;
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 May (vide page 1492), on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Customs Tariff Bill before the Senate amends the Customs Tariff Act in relation to lawnmowers, sorbitol, band saw blades and certain stainless steel products which form the subject of a Tariff Board and special authority reports. These arrangements came into effect as from 28th February for the lawnmowers, as from 7th March for the sorbitol and band saw blades and as from 30th April for the stainless steel products. We are more or less holding a post-mortem on the action of the Government. Even though the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) is in this chamber these matters came to the Senate rather belatedly. I think that quite a strong protest is warranted when matters such as these have been dealt with by proxy by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) who represents the Minister for Customs and Excise in another place, but of course the rules governing the conduct of the two Houses require that the legislation be introduced in the other place. I believe that the procedure should be reviewed and more time given to the consideration of these quite important matters.
The Minister for Customs and Excise has said that, in accordance with the current approach to the introduction of Bills of this nature, he will not detail the changes because publicity has already been given in the Hansard report of the debate in the
House of Representatives. I think the Minister should pay the Senate and those people who wish to follow its proceedings the compliment of allowing them to read in the reports of the debates in this Senate the background of the subjects in which they are interested. This trend towards incorporating second reading speeches and referring to debates in another place is breaking down to quite an extent the autonomy of the Senate. We should have thorough discussions to establish the background information on these matters, even though they are looked on as routine matters. Matters relating to tariff policy should be debated by both Houses.
It appears from the report on lawn mowers that the Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement operates to Australia’s disadvantage. My view is that the reciprocity between Australia and New Zealand shoul’d be such as to assist the New Zealand economy by allowing New Zealand to sell us goods as suits its economy, wilh Australia having similar opportunities in the other direction. The advantages and disadvantages of this Agreement have been canvassed at length. The report refers to cylindrical and flat rotary mowers. Under the Agreement the New Zealand manufacturers are exporting to Australia mowers assembled in that country but with imported engines. New Zealand manufacturers can purchase engines on very highly competitive markets such as that in Japan. I did not have to mention Japan in particular; New Zealand can purchase from any country that manufactures the types of engines with which these lawn mowers are equipped. The engines come into New Zealand duty free and then come on to the Australian market in very strong competition with the Australian product. I do not think the spirit of the Agreement ever contemplated that this type of transaction should be tolerated.
The recommendations of the Tariff Board and the Bill1 provide for a phasing out period of 4 years. The first reduction, to 22i%, operated as from 1st January this year; in 1970 the reduction is to 15%; from January 1971 the reduction is to 7i%; and after January 1972 no protective tariff will apply. In that interim period of 4 years there will be a phasing out. The New Zealand manufacturer, a competitor with the Australian manufacturer, gains quite a con siderable advantage by importing engines from outside the free trade area and by assembling the components in the locally manufactured basic mower framework for export to Australia. The report states that the Australian manufacturer lags behind the New Zealand manufacturer in regard to administrative costs, distribution, marketing and selling costs. The difference in operative costs is not very great. It is most interesting to note the retail prices of Australian and New Zealand mowers of similar variety. In most Australian States the Australian Victa Imperial, the 1.6-in cylindrical1 mower, retails at $222. In New Zealand the same type of mower, the 16-in cylindrical mower, retails at $139. The Australian price for an 18-in rotary mower is $128. The New Zealand price is $91. There is a difference of §48 between the two types of mowers in New Zealand but the difference in Australia is $94. Somewhere along the line the retail1 cost lo the consumer here becomes very high. In Australia the price differential between the two types of mowers is 73% and in New Zealand it is 53%.
The Tariff Board report stated that the New Zealand manufacturers gained an advantage in the Australian market following the devaluation of the $NZt towards the end of 1967, but consequent upon devaluation higher prices have been incurred for certain imported materials and costs have increased. As these and other costs circulate through the New Zealand economy the former cost relationship between industries in Austrafia and New Zealand could be largely restored. During the course of the debate in another place reference was made to a previous Tariff Board report in 1966.
Sitting suspended from 6 HU 8 p.m.
– Another amendment relates to sorbitol. Evidently this is a derivative of sugar and quite substantial protection is given to it. It is so involved with the home price of sugar that the Australian people are being asked to continue to pay a very big subsidy to the sugar industry. This industry is so complicated and involved that we have to go along with the very high level of protection that it is given. The Special Advisory Authority has recommended protection for band saw blades. Reference is made in the Tariff
Board report to stainless steel products. Not much detail is known of these commodities. I hope that in future when amendments to the Customs Tariff Act are proposed all of the background particulars will be readily available. As I said earlier, the fact that consideration of these matters is held up until the last part of a parliamentary session has the result that senators are not allowed to give the fullest consideration to these quite important aspects of our economy.
– Why is that? This is a matter that does not require the actual Bill.
– I feel that it has become a habit of senior public servants to give the minimum time for their particular pieces of legislation to be examined. They have learned over the years that the Parliament disciplines itself as to time. It announces that we have a specific time for rising. They know that we plan to sit until 28th May or until a date in October. I have before me a programme which shows that, we sat for a month from Tuesday. 25th February, when we had one piece of legislation, the Patents Bill, before us. That has only just got off the stocks tonight. We sat until Thursday of that week until we got the Quarantine Bill, which was passed in one day. The next week we got the Wine Grapes Charges Bill and the Excise Tariff Bill. The latter stayed on the stocks for nearly a month although it could have been moved off in one day. This is the type of thing that is going on. In the first month of this sessional period we passed only three Bills.
– The Opposition had urgency motions.
– There was no other business to be done. This is the point that I am making. It has become a habit in the Public Service in the main to take advantage of the forms of the Parliament, knowing that we discipline ourselves to rise at a certain set time. Senior public servants know very well ‘that senators do not like to sit late at night or to have all-nighters, as the public servants have been able to educate the House of Representatives to do. We like to have a sensible time for sitting.
– What are we discussing now?
– We are discussing legislation coming in in the last hours of the session.
– What is the Opposition doing to stop it?
– We cannot do anything. Honourable senators opposite ought to be able to put some sort of a brake on it.
– The Opposition has the numbers for urgency motions.
– They are part of the parliamentary process. If we want extra time we should plan for an extra week’s sitting.
– Wc did.
– No, you did not. I think we should sit for another week. I certainly record my protest against this increasing practice of legislation being pushed in to us in bulk. Fifty Bills have been put before the Senate in the last week, which is absolutely ridiculous. It is a travesty of the Parliament. On that very friendly note let me say that I wish this legislation a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Anderson) adjourned.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton).
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The debate on the siting of the new and permanent parliament house has now proceeded over the past 9 months. It resulted from the Government’s decision of last August to have a free, non-party vote on the question of a site, and that debate provided a full opportunity for members and senators to express their views. The original proposal for the lakeside site was clearly unacceptable to the majority of the members in each House and it was abandoned. Subsequently the Joint Select Committee representative of all Parties and in both Houses, after hearing and studying public and expert evidence from all those wishing to come forward, overwhelmingly recommended to Parliament that the new parliament house should be sited at Camp Hill, as originally recommended by Burley Griffin, the designer of Canberra. In the resultant debate the House of Representatives voted to agree with the recommendations of that Committee, while the Senate voted to disagree with it. The Senate has also voted against a joint sitting and the position is quite unresolved. It cannot be allowed to remain unresolved because of the need for planning and construction of other works and therefore the Government, feeling that a decision must be made, has decided to inform the National Capital Development Commission that Camp Hill will be the site of the new parliament house.
– I ask for leave to move a motion in respect of that statement.
– To what effect?
– To the effect that the Senate take note of the statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement by the Prime Minister.
In doing so, I suppose it would be unkind for anyone here to say: ‘We told you so’. It perhaps might be out of order because one should never reflect upon a vote of the Senate and I do not think anyone will do so, but I would like to say this before the matter is further considered: On 15th August 1968 the view of the Government was put to the Parliament when the Prime Minister stated that the Government had taken the view that a decision on a matter of this kind was one which should be made by individual members of the Parliament in their capacity as private members. We all realise that the matter was never dealt with by us as though it were a proposed law or a matter which should be decided on an House of Representatives/Senate basis. Instead, the views of the present members of the Parliament as individuals - not as members of a particular House, not as members of a particular party - were to be ascertained. We know now - indeed we knew before - that the majority of the members of the Parliament wanted Capital Hill as the site of the new and permanent parliament house. There is no escaping that. That is the simple arithmetical determination. That is the view of the majority of members of the Parliament.
I do not know whether any other honourable senators would like to speak to this motion; I suppose some may. So I will merely say that I think it is regrettable that this decision was taken. It would have been fairer to take the view that the majority of the individual members of the Parliament, in their capacity as private members, had voted in favour of Capital Hill. It is unfortunate that that vote could not be expressed in some way so that the Government could not ignore it by any form of rationalisation or sophistry.
– On your motion that the Senate take note of the paper we will have an opportunity to discuss it later.
– Yes. I would ask that the debate be adjourned except that someone else may wish to speak tonight. There may well be other opportunities. It may well be that some honourable senators will move an amendment which will enable us all on a later occasion to express our views on this matter. Therefore I will content myself by saying that this decision of the Government is not putting into effect what was put to the Parliament and what was accepted by members of the Parliament.
– Yes. We fairly accepted that this was to be decided by us in our individual capacities. Across the corridor in the other place that is how it was dealt with. It is extremely regrettable that the original democratic decision taken by the Government has not been adhered to. It seems to me that the Government has departed from what it said. If a certain result was desired the Government should not have invited members of the Parliament to express their view. Members of the Parliament having expressed their view it seems to me that the Government now has decided to take a different view. It should have been apparent that the real issue was not one of one House against the other but rather one of members of the Parliament against an Executive decision now taken which is contrary to the express wish of members of the Parliament.
– 1 do not altogether agree with what Senator Murphy has said because I think it is clear that the Government was confronted earlier this day with a vote of the House of Representatives and a vote of the Senate in which a majority in each House voted for a different site for the new and permanent parliament house. Therefore the Government had to make a decision. The Government has made its decision and has said that the site of the new parliament house should be Camp Hill. lt has not made that decision on a reckoning of what the combined votes of individual members of Parliament would suggest is their viewpoint, because if one added 44 votes and 39 votes one would have a majority of 18 for Capital Hill over the 53 votes and the 12 votes which were cast in favour of Camp Hill.
Therefore the only justification for the decision which the Government has taken is that the House of Representatives voted in favour of Camp Hill or that, ignoring the viewpoint of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Government on its own initiative has decided that Camp Hill is the site, for the new parliament house. It is sheer speculation as to what motivated the decision which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has announced to us tonight. The fact is that the Government has said that in its view the site of the new parliament house shall be Camp Hill.
– In accordance with the Select Committee’s recommendation.
– A select committee having presented its report to this House and this House having decided not to accept the report, the Senate’s opinion is to be preferred to the opinion of the committee. 1 would have thought that the purists in the Senate would have believed that that was the proper view to take. The Government has taken a step which resolves an impasse but does not resolve it in the sense that the site for the new parliament house is Camp Hill. It merely indicates that that is the Government’s view. The Government either has accepted the view of the House of Representatives or on its own initiative has accepted the view which appealed to it. From that, certain actions designed to set aside the relevant site and to appropriate the money for the building must flow.
Once a free vote has been conceded to members of the Parliament who otherwise would accept party allegiances, the decisions which flow from that free vote cannot be taken away arbitrarily and made to appear thereafter to be votes which must be subordinated to a party allegiance vote. From my own consideration of the matter and in the light of all that has preceded this statement, I desire only to say that I think the new parliament house should be on Capital Hill, and that those honourable senators who adhere to my view on this matter should take the necessary steps when the measures come before the Senate to give effect to the Government’s decision. I believe that what wa:; a free vote originally should remain a free vote.
– The announcement by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) tonight comes as no surprise to those of us who foreshadowed precisely this position this afternoon. I regret that on the occasion on which I addressed this chamber I addressed the gentleman in the Chair and honourable senators. I feel now in retrospect that J should have addressed honourable parliamentarians because we were not sitting exclusively as senators but were sitting qua parliamentarians, this matter having been referred to the Senate as a group of parliamentarians, not as a legislative chamber. It was as such that we were given the opportunity of a free vote untied to party allegiance, and it was in that role that we considered and we voted, as did parliamentarians in another place. Therefore I am disposed on this occasion to propose an amendment to the motion which has been propounded by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). 1 move:
Omit all words after ‘that’, insert ‘the statement be not received’.
I think in that way the Senate will be able to indicate its very grave concern that this issue has been converted artificially into a confrontation between the Houses, ft never was intended to be such and it is not such today, lt is merely a case of a vote being taken in one place and in another place, and if the simple mathematics had been adopted the decision of the assembled parliamentarians would have been known. But because it has been converted artificially into a deadlock situation between the two legislative chambers the opportunity has been presented to the Executive Government to seize this as the only way in which the deadlock can be resolved by Executive decision. That was totally unnecessary.
– Could the honourable senator add ‘with disapproval’ instead of the other words?
– Yes- with the disapproval of the Senate. The Senate gave the Government the opportunity to resolve the deadlock. The method available to it was by an aggregated meeting of parliamentarians from both chambers with a free, independent and untried vote so that the decision of the elected members of the national parliament could be determined. The Government made no attempt of its own initiative to do this. I very much regret that this chamber came to regard this as a matter of the powers, rights and privileges of the Senate against those of another place and the possibility of their circumscription and truncation in the future. That was never the issue and was never in issue. It become ultimately a question of the relative rights of the Parliament and the Executive.
I feel that today, by the decision in this place as confirmed by the subsequent decision of the Executive Government, Parliament has surrendered to the Executive Government very precious powers and privileges which it should not have surrendered. It has been suggested to me that instead of the amendment which I had projected, that the Senate do not take note of the paper, the amendment should be in the form that the Senate take note of the statement with disapproval. Subject to the confirmation of my colleagues of the Democratic Labor Party who supported the first suggested amendment, I am prepared to accept that suggestion. I formally move the following amendment to the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition:
Leave out all words after ‘that’; insert ‘the Senate take note of the statement with disapproval’.
I trust that such disapproval will be strongly and firmly registered by this assembly of parliamentarians of the national Parliament whose duty to decide this question still remains, as it originally was, as their right.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– I am prepared to withdraw my motion in favour of that proposed by Senator Byrne.
– Am I in order in speaking to the amendment and then moving the adjournment of the debate?
– The Minister may move the adjournment of the debate forthwith.
– I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
I cannot state my reasons. I ask only for a little reflection by honourable senators.
That the debate be now adjourned (Senator Wright’s motion).
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
– We have now before the Chair a motion and an amendment. I support the amendment which proposes that we express our disapproval of this action of the Government. I think that I took some part - I am grateful to the honourable senator who describes it as a distinguished part - in the majority decision arrived at today relating to the equality of the Senate with the other place. 1 am very much against someone else usurping the authority of the Senate. Honourable senators are no doubt aware that when a vote was taken on Tuesday of this week I voted in favour of the Camp Hill site. I am of the opinion that Camp Hill is the best site for the new and permanent parliament house. But the siting of the building is unimportant in this instance. The paramount question is what power has the Senate in the Commonwealth Parliament? 1 argued this afternoon that the Senate should insist upon its right to determine this question. I said that it was the duty of the other place to come to the Senate with a proposition that may influence the Senate to change its opinion. But we find that regardless of the fact that the majority of the members of the Parliament are in favour of the Capital Hill site the Executive is defying the Parliament.
The important issue now is not so much whether the new and permanent parliament house should be erected on Capital Hill but that the Executive is overruling the view of the majority of the Parliament. I was particularly surprised to find that there were seventeen honourable senators today who did not recognise their responsibility to uphold the principles and the dignity of the Senate. These honourable senators voted in favour of adjourning the debate and not in favour of a motion that the Senate throw back into the face of the Executive - which has adopted the attitude that it is mightier than the representatives of the people - the statement on the siting of the new and permanent parliament house. I have had an interesting lifetime. I fought for the Republic of Spain against the taking over of that country by Fascist hordes. Eventually they took it over. We had a saying ‘No pasaran’, which means ‘They shall not pass’. If honourable senators join me in a rebel chorus on this occasion the Executive will not get away with it; we will win out eventually.
– I wish to direct some brief comments to the Senate. I think it is true to say that when confronted with a situation like this words fail me. On a number of occasions the Parliament has considered the siting of the new and permanent parliament house. The matter has been debated in both Houses and votes taken. The aggregate vote came down in favour of the Capital Hill site. I think I should say at this stage that 1 was not elected to the Parliament to submit to the will of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Cabinet or the Government; I was elected by the people of Tasmania to represent their interests in this chamber. During the 4 years that I have been a member of this chamber I have directed my attention in the best interests of the country to the matters which have come up for consideration. On two occasions I have, together with my colleagues, expressed a point of view upon this question of the location of the new and permanent parliament house. By what must surely be the democratic way of arriving at a solution to the problem, the matter was put to a vote. The decision of the majority in the Senate has now been overridden by the Prime Minister and the other members of the Executive.
Mr President, I have had the privilege of being a member of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. On the two occasions that debate has taken place in this chamber on the siting of the building I have done my very best to acquaint honourable senators with what I believe from my own views and from observations that I made in the course of an extremely extensive overseas trip to be the appropriate site for the new and permanent parliament house. To come into this chamber tonight and to be told that, notwithstanding the expressed views of the elected representatives of every State in the Commonwealth, the majority decision of the Senate had been overridden was a shock to me. I want to conclude my remarks by saying that in the circumstances there does not seem to be any point in my continuing any further as a member of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. Therefore, I give notice that 1 will take the appropriate action to dissociate myself from any further deliberations of that Committee.
– For the benefit of honourable senators 1 propose to restate the position. On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), 1 made a statement concerning the siting of the new and permanent parliament house. Senator Murphy then moved that the Senate take note of the paper, to which motion Senator Byrne has moved an amendment. I want to make it quite clear to honourable senators that they will be voting on Senator Byrne’s amendment, which is that the Senate take note of the paper, with disapproval. I wish to speak against the amendment. I wish to point out that earlier today the Senate voted against a joint sitting of the two Houses of the Parliament. This meant that it automatically placed responsibility for a decision in the hands of the Executive. After the cheers have quietened down I shall develop my argument for the benefit of honourable senators.
– You will not get very far.
– I will not be able to develop my argument at all if 1 am not given a hearing. I would have thought that as this is a subject about which honourable senators are quite worked up I would be given the courtesy of a hearing. Honourable senators should listen to the other side of the argument. The position is that the Senate having rejected a joint sitting of both Houses, unless the initiative was taken by somebody and something done the matter would have been left in the situation of disagreement between the two Houses. The Government has elected to govern and therefore it has to accept responsibility. The truth is that if the Government had decided in favour of the Capital Hill site we would not have heard what we are hearing tonight.
– This is scandalous.
– I want to go back to my argument again because obviously Senator Poyser has not taken it on board yet. The situation is that the two Houses disagreed on the siting of the new and permanent parliament house. I will not reflect on those two decisions at all.
– This is scandalous.
– Honourable senators opposite are like little magpies. The fact is if we do not have a decision from the Executive where do we go?
– Take the decision of the Parliament.
– The Senate could again move for the building to be situated in a certain area and the other place could differ and we would get nowhere. I accept the fact that certain honourable senators do not approve of the Executive decision; they are perfectly entitled to do so. But the point I am trying to make is that the Government had to make a decision. I do not wish to reflect upon a decision of the Chair, but I would have thought it more appropriate to have an adjournment so that certain aspects could be considered. However, in the short run I say to honourable senators that in a situation where the two Houses are in conflict you must have leadership to determine the issue. Where else is the leadership to come from than from the Executive Government? As for Senator Devitt’s heroics about coming here as an individual, the fact is that he came here as a member of the Australian Labor Party and he is bound by the Caucus of that Party.
– The message that came from the other place tonight-
– I rise to a point of order. We are having two Government speakers in succession.
– Order! Senator Young, I was in error. Please wait for a moment.
– There are no Government speakers in this debate.
– Let us be fair about it. A great number of cries came from the back bench. I would think that Senator Young was entitled to speak.
– With great respect to my colleague Senator Poyser, I believe that the point of objection he has raised is quite in error. In this matter there are no Government speakers or Opposition speakers. If Senator Young rose first on this occasion, he would be entitled to be called. The tradition of calling speakers first from one side of the chamber and then from the other side does not apply in this case and ought not to apply. To abandon that tradition symbolises that this is a non-party matter. So, Mr President, I would think that you were quite in order in calling upon whichever senator first rose.
– I do not want to create a disturbance. 1 call Senator Young.
– I want to say that I am very concerned about the message that has come tonight from the other place. In the Senate we have had quite a lot of discussion on the suitability of the lakeside site, the Camp Hill site and the Capital Hill site. After the matter was referred back to the Committee I came back to the subject with a completely open mind. This afternoon in the vote I supported what 1 considered were the rights of honourable senators and I wanted to make sure that they would remain. That was the principle behind my decision in voting this afternoon. I did not want to erode any of the rights or powers of the Senate. If I had known of the result that was to come about I would have given a lot of serious consideration before deciding this afternoon on which side to vote.
On two occasions we have had very lengthy debates in this place. Party politics have not entered into them. We have had a free vote after a good discussion. Honourable senators from each side of the chamber have acted together in supporting or opposing the motion. It has been quite an interesting experience, but the point I want to make in respect of the free vote is that on both occasions there has been an overwhelming majority in favour of a particular site. We agreed this afternoon and a vote was taken, not on the site, as Senator Cavanagh said, but on a principle for which the Senate stands. Having done that, we have now received a message that the Government has decided that the site of the new and permanent parliament house is to be Camp Hill. Irrespective of where the new building is to be erected, we should go back to count the number of votes that were taken in both places. As has been said on a few occasions this afternoon, when the votes are totalled there is a majority in favour of the Capital Hill site.
By my arithmetic 2 and 2 have always made 4 and not 3. Consideration has been given to both sites and a vote has been taken in both Houses. The result should be in favour of the Capital Hill site. But apart from that, I fear that the Senate has been overlooked, lt has been said tonight that a Committee examined the sites and made a recommendation which basically we should have accepted. A committee has every right to do its job and to bring in a responsible report, but as senators we have our responsibility as well as our right to make a decision upon that report and to come down with a considered opinion in the best interests of the Parliament and the nation as a whole. We have come down with a decision which 1 consider has been overlooked on this occasion by the other place. I wholeheartedly support the amendment.
– If the procedure which Cabinet has adopted is the correct one it was the duty of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) to make it clear during the debate earlier today that in the event of the Senate’s making the decision which it did earlier today Cabinet would then take upon itself the right to make a decision. I can say with certainty that there are honourable senators who would have voted differently if they had dreamed that Cabinet proposed arrogantly to take upon itself the determination of a matter which ought to be left in the hands of Parliament. Therefore I say that nobody can accept the contention of the Leader of the Government that because both Houses have disagreed Cabinet has the right to decide the issue. The decision made by the Senate was reached, at best, under a misapprehension which the Government deliberately allowed to occur. I say that this is all of a piece with what has happened from the days when the lakeside site was first suggested to the Parliament. There has been a deliberate determination on behalf of the executive power to ignore the legislative power. I say that this is today a state of crisis. This Parliament has to determine whether its members make vital decisions or whether Cabinet is to be permitted to override their views.
What happens in our Parliament if both Houses disagree? Is it the case that Cabinet now asserts when the Senate and the House of Representatives vote differently that the matter will be determined by Cabinet? We will have reached an extraordinary state in our democracy if that is the case. If either House concedes such a situation we may as well decide that our Parliament is no longer a democracy. I say that there has been a deliberate career of intrigue and chicanery to deprive Parliament of the right to determine the site of the new and permanent parliament house. Firstly we were told that there was a choice between Capital Hill and the lakeside site. If the Camp Hill site is such a splendid site, why was it not mentioned in the original choice? When the lakeside site was ruled out certain people were piqued and they were determined that they would prevent the will of Parliament coming into effect.
This is the most arrogant action that I have heard of since I have been in this Parliament. It is a deliberate defiance of the will of members of Parliament by the Cabinet If it indicates the point of view that is to actuate the Cabinet in the future, then the people of Australia will have to take action to get rid of the Cabinet. Therefore I say it is time we made a stand. If we do not make a stand we may as well act like puppets and merely obey the orders of the Executive power.
Later on we have to deal with an Appropration Bill. After being defied are we expected to make money available for preparatory work on the Camp Hill site? Is that the situation? Are we going to be told that if we do not permit Cabinet to ride roughshod over us we are holding up the business of the country? I think that this action represents the most scandalous instance of Executive arrogance I have heard of in this country. I hope Parliament will take the firmest stand against it.
– I am absolutely astounded, Mr President, at the decision taken by the Executive. When we had the debate earlier today I regarded the possibility of a joint vote being taken of members of both Houses as a prime example of the way towards the abolition of the Senate. However, I do not propose to develop that argument on this occasion. I propose to support strongly the amendment because if the Government gets away with this then Parliament might as well be dissolved altogether. This vir tually amounts to one-man dictatorship. One man is standing over the Cabinet and is telling us what is to happen in spite of all the free votes that take place. I propose to trace the history of this matter and the way that this stupid decision has been reached. Discussion has been going on for more than 3 years as to where the new and permanent parliament house will be erected.
– Since 1957.
– I am referring to the meaningful part of the discussions on which a lot of time and money have been spent. It is true, as Senator Cant said, that the matter goes back many more years than that. In recent times the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was established and sent on a world wide tour to examine parliament houses in other countries. Tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers’ money was spent. But because of the anxiety of this Government to proceed, at that time, with the proposal to construct the building on the lakeside site, it attempted to rush through the appropriate legislation before the Committee had presented its report. The situation was nothing but a farce at that stage. Now it looks like a circus.
It is significant, Mr President, that the Government has put all its eggs in this one basket, at a time when kids are dying in Vietnam. It will not permit a debate on that subject. Pensioners are dying of malnutriation because they are not getting adequate pensions. Yet the Government gets rid of every opportunity for debate in which these social shortcomings may be exposed. The kids of Australia are not getting an education and the Government is not prepared to debate any education Bills at length.
– It is not rubbish and you know it. The sick die because there is inadequate hospitalisation.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I do not know whether the honourable senator is speaking to the amendment moved by Senator Byrne or to some other matter. In my submission he is not speaking to the amendment.
- Senator Keeffe, you are wandering a little away from the subject. Are you speaking to the amendment?
– I accept your advice, Mr President, but I want to highlight my support for the amendment. Let us go back over the recent history of the selection of a site for the new and permanent parliament house. At the opening of the National Library the National Librarian referred to the time when there would be a new parliament house down by the lakeside. However, during the first debate there were honourable senators present who were able to point out that, for a number of reasons, it was a most unsuitable area even though the National Capital Development Commission had said that that was where the building was to be erected. Even though a minority of members of Parliament agreed with the NCDC recommendations, in subsequent debate in the Senate and in the other place the recommendation favouring the lakeside site was completeiy rejected.
The matter was taken further then, Mr President. It was referred back to us for consideration of the alternative site of Camp Hill. We in this chamber were sold a good story, that if we agreed to the setting up of a joint committee the matter would receive proper consideration. Thanks to the alertness of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), the words ‘without prejudice to previous decision’ were included in the relevant motion. That Committee sat for a long period and brought down a recommendation for the Camp Hill site. There were two dissentients to the Committee’s report and they signed the record as being in disagreement. Other parliamentarians indicated at a later date that they could not support the recommendation.
Let us consider the two debates thatwere held. In the House of Representatives the margin in favour of Camp Hill was small. In the vote taken in this chamber the margin for Capital Hill was very large indeed. In this chamber today a suggestion for a joint meeting of both Houses of Parliament was defeated. Now, after the lapse of only a few hours, the Executive, without reference to the Parliament and without reference to the people of Australia, has announced a decision which tramples on the rights of the people; a decision which tramples over justice and democracy. The Executive has said: ‘We are going to tell you where the new and permanent parliament house will be built’.
Mr President, let us consider some of the people who made this decision. They are represented in this chamber. They arc represented, firstly, by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) who stood up a few moments ago and made a sickly excuse for the decision made by his Cabinet. He represents the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) who, unfortunately, so far as his policy is concerned, has been largely discredited in the eyes of the Australian people. The Leader of the Government also represents the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). If some honourable senators had heard the statement made on television this evening by Mr Maxwell Newton, I am sure they would be wondering where the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry is going. Senator Anderson also represents the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). The Prime Minister cannot even present a statement on foreign investment because he cannot agree with the Treasurer. The next one is the Minister of Defence (Mr Fairhall).
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. I think the honourable senator is getting too far away from the subject. I ask for your ruling.
- Senator Keeffe, I think you are getting too far from the subject. You are introducing a lot of material which is not relevant. I suggest you come back to the subject matter.
– It is obvious T am hurting some of those who support the Camp Hill site.
– Order! Get on with the story.
- Mr President, may I seek your permission to point out the weaknesses in the Cabinet? If I am not ruled out of order 1 assume I have permission to go ahead.
– I will make up my mind as the honourable senator proceeds.
– Thank you, Mr President. Somebody has suggested that I move a little closer to the kerb. I will be a little less trenchant in my criticism of some the people who made this decision. I refer now to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) who, today, is not able to sort out the problems in the dairy industry and the wheat industry.
– Order! The honourable senator wanted to find out how far he could go. He has found out now. Does he want to continue?
– Apparently the Minister for Primary Industry is capable of deciding, as one of a small group of people, that it is not necessary for this Parliament to make the decision; that he and his col’leagues are capable of making it. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) is represented in this chamber-
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. The subject we are discussing is not associated with primary industry or the Postmaster-General’s Department. I ask that Senator Keeffe be brought back to the area of the discussion.
- Senator Keeffe is looking at the men who made this decision; but he is going beyond reasonable bounds, and he knows that. If he comes back to the subject matter, I am sure that he and I will get on much better.
– What I am trying to do is to point out to honourable senators that the people who made this decision over and above the Parliament of the country have no qualifications to do so. It is obvious that many of them are in deep water in their portfolios. If those honourable senators who are raising points of order against me are prepared to show that these people are superhuman, that they come from the moon, Jupiter or somewhere, and that they have talents superior to those of everybody else which enable them to make this sort of decision, then I will accept their explanation. It is obvious that the people who want to build their gunyah on Camp Hill have very thin skins indeed. They are not prepared to stand up to any sort of criticism. They know that the decision has been taken in a most undemocratic manner. They want this debate to cease as soon as possible so that their thin skins will not be pierced by the barbs of criticism.
Finally, let me make this point: We are speaking now as people without party ties or affiliations. We are speaking as representatives of the Australian people. But we are representatives carrying the party labels that brought us into this chamber. As such we must recognise the objectives for which we fight. We must recognise the very principles of democracy. If we are not prepared to do that, I suggest that this and the other House adjourn and that a dictatorship be set up in the manner outlined by the Cabinet.
– I rise wilh a great deal of reluctance. I say, reluctantly in some respects, that I intend to support the amendment. My reluctance is brought about by the wild, woolly and irrational speech made by Senator Keeffe. It was one of the most irrational speeches I have heard for a long time. It was unworthy of the importance of the question being debated. As honourable senators will know, I am one of the supporters of Camp Hill. When I voted for Camp Hill on Tuesday, I voted for it according to my own judgment and as I thought fit. I am quite happy for the new and permanent parliament house to go on Camp Hill, if that is the decision of the Government. I will vote for the amendment because, by a free vote, as we understood it was, of members of the Parliament voting as individual members of both Houses, irrespective of our allegiance to any party, we came to our decision, and I am afraid that in my judgment the Government has made a grave error in not observing the will of the individual members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
A short while ago I voted for the motion moved by Senator Wright - the motion that the debate be adjourned - because I thought that, in wanting to adjourn the debate until tomorrow, he might have had in mind something which would be of advantage and which would enable us to consider this matter in a better atmosphere than that in which we are considering it at the present time. But all the time I had in mind that when it came to a vote I would vote for Senator Byrne’s amendment because I believe that a vital principle is involved. That principle is that we were asked to give our individual opinions on this matter and to vote accordingly, and I believe that the
Government has to take note of the numbers in both Houses of Parliament. 1 think the numbers are 83 to 65. That is a fairly substantial majority. I do not believe that the senators should be ignored, as apparently they have been. So I intend to vote for Senator Byrne’s amendment.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) (9.5] - I, too, intend to support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Byrne, namely, that the Senate take note of the paper with disapproval. I support the amendment not because I disapprove of the decision that the Government has arrived at but because of the manner in which the Government has decided to ram its decision down the throats of the members of this Parliament. I took part in the free vote as a member of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House which had the privilege of inquiring into this matter. On the evidence presented to us, I thought that it was in the best interests of the future of the Parliament and the future of Canberra to recommend to the Parliament that the site for the new and permanent parliament house be Camp Hill.
Last Tuesday night the Senate made the decision to support Capital Hill. When the proposition that there be a joint sitting of the two Houses was put to the Senate this afternoon, I opposed it because, as Senator Cavanagh said in speaking of his attitude, I wanted to maintain the equality of this House with another place and the equality of the rights and privileges of this chamber with those of members of another chamber. I certainly did not oppose the proposal for a joint sitting on the very wrong premise that the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) put forward this evening, namely, that because the two Houses were in conflict someone had to make the decision and obviously it had to be the Executive.
I agree with the amendment moved by Senator Byrne not because of the decision that the Government has arrived at but because of the manner in which the Government is trying to ram its decision down the throats of the members of this Parliament. When we bear in mind that the House of Representatives made a decision for Camp Hill by a very narrow margin, that the Senate made a decision for Capital Hill by a substantial margin and that only one mem ber of the Senate sits in the Cabinet which is now thrusting its decision on to the Parliament, I believe that it is pretty rough justice. Therefore, whilst I believe that the Government has made the right decision, on the evidence that I heard as a member of the Joint Select Committee, in deciding that the site should be Camp Hill, I, as a member of this Parliament, object very strongly to the manner in which the Government is forcing its decision on the Parliament. I believe that it is only right and proper that the Senate take note of the paper presented by the Leader of the Government on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) with disapproval.
– I rise to indicate that I will support the amendment moved by Senator Byrne in spite of Senator Keeffe’s peculiar attempt to get me to vote against it. I support it because I object to the manner in which the difference of opinion between the two Houses has been resolved. Earlier today Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne suggested a procedure whereby the difference of opinion between the two Houses might have been resolved. That was rejected by the Senate. It is not my place to quarrel with that decision. But I would have thought that the proper procedure by which to resolve the difference of opinion between the two Houses of the Parliament then would have been for the Government to put the matter back on a proper parliamentary level by introducing a Bill stating that the site for the new and permanent parliament house shall be Camp Hill. No doubt it would have been either rejected or amended by the Senate, and at that stage the proper constitutional provisions for resolving differences between the two Houses could have come into play. That, I believe, is the proper means of resolving differences between the two Houses. It is not the proper means to do it by executive decision in the way in which we have seen it done tonight.
As there seems to be a reluctance on the part of the Government to take such action - or perhaps because it was ignorant that such action could be taken - I would ask the Leader of the Government what the attitude of the Government would be if I introduced a private member’s Bill into this place to provide that the site of the new and permanent house shall be
Capital Hill. Would the Government not only give leave for such a Bill to be introduced but also allow time for it to be debated? Further, would the Government permit such a Bill to be introduced and debated in the other House so that, if we did have a difference between the two Houses, the matter could be resolved in the proper constitutional manner and not in the arrogant, dictatorial executive manner in which it has been resolved tonight - by a statement from the Prime Minister? It is for those reasons that I intend to support Senator Byrne’s amendment.
I realise that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has already spoken. It is quite evident, of course, that no member of. the front bench could give an answer tonight to my question as to what would happen if I should seek leave to introduce a private members Bill with a view to resolving the difference between the two Houses. But I put this suggestion forward in all seriousness because this afternoon we had a long debate on the proper role and functions of the Senate during which reasoned arguments were put forward as to the proper ways in which the two Houses should conduct themselves. I do not agree with the decision that was finally arrived at, but I can understand some of the arguments put forward by Senator Cavanagh, and I appreciate them.
We now come to a consideration of how this matter should be resolved. With respect, I suggest that my proposition is the correct method of solving this difference between the two Houses. I would therefore appreciate it if, by way of question tomorrow, I could ask the Leader of the Government whether he would attempt to ascertain an answer from his Cabinet colleagues. I give him notice now that tomorrow I should like to ask whether the Government has any intention of introducing a Bill so that this matter can be resolved according to proper constitutional forms and whether, if the answer is no, the Government will allow time for me to introduce the Bill and, if that Bill is passed here, it will be introduced in another place and debated there so that the whole question can be resolved in a proper constitutional manner. I support the amendment.
Senator TOOHEY (South Australia) very great concern at the fact that the question of where the new and permanent parliament house will be built has become the subject of an unseemly wrangle in the Senate. I think it only fair to say - and I say this without rancour - that the reason that it has developed into an unseemly wrangle is the clumsy way in which the Cabinet has handled the whole situation. I would be prepared to accept the proposition put forward by Senator Anderson that, in the situation where the House of Representatives has voted in one way on the issue and the Senate has voted in another way, it is incumbent upon Cabinet to take some steps in connection with the matter, but I do not think that anyone in the Senate would have believed in his wildest imagination that the Cabinet would have taken the step that it has taken in presenting its decision to the Senate tonight.
There are all sorts of alternatives. I would have thought that the Cabinet would have explored such avenues as calling the leaders of both Houses into consultation with a view to seeing in what way the matter could be resolved. It could have explored a dozen other avenues that would have revealed a more suitable way of resolving the deadlock that has apparently been created. In the meantime, while this wrangling is going on, I am concerned about what the attitude of the general public must be. What must the general public be thinking of a parliament which, when confronted with a simple situation such as determining which shall be the site of the new and permanent parliament house, has allowed all sorts of fantastic positions to develop until finally we are in a state of utter confusion?
I think it is fair for Senator Anderson to accept the fact that the proposition that he puts forward on behalf of the Cabinet is totally unacceptable to the Senate. I think it is fair to say that it would be totally unacceptable to the Parliament as a whole. Without going into technicalities or the legal or constitutional procedures involved, I would suggest that a little ordinary commonsense be exercised. I am confident that if a little ordinary commonsense is exercised by the Cabinet, all these disputes that have convulsed the Senate so unnecessarily tonight will disappear.
– I claim to have been misrepresented and would ask leave to make a personal explanation.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Senator McManus suggested in his speech that the Senate was not told during the debate that there would need to be an executive decision. I have called for a copy of what I said this morning and find that, amongst other things, I said:
The fact is that each House, in its own right, has expressed a different view. The Government is confronted with that situation. It will have to have a look at the matter, make a judgment and decide what is to be done.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I have the highest respect for the integrity of Senator Anderson. We all know of his transparent honesty and that he would not in any way attempt to deceive the Senate. I want to make that clear. All I say is that I do not doubt for one moment that that is what he meant, but in my view it was not clearly taken in that way by the members of the Senate. I repeat that I am quite sure that Senator Anderson was quite honest in what he did.
– I wish to speak briefly on this matter. So far I have not spoken on the question of the site for the new and permanent parliament house. I should guess that I probably would be the only member of either House of the Parliament who so far has not spoken on that subject. Nor do I think I have yet spoken on the various points of order nor on matters of procedure which have come before the Senate concerning this subject. I do rise at this moment, however, to support the amendment which is now under consideration by the chamber. I do so with perhaps not quite the same feelings as have been expressed by some of my colleagues and also by some of the honourable senators opposite.
I feel that throughout the entire discussion which has taken place on the question of the siting of the new and permanent parliament house there has been a certain amount of confusion in the minds of honourable senators - certainly there has been in my mind, at any rate - as to pre cisely what it is that we have been doing. Apart from the Parliament, there have been two separate bodies which have been considering which is the most suitable site for the new and permanent parliament house. The National Capital Development Commission has, in its own right, been giving consideration to this matter, and there has been a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament also considering it. Various decisions have been reached as to where they believe the new and permanent parliament house should be placed. I am afraid I have not paid a tremendous amount of attention to the recommendation of either body. My own feelings have been that it ought to be put on Capital Hill, but I would not have lost any sleep if it had been put somewhere else.
– The area is terribly important.
– I will concede that the area is terribly important but it is not a matter on which I claim to have any great expertise or in which I have any very great interest. The first proposition submitted to the Parliament was that the new and permanent parliament house should be erected on the lakeside site. This was rejected by both Houses of the Parliament. Subsequently a choice of sites was again submitted to Parliament and, by a narrow majority, the House of Representatives voted in favour of having the new parliament house on Camp Hill and, by a substantial majority, the Senate voted to have the house on Capital Hill, as it voted on the first occasion. Clearly these votes have given rise to a difference between the two Houses of Parliament. This difference has to be resolved in some way.
I agree entirely with Senator Withers that if the debate had been on a Bill there would be constitutional procedure to resolve the situation. If a Bill were passed by one House and rejected by another, certain clear, constitutional procedures would have to be followed. This is not the case at present. The Government sought the opinion of Parliament on the site of the new parliament house. Parliament had expressed its opinion on one previous occasion, when apparently only two alternate sites were available. After the Parliament expressed its opinion, it was told of another site where the new parliament house could be built. That site was submitted and opinions were sought. With only a relatively small number of members of the House of Representatives voting, that House decided that the new parliament house should be placed on the site recommended by the Government. The Senate rejected this proposition. In fairness to the Government, I can well imagine that it is in some difficulty as to what procedure it should follow now. The Government has not introduced a Bill but has submitted a matter to Parliament for an expression of opinion and one House has expressed one opinion and the other House has expressed another opinion. I concede that there is some validity in the argument that, having sought an opinion and having received contradictory opinions from the two Houses, the Government has not received any opinion and therefore is entitled to take some other course.
– It was a free vote.
– I concede that it was a free vote, but what happened was that the Government asked two Houses for their opinions. One House gave a certain opinion and the other House gave another opinion. During this debate I. listened in silence to the speakers. I am trying to develop a point. I would appreciate it if I could be given the same courtesy of being heard in silence.
– What about-
– If Senator Byrne wishes to say something I will sit down. I find it difficult to develop my point if I have to carry on a dialogue. If the Government has asked Parliament for an opinion and has received one opinion from one House and another opinion from the other House, it is placed in a rather difficult position. I do not think there is very much use in saying that the majority in one House was bigger than the majority in the other House and, therefore, the two have to be balanced to see which majority was the greater. This certainly is not a principle which we accept during the passage of Bills through this Parliament. It would be no use saying that the Bill should become an Act because the majority which carried it in the House of Representatives was much bigger than the majority which defeated it in the Senate. That is something which, by the whole nature of parlia mentary procedure and practice, is not accepted. The two Houses are accepted as being equal. No calculation is made as to the majority in each House. On this occasion opinions were sought of two Houses and the two Houses have given different answers.
– What about a joint sitting?
– I will come to that. The two Houses have given different answers. There can be no dispute about that. This afternoon in the Senate a proposition was put that a joint sitting 01 a conference be held. I agreed that that was a very sensible proposition because once the Government placed itself in the position of seeking an opinion and had received contradictory advice from the two Houses, it could say that it had not received any proper advice because the two Houses had disagreed. Clearly it seems absurd for the Government to say that it will not bother about what anybody thinks, and that it will go ahead and build the House on the site originally decided. If the Government had made a genuine effort to ascertain the views of members of Parliament and had not merely engaged in an exercise then clearly the Government should have accepted the proposition put forward in the Senate for either a joint sitting or for a conference. If the procedure in either of these instances proved to be unsatisfactory then the Government should have put some proposition as to how the difficulties resulting from different decisions being made by the two Houses of Parliament should be resolved. This has not been done.
I do not want to make any extravagant statements about what the Government did or did not do or about the character of members of the Government, nor do I want to talk about the lakeside site. I am not discussing where the new parliament house ought to be; I am discussing the present motion before the Senate. My own feeling on the whole matter is that the Government has done something which has severely damaged the reputation of parliament. In fact we have now finished up with the worst of all possible worlds. The choice of a site could have been dealt with by executive action, without any reference to Parliament. The Government could have proceeded to build a new parliament house on Camp Hill, by the lake, on Capital Hill or anywhere else it wanted to build the house, without reference to Parliament. The Government has not done this.
A great deal of the time of this House and of the other place has been taken up with debates as to the site of the new parliament house. Members of the Joint Committee travelled the world, inspected various facilities and brought down two reports. Their efforts have turned out to be a waste of time. One may say that this was unavoidable and that a circumstance may have arisen ultimately even if a conference or joint sitting had given no clear resolution as to what the Parliament really wanted. Perhaps the Government would have then proceeded to act contrary to the decision that Parliament apparently had reached. The Constitution remains the same. Whatever happens tonight does not mean that the Constitution is altered in any way, nor does it mean that any different procedure has to be adopted in relation to the passage of Bills by both Houses of Parliament. I believe that in the public mind a great disrespect for the institution of Parliament has been created. I do not mean disrepect for the Senate only but for the whole institution of Parliament, because many people in the community are by no means familiar with the Constitution and are by no means familiar with the necessity for some matters to be passed by Parliament and for other matters not to be passed by Parliament. They know only that day after day, week after week and month after month Parliament has been debating this Issue, that a fairly overwhelming majority in one House has voted against the suggestion made by the Government and that the Government is acting now as if no advice had ever been sought of Parliament. I believe that basically that is what is at fault in this whole issue.
I do not believe that any fundamental damage can be done to the Constitution, because the Constitution will stand whatever is done on this issue. In any event, the matter need not have come before Parliament in the first place. The Government’s action can create only disrespect for the entire institution of Parliament. The people believe that great sums of money and time have been wasted by sending people around the world and by carrying on debates that have continued month after month, because at the end of it all the Government says that it did not really matter what happened and that the new parliament house will be built on Camp Hill anyway. Personally I have no objection to it being on Camp Hill or anywhere else, but I object to the decision having the effect of making Parliament seem a useless institution. Whether or not people are justified in thinking that, I believe they are entitled to draw such a conclusion as a result of what the Government has done - at the end of what would appear to be an unending debate.
I agree with what Senator Withers said tonight that some action should be taken to introduce a private member’s Bill, which would have to be considered by the Government. I believe there is no great hurry. We have been waiting for a long time already. I do not think the site of the new and permanent parliament house has to be resolved during this sitting. It could well be left till the next sessional period. I believe that the Government would be doing a great deal for the standing of Parliament amongst the Australian people if it were to defer taking any action with regard to the building of the new parliament house until the next session and if in the meantime it gave some consideration to the matter which has been raised by Senator Withers as to the acceptance of a private member’s Bill which would have to be passed by both Houses, either in its original form or in amended form, and which would clearly show the feelings of the Parliament. If the Government is not prepared to accept a private member’s Bill it could itself introduce a Bill during the next sessional period so that this matter could be debated properly and the question would be resolved one way or another. I can hardly imagine that anyone, apart from a very few members or senators, would be so dedicated to a particular site as to stop indefinitely any plans being made for the building of a new parliament house if there seemed to be a genuine deadlock between the Houses of the Parliament.
I appeal to the Government not to act in the way it has indicated it will act but to reconsider this question. There is no great haste about this matter. It should consider the suggestion made by Senator
Withers as to the possibility of itself introducing a Bill to provide for the siting of the new parliament house. Otherwise, although there is no constitutional significance in what the Government has done, this can only have the result of causing people throughout Australia to regard Parliament merely as a place where people talk and talk and talk, and waste money and waste time, without their deliberations having the slightestinfluence on anything that happens.
Senator WOOD (Queensland) (9.2]- The question of whether the new parliament house should be sited on Camp Hill or Capital Hill was referred to the members of Parliament. This afternoon, when dealing with the matter of a joint meeting of the Houses, Senator Murphy read out the very question, which clearly indicated that the individual opinions of parliamentarians were wanted. The only way in which those individual opinions could be expressed was by vote but because of the set up of the two Houses it was impossible to have a total vote of the members of Parliament. Therefore a vote took place in the usual way in the House of Representatives. That House made its decision with a very close vote - a majority of about 9. Then the matter was decided by the Senate, which gave a very decisive reply that it wanted Capital Hill. If the Government were quite open and honest about this and wanted a fair decision, it would be simple, as T said this afternoon, to take the total number of parliamentarians, find out who voted for Capital Hill and who voted for Camp Hill and then determine where the majority lay. That would have been a fair decision and in my opinion it would have been the right way to do it. But the Government did not want that. Just let us go back to when the Government first referred this question to the Parliament. The Government wanted the new parliament house to be down on the lake.
– Down in the swamp.
– Down in the swamp or down on the lake - this very English idea. Then a Committee was appointed, which went into the matter and made a decision. This Committee, the decision of which we are told we should accept, decided on the lake. A very interesting thing about it was that we were told then that if Camp Hill, one of the two sites under considera tion, were chosen, the present Parliament House would have to be removed. We were told that the new parliament house could be either by the lake or on Capital Hill without the need to remove this building. However, as honourable senators know, the parliamentarians overwhelmingly disagreed with the choice of lake, or swamp, and the matter went back to the Government. Being a bit petulant about not getting its own way on this matter, what did the Government do? The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who was the Minister concerned, thought up this idea of choosing Camp Hill or Capital Hill, so once again the matter came before us. Now we find this Committee, the decision of which we are asked to bless and accept entirely, indicates that, contrary to what it said before, if the new building were placed on Capital Hill it would be necessary to remove this building.
As one who has had 37 years association with town planning and the requirements of communities and who has served in this Parliament since 1949, I want to say that the desire of the Ministry to override the Parliament, as shown in this decision tonight, is an insult to parliamentarians and to the people of this nation. It is an insult to suggest that this matter is of such urgency that a decision must be made now, this very day. What utter nonsense! We are told that the authorities want to get on with the planning and the preparation. This is the way in which the Ministry likes to steamroller the individual - the private senator and the member. One has to admit that the Ministry likes to steamroller us if we have any weakness.
– They want to lay the foundation stone before the election.
– Probably that is what it is. Anyway, that is the business of the Ministry. To suggest this urgency and to suggest that everyone here is so cramped that one can hardly move one’s elbow is just nonsense. The value of this building should be put fairly and squarely to the people. The suggestion is that the new parliament house should be put on Camp Hill and that this building should be wiped out, but it could be utilised in many ways. If we wanted to utilise it and we consulted a good architect it could be done. Another aspect is its historical value. Men of quality in different spheres have passed through it.
The suggestion that there is such an urgency about getting on with the new parliament house that we must make a decision today, and that we are so cramped that we have not elbow room, is just utter nonsense and deception. 1 do noi think that the Government was really honest about asking for a decision of parliamentarians on this question. It thought that they, like sheep, would originally fall for the lakeside site. When that was knocked back, the Government was frustrated. What did it do? Rather than decide on Capital Hill, as the majority of parliamentarians wanted, the Government trotted out this other line that Burley Griffin had suggested Camp Hill. This is a big point that is made. But although Burley Griffin suggested Camp Hill as the site for the new and permanent parliament house, the Government had no hesitation in suggesting the swamp or the lake. As one who knows something about town planning and who served on a select committee of the Senate some years ago, I can say that anybody who says that the Burley Griffin plan is intact as he originally presented it just does not know what he is talking about, because the plan has naturally been altered and amended as plans are over a period of time.
I am not surprised at the Government’s decision. Honourable senators may well remember that when we were debating this afternoon the issue of whether we would request a joint session with the House of Representatives I said that I was not in favour of joint sessions of the two Houses because it offended against one of the principles that we have been guarding. The Constitution Review Committee which was appointed some years ago to go into issues arising between the two Houses made this point. One of our senators stood out strongly on the point, because in legislative matters we could be swamped by the numbers in the House of Representatives.
I said that 1 was prepared on this occasion to vote for a joint session because it was not a legislative matter, it was a matter for individuals. I said that I felt the Government was being snide on this question, that I anticipated that the Government would do what it has done and would use the Senate’s vote against a joint session as an excuse. I want to say in fairness to some senators who did not vote as I did for a joint sitting that when I spoke to them they said that the Government would not do this. Had they thought the Government would dc this they would have voted with us then and there would have been a majority for a joint session.
I am surprised to find the Ministry using this excuse that we did not want a joint session of the two Houses. Being a simple person, looking at things in a simple way, as far as I was concerned it was a question put to individual parliamentarians collectively in the two Houses and they expressed themselves by a considerable majority in favour of the erection of the new parliament house on Capital Hill. The Ministry, in bringing out this rush decision, is throwing an insult in the face of parliamentarians, particularly those who voted for Capital Hill. The Government has not done itself justice and I believe that in the eyes of the people it will not measure up. The people will want to know why the matter was referred to parliamentarians when the Government did not take the majority decision of the parliamentarians who represent the people. In regard to representation, the members of this House individually represent more electors than does any member in the other place. That fact should carry some weight with the Government. Whilst the members of this House may be fewer in number, individually we represent a greater number of people. 1 believe that the decision made by honourable senators in a free vote was made in a sincere and honest manner. Some of the speeches which have been delivered by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber have been of a very high tone. Even tonight some of the speakers have brought out aspects which I think require deep thinking and a realisation that we are confronted with a crisis which has been created by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and his Ministry. As senators with some respect for ourselves and the people we represent, and as senators who have some regard for this Parliament and, more particularly, for democracy, the very basis of the establishment of this country, I believe that we should stand firm on all occasions that are available to us to frustrate this decision. We should not hesitate to do so. I shall not hesitate to do so.
-I have not entered this debate previously nor do I intend to enter it now. I do not want to trace the history of this matter as all other speakers have done tonight. I think it is well known to all honourable senators. This matter has been rehashed so much that we each think we know more about it than does anyone else. Therefore I move:
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I will not delay the Senate unduly but I am in the same category as is Senator Wheeldon. I have not participated in the many discussions that have been held on this subject and I take now the opportunity to make two observations. The first is this: Looking beyond the particular subject before us, there has been a general clamour both inside and outside the Parliament about greater participation by a greater number of people in many major decisions. The number of people who made the decision in this case was limited. I would not define it as an inner Cabinet decision; I would define it more or less as a presidium decision. In the aggregate, with a joint discussion, or whatever term you apply to it, you will get from both Houses of the Parliament a broader consensus and a better decision. That is the first criticism I make.
The second one is equally important so far as the Senate is concerned. In this changing society attempts have been made over a period of time - I think they have been successful - to have decisions made on major subjects in relation to which party lines have not been the major factor. I think it will be agreed, if we consider the amendment made to the divorce law some years ago, that something can be achieved by a certain amount of interplay of ideas. As a result of the decision announced tonight I think it will be found that people will be lacking in enthusiasm on any issue which they feel could develop into a long political exercise such as this has been, especially when they realise that whatever is proposed can be vetoed by a small number at the top. I say that sincerely. I think it was Senator Wheeldon who mentioned earlier that in the time of former Prime Ministers we had Cabinet decisions which decided these things and that was fair enough, but on this occasion we have the worst of both worlds. I content myself by saying that not so long ago in France the President had the idea that he couldtamper with one of the legislative chambers but instead he received a stinging rebuff. I think that the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should take note of that.
I am indebted to my colleague Senator Devitt who pointed out that in total about ninty-seven members from both Houses actually participated in the debate. Whatever the fears of the Government or the inner Cabinet on this matter, I suggest that at least the Government could have agreed to adopt the procedure proposed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). In that way we would have had a concensus of both Houses. As several speakers have said, in that event we would not have had the waste of time and effort which could have been devoted to legislation. With these remarks I state that I support the amendment wholeheartedly.
– I have not spoken on this issue since the first time it was debated in this chamber, at which time I voted in favour of the Capital Hill site. I cannot really understand why we have had to go through this exercise again. Both Houses of Parliament voted in favour of Capital Hill and as that was the decision of both Houses we should have left it at that. However, the matter has come back for debate again. I disapprove of the way that our decision has been overriden. Senator Withers made a very good suggestion when he proposed that we should have either a private members Bill or that the Government should bring in a Bill to allow us to decide whether the Government’s decision is what we want. I think we must now ask the Government to bring in a Bill or we must have a private members Bill to decide this issue, even if it is necessary to debate it tomorrow.
– What is the urgency?
– If we do not settle this question in this session, which is to end tomorrow, it will be too late to reconsider it. Obviously the roads will soon be going in. That is why the Government has forced the issue at this stage, because the National Capital Development Commission has been pressing for a decision. I maintain that the NCDC has exercised an undue influence on those who have voted in favour of Camp Hill. I am sure that we all looked at the exhibits in the Parliamentary Library and I am sure that all would agree that we saw a most biased presentation of the two sites. It was quite obvious from the first time that one looked at the presentations that the NCDC was plugging for Camp Hill. It seems a very great pity that the NCDC has been able to influence the Government to override Parliament. For that reason I shall support the amendment. Nevertheless, T hope that the Government will tomorrow bring in a Bill to allow both Houses to consider again whether they want to abide by the Government’s decision.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales) (9.54] - Briefly, I should hate this matter to go on with some people imagining that everybody is in favour of the amendment. I am not in favour of it, I am against it. I think Senator Wright’s case for an adjournment of the debate was a correct one. Senator Keeffe’s speech demonstrated that we would be well advised to be cool about this issue, to take time and discuss it tomorrow. Does the Senate understand its position? We have talked a lot about the Senate and its future, about what it is today and how it should advance, but we must all agree that it is a house of review, a deliberative chamber. I suggest that the house of government is the House of Representatives. A committee appointed by members of both Houses considered this question and expressed itself in favour of Camp Hill. The House of Representatives favoured Camp Hill.
– There is no evidence to show that it still favours Camp Hill.
– Never mind what we understand on the evidence now before us. I do not agree with the proposal for a joint sitting which I consider would diminish the role of the Senate. I think tonight’s exercise might well do the same. This is a house of review. A government must govern and this Government is setting out to do so in the house of government.
– I support the amendment. I cannot understand Senator Cotton’s attitude. It seems to me that the honourable senator is saying what other Government supporters said this afternoon when opposing the motion moved by Senator Murphy and the amendment proposed by Senator Byrne who proposed a practical solution which would have brought about a joint meeting of the two Houses of Parliament. If ever there has been a case in parliamentary history when the sheer logic of a proposition has been proved, that case has been presented today when Senator Murphy’s proposition was demonstrated so clearly to be a most practical solution. We would have had a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament and all members could have voted on something on which the Parliament should vote. If anybody has a right to decide where the new and permanent parliament house should be built it is the members of Parliament - not the Executive. The sheer logic of Senator Murphy’s motion and Senator Byrne’s amendment has been demonstrated tonight in the fiasco that we have witnessed of the Government using this opportunity to tell us that it has made up its own mind about where Parliament House should be built. If ever there has been an occasion in the history of the Parliament when a proposal has been demonstrated to be completely correct it is this occasion.
I am proud to say that I completely support Senator Murphy’s motion and Senator Byrne’s amendment. It seems to me that if they are carried common sense will prevail. This afternoon we heard the sort of argument that we have just heard from Senator Cotton. It was suggested by Government supporters that the processes of Parliament should proceed and that the Government should perhaps introduce into both Houses of Parliament a proposition which can be tested. This has not been and will not be done. I find myself completely in agreement with what Senator Wood said, that the Parliament has been disregarded. We should have resolved the matter completely by supporting Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne. It seems to me that if we do not do this now and if we do not endorse completely what they propose, if we do not reject this decision by the Executive we will be in the position of being told by a group of people who form only part of the Parliament what we should do in making up our minds on a proposition on which we as members of Parliament should make up our own minds.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest and I must say that I support Senator Murphy’s motion that the Senate take note of the paper. However, I cannot support Senator Byrne’s amendment which proposes to add the words ‘with disapproval’. Senator Bishop has just mentioned that if we had taken notice of Senators Murphy and Byrne this afternoon we would have had a joint sitting of both Houses to decide on which site the new and permanent parliament house should be built. In such a sitting if everybody voted as they have voted in the two divisions on this issue it may well have been that the numbers would not have decided in favour of Camp Hill, but let us examine the position of the Senate from then on. We would then have created a precedent so that if in future there was a disagreement between the two Houses there would then be a joint sitting to decide the issue.
– On every other issue?
– Yes. We would be creating a situation in which this could occur.
– Does the Minister not agree that the Government could have added up the votes cast in both Houses?
– We cannot get away from the fact that if the Government had done so a precedent would have been created. I think that the Senate was very wise this afternoon in voting against the proposal moved by Senator Murphy and supported by Senator Byrne that a joint sitting of the Houses be held. Over a protracted period the members of both Houses have been endeavouring to find a solution to the problem of the siting of the new and permanent parliament house. It was originally decided that the parliament house be erected on the lakeside site. It was then decided, on the vote of the Senate, that it be erected on Capital Hill.
– It was never decided that it be erected on the lakeside site.
– The Executive decided that it be erected on the lakeside site. Parliament did not decide in favour of that site. The Senate voted in favour of the Capital Hill site. Following this the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House amended the matter. It was comprised of members of both Houses.
– We know all this.
– I am aware of that. A little while ago some honourable senators wanted to put the question that the debate be terminated but the Senate decided that it did not want to be gagged. As the Senate wants to debate the matter now, every honourable senator should be given an opportunity to express his view. I would like to express my view.
– It is tedious repetition.
– We have had tedious repetitions for almost 3 hours now and it may go on for another hour or so. I do not think that the debate should be gagged at this stage. We should obtain everybody’s expression of opinion. I shall go back to where I was before being interrupted.
– The Minister will keep going back for years.
– I may do that. We have now reached the stage where the opinion of the majority in the other place is that the Camp Hill site should be chosen, but the opinion of the majority in the Senate is that the Capital Hil! site should be chosen. I think that the majority in the Senate was about twenty-seven.
– The majority was not about twenty-seven; it was twenty-seven.
– I am informed that the majority in favour of the Capital Hill site was twenty-seven. It was suggested that a joint sitting of the Houses be held. That suggestion was rejected by the Senate. Having reached that situation, how do we resolve the matter? The Government has come forward with a decision that the new parliament house be erected on Camp Hill.
– Can the Minister inform the Senate whether that was a Cabinet decision? Who decided on the site?
– I am not a member of the Cabinet; therefore, I cannot answer the honourable senator’s question. But I know that it was the decision of the Government that the building be erected on Camp Hill. The Government’s decision has resolved the matter. Evidently, the Executive is in favour of the Camp Hill site. This is one of the ways to overcome the problem. In fact, I do not believe that there is any other way of overcoming it. I admire a government that has sufficient courage to come forward and make a decision like this. We can abide by its decision or reject it. I rose to speak on the motion moved by Senator Murphy. I inform the Senate that I will be supporting the motion moved by Senator Murphy that the Senate take note of the statement and I will be opposing the amendment moved by Senator Byrne that the Senate take note of the statement, with disapproval.
– I am compelled to speak on this occasion because of some of the remarks made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott). I indicate at the outset that I support the amendment moved by Senator Byrne. I am a comparatively new member of this chamber. I reject completely the idea that the Executive should overrule the decision of the Senate. This matter was not voted on along Party lines; there was a free vote. It seems that in all the history of this Parliament a similar situation has never arisen. I do not think that any specific decision we made on this occasion in favour of a joint meeting would bind our hands on other issues in the future when the Senate disagrees with the other place. To my mind that is a lot of ridiculous rot. We come here as representatives of the people. We should not be chained down by traditions. In this instance there is no tradition to chain us down because a similar situation has never arisen.
I reject the suggestion that the statement issued in this chamber tonight on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was the view of the Executive or Cabinet. I cannot accept that all the members of the Cabinet are dishonourable men; but I believe this decision to be a dishonourable one in view of the task given to the members of the Parliament to adjudge the matter on its merits. Many of us walked the sites - sometimes on our own - to try to assess what we thought was the best site and we put our views forward in good faith. But in the final analysis the Prime Minister overrules our decision. It has been suggested in the course of this debate that the decision was an Executive decision. That may be so, but until it is proven to me to be the decision of the Executive or Cabinet I refuse to accept it. I am an Australian who has some confidence in the elected government of this country. I do not believe that it would react in such a way to a situation of this kind.
I also object to the insinuations which have been made during the debate that members of the other place are dishonourable men. I believe that the members of the other place will be enraged when they are made aware of the fact that there has been an attempt to subvert the will of the majority of the Parliament. I challenge the Government to put forward a Bill in the other place seeking approval of the decision that it is trying to foist upon the Parliament. I believe that the elected representatives in the other place will rise up - as honourable senators are doing in this place - and denounce the Government’s decision as an improper one to be taken in the light of the debate and discussions which have occurred in this chamber and in the other place and the decisions that have been reached in a proper, democratic manner by the majority of parliamentarians who have voted. Those are the reasons why I feel that the Senate should express the view that it takes note of the statement with disapproval. 1 repeat that in the light of everything that has happened the Government would not dare to place its decision before the other place or this place in the form of a Bill.
– When I last spoke on this matter I commenced by saying that I believed that either the Capital Hill site or the Camp Hill site would be excellent for the new and permanent parliament house. I believe that if the Camp Hill site is to be thrust upon us, it will make an excellent site for the new parliament house. I look back with interest over this matter and contemplate what a very expensive democracy we have in this country. Certainly this matter has not brought any great credit to the Ministers of the Government, the House of Representatives or the Senate. Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs we have today. I reflect that I had great confidence when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) indicated that the vote of members of this Parliament would settle where the new building was to be erected. I had confidence yesterday when eighty-three members of both Houses had voted for the Capital Hill site and only sixty-five had voted for the Camp Hill site. I had confidence that Senator Gair would be quiet, but he will not.
I was saying that the site of the new building was to he determined by a vote of members of this Parliament. This criterion was set by the Prime Minister. I recall the wisdom of a former Prime Minister who may have shown great insight into this matter. He decided that the new building was to go on the lakeside site and so directed. I recall that we debated at some length whether the matter should have been given at that stage to the Parliament to vote upon. I cannot accept the amendment which tends to decry a comment sent to the Senate by the Prime Minister. I will absent myself from the chamber when the vote is taken. The comment has been made that we should now generate a bill either in this House or in another place. I think that indicates a level of thinking which I am not willing to accept rests in members of Parliament. I think there may be a better way of going about it. I regret that on several occasions when I raised this matter the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) would not even give credence to the fact that the greater vote in numbers of members of this Parliament had been for the Capital Hill site. The Minister in his speech carefully avoided taking into account the fact that in truth the weight of numbers in this Parliament voted for Capital Hill.
I suggest that we curtail the expense and time involved in this matter. I doubt that the Executive would agree to withhold its decision. If it will not I will be content that the building must go on Camp Hill. If the Executive will agree to withhold its decision I suggest that a poll should be taken of all members of this Parliament during the month of June so that members can vote for Camp Hill or Capital Hill. I suggest that 14 clear days be allowed after the posting out of the voting forms for their completion and return. In that way a decision could be reached by the end of this year.
– It is a surprise to a number of honourable senators that the Government should have made this determination. I agree with Senator Wood. It came as no surprise to me. The motion was put forward today for a joint sitting of both Houses but apparently the majority of senators took the view that the Government intended to do what it had said it would do. Not only was it announced in the House of Representatives but similar remarks were made in this chamber by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) when speaking on behalf of the Government in stating how the matter was being put to the Parliament and that there was to be a free vote. I remind honourable senators that on 20th August last Senator Anderson said, as reported at page 133 of Hansard:
I want to make it abundantly clear that the Government believes that a decision of this nature should be made by honourable senators and members of another place and that every member of this Parliament should in his vote reflect his own personal view according to his judgment.
Nothing could be clearer than, that, or clearer than what was said by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The Prime Minister said that the Government had taken the view that a decision on a matter of this kind was one which should be made by individual members of the Parliament in their capacity as private members. Was not that firm enough in stating what the Government was to do? A decision was made by individual members of this Parliament in their capacity as private members. A vote was taken in each House, but it was taken of the members in their individual capacity as private members. Honourable senators know what that decision was. It was a decision of the members of this Parliament taken together, not as House against House, nor as Labor Party against Liberal Party, nor as the Government against the Opposition or the members of the Democratic Labor Party. It was a vote of the majority of members of both Houses in their individual capacities. That was what the Government put to us. That is what we accepted. References have been made to exercises in democracy. Ministers in the Senate made statements about how wonderful the procedure was. We made a decision but the Government now says that no decision has been made. That is not true. To make it even clearer so that it would be inescapable the suggestion of a joint sitting was made. But the majority of senators preferred to take the view that there was no need for anything further because the decision had been made and the decision was clear.
– Senator Webster expressed that point of view.
– That is right. We are saying as members of Parliament that that decision should be acted upon. I think some members of the Parliament are asking that the decision be acted upon irrespective of how they voted. There are senators who voted for the Camp Hill site who will still take the view that they were engaged in an exercise in democracy, that the vote was taken and that the decision reached ought to be acted upon. They, together with their fellows in the other House, had the matter put to them as members of this Parliament. It was not a case of House against House. There was never any suggestion of that. Why should not the Government act in accordance with that vote?
– Are we now expressing the view of the House?
– I say to that that we are entitled to express a view in this way because the Government came to us in a particular way. It is not true to say, as has been said here, that this was a matter for decision by the Government. It is not true, as has been suggested by Senator Cotton, that in some way it involves a question of review and that the Senate ought to give way. In the first place, section 52 of the Constitution provides:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have exclusive power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
The seat of government of the Commonwealth, and all places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes: . . .
I think honourable senators will find that this is not to be a purely Executive decision because it is impossible to carry out the erection of a new and permanent parliament house without a law and that law must be made by the Parliament. The erection of this building will require a law to be introduced into the Senate and passed by the Senate, whether it be done by way of an Appropriation Bill or some other method.
A suggestion was made tonight that one way to deal with this difficulty which has arisen is for a Bill to be introduced into the Senate. That idea occurred to me also but on reflection I suggest it would be a most unsatisfactory course for the Senate to take.
– Because if a private member of Parliament were to introduce a Bill into the Senate and if it were passed by the Senate, sent to the other House and then rejected, this would add another kind of argument for the Executive. The Executive could say: ‘Let us ignore what was said in the vote. Because the Parliament has rejected the Bill we are entitled therefore to say that the Parliament does not want Capital Hil] and that the appropriate course to be followed is for us to introduce some kind of measure.’ Let the Government introduce it. Then, if the view is that that measure is not to be passed by the Parliament, the Government may decide that some other measure ought to be introduced or it may agree to some amendment, if it wants its course followed. May I suggest, with respect, that no step be taken in the Senate to introduce such a Bill because any pretence might be seized upon by the Government, even if the Bill were defeated here.
There has been a decision by the Excutive and I think the Senate feels it should assert that the Executive should abide by the decision of individual members of the Senate and the House of Representatives in their capacity as private members of Parliament that the site for the new and permanent parliament house should be Capital Hill. I said that we should assert this view and that is the very substance of the motion we are discussing. That is how it was put. They are the very words that were used when it was put to us. I asked that the Senate take note of the statement. I moved that motion because I thought that this matter ought not to pass without some consideration by the Senate.
I am glad that Senator Byrne did not proceed with his proposed motion that the Senate reject the statement. I do not think that is the proper course to be followed. It is better that the statement be dealt with. The opportunity was available for some amendment to be moved which might express the will of the Senate about the statement. I think that the amendment moved by Senator Byrne is a most temperate one in the circumstances. I think it represents a most charitable way for the Senate to deal with this statement as a first step. There is no reason why this matter should end here. There is no reason why the Senate as a whole or senators individually should not consider what other steps might be taken in regard to this matter. Therefore, Mr President, I indicate that I shall vote for the amendment moved by Senator Byrne to add to the motion the words ‘with disapproval’.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Byrne’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10 a.m.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Answers 10 the following questionsupon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator ANDERSON- The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’squestion:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator ANDERSON- The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
With reference to a reported statement that the Government does not mind foreign interests taking over 60% of an inefficient Australian company to put it on the right road, but will not have foreign interests moving in to take over an efficient company, who decides whether a particular company is efficient or inefficient?
Senator ANDERSON- The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As I indicated in replying to a question in the House of Representatives on 5th March, a statement on overseas investment in Australia will be made after the matter has been fully considered and discussed by the Government in all its aspects.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Senator SCOTT - The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Council has decided that the design rules can be effective only if manufacturers are required to produce evidence of compliance as a prerequisite for registration.
Both the Council and manufacturers have agreed that certification of compliance should be controlled by a central authority. This body will issue certificates of compliance following the arranging and supervision of testing of motor vehicles and motor vehicle components by the Australian Motor Vehicle Safety Agency within my Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Senator SCOTT- The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is calculated by taking the average of loadings per week for March 1969. Future loadings have been estimated taking into account methods used by shippers in past operations and changes which could occur as a consequence of the introduction of the new vehicle deck ship and withdrawal of conventional ‘over the side’ loading ships. However, it must be remembered that actual loadings do vary as the method of shipment is dictated by shippers’ requirements at any given time.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 May 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690529_senate_26_s41/>.